THE CITY Life on the Beat After O.J., Mark Fuhrman, and Rodney King

Meet Al Pagan, a Shakespeare-quoting, philosopher cop who wonders if the bad guys just may be winning.

THE RADIO CRACKLES. “FAMILY DISTURBANCE ON WHEELER Street,” says the disembodied voice of the female dispatcher. “Man and wife. Complainant hungup.” Patrol officer Al Pagan punches a few numbers into a keyboard and the report of the 911 call that came in moments before appears in yellow letters on the squad car’s computer screen. “Need Spanish speaker,” Pagan reads in a gravelly voice straight from the Bronx. “No further information.”

It’s a Tuesday night near 8 o’clock, a balmy November evening just before Thanksgiving. “That’s where we’re going,” Pagan says, stabbing a finger into the keyboard, pecking out a numerical code that tells the police dispatcher he’s taking the call. Riding solo tonight, he heads south to an apartment complex off Lemmon Avenue to answer one of the calls street police fear the most: a family disturbance. When domestic violence breaks out, citizens call the police. But when officers arrive and prepare to take someone to jail, family members have been known to change their minds and turn on the cops.

Pagan’s beat, number 535 out of the Northwest Substation near Bachman Lake, stretches south to Mockingbird Lane and north to Community Drive, along the Stemmons Freeway corridor. But Pagan and his usual partner, a black officer named Ricardo Campbell who is manning a separate car tonight, seldom stay within their beat on any given night. On their 4 p.m. to midnight shift, they may roam as far east as the upper-class neighborhoods edging the Park Cities, as far north to the apartments along LBJ, and as far south as the commercial warehouses of Industrial Boulevard.

Pagan drives fast, but the report code doesn’t mandate sirens and lights. About seven minutes after getting the message, he finds Wheeler, a street near Love Field. The address is a gated apartment complex visibly sagging with age. Iron gates block access to the parking lot. Pagan reaches for a small box on the car’s visor.

“This is the best little gadget they ever gave us,” Pagan says. “If the apartments are gated, you can go right in.” He presses the button. Nothing happens. The opener’s batteries are dead.

Fortunately Pagan’s backup, who has driven all the way from Forest Lane, arrives in the next few seconds. The gate opener in his squad car works. The two park and begin looking for apartment #224, but the numbers on the doors seem to follow little rhyme or reason. It takes the two officers another three or four minutes to find the right place.

Pagan knocks on a door. A Mexican man wearing a blue Texas Rangers T-shirt answers. Warm air rushes out, spiced with the rich smells of the family’s dinner. The one-bedroom apartment is so tiny virtually all of it can be seen from the door. On a bed in the living room sits a plump Mexican woman clutching a newborn baby, its thick black hair spilling from beneath a knit .cap. Another Mexican woman and a teenage girl walk into the room. The new mother looks anxiously at the two uniformed cops.

Pagan, whose curly black hair and dark skin bespeak his Puerto Rican-Italian heritage, walks into the small living area and launches into Spanish, asking questions to figure out what the problem is. His backup, a white officer with a blond crew cut who doesn’t speak Spanish, listens at the open door.

Crying softly, her voice trembling, the mother answers Pagan in rapid-fire Spanish. The father offers his two cents worth. Pagan responds in Spanish, incredulity obvious in his inflection and facial expression. Pagan asks the white.officer to take the man outside while he continues to quiz the woman.

After a few more minutes of questioning, Pagan turns to the teenage girl, a Hispanic beauty with a cherubic face and long curly hair, who says she speaks English. “Well, if I understand this correctly, the reason we got called out here is because she won’t let him hold the baby,” Pagan says. “Is that why?”

The teenager nods. “He never touched her or hit her or anything like that? ” Pagan asks. She shakes her head. Pagan calls the white officer inside and explains the situation. “He called us because his wife wouldn’t let him hold the baby?” the other officer asks.

After 10 more minutes of discussion, it comes out that the new mother stays in her room most of the time and refuses to come out. She’s afraid to let her husband hold the newborn girl. Maybe he’ll take the child away. There may have been conflict between the two in the past, but tonight there’s no fighting, no domestic violence. The two officers suggest politely to the woman that she see a doctor about postpartum depression and stride disgustedly to their cars, the father in tow.

“Now, should we be handling that or should they have sent that directly to a family guidance place?” Pagan asks, rummaging around in the back seat of his squad car. “We don’t have the mechanism in place to distinguish between a police matter and something we can give to a therapist.” He emerges with a blue card listing social service referrals, circles one offering Spanish-speaking counselors and hands it to the man, who clutches it shyly and heads back to his apartment. The other officer roars off in his squad car, still muttering about “driving all the way from Forest Lane for a man can’t hold his baby cause his wife’s got postpartum depression. Not only that, I don’t speak a lick of Spanish.”

