The humor is in the details for police officer

Sydney Schwartz

Robert Rice was working on a road detail one day about 20 years ago when he stopped a woman whose car was full of balloons.

The woman, who was headed to a party on Cape Cod, had asked him to help her turn.

“She said, 'I can't make it around the corner there. I can't see,'” Rice said. “She had 56 balloons in the car.” Rice told her to turn into the parking lot and wrote her up for impaired visibility, he said.

At the end of the day, Rice wrote down that anecdote and told it to his wife, a Halifax dispatcher. It was one of the first he collected during his 27 years of working details as a Pembroke special police officer.

And over the years, Rice collected hundreds of other stories from his days on details that he typed up and kept in a three-ring binder.

Now, Rice, 64, has self-published those stories in a paperback book, “A Day in the Life of a Road Detail Police Officer.”

“These events took place over a 28-year span, and are just the tip of the iceberg,” he explains at the beginning of the book. “I have selected the funny side to show what is happening today.”

Rice said he showed the anecdotes to friends over the years who joked with him about being a detail officer. After a while, some suggested that he publish them.

He hopes the book will help the public understand what police officers do at construction sites and support the need for police officers to direct traffic, rather than lower-cost private flagmen. He also hopes it will just show the funny side of detail officers and the driving public.

The book also includes names he has been called, items that have fallen off cars and safety tips for police officers, along with questions he has been asked during his many years on details.

No names are mentioned — just incidents, without police procedures or outcomes of the stop. Rice said he alerted the Pembroke police and selectmen he planned to publish the book.

Rice, a retired builder and Navy veteran, said his experiences convinced him that he didn't want to be a full-time cop.

“Some days it's boring. Nothing happens,” Rice said. “The really hard part is standing out there when it's, like, 17 below zero or 100 degrees.”

One night, Rice said, a pickup truck was driving toward him on Route 139, scraping the road with sparks flying. Rice stopped the driver and asked if he knew what was going on. The driver said he lost his muffler and was trying to get home to get it fixed.

“I said, 'First of all, your muffler is fine',” Rice said. The problem was actually a shopping cart jammed under the front of the truck.

Rice published the book on the Web site www.lulu.com. He purchased a bar code and copyright. The book will be available in January on Borders.com and Amazon.com.

Rice said he still works details six or seven days a week — in the warm weather. His daughter often works with him as a detail officer in town.

“My next detail assignment is when it gets warmer out,” he said Friday.

Sydney Schwartz may be reached at sschwartz@ledger.com.