Officer Shmendrick and the Disintegrating Man
By Martin A. David ©2018
Alvin Archibald was a cop. His colleagues and all the men and women who graduated from the Police Academy with him were all police officers, detectives, or law enforcement administrators. Alvin was never regarded with any such title of admiration. In fact, his nickname, both in the station house locker room and to his face, was Officer Shmendrick. He didn’t quite have enough New York knowledge or general street creds to know—or care—that shmendrick was a derivative of the word schmuck.
Archibald earned the label through a series of misadventures that seemed to travel with him through his whole police career. We could talk about the patrol-car-in-the-creek episode, the arrest of a pizza guy for taking too long to deliver, or the time he drove a patrol car backwards for more than a mile because he thought it was stalling out in drive gear. It would take days to give the details on those stories that were the private entertainment at station house parties and picnics. Instead, let us concentrate on the saga that finally removed Officer Shmendrick from the force.
The official reason was recorded in personnel files as, “Failure to follow departmental call response protocol and regulations.” The specifics are far more interesting than that dry sentence could ever portray. It all started with a call about an alarm sounding and a possible burglary. The building in question was a converted warehouse in a rapidly gentrifying, artsy section of town. Officer Archibald was the first to respond to the dispatcher’s radio call. He rushed to the scene without code red lights or sirens. At least to that degree he was following established procedure. The building had once been the home of a light industry electronics assembly firm. Now it was a ballet school.
When he arrived, the alarm was indeed sounding. In addition to a raucous buzzer sound giving short, annoying bursts into the neighborhood’s darkness, there was a flashing red light on one corner of the building. The next step was simple. He was supposed to pull up close to the building and wait for one or more cars to arrive as backup. Did he do that? Nope. Instead, he jumped out of his vehicle and ran towards the premises. The beam of his flashlight showed a side door that was open. He drew his service weapon and sprinted forward. With flashlight in one hand and gun in the other, he dashed into the building. In the movies, this scene would have been accompanied by dramatic music. In real life it was material for an internal affairs hearing. The corridors were empty. There was no sound but the officer’s footsteps. The sharp beam of the flashlight showed little more than bulletin boards with class schedules, and recital notices. A battered cardboard box marked, “Lost and Found” held the usual lonely ballet slippers and smelly leotards.
A door on his left was ajar and the officer entered. It was a large, empty room, but his adrenalin overflowed with a rush at what he saw facing him. Across the space he saw a man with a flashlight and a weapon pointing directly at him. “Drop it,” he shouted. “Drop your weapon and raise your hands!” “Drop it now or I’ll shoot,” he warned.
Then he fired. The suspect with the gun seemed to explode into a million pieces. Officer Archibald screamed and ran along the corridor and out of the building moments before his backup arrived. They found him huddled behind his patrol car. He was hysterical and almost sobbing. “I think I just shot an extraterrestrial,” he babbled. “I hit him and he just went into little pieces.”
They never found out why the burglar alarm went off or why the door was left open, but the ballet school was really pissed at having to replace one of its expensive, wall-sized mirrors.
Author Notes: Based on an actual incident