Pagan climbs back into his blue-and-white and shakes his head. He clears the call by punching a code into his computer, then types a message to tell Ricardo Campbell he’s taking a break for dinner. Just a typical night on the beat. To describe it, Pagan uses a phrase someone once used to describe combat in Vietnam: days and days of tedium punctuated by occasional moments of stark terror.

Leaving the Mexican couple to their stand-off, Pagan drives to the La Madeleine restaurant on Lemmon Avenue, one of his favorite places to eat. No doughnut shops or McDonald’s drive-throughs for this cop. Fine food has been known to bring tears to Pagan’s eyes. Hand-held radio to one side, he dives into a plate of beef bourguignonne and slabs of crusty French bread slathered with butter.

A few moments later, Campbell arrives. Both men are about the same size: 5 feet 11 inches tall, 200 to 230 pounds. Both men lift weights, but Campbell’s arms are even more massive than Pagan’s; the muscles bulge from his blue short-sleeve police uniform shirt like rump roasts in a butcher’s case. “He’s like a piece of steel,” Pagan says of his partner. “If he were a handsome man, he’d be something else.” Campbell throws back his closely cropped head and laughs.

As other police officers arrive for cups of coffee and slices of pumpkin tart, Pagan tells them the story of his last call and they chuckle at the silliness of it, Jennifer, the manager, comes over to ask Pagan about his meal.

“Mmm, if my wife could cook like that I’d never work part-time jobs,” Pagan says. “My wife can’t boil an egg.” The four or five officers agree that La Madeleine is an upscale version of that cops’ perennial favorite, the doughnut shop. “It’s all about sublimating,” Pagan says.

In the middle of his meal, Pagan’s radio crackles to life. He takes it outside to listen, then returns looking shocked. “Do you believe?” Pagan says. “I’ve got to go back to Wheeler. There goes my meal. ” He shovels a few more bites of the rich beef stew in his mouth. He looks longingly at the rest of the plate, “Man, oh man, this is a shame. ’Cause she won’t let him hold the baby.” He shrugs and heads out the door,

To Pagan-who has a bit of a reputation as the Philosopher Cop, ready to quote Shakespeare or Nietzsche at the drop of a nightstick- the call is a sign of the times: the ad-hoc use of police officers to rescue the crumbling families of America. “You’re a baby sitter, a social worker, a psychiatrist,” Pagan grumbles. Catching criminals seems to be somewhere far down on the list.

That’s a small problem compared to some of the other attitudes toward police they are encountering on the streets nowadays. Pagan and Campbell have struggled to make something of themselves, becoming police officers not only as a way out of poverty but as a way to gain respect. But being a cop in the ’90s is not a surefire means of reaping community esteem. Post-Rodney King, in the wake of the Mark Fuhrman disgrace, police officers-white, black, and brown- are targets of disdain and suspicion as never before. It’s enough to make many cops start thinking about life beyond the beat.

“HEY, SAL, WHAT’S UP?” SAYS PAGAN. “YOU GONNA COME BY the gun club? You know you can come there any time.”

It’s a late Thursday night and the two officers are riding Beat 535 together. They’ve stopped for their evening meal at Sal’s Pizza Restaurant, a dumpy-looking spot on Wycliff Avenue with a reputation for great pasta and pizza. Sal, who stays open late and keeps not one but five guns around for protection, nods and waves while six or seven cooks stir food in the open kitchen.

Campbell orders veal and spaghetti. For Pagan, tonight’s dinner is “Angel Hair al Tony, ” angel hair pasta with big shrimp in a spicy fresh tomato sauce. It brings tears to his eyes.

Pagan’s invitation to Sal involves his latest entrepreneurial effort: The D/FW Gun Club and Training Center near Love Field. After the Texas concealed handgun law was passed, Pagan decided that businessmen and families needed a clean, upscale place to train in the use of firearms and self-defense. He and another officer found a partner with money to invest and opened the gun range in December in a building once occupied by a “gentlemen’s fitness club.”

Pagan envisions the gun club as a place a mom from the Park Cities can bring her 14-year-old son to learn rifle safety while she takes a course to get her concealed handgun permit. The gun lanes have been specially designed with enough room to allow several people to stand with the instructor, to promote that feeling of family togetherness. Martial arts experts will teach self defense in a dojo in the back.

It’s a continuation of Pagan’s pursuit of the great American dream, which involves remaking himself and changing society as well. It’s his adamant belief that ordinary people should arm themselves against criminals, that everyone should know how to protect themselves In these dangerous times. Why shouldn’t he make money off those beliefs?

