At first glance it looks like any other early morning police roll call. “There’s a parade on Elmore Street. Doesn’t figure to be a problem, but check it out. Also, we’ve had some car break-ins around here, so stay alert.” But then Sergeant Al Pattison (not his real name) adds something strangely baffling. “The hawk’s up in the Northeast sector, so shout out if we got any work for him.” What’s he talking about? I have no clue except I do notice three guys in the group in front of Pattison who seem out of place. Their uniforms fit poorly; they’re slouching and physically – they’d be hard pressed scaring a little old lady.
I want to ask Pattison about them but it’s delicate. Fortunately he bails me out. “I guess you want to know about the birds. And who these fellows are?” You read my mind,” I say. “They’re working good,” he assures me. “Great, but what are we talking about?”
Launching right in he informs me that “It’s a gift from the Feds. We’re testing it out for them.” Picking up on my blank look, he continues, “We’re talking drones here, mister, or if you’re into fancy, unmanned Aerial Vehicles. We got two and at least one is up there all the time.”
Now I’m thinking about who those “misfits” might be. Sure enough he lets me know that those three operate the hawks on eight-hour shifts. “They’re no cops,” he says, “but they like wearing the uniform. They don’t work out of here. They got their own place.”
This certainly wasn’t the story I’d come for. I had figured on a no-brainer – a typical day on the beat piece – but you don’t pass up something like this, not with Pattison talking.
“You heard of drones, right?” he says. We’re using them all over – Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, even Somalia, wherever the hell that is. They’re working really good. They never know what hits them. Imagine, you’re driving along or sitting down for dinner and – BOOM!”
I knew all about the drones overseas, but here in the United States? “What’s going on?” I ask. “You are looking at the future of law enforcement right here. Those three,” he lets me know, “are really getting into it. Video games – that’s pretty much what qualified them.”
“Don’t tell me you guys are going around blowing up people?” “This is America,” he assures me, “so we don’t do much of that. Besides, we use something here they don’t do over there. We got these things hooked up with tasers. How it works is classified, but let’s just say that when they come down on them – they’re out of commission.”
Would he reveal specific operations, I wondered. Why not ask. “I can’t say too much, but take it from me the birds are flying high. You wouldn’t believe how much marijuana we blasted to hell. Then there were those truckers carrying a load of illegals God knows where. Well, we waited for it to stop at a railroad crossing and dropped our load on the cab. It stopped those guys cold. We had our squad car out there in no time. Last month the Feds let us know there was some crazy terrorist dude collecting explosives in this house. We waited until one day we saw him leave. We hit it good. It blew apart.” “Couldn’t you have just gone in there?” Pattison paused for a moment. “I guess we could, but remember we’re testing this stuff out. And we had our alibi. We let out that this terrorist had messed with the stuff and it blew. This way people figure the creep’s dead, and the Feds have time to get him talking and see who he’s working with.”
Pattison’s telling me stuff I shouldn’t be hearing, but I also want to check out those guys playing these nasty games. But they’re already pulling away when I get outside. And when I head back in, I’m told that Pattison’s now in a meeting. No matter. I’d already seen and heard enough to send my head spinning.