BEAT STORY: Bathroom Break
When I was a cop, I spent some time working with an undercover unit that handled all sorts of cases, including prostitution rings, gang violence, drug manufacturing and movement, Internet child pornography, etc. I was never good at the reverse prostitution stings because I have always been a very healthy-looking girl, so it never really worked. I even had a gentleman drive by only to stop and hand me a McDonald’s sandwich, and then drIve away. I still do not know what to think about that gesture, especially since we had previously caught him on numerous occasions for soliciting other ladies.
The unit would be called on to handle problems throughout the county that could not be handled by a patrol officer in their full uniform or marked cars. One season, we received a slew of complaints from people visiting the public parks and beaches. The complaints stated that people were using the public bathrooms, located inside parks, to meet up and have affairs. These incidents were homosexual in nature and it was not uncommon for participants to be caught by unsuspecting children, who were just trying to pee, in an indecent manner. It turned out that the bathroom escapades were being conducted by people who didn’t even know each other before meeting up.
The unstated rule was that if you pulled into the park, backed your car into a parking spot near the bathroom and simply waited, someone else would do the same. This meant that you wanted to “hook up.” These folks would eventually both end up in the bathroom together. While it is not illegal to have flings, it is to present yourself in a lewd and lascivious manner in a public place. The undercover unit was asked if they could come up with a plan to help thwart this ever-growing problem.
The plan was to set up on a public restroom with a decoy participant, played by a deputy on the unit. That deputy would be wired up for sound, and the rest of the team would be listening from about 200 yards away behind a sand dune. The idea was that the decoy would use the bathroom, and if approached and subjected to lewd-and-lascivious behavior, the decoy would verbalize a code phrase that would signal to the responding team that a crime had been committed and they could make an arrest. In this case, the code phrase was “Boy, I wish my friends were here.” That is how it was supposed to go.
The decoy went into the bathroom and was quickly followed by another man who had been sitting in the parking lot. The outside team could hear a quick exchange of pleasantries such as “Hey, how are you?” and “Great weather today, isn’t it?” Within a minute, the decoy was heard saying things like “No, thank you … what? No, not interested, but thank you … what are you doing? Please don’t pull on my clothes!”
The outside team had been listening very intently, knowing that they would need to quickly jump and run just as soon as they were heard the code phrase. It was a very serious and pensive moment. Then, there it was and in a surprisingly calm voice: “Boy, I wish my friends were here.” What happened next surprised everyone. They were listening and ready to go; however, just as soon as the signal was given, the outside team instantly burst into laughter. Not just a giggle, but a full seizure of laughter. The kind where your stomach hurts, and you can no longer function or breath. No one could move. They were rolling around in the sand churning with laughter, completely unable to react. What didn’t help was the bathroom guest must have been getting pretty anxious because by the sounds coming through the microphone, he must have been pulling on the decoy’s clothing and pants. This made the backup team’s laughter even worse and crippled any possible assistance they could have provided.
By the time the team was able to assist, the decoy’s wire had been ripped off, but the team was close enough at this point to hear the perpetrator saying “Well, they aren’t, so it will just have to be you.” It took the entire team to grab that guy and hold him while the laughter subsided, much to the dismay of the decoy, who looked completely disheveled and was mumbling all kinds of obscenities under his breath. True story!
Author’s note: I found the best part of being in law enforcement was that nothing goes right, as planned or expected. When you look at a cop, know that they are human too, have a sense of humor and just want to safely go home to their family. To them, anyone can be a potential threat as most threats come from unexpected corners. Be patient, calm and respectful and they will do the same.