Campbell, who also dreams of owning his own business, perhaps a sports memorabilia shop, smiles indulgently at Pagan’s business ideas. Campbell moved to Dallas IS years ago, a year after he graduated from high school in Philadelphia. The Steel Belt had corroded into the Rust Belt and there were few good jobs for young black men. To him, Dallas of the mid-70s looked like the golden land of opportunity. Campbell’s mother is a jazz singer; his father abandoned die family when he was a baby. “I wouldn’t know him if he walked in that door,” he says. There were years when neither his mother nor his stepfather, both heavy drinkers, did much work. Kids would tease him when they saw those big blocks of cheese and butter given out by the welfare department in his family’s refrigerator.

“Welfare cheese, welfare cheese! ” Pagan laughs, mimicking those taunts from long ago. Though his parents were never on welfare, he remembers well the taste of that government-issue cheddar. Pagan grew up in the South Bronx, the son of an Italian mother and a Puerto Rican father who dabbled in voodoo and white witchcraft. Mis mother died when Pagan was 10 years old. When he was a teen. Pagan’s step-mother used to lock the kitchen cabinets so he couldn’t get at the food. Pagan has not only bad memories but physical scars from his father’s beatings.

Al liked to smoke pot in those days. When he was 17, his father told him that he was going either to jail or into the military. Glad to leave the Bronx, Pagan joined the Navy in February L971 on a two-year program that got disadvantaged kids out of the ghetto.

During those years, heroin took over his neighborhood. Frightened of the drug’s power, Pagan refused to try it when his friends brought out their syringes. At home one day from boot camp, Pagan saw a Puerto Rican friend named Frankie Valez sitting in a stairway. “He’s my age, good-looking kid, and he’s nodding off on the stairway,” Pagan says. “He’s snorted or shot up something. I’m not sure. I keep going down the steps.”

Five years later, Pagan returned to New’ York. “I’m visiting a friend, I shoot down the steps, there’s Valez on the stairs, nodding off,” Pagan says. “But of course, he did not resemble the guy 1 used to know.” As it often does with Pagan, the memory brings to mind something he’s read: Victor Hugo’s short story “Last Days of a Condemned Man.”

Pagan says, “It’s unbelievable, ail about what a guy’s thinking as he’s gonna die. It made me wonder. What would it be like to sit and write Frankie Valez s five years on the stairwell?”

Today, Pagan peppers his conversations with quotes from Shakespeare, Aristotle, Jung, Nietzsche. He loves words–big words, obscure words. Pagan looks for opportunities to use terms from other languages-sotto voce, in flagrante delicto, patois-letting the sound of them roll off his tongue. But when he dropped out of high school, Pagan was unable to read anything more complicated than a comic book, much less Victor Hugo. Pagan earned a GED in the Navy but once he was out, had little luck finding a job in New York with his educational background. So Pagan joined the service again-this time the Army-in June 1974.

“I took some tests, and they said ’Man, you don’t qualify for much,’ ” Pagan says. “In the Navy, all I did was wipe decks and mop. At the time 1 felt profoundly ashamed, They were taking people left and right, but with me it was, ’We might be able to get you into this job slot.’ “

The Army did take Pagan and sent him to lance missile technician school at a base in Huntsville, Ala., where he learned to shoot surface-to-air missiles, On the streets of Huntsville. Pagan ran into a fiery street evangelist who began preaching to him about Christianity. Pagan warned the guy to stop badgering him, but eventually the man s message hit home and at 20, Pagan became a born-again Christian. Transferred to Germany, Pagan was attending chapel on the military base in 1975 when he met Patricia, a beautiful Mexican-American from Grand Prairie touring Europe with a gospel group called Donna Moon and the Stars. Patricia was one of the Stars. They quickly fell in love.

“I thought if I get married, she’ll feel ashamed of her husband being. you know, stupid,” Pagan says. After they married, Pagan enrolled in a college class. “I wrote two term papers that were just unbelievably bad-no periods hardly, no commas. I got a C minus or a D. 1 thought ’gee whiz, that wasn’t too bad for a first effort.’ “

For the first six years of their marriage, Pagan performed his military duties and went to school through a variety of college extension programs until he’d earned enough credits for a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Missouri. During those years of study, Pagan became a voracious reader. Now, when his shift ends, he goes home, pours a glass of wine, puts on a little light background music, and reads for at least 45 minutes before going to bed. It might be a biography of Joe DiMaggio, a book about chess players’ great moves, or Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Books amaze him.

“Say you’re an author who takes five years to research a topic and write the book,” Pagan says with a note of awe. “In one week, I can read that book and get what it took you five years to do. That’s a tremendous method of acquiring knowledge and information. I just like to feel that I’m progressive and growing, that I’m cultivating my mind.”

