A long time ago, again, in another life, I worked for a telephone company in one of the western states. The department I worked in was responsible for safety, security and liability insurance. In today's world it would be called the Risk Management department. (Or, the department that makes absolutely no money for the company.)
Our security responsibilities included the administration of security clearances, asset protection, executive protection, law enforcement liaison and in-house investigations when required. The investigations were usually the result of some kind of report or charge being made against an employee. We walked a fine line between getting involved in matters concerning another department and protecting the company's overall assets. If we ever did investigate an employee it was always with the knowledge and approval of the employee's management. Sometimes, it was actually at the request of that management.
Such was the case when I was going to travel to a small town and observe an employee who's job it was to install and repair customer's telephone equipment and the company's payphones.
One of my department's office crew was a highly respected man named Lee. He usually administered the security clearances and helped with all accident reports and requests from law enforcement agencies. In general, all agreed that he held the whole department together. The drawback was, he was needed in the office so much he seldom got to travel to the field to meet other company personnel or to experience the specifics of our field work.
That was the reasoning behind my asking if he wanted to go along on this particular investigation. Lee didn't really feel that he needed that kind of experience but we were at a point where he could leave the office, I could use the company and I thought the experience would be useful to him and the department in the future. So off we go in an unmarked company car, a somewhat reluctant Lee and I.
Whenever we entered an area to do an investigation we always checked in with local law enforcement, mostly as a courtesy but also so that our actions would not be misconstrued as suspicious. When we got to the small Sheriff's Sub-Station in town we found it was not attended. We couldn't stick around and wait for somebody to show up so, assuming they were at the doughnut shop, we decided to go ahead and locate the employee we were going to watch.
With us, we had a list of the employee's assignments for the day but it was just before lunch that we finally located him. Because I had Lee with me and he could keep an eye on the employee's vehicle, I was able to keep a very loose tail on the truck and I was pretty sure he hadn't spotted us. It wasn't long before he drove into a small city park area and began to eat lunch… or rather drink lunch … and we followed him. We parked two cars behind him and noted he was drinking beer and it wasn't just one or two cans.
After about a half hour, he got out of his vehicle and dumped the cans into a trash barrel. As he drove off, I got out of our car to check the barrel and found he had downed almost a six-pack of beer for lunch. Although an interesting choice of a lunch menu, that was not what we were investigating, we wanted to witness the handling of payphone monies.
As we pulled out of the park we noticed he had a pretty good head start on us but he was still in sight. Just as we started to close on the employee Lee and I both heard a siren coming from behind us. I looked into the rear view mirror and saw a Highway Patrol car and a Sheriff's car behind us, both with lights flashing.
As I pulled to the side of the road for them to pass, we immediately noticed that they didn't want to pass… actually, is soon dawned on me that they were after us!
Not only were they stopping us, it was a very serious 'felony car stop' with guns drawn! When we came to a complete stop I looked over at Lee, he was looking at me, shaking his head side to side and the look on his face said; "Now look was you've gotten us into Ollie!"
Trying to convince Lee it really wasn't as bad as it seemed, I tried to act calm and told him it was going to be okay. That is, I was as calm as one can be with two cops hiding behind the patrol cars doors with guns drawn and yelling over the loud speaker; "Driver, get out of the car, with your hands up walk behind the car to the passenger side, put your hands on the roof, assume the position… and do it now!" Naturally, I did as I was told; then the officer told Lee to get out of the car and take a similar position next to me.
It was at this point I noticed Lee's legs looked like they were made of spaghetti and his eyes the size of saucers. As the patrolman came forward with the Sheriff's deputy covering him, without moving anything but my lips, I said; "I've got an ID in my left back pocket which will identify me." The officer said; "Do you have any weapons?" When I said no, he said; "Just stay there while I check."
He did a very thorough check then asked me to take my wallet out of my pocket with my left hand and open it. That was what all I wanted, I had a card identifying me a security representative for the company but more important than that; I had my Sheriff's Department Id with me as well.
After checking the cards he told us to stand upright again and asked what the heck we were doing in the city park. When I told him who we were and why we were following the employee, he asked why I hadn't checked in with the Sheriff's office. I told him we did stop but the place was deserted. That's when I asked; "What is this all about anyway?"
He explained that when we were in the park watching the employee, there was a woman in a car that was parked between us. She thought she was being stalked… or worse, so she called the cops and gave them our description! She probably reported 'two suspicious looking perverts' or something descriptive like that.
As we were all standing at the side of the road there was a constant stream of traffic, inching by, looking at the spectacle and wondering who the creeps were that the police from all over the area had captured? Of course, one of the cars going by was the very employee we had been following! He didn't know either one of us but I figured we were pretty famous in town after this incident. That was also the reason we left town right after we were cut loose.
Lee didn't say much on the way home except that he had never been the object of a felony car stop in all his life. He also made it quite clear that he was never, ever leaving the confines of the office again… and he never did… at least not with me!
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