Cops I’ve Known

A Salesman’s Story

By Bob Bailey

In the 1990s, I worked for a police supply store, selling weapons to law enforcement agencies in Idaho, which meant I got to demonstrate the guns.
    

Once, when I had some new AR-15s to sell, I went to the range with Bingham County Sheriff Dave Johnson and three young deputies. The young Turks took turns shooting the rifle and were duly impressed, both with it and with their shooting ability. Dave then asked if he could shoot it, and then promptly put twenty rounds into one jagged hole. He said nothing as he handed back the rifle. All the way back to the office, the out-shot and humbled deputies did not say a word, either. A purchase order for the rifles arrived the following Monday.

A flood of such memories came back when I made a phone call recently to my friend Byron Stommel, a former sheriff of Bonneville County. It made me appreciate once again that I had a great life in those ten years, doing what I wouldn’t even call “work” in the usual sense of the word. With a few exceptions, Idaho’s officers were consummate professionals who wore the badges of their agencies with pride and distinction, and I got to hang out with them. They let me train and ride with them. They accepted me.
    

It took about a year and half, though, to become fluent at speaking cop. I speak fluent Spanish and am so-so in Portuguese, and I also can walk up to a cop anywhere in the US and instantly start a conversation—I know, because I’ve tried it. They speak English, of course, but it’s somehow different. It’s hard to explain, but there are nuances in the way they talk to each other that are just different enough to be easily recognized by each other. Idaho cops graciously ignored my mistakes, such as calling the Idaho State Police the “Idaho Highway Patrol.” Very wrong. But I was a rookie, and they let it slide.

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