After quitting the Army, Pagan earned a graduate degree in contract and acquisition management from the Florida Institute of Technology. The Pagans moved to Dallas in 1982. “My degree was really good had I wanted to get on with the government in the weapons procurement field, or maybe with a weapons developer where I could do pricing analysis or prepare negotiations,” he says, “Then I realized I didn’t want to sit in an office and do paperwork. I thought, well, on an interim basis, let me get on with the park police. There’s horses, boats, motorcycles, the people, the open air.”

In 1.982, Pagan joined the Dallas Park Police and met Ricardo Campbell. Four years later, the park police were absorbed by the Dallas Police Department. Since 1986, former park police like Pagan and Campbell have been patrol officers, taking the same calls that other DPD officers answer. Pagan has been shot at, attacked by drunks, and some nights has wondered if he was going home in one piece at the end of his shift.

At 42, with extra pay for the bachelor’s degree and for being bilingual, Pagan makes about $42,000 a year. But he and Campbell are topped out. When the park police were integrated into the police department, Pagan says, they were told they could transfer to DPD without having to go back to square one as rookies, which would lower their pay. They could take the civil service exam required to become police officers. But according to Pagan (and his is not the only view of this tangled dispute), the city reneged on those promises. The park officers discovered the day before the test that city codes forbade them from taking the exam.

At finit, the city simply treated ex-parkies as civilian employees with guns. When making arrests, they often faced resistance because people didn’t believe they were “real” cops; their badges didn’t look like those of regular officers. It took Pagan and his cohorts four years to force the city to give them police badges.

Today Pagan, Campbell, and the 19 other former park police officers who remain on the force can’t share in the police pension plan or early retirement plan. Though both men work the same job as other DPDofficers, they can’t make corporal-die next step up from patrolman-much less detective, supervisor, or deputy chief. If Pagan and Campbell hang on until retirement, they’ll likely be the oldest street cops in town. And their pension will be 20 to 30 percent lower than other officers with the same amount of time.

In 1989, Pagan and the other park officers sued the department to equalize their jobs, but the suit was dismissed because of a technicality, Though the lawsuit dominated his life for five years, Pagan has let it go-for now. You can only fight so long.

FOR 10 OF THE 1.4 YEARS THEY HAVE BEEN IN LAW ENFORCEMENT Campbell and Pagan have been partners. And during their years in police work, their views of the world have inexorably changed. Though they grew up poor, they have little tolerance for those on welfare. “I believe if you don’t work you shouldn’t be eating,” says Pagan. “And I’m worse than he is,” says Campbell, who went to work in the ninth grade. “Some people may need government assistance for a little while, but for years? No way.” He even opposes affirmative action. Campbell takes a lot of flack from “the brothers” for his stance, but he is unapologetic. Both describe themselves proudly as straight-ticket Republicans “somewhere to the right of Rush Limbaugh.” One of Pagan’s most cherished mementos is an autographed copy of Richard Nixon’s autobiography.

“I look and I see people not wanting to work,” Pagan says. “Never in the history of this country have we had so many adults unwilling to work. There’s a book out now called The Politics of Poverty and another called Abandoned: The Betrayal of the Middle Class Since World War II. I read them both and you want: to cry, you just: want to cry.”

Oddly enough, their shift this Thursday evening starts on a quirky note that seems to illustrate their point about the decline of the work ethic. About 6:15 p.m., Pagan and Campbell answer a robbery call at a video store on Webb Chapel Road. A young man sent his girlfriend outside to get something from his car. In the parking lot, a robber put a gun to her head and demanded the keys to the car. She complied. When the woman ran back into the video store, the robber drove off in her boyfriend’s vehicle, an ’87 Olds Cutlass with gold Rollster wheels, which look a lot like Daytons. The wheel of choice for many gangbangers, Daytons can cost $1,000 to $2,000 apiece.

Back in the store, instead of consoling her, the woman’s boyfriend lambasted her forgiving up the keys. “I guess she didn’t make the ultimate sacrifice and show her love for him or something,” Pagan says wryly. By the time Pagan and Campbell arrive, the man has left the video store and the woman. As the two cops give her a ride, they pass the boyfriend walking home. When the officers ask the man for the car’s license plate number and other information to make a report of the robbery, he gets nasty, telling the cops to “get fucked.”

Pagan and Campbell ask questions and discover that both are unemployed but somehow they are paying rent on an apartment, The woman had a cell phone and a pager. The boyfriend owned a car with absurdly expensive wheels. “It’s pretty easy to see what’s going on here,” Pagan says. “He’s got no insurance and knows he’s not going to get his vehicle back. He doesn’t want the police in his business.” A pursuit, Campbell suggests, that is probably illegal.

Pagan and Campbell shrug and go on to the next call, which sends them down to Irving Boulevard for a code 12-a burglar alarm. It takes a few minutes to find the address; the truck yard has no visible street numbers. “That’s probably the biggest headache out here,” Pagan says.

