0005 hrs – It’s midnight, but you wouldn’t know it by the number of people on the street. The line-ups already stretch out the doors at the bank machines, and the little corner stores that line East Hastings Street are teeming with people. Welfare day is here, and cheques have just been direct-deposited into everyone’s account. Outside, the non-addicted dope dealers are ready to cash in. They hover near the ATMs like pigs waiting at the trough. There’s a chill in the air, so they’re dressed warm tonight. Many are sporting their trademark black puffy jackets. Others have umbrellas in case it rains. It’s going to be long and profitable day for them.
0130 hrs – A fight breaks out on Abbott Street. I’m part of the cavalry of cop cars that responds. It’s under control by the time I get there, so I move along. Just drunk kids from one of the Gastown bars who can’t handle their liquor.
0200 hrs – A quick stop by the Portland Hotel to see if my Ken Foster original painting is ready. I commissioned the work earlier in the night, and he assured me it would be at the front desk when I came by at the end of my shift. The staff have no idea what I’m talking about, and there’s no answer at Foster’s door.
0245 hrs – I sign off for the night and have a quick debrief with the squad before heading home for some sleep.
1130 hrs – I’m jolted awake by my alarm clock. Fighting a headache caused by too many night shifts and not enough sleep, I pull myself together and rush into work for an early afternoon court appearance.
1300 hrs – Pre-trial interview with Crown counsel goes well. Our evidence looks good.
1400 hrs – The trial is supposed to start, but there’s no sign of the accused. The judge tells us to wait another half hour to see if he shows.
1425 hrs – The accused saunters into the courthouse, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, with a second shirt slung over his shoulder like a gym towel. Trial starts in ernest.
1507 hrs – The judge doesn’t like our evidence as much as we did. Not-guilty verdict. I feign pleasantries with the chipper legal aid lawyer as we head downstairs.
1515 hrs – Exit the courthouse in desperate need of coffee and breakfast. I’m supposed to be working one-man tonight, so I make plans with my old partner, Tyler, to visit Save-on-Meats for their all-day brekkie. But first we’ve got to deal with the shirt-less guy flipping out across the street. He’s flailing around, delivering spinning karate-kicks at phantom opponents and doing the kind of back-bends that would make even Bikram Coudhury shudder. His behaviour, the track marks on his arms, and the needle and crack pipe in his pocket, give us a pretty good idea of what he’s been up to. We call for EHS, and 36 minutes later our friend is heading to St. Paul’s Hospital with the ambulance crew for some Narcan.
1554 hrs – We make it less than a block before we turn the corner at Main and Hastings to find our next casualty. He’s slumped on the sidewalk outside Owl Drugs, clutching an open can of Black Label beer. His buddies scatter as we approach, likely fearful that we’re going to take away their beer and marijuana. He’s drunk and it’s starting to rain. If we leave him here he’s likely to be robbed. Since his buddies aren’t interested in taking care of him, I guess we have to. We call for Saferide, a group of recovering alcoholics who transport drunk people to detox so that we don’t have to stick them in jail. The Saferide wagon arrives 15 minutes later and loads our friend into the back. They’ve already got one on board. He’s belted up, and slumped over on the bench seat, completely oblivious.
1620 hrs – We’ve made it a whole block, but it took 11 minutes. En route, we dumped two more beers and destroyed a crack pipe. A couple people told me I look like that guy who’s doing the police blog. Now, at the corner of Carrall and Hastings, and elderly man approaches to say he thinks a drunk guy in Pigeon Park just got robbed. He refuses to give any more information and explains how he wants nothing to do with me. When I pressure him for a suspect description, he mutters how this is the last time he’ll ever report anything to the police, then shuffles away. We check on the man in Pigeon Park. Judging by the odour, he’s been slamming mouthwash to get drunk. He has no idea what happened and is too drunk to even talk. I canvass for witnesses, but amazingly, nobody seems to know what happened. The ambulance crew shows up a few minutes later and takes our newest casualty to hospital as a precaution.
1645 hrs – At this rate I fear we may never make it to Save-on-Meats, so we flag down a passing police car and hitch a ride. The all-day breakfast is worth the wait, as Tyler and myself enjoy the only hour of rest we’re going to get all night. The staff treat us to a piece of pumpkin pie.
1751 hrs – Meal break is done. I step outside Save-on-Meats just in time to see the bartender at Funky Winkerbeans kicking someone out the door. He’s drunk, and he’s come back to the bar after being asked to leave. Off to jail to sober up.
