Shock treatment

There is a peculiar practice among some veteran detectives, and that is taking delight in shocking young reporters.

In my past, I have been shown pictures of the most sickening crime scenes, and the cops seemed to relish the idea that it turned my stomach and made me look away. It was kind of like, “Hey, rookie, take a gander at this if you really want to know what crime is like.”

The detectives used terminology that seemed to be used so you would have to ask what the slang term meant. A cop at a crime scene said in a loud voice that it was “already goo.” Huh? He then said with a grin that it meant the decomposition had advanced to a point where they had to shovel some of it into a body bag. Nice. Then in Utah during a frigid spell in winter, a man had drunk himself into a stupor, passed out and frozen to death—the detective told me it was your basic “bumsickle.”

But one vice cop did make a lasting impression on me after I told him that drug use and prostitution were victimless crimes. He drove me to the stroll where the young women were working, and he pulled over a girl he knew. With stringy hair and hollow eyes, she was maybe 20 years old, but it was hard to tell. To shock me, he pointed to her sizable stomach and told me she was six or seven months pregnant and doing heroin every day. Then he pulled up her sleeve to show me the rows of scars and an ugly abscess that looked ready to be lanced. OK, enough. Yeah, there was a crime—in what had happened to her life and the life to come.

But my reporting on it—or his arresting her—probably wouldn’t be the solution to this serious social ill. Here in Sacramento, there is a medical service now provided by volunteers that really could help (see “ER in an RV”). Not so much shocking as rewarding to see.