He uses the powerful search light mounted on the cat to probe the fenced truck yard, but they see no signs of a burglar or a point of entry. Even if someone was inside the yard the officers would simply call the owner to come down to verify that the intruder had no business there. Then the police would give the trespasser a warning and leave. The state has reduced penalties for property crimes to such an extent that few officers are willing to risk arresting a burglar in the act. “Why should you risk your life to catch a guy when he’s just going to get two or three months or probation, and in the process of arresting him, he may shoot you or hurt you, or you may have to hurt him?” Pagan asks.

Like 99 percent of all burglar alarms answered by Dallas police, this one is false. Campbell attaches a red “false alarm” tag to the front gate and they leave, heading to West Dallas to answer a “female driving erratically” call.

On North Hampton Road, a middle-aged white man and a stylish black woman in her 40s flag down the squad car. Both were driving down Hampton in separate cars, they say, when they saw a 1994 red Camaro lurching down the street, swerving from curb to curb. When the young female driver came to a stop, the man grabbed her keys. The driver gave them a phone number to call, but when a man answered, he said he didn’t know a woman by that name and hung up. So they called police.

The two officers approach the car and ask the woman to step out. A tall, slender, white woman with long brown hair emerges. Clearly under the influence of something, she’s moving and talking very slowly. In the beam of Pagan’s flashlight, the perfect skin of her twentyish face glows luminescent, the pupils of her green eyes clearly dilated. ” I just took two Valium,” she insists. “I can drive home.” Then she asks Campbell, “Where am I?”

The two officers look skeptical. When Pagan asks for her name, she hands him a folded birth certificate. Pagan punches her name into the squad car computer, but nothing comes back. He walks back to her car and asks if her driver’s license is in that name.

” Sir, ” she says in a how-dare-you voice, drawing herself up several inches. “I am married…”

“Well, you know what?” Pagan says, cutting her short. “Do yourself a favor. You get upset, I’m going to put you in jail. You haven’t shown me anything and you’re the one driving impaired, for whatever reason. So don’t get upset with me. Based on the witness information, you could go to jail on a DUI. I don’t want to do that to you, but if you get upset with me because I need to ask certain questions, then something tells me, ’hey, there’s something wrong here if she feels offended by my questions.’ “

She sullenly reels off a string of numbers-her driver’s license. This time, when Pagan punches the number into the computer it reveals a long list of traffic violations under the woman’s married name. “Oh, look at this,” Pagan says. “Speeding, accidents, no liability insurance, boom, boom, boom.” Campbell comes to the squad car and reports that she has tracks all over her hands. “She said she was a heroin addict at one time,” Campbell says. He suspects that she’s using heroin again.

Pagan administers a field sobriety test. The woman walks an imaginary line, setting one foot in front of the other with great deliberation, occasionally missing the line. At Pagan’s instruction, she closes her eyes, tilts back her head, raises her arms, and slowly, laboriously, touches the tip of her nose with alternating hands. “Yep,” he tells Campbell. “She’s big-time impaired,” Before he makes a decision about what to do with her, Pagan calls for an officer trained as a drug recognition expert to come check her out. The officer arrives, takes her pulse, and administers another field sobriety test. The officer agrees she’s as high as a NASA satellite. But he can’t tell them what drugs she’s taken.

Campbell and Pagan don’t want to take her to jail-after all, they didn’t see her driving the car-but they can’t leave her out here until she comes down. A spaced-out woman in an expensive car in a poor area of West Dallas? “She’s like fish to kitties out here,” Pagan says.

They decide to take her to detox so she can dry out. Pagan calls a wrecker while Campbell searches her Camaro. Pagan hunts and pecks on the computer keyboard to write a report of the call. “ROs [reporting officers! were unable to locate any family or friends to assist Miss Brown so in her own interest and for her own safety, she was placed in detox. In both ROs’ opinions, Miss Brown was a definite danger to herself and possibly to other motorists.”

Campbell handcuffs the woman’s hands behind her back and eases her into the rear seat of the squad car. As the car is hoisted onto the tow truck platform, she asks with as much indignation as an incredibly stoned person can muster, “Where are they taking my car?”

During the ride to the detox center south of downtown, she says little. When Campbell asks what drugs she’s using, she shrugs. She takes everything, anything that will get her high. But why? he persists. “I like it,” she whispers, quietly defiant.

Campbell gently asks her where she works and she whispers the name of a massage parlor on Industrial Boulevard. That explains what he found in the car; no drugs or paraphernalia but an enormous bag containing cosmetics and several fistfuls of condoms. “When I saw the bag, that confirmed a few things,” Campbell says later. “A lot of the arrests we’ve made are call girls or hookers who are drug addicts big time. You see those flowered cosmetic bags and the different shades of make-up, eyeliner pencils, a bunch of rubbers in there.”