1801 hrs – I run into Ken Foster outside the Portland. He asks me what time I’m off, then promises my painting will be ready for pick-up at the end of tonight’s shift. I have my doubts.
1814 hrs – Tyler and I have parted ways and I’m heading back to the police station to finish up some paperwork. I stop to deal with a guy smoking pot outside the Balmoral Hotel. He tosses the joint on the ground as I approach and I tell him he’s under arrest. My search finds 28 grams of marijuana and a can of bear spray in his pocket. I joke out-loud how I’ve never seen any grizzlies walking down East Hastings, and he admits he’s got the bear spray for protection. I know the courts won’t care about the weed, and it’s not against the law to carry bear spray. He agrees to sign both over to me for destruction, and I remove the cuffs.
1820 hrs – Still outside the Balmoral Pub, I recognize a woman who has court conditions not to be in the Downtown Eastside. I arrest her and off to jail we go.
2011 hrs – Almost caught up on my paperwork. I’m parked, idling in the lane behind the Carnegie Centre, trying to disrupt the drug activity. The guys with the umbrellas and the puffy jackets are still hanging around, and the rain is picking up. A car pulls into the lane, pauses, then drives away. I run the plate and find out it belongs to a guy who used to sell dope down here. I haven’t seen him for a while, but if he’s cruising the lanes on a welfare night, I figure he’s up to no good. I follow him as he circles the block, then light him up and pull him over to the curb. He gives me permission to search his car and I call for the drug dog. The K9 hits on nothing, except for some takeout on the passenger side floorboard. Oh well.
2244 hrs – The rain is letting up and things look to be calming down. I run into my friend, the poet, behind the Carnegie Centre. I tell her I posted her poem on my blog and that everybody loves it. She shows me another one, which she wrote about the father of her five children, the youngest of which is 8 months. Then she explains how she ended up down here, hooked on crack after trying it once, and how she now spends most of her time in a lean-to next to the needle exchange. It smells like a mixture or urine and rotting vegetables here. If misery is her inspiration, she’ll have plenty more to write about. She tells me that she’s looking forward to seeing her kids again, but that she has to be clean for 72 hours before she’s allowed. I tell her she has talent and that I’m rooting for her.
2330 hrs – The crowd at the Balmoral Pub is starting to let out, and there’s guaranteed to be some fights unless we get some police presence in the block. Problem is, everybody else is tied up on paperwork, and a couple of guys are guarding someone at St Paul’s Hospital. Guess I’ll have to try to keep the lid on things as best I can.
2335 hrs – I’m dispatched to a shoplifter call at a cold beer and wine store. I remember how long it took the last time I tried to walk down Hastings Street, so I decide to drive there. I begin walking to my car, which I left parked in front of the Regent Hotel hours ago. It’s been there a while, so there’s a chance the tires will be slashed or that one of the drug dealers has left a snot-sickle dangling from the door handle.
2340 hrs – I’m standing at Main and Hastings and can see my car. The tires look fully inflated, so I’m optimistic. I’m waiting for the walk signal when I’m interrupted by the sound of rushing water. I look over my shoulder to see a drunk guy urinating on the steps of the Royal Bank. I berate him and tell him this isn’t a barn-yard. He apologizes, zips up his fly, and extends his arm for a handshake. Given the circumstances, I decline.
2343 hrs – I make it to the liquor store. Turns out the would-be shoplifter stuffed a bottle of vodka down his pants, but it fell out and shattered before he left the store. Now security is holding him. I broker a deal. He pays $30 for the broken bottle and agrees never to come back to the store, and I tell him I won’t send him to jail. He agrees and I drive back to the Bal to sit outside and write my report.
2358 hrs – The bar is almost empty, but my car has now become a magnet for drunk people who want to be my friend. One girl taps on the passenger window to tell me a joke. Another staggers out to explain how she came down today to do a little charity work and decided to go for a few drinks. Yet another tells me I’m gorgeous and asks for my phone number (ok, she couldn’t have been that drunk).
0010 – The day is almost done, but I still don’t have my Ken Foster original. I drive back to the Portland and find my painting behind the front desk. It’s been framed, but the ladies working the desk say Ken wants extra for that. I head up to his room, which reeks of spray paint. Ken tells me he now wants $50 for the frame and painting, not the original $40 we agreed on. I have only $45, but offer to bring him the balance next week. He says he thinks I’m good for it and agrees to come downstairs for a photo.
0020 hrs – I get a wink and a smile from the girl behind the desk as Ken hands over the painting and hurries away. I stuff the frame in the back of my car and head back to the police station.
Welfare day is finally done.Share