2008-09-05 / On Second Thought

The cop who couldn't cut it

The little guy near the front row is a dead ringer for Barney Fife, the deputy who worked for television's Sheriff Andy Taylor in the Town of Mayberry. This guy's police uniform is loaded with patches and pins. On his belt is the usual: gun, speed loaders, handcuffs, plus a set of nunchaku used by martial arts folks.

We're at the Police Academy, and this feisty little guy is raring to go. He's a brand new cop- in- training, and his motor is wound up tight as a drum.

At the front of the class is Jim Kirby, a retired FBI agent and dean of legal instructors at the Academy. Kirby is considered the state's leading authority on Fourth Amendment rights — the Constitutional provision that guarantees "the right of the people to be secure...against unreasonable searches and seizures...."

For a cop, the Fourth Amendment is of singular importance if duties are to be performed properly. But Barney is restless this day and bored when Lawyer Kirby writes on the blackboard such legal buzzwords as "curtilage" and "expectation of privacy."

What Barney really wants to do is learn about handcuffing and forcible take- downs. Barney longs to be on the pistol and shotgun ranges and the pursuit driving course. Suddenly Barney blurts out loud: "How long are we gonna spend on this Fourth Amendment crap? When we gonna learn about real pow- leec work?"

Quicker than you can rack a 12- gauge, Lawyer Kirby spins around, nearly swallowing his cheek- full of Redman tobacco. You can see the muscle pulsing along Jim Kirby's jawbone. But this veteran FBI man is a model of restraint. He doesn't explode all over Barney. Instead he goes on teaching rookie cops how to take punks off the streets without abusing the citizen rights we all enjoy.

What about Barney? Well, it turns out he can't shoot any better than he can think. Halfway through the 10- week training course Barney quits the Academy, telling everybody, "Heck, I can make more money hanging Sheetrock than I can being a cop."

Jim Kirby and the rest of his class are grateful for Barney's career decision.


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