In response, Pagan sighs: ” “Tis a pity that she’s a whore…God gave women one face and they paint themselves another.”

At the detox center south of downtown, the two officers take off their weapons and leave diem in the trunk of the squad car as a precaution against any drunks inside grabbing their guns. As they walk her inside the room, made entirely of washable surfaces, the dozen or so male drunks getting their shoes and property back after a stint in the tank leer at her. A male officer shoos them out, then sprays disinfectant in their aromatic wake.

A black female officer pats down the stoned young woman. Wearing a loose pullover, their prisoner could easily have been carrying a concealed weapon, but Pagan and Campbell can’t search women they arrest. (“Are you kidding?” Pagan asks in disbelief. “You can’t put your hands on a woman. She starts talking about you grabbing her the wrong way? Noooooh.”)

The woman slowly begins taking off her pager, the silver rings decorating most of her ringers, and her necklaces. One by one, she drops them on the desk. Pagan watches with a mixture of pity and disgust. Maybe he’s thinking of Frankie Valez, nodding off on that stairwell somewhere in the Bronx.

AS PARK COPS EARLY IN THEIR CAREERS, Pagan and Campbell spent many a night busting sex offenders, mostly male homosexuals, in parks and restrooms. In 1992, the two went back to undercover work, this time trolling for drug dealers.

Pagan lasted all of six months. One Monday, he arrested a dealer at the corner of Mockingbird and Lemmon for selling him a rock of cocaine, then saw the same guy appear at the same street corner the next Wednesday. Feeling his efforts were pointless for the risks he was taking, Pagan quit the drug detail shortly after that.

Campbell, who had bought a nice house in Cedar Hill, lasted longer in drugs. But one day he arrested a major dealer and discovered the guy’s brother lived in the nice house next door to him. During a subsequent arrest, the dealer made it clear that he had seen Campbell out mowing his lawn. Fearing for his wife and child, and angry that home values in his neighborhood had drastically declined, Campbell eventually got out of undercover drug work and moved to North Dallas. He and Pagan teamed up again on patrol about nine months ago.

Those years of working undercover have made them best friends. They both love singing-Pagan’s a Frank Sinatra fan and Campbell likes rock and jazz. Pagan has even recorded a short compact disc of himself singing his favorite Sinatra songs like “Night and Day.” With his rich tenor voice, he does a credible job of sounding like his idol. Pagan and Campbell have won a few amateur singing contests, and on slow nights, they’ve been known to croon a few tunes in the squad car.

Or, on those rare nights when calls are few, they like talking politics and religion. Campbell used to read little more than the newspaper and sports books. But after so many years of listening to Pagan quote Shakespeare, Campbell finally went out and bought a book of the playwright’s works. Now, when things get really messy, Campbell likes to quote in a deep baritone his favorite line from Julius Caesar, ” Cry ’Havoc ! ’ and let slip the dogs of war! “

They talk about Hegelian ethics, about Nietzsche, about existentialism. In the years since they began working as partners, Pagan says he’s seen a “creeping nihilism” take over the streets, an increasing number of young people who believe in nothing-no God, no family, no work-and thus have nothing to lose. People, particularly young minority kids, are searching for identity and finding it in hate movements, Pagan says. “Outside the Biblical teaching of morality, you don’t have any basis for right and wrong,” he says.

Last October, called to transport a prisoner to jail, Pagan and Campbell picked up a young Mexican national charged with shooting a motorist on Harry Hines Boulevard. When the suspect was arrested, he still had the shotgun in his possession.

The accused shooter sat in the back of their squad car, smiling as if he hadn’t a care in the world. “Do you know why you’re going to jail?” Pagan asked him in Spanish.

“Well, yeah, I shot at a guy,” the man said, shrugging. “He showed me the finger.”

“You shot at a guy?” Pagan said. “You did not shoot at a guy, bud, you killed a guy. You understand what that means? You’re 19. In all likelihood you’re going to see 40 years. You probably won’t see freedom again until you’re 59.” The suspect finally stopped smiling.

That kind of random, casual violence. Pagan says, is the hallmark of much street crime today. And after spending years in the revolving-door criminal justice system, some criminals are more vicious than ever.

This fall, three members of a gang were arrested for kidnapping a couple from their expensive home in Far North Dallas. Police say they took the couple to a field, then robbed them and brutally raped the woman. Two men kidnapped a Piano salesman from a grocery store parking lot in November. They robbed and killed the man.

