If you are old enough to remember that phrase, or watched any other good police movie or TV show, you know that a “Desk Sergeant” makes such calls out over the police radio. The person doing the dispatching duty may not actually have the rank of sergeant, but the position is normally given this title, mostly because he or she works directly for the Duty or Flight Sergeant and issues tasks/orders over the radio on the responsible Sergeant’s behalf.
After many months of walking and standing duties, I moved up to motor patrol, and apparently distinguished myself as a good Sky Cop. It could also have been partially because of the high school typing experience I had!
The Desk Sergeant keep the Flight’s shift Desk Blotter – a kind of running chronological incident log of the night’s happenings, arrest, alarms, accidents, open buildings, thefts reported, domestic altercations in the housing area, etc.
The Desk Sergeant issued standard procedures to the patrols that deployed to accidents, car chases, break-ins, and routine Flight Line incidents and practices. One such routine practice was to provide security to a plane that was either being up or downloaded with an atomic weapon. Fake accidents, complete with colored smoke depicting a crashed aircraft were performed at least once quarterly at Keesler, even though there were no nuclear weapons at the site. These exercises were called “Broken Arrows!”
The Desk Sergeant was expected to know the operating procedures for all exercises and ensured that Air Policemen were dispatched to the proper positions around the perimeter of the incident. He also kept a running log of events until the exercise was declared completed. These “exercises” really kept you on your toes!
Underneath the Desk Sergeant’s desk, which usually sat high above the floor of the Air Police Headquarters, to look down on anyone entering, was a foot pedal about the size of a clutch pedal in a car. This pedal was to be used when the office area was “under duress.” A large amount of cash was kept in several safes around the room, where the Base Exchange and other businesses dropped their nightly receipts. The money was then picked up the following morning, by the specific managers, and taken to the Base Bank for proper deposit.
It was conceivable that this money could be a target, therefore, a procedure was written to cover the situation. AP HQ was the perfect place to keep an eye on the money, and if someone got the drop on the Desk Sergeant, he was to step discretely on this pedal. This action turned off the radio so no one in the office could hear the patrols being dispatched by the Base Command Post.
Yes, I had been briefed, and had even watched a “duress” exercise being played out before, but while using the push broom one evening to clean up before shift change, I inadvertently hit the pedal with the broom!
I had no idea what had happened, but at that very moment, inside every patrol vehicle was being heard “Keesler Police, Keesler Command. Keesler Police HQ is under duress! Please deploy as to procedure and standby for instructions!”
As I was “whistling while I worked,” the front and side doors burst open! At the main entrance stood Sgt. Webb with his .38 (a recent change from the .45) pointing directly at me!
Instantly I knew what had happened and glanced down at the pedal under the radio console, and back up at Sgt. Webb. A little smile attempted to turn up one corner or his mouth, but he fought it. He gave me a “you screwed up” look, holstered his weapon, and immediately squeezed the microphone on his left lapel.
“Keesler Command, this is Alpha One.”
“Go ahead Alpha One.”
“Keesler Police is clear. There has been an unintentional activation of the duress alarm.”
“Ten four Alpha One, Keesler Command is clear.”
The radio console again began to squawk and squelch normally. The A Flight Patrols returned to normal operation, and I was left alone with Sgt. Webb for the remainder of the shift. “Write it up Mushy (not his real name)!”
It was about thirty minutes after normal quitting time before I completed the Desk Blotter entries. My backside hurt the rest of the night from the butt chewing I received.
I could not, at one point, resist saying, “Ah, it keeps’em on their toes!”
“Suppose a patrol had gotten hurt rushing over here?” Webb said looking sternly over the top of his glasses, waiting for the rational to dawn on me.
“Well, yeah, there’s that! Won’t happen again, sir.”
“Better not…I stuck my neck out putting you on the desk. You know what goes before my neck don’t ya?”
“My ass,” I said.
The regular Desk Sergeant was a Staff Sergeant (four stripes) who was on 30-day leave. When he returned, and because he loved patrol, I continued to alternate with him during my remaining time at Keesler.