I started out in law enforcement as a deputy constable in Utah. For those of you lucky enough to live in United States that do not have constables they are the lowest form of peace officer. Constables are underpaid and under-trained (often untrained) and with limited equipment and authority. You see a constable serves the Justice of the Peace (JP) court, and, in Utah they could be appointed or elected depending on their assigned court. Municipal courts have appointed JP's and constables while the unincorporated precincts in counties have elected JP's and constables. I served in the latter, Precinct 2, Salt Lake County back in the early 1980's.
Now as I said I wasn't a full constable. No, I was one of several deputies working for a constable with big ideas. Most constables work alone or had a handful of deputies at best. Not my boss. She had a full department with her at the top, her daughter as chief deputy, two lieutenants, her niece as office manager plus sixteen deputies including her son-in-law. (Can you say nepotism?)
Later I was promoted to lieutenant of the criminal division (civil division being the other) which meant that I was head of the Goon Squad. The Goon Squad were the heavies of the department that were called out for the tough cases, the ones where a show of force was needed to keep the suspects in line while we executed whatever writ we had from the court. Typically it was a civil matter, which is funny that it was always the criminal division's business to deal with these. The other funny thing about the criminal division and my appointment as its lieutenant was that I was the smallest guy on the squad (at 5'10"), the youngest (at 25) and the newest (at 6 months). In other words I was the dumb rookie that got snookered into doing the job nobody else wanted.
Besides leading the Goon Squad, writing training manuals, sitting on boards of inquiry and such other administrative BS I served as the constable's chauffeur and back-up while she served the occasional bench warrant. The problem being that this was unpaid work when I needed to be out serving paper myself in order to get paid. That's the nasty secret of the job, the only way a deputy gets paid is when he or she serves a summons, subpeona, writ or warrant and even then we only got 45% of the fees, the rest going to the constable. So the pay sucked, it wasn't regular and we didn't have any benefits. If you got shot, tough. Maybe they would start a collection for you. Which is why I didn't stay on full time for long, I realized what risks I was taking for virtually pennies on the dollar.
Fortunately I wasn't ever shot (this was also before we had body armor) and my job was pretty mundane. Most of the time I just got as much civil paper as I could finagle out of the office and acted pretty much like a process server, driving my own car and working in plain clothes. I had the advantage of being able to carry a concealed weapon and had full arrest authority if things went south but the disadvantage of no back-up, no radio, and no cell phone (this was way before they were invented). Plus I had to ID myself as a peace officer when I served paper, unlike a process server who could drop the paper and run.
One day at the office I got handed a civil paper from the district court. When the sheriff is disqualified from serving a paper from that court it falls back on the lower constable to serve it. This was a notice of judgment and writ of attachment for a guy in West Jordan, Utah. It was returned to the office as unserviceable by another deputy so I said I would try it before it got returned to the court. It was, after all, a chance to make a little money. It was only after I had committed myself to serving it I got the full story. The man at the address lived in a small fortress guarded by a pair of mean dogs. Nobody got on his property without getting bit. There wasn't any "No Trespassing" or "Beware of Dogs" signs either, he wanted folks to try it as he was one ornery old cuss.
Well I had committed myself so I got ready. Since nobody was willing to go with me (what and get bit for free?) I "deputized" my 17 year old brother and gave him an old sawed off (legal length) Mossberg 500 shotgun loaded with what I had on hand at the time, No. 7 1/2 birdshot. It was for the dogs, remember, not for the old man, and only if I got in real trouble and needed saving. I told him to wait in my car out of sight and just listen for my cry of help before getting out with the blunderbuss. I could imagine the report I'd have to write up about my brother's involvement but I thought that better safe than sorry.
I was dressed in jeans with a Levi jacket over a blue work shirt. My concealed pistol was a .380 Bernadelli Model 80, basically a single action Walther PP clone. I hoped I didn't have to resort to that. What I carried in my left hand just in case was a large can of tear gas (CS), again this is back before pepperspray (OC) took over the LE market. In my right hand was the court documents. As we pulled up to the house I saw that it wasn't really a fortress but simply an older home not far from the old city hall and police station. There was an eight foot chain link fence but it wasn't locked nor were there any signs to keep out. So I parked my car out of sight and walked up to the pedestrian sized gate and went to open it.
Immediately two mixed breed dogs tear towards me growling and snapping. I closed the gate and pulled my hand back just in time as the larger one (a German Shepard mix) tried to bite it. Instead he got a mouthful of CS which set him aback. The other dog, a bit younger and less brave hung back and merely barked at me. So I tried again to open the gate and this time both dogs lunged at me. I sprayed them both in the eyes and nose which stopped their attacks. Reaching up to the gate handle again they growled and moved forward but as soon as I raised the can they moved six feet back. When I opened it the came at me but I sprayed them again and they realized my can had more reach than they thought. So I was able to enter the premises with the dogs circling me at about 9' away watching for an opening but wary of my CS can.