“You think that you’re insulated now you’ve got money,” Pagan says. “You’ve got three or four cars and a boat. But a 17-year-old, 18-year-old criminal, he gets in a jalopy and he runs up north looking to victimize somebody. You see a lot of that up in North Dallas.”

As a guy who grew up on the streets, Pagan sees people who set up themselves up to be victims. “Ostentatious display of jewelry, maybe, ” Pagan says. “You might get out of a Lexus, not even look around. You feel totally at ease and comfortable because you’ve arrived in life. These guys pick up on that. They think, ’This guy’s an easy mark.’ “Asa police officer, the new concealed handgun law doesn’t make Pagan nervous. After all, the criminals are already carrying guns; law-abiding citizens who don’t carry weapons for self-protection, well, they’re living in a dream world.

“It’s time people not only learn to use a handgun but become sensitive to the fact that they live in a very violent society and they need to learn to habituate certain conduct in order to survive,” Pagan says. “People need to understand, that being the case, I need to take it upon myself so I can defend my wife and kids.”

Knowing how to shoot a gun isn’t enough, he stresses. You have to be willing to shoot the gun if necessary, something many people find hard to do. Pagan has taught his gentle, mild-mannered wife Patricia, a third-grade teacher, to shoot. One night, while Pagan was working a part-time security job, an intruder broke into their apartment. When he was notified, Pagan raced home in a panic.

But his wife’s training had kicked in. As the man came through her living room door, Pat “assumed the stance,” pointed her .357 Colt Python, and shot at him. The bad guy grabbed his shoulder. Pat chased him from the apartment and shot again.

“When 1 got home, I’m thinking she’s going to be shaking like a leaf,” Pagan says. ” Nope. She gave the police die account, then while I guarded the door, “cause it was broke down, she was asleep within 20 minutes.”

IT’S TUESDAY NIGHT-PAGAN’S 42ND birthday-but the reports constantly rolling in make it seem like a Friday night. The squad car computer is holding two pages of calls. Pagan and Campbell answer an acci-dent report on Stemmons Freeway with trepidation. If anything s worse than a domestic violence call, it’s a freeway accident. Pagan had coffee with Sunny Ma Lov only days before the Asian police officer-who had survived the killing fields of Cambodia-was killed by a drunk driver on the freeway.

To their relief, they find no accident. Apparently, the people waiting on police gave up and left. Pagan and Campbell go on to the next call. “Need somebody at a cutting on Sheila..,” the radio crackles. “Unknown suspect…” crackle, crackle.,. “Suspect black male wearing green different-colored top with black hat, seen running towards the bus stop…”

Only a few blocks away, Pagan spins the car around and they race to the bus stop. They see no sign of anyone matching the suspect’s description, The radio blares a call for an ambulance. Cut with a straight razor, the victim looks bad off. Across the street is Bachman Lake Park, with dozens of dark spots where someone could hide. Pagan uses the search light to probe the shadows, but if the suspect fled to the park, he’s long gone.

Moments later, the radio comes to life again. ” DART bus hit a woman. ” Pagan turns the car around again and races to the scene on University Boulevard at Lemmon Avenue expecting to find a pedestrian flattened by a transit bus. It turns out to be nothing of the sort. A girl got off a DART bus, tried to run across a dark road, and ran into the hood of a car. She’s fine, so they’re on to the next report: a 911 hang-up call at an enormous apartment complex so close to a Love Field runway you want to duck every tunc a plane-lands.

While Southwest Airlines planes thunder overheat!, an impossibly young security guard leads Pagan and Campbell through a maze of sidewalks to the complex’s four laundry rooms, tagged with various gang graffiti. As they suspect, it’s a prank call. Pagan and Campbell make a point of being nice to the security guard. (Most cops treat security people with contempt, Pagan says, like major league baseball stars asked to play a tew innings with minor-leaguers. ) Apartment residents, predominantly black, eye the two blue-uniformed cops with suspicion.

As minority officers. Pagan and Campbell get insults from both ends of the spectrum nowadays. On a call the day before, Pagan says, two “obviously educated” white people wanted to report an altercation with a young Hispanic neighbor. “They looked at Rick and they saw black,” Pagan says. “They looked at me and they saw Hispanic. The first thing the man did before telling us the problem was get our name and badge numbers. His entire demeanor spoke of being dissatisfied that he was talking to two minority officers.”

But black and Hispanic citizens eye the duo with just as much suspicion. Every time there’s an ugly incident involving police in L.A. or New Orleans or San Francisco, Dallas officers feel the effect. Pagan and Campbell have been called to homes where the women seemed deathly afraid of them. “I’ve had experiences going on calls together [in black communities] where they didn’t want me or my partner in the house,” Campbell says. “They’re cursing at us. They didn’t want any assistance at all. They said they’d handle it themselves.”

