One of my sisters used to be a deputy attorney general in Des Moines. Over the years, she has occasionally taught classes at the Department of Public Safety Basic Academy in Johnston. She takes the raw recruits and molds them into fine, upstanding, law-abiding officers who would never dream of violating anyone's civil rights.
One of the topics she covers is report writing. She tells the recruits how to properly fill out an eyewitness report and gives them a few pointers on things that should be included. She decided that the best way for these recruits to understand the miserable performance of the eyewitnesses that they would encounter in their work was to have the recruits actually witness a crime firsthand. The obvious solution was to have some criminal-type come into the classroom and rob her of her purse at gunpoint before fleeing the scene. The recruits are always unarmed, so it's one of the few occasions when it's safe to point a fake gun at a roomful of peace officers.
This is where I come into the picture. She said she selected me because she thinks I look like a Department of Criminal Investigation agent. That makes it easier to arrange a photo lineup later, because she can find plenty of DCI agent pictures to distract the recruits from the real perpetrator. My plan of action works like this: I run into the classroom brandishing a weapon and order everyone to freeze. I then stick the weapon in Roxann's face and demand her purse. I grab the purse and flee the room. Start to finish, it takes about three seconds. The recruits are then asked to fill out eyewitness reports and describe what they just saw. They are also asked to give a physical description of the perpetrator. (This is my favorite part.) I usually wear a Two Guys Farming hat and some kind of shirt with writing on it because some of these people pay close enough attention to details that they actually read that kind of stuff!
The first time I did this a few years ago, the variation in descriptions was a little scary. I was described by different people as 5'8", 165 pounds, between the ages of 40 and 50, with gray hair. (Those last two really hurt!) In reality, at that time I was 6'3", weighed 225 pounds, and was in my mid-twenties with reddish-brown hair. I could have been walking down the street with Steve Martin, and these Keystone Kops would have busted Steve rather than me. When I went back into the room after the exercise and gave my actual physical measurements, there were a couple of audible gasps.
I've also used my nephew as an accomplice. When he was about 10 or 11, he stood at the back of the room with a gun to provide cover for me. After we were done and came back into the room, the class was asked if I was working alone during the robbery. One observant contestant didn't think so. "No. He had a midget with him." That's right, Ms. Ryan had been accosted by The Jolly Green Giant and his little friend, Sprout!
Another day I got to have an accomplice by the name of Pete. Pete is a cop who is about 5'6" and not what you would call "beefy." He has an office down the hall from the classroom where my sister teaches.
Pete turned out to be a cop with a Steven Segal/Bruce Willis complex. He appeared to be mild-mannered on the outside, but once we started selecting weapons to use, he became someone else entirely. As he picked up the machine gun that suited his taste, he informed me that he HAD been the leader of his S.W.A.T. team, ya know. Well, well, well...this should be fun ‹ me and Lieutenant Howard Hunter from Hill Street Blues.
Our plan was to have Pete enter the classroom and provide cover for me while I did the robbery. Pete and I went over the plan twice before we went down the hallway.
We walked down the hall to the classroom where my sister was teaching and Pete instantly braced himself against the wall like it was a DEA raid. He was going to provide cover for me when we went in and he was taking this a little more seriously than I was.
Pete stormed into the classroom and barked, "DOWN! DOWN! EVERYBODY DOWN!"
I followed a second later and (in comparative terms) timidly asked for my sister's purse at gunpoint.
We left the room about two and a half seconds after we had entered. The job was done.
It turns out that some of the students were so used to the paramilitary atmosphere of the academy that they actually hit the floor and started doing push-ups when Pete entered the room screaming at everyone to get down! All the way back to his office, Pete was cackling with laughter about "how many of 'em ACTUALLY HIT THE FLOOR!!!"
I was just feeling lucky not to have been shot.
The recruits described Pete as at least 5'9" to 6' tall and stocky. Pete was thrilled. I was called 6' tall or more. One person said I appeared to be very muscular. I must remember to send him a thank you note and a fresh magazine of bullets as a token of my appreciation. Several of the recruits couldn't describe me because they were already on the floor when I got into the room. Some never heard me demand the purse, because they were too busy counting out the push-ups!
The last time I did this, the little weasels chased me down! I was running out of the classroom when I suddenly heard the thunder of footsteps behind me. I had to find a quick exit from the building. Before I could get very far, a crowd of cadets had me surrounded. They were pretty timid when they caught me. That wasn't good. When they brought me into the classroom, they put me up front and questioned me. My sister asked if I had been frisked. At that point, I reached into my belt, pulled out my fake weapon and started firing at several soon-to-be-dead cops. Their classmates never let them forget it. I like to think they'll be better cops because of it.
Here to serve. Have fun; have gun; will travel.
Guy No. 2