I made it across the lawn and up to the small cement porch to the front door. The door was open and just the screen door was shut. How anyone could've missed the fuss raised by the dogs was a wonder to me. Then I realized that the dogs going off was such a normal thing that the old guy probably just tuned it out. Or he was hard of hearing. Think the latter was the case I knocked on the wooden frame of the screen door loudly. I hear the scrape of a chair on linoleum floor and a heavily accented "Who's there?" (The name was Serbo-Croatian and this was back when it was still Yugoslavia.)
Naturally I have to identify myself so I pull out my badge wallet and make my declaration that I'm Lieutenant X, a deputy constable from Precinct 2, etc. and he Mr. so and so? That's when the profanities start. This little man, maybe 5'5" tall and in his late 60's (very old for me at the time
) comes walking up to me and asks "What the fxxx do you want?"
I get this now and then so I just tune it out. Most of the time I am able to deliver the paperwork by being polite and explaining that I am an officer of the court, a neutral party. That usually gets enough cooperation that I can get a signature of the person I served the paper to on my proof of service for the court. I could tell this wasn't going to be one of those times. I had to step back to the edge of the porch when the old man shoved open the screen door so I wouldn't be hit. I explain that I have a court order to serve on Mr. so and so and ask again if he is the subject. (This is one of those few documents that have to be served on the person named and not anyone over the age of 14 who resides at the address listed.)
What happened next caught me off guard. It shouldn't have but I was a rookie and back then constables and their deputies weren't allowed to go through the POST academy due to a funding issue with the state. It only got resolved after I resigned. Had I been better trained or more experienced no assault would've occurred and it would've remained at the level of a failed delivery.
Suddenly the little old guy lunges at me and shoves me back off of his porch. I didn't fall, I just had to step back and drop two steps to the walkway to catch myself. It was his willingness to make a fight over something so minor as a civil court order. (I'm writing this the day after a guy blew away a federal court security screener and shot it out with a US deputy marshal in Las Vegas after he lost a court case. I was so naive back then.)
Now I'm debating what level of force to use on the guy. I'm afraid of really hurting him and that getting on the news. He's really worked up and already winded just from pushing me off the porch. He yells, "Get off my property!" I have my can of CS but that could shut his airway down and I don't want to do rescue breathing or CPR on him. So I back away and try to get him to calm down. This just pisses him off more and he is still calling me every name in the book. Now he sics his dogs on me. Only they won't come near me. Foolishly I smile at this and he screams, "What did you do to my dogs?"
That's when I further infuriated him by shrugging innocently. He whirled around looking for a weapon and found a six foot length of two inch wide weather stripping. You know, tin siding that is very thin and bends easily. He pounces on it and whips it at me which I block with my left arm. It feels like he tried to hit me with a piece of paper it was so light of a strike. The man just can't develop enough force to even seriously make me fear for my life. So I can't reasonably justify escalating my force beyond that needed to take him down and handcuff him. But frankly, if I did that he'd be hurt and the dogs might just get over their fear of my CS can and defend him. So I gave ground and exited the gate.
Now while all this is going on my kid brother is getting very concerned. He's hearing the old guy yelling and the barking of the dogs but not me screaming for his help. So he cracks the door and stands up with the shotgun. I turn and wave him back just when the Hulk comes out of the house. I mean big and tough all covered with muscles. He is bigger than any of my Goon Squad members. He comes walking out calling out in a deep booming voice, "What the fxxx are you doing to my dad?"
I am so glad there is a fence and a gate between the Hulk and I but I'm afraid he could knock it down with a flick of his index finger. Still, I'm an officer of the law and have to do my duty. Out comes my badge and I ID myself all over again asking the Hulk if he is Mr. so and so. When he sees the badge and hears the name he simply wilts. He says, "That's my younger brother. What has he done now?" I explain that he lost a civil lawsuit and has a judgment against him. Meanwhile the Hulk's father is still going off. The Hulk turns to him and says, "Dad, knock it off. Okay?" Then he tells me that must be why his brother took off to California, to escape his creditors. I thank the Hulk and turn to head back to my car. There is my brother, again outside of the car with the shotgun looking all big eyed at the Hulk. I wave him back inside and continue on. As I get to my car the last thing I hear from the old man is his final curse in his heavily accented English, "You no good two-bit tin star!" My brother and I look at each other and burst out laughing.
That would've been the end of it but I wanted to touch base with the local cops to warn them about the cranky old cuss. The police station was only down the street three blocks and it took no time to get in there and report on the incident. I mentioned the name and address got me a laugh and smiles. They all knew the guy and his outrageous behavior. Neighbors complained regularly about his language and dogs but there wasn't much the cops could do. I wasn't going to press charges on the attempted assault, after all I wasn't hurt and except for when the Hulk came out wasn't afraid of the guy. We all felt sorry for his dogs as they didn't know any better. So that was that and I returned the writ to the court as unserviceable.
Three months later I got word from the West Jordan PD that the old man had suddenly died of a heart attack. He had worked himself up into a lather for the last time. It seemed like a bit of Cosmic Justice was served and we all were relieved to hear it.