Working traffic on a busy Sunday at Bachman Lake, Campbell stopped an African-American man and wrote him a ticket. “You’re only writing me ’cause I’m black, man, ” the motorist said. Then he pumped his fist in the air and barked: “Rodney King!” When they’re making arrests, suspects frequently bring up King and LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman, whose racist remarks helped to torpedo the O.J. Simpson case.

Both of them think the LAPD officers charged with the videotaped bearing of King were way out of line. “When I saw the officer take a respite and then resume the beating with a stick, I felt sick,” Pagan says. “There was no call for that, That was criminal.”

While both admit that they know DPD officers who too zealously pursue making arrests, not to mention a few Mark Fuhrmans, they know only a few officers who truly abuse their power. But you know, Pagan confides, virtually everybody on the force- black, white, brown-uses the N-word. Black officers also have been known to toss around “the cracker word” and “the honky word,” although Pagan says he’s hearing those words less often because of recent media attention. “People are more concerned with language analysis than anything of substance,” he says.

But in the post-Rodney King world, the ground rules for police work have forever changed. It’s no longer unusual for Pagan or Campbell to see a citizen videotaping them as they make an arrest. It doesn’t bother them. Both think DPD should have an audio-or video-taping system that records interactions with citizens.

“Any officer who’s afraid of that type of scrutiny is obviously doing something wrong, ” Pagan says. “It would protect the officer out here. We’re getting so many bogus complaints. You get a lot of people in the aftermath of a situation who call in and say, ’This officer treated me very poorly and he used profanity’ or whatever. Even if IAD [Internal Affairs Division] investigates that and it is unfounded, that’s on your IAD jacket.”

Increasingly, Pagan says, police officers’ hands are being tied by encumbering rules that have more to do with public relations than laws. They can’t arrest someone for sleeping in public without calling downtown. A fellow police officer who got shot by a Latino youth came under criticism by his superiors for not taking the boy’s pride into account when confronting him.

In 1993, while working a part-time security job, Pagan arrested a partially clothed man who was openly dealing drugs from the doorway of his apartment. When the case finally came to court last summer, Pagan had to endure hours on the witness stand being grilled by defense attorney Robert Rose, who attempted to paint Pagan and the other arresting officer as rogue cops. “Isn’t it true, Mr. Pagan, that you arrested this guy without probable cause? Isn’t it true that you’re an overzealous cop who just wanted the overtime?”

Pagan was stunned when the jury acquitted the man because, as one juror later told him, they couldn’t believe a man would deal drugs dressed only in his underwear. “It doesn’t bother me, lady,” Pagan told her. “He’s going back to your neighborhood, not mine.” (Pagan sardonically refers to Rose, who went to federal prison on tax evasion charges last fall, as a “Machiavellian thespian.”)

Pagan, who recently read an article depicting America as a “200-year-old mistake,” thinks we ought to drop the whole ” melting-pot-one-fabric-of-society” myth and simply talk about co-existing, “Because if we don’t co-exist, we’re going to destroy one another,” Pagan says. “That’s why I think we need to start talking about some realpolitik, not ’You’re my brother.’ You’re not my brother. God made us equal, we ought to love and respect one another, but I think we need to start talking about some realities out here that are not talked about. It’s funny that it’s taboo.”

Racial conflict, legal rulings expanding the rights of criminals, and ever-increasing firepower on the streets are driving police officers into “ritualizing,” simply going through the motions, Pagan says. Many are leaving law enforcement for other, less dangerous lines of work.

If those problems aren’t solved, Pagan says, someday cops in Dallas and L.A. and all over the country won’t be there when people need them. “We’re all browbeaten, we’re all besmirched,” Pagan says. “People expect when they call the police we’re going to come running. When are we going to wake up to the idea that maybe police are not going to come running anymore?”

Over the years, various friends have told Pagan he’s stupid for staying a cop when he could take his masters degree and make some good money in a less dangerous line of work. But, so far, he refuses to quit. Coming from the ghetto and becoming a Dallas police officer, Pagan has made his version of the American dream come true. But like many another cop, he’s looking toward the future, putting his off-duty energies into getting the D/FW Gun Club and Training Center off the ground. And he’s thinking about another business concept, evaluating properties to give potential buyers an idea of hidden crime problems in the neighborhood.

But he insists that it’s not about money, Pagan would like to buy a house for his wife, but he really has everything he needs: A Toyota van, a 1990 BMW, a Jeep Cherokee, sports memorabilia, books when he wants them, trips to Puerto Rico. This winter, he started learning French through language tapes.

Maybe for Pagan it’s about remaking yourself. If a Puerto Rican-Italian high school dropout from the South Bronx can become a Shakespeare-quoting police officer who can hold his own in a discussion of Nietzsche, then maybe anybody can become just about anybody in America.


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