What if the Police Called All Your Contacts?

What would they say about you?

Posted Feb 12, 2020

"Take His Address Book and Start Making Some Calls"

110 Precinct—John Ferriso

It was early on a Sunday morning; the 911 dispatcher gave us the call: Dead body in a car parked under the expressway.

We drove to the location, and a sanitation worker approached us: "I think he is dead." I walked up to the window and knocked. No answer. No keys were in the ignition and I kept knocking. I observed the guy's hand move. Good; he is not dead. I banged on the door harder. He attempted to open the door, yet his hands were like spaghetti. He tried this basic task a few times; he could not complete it.

The guy eventually opens the door and almost falls out. The smell of alcohol was strong. Next to his seat was a half-opened bottle of gin. I repeatedly asked the guy his name and all he could do was mumble and drift off in his drunken stupor. I could see his wallet in his front pocket, so I tried to take it to take his identification. As I grabbed for the wallet, he grabbed my arm. I pulled harder and got the wallet from him. His home address was in Long Island.

We ran the license plate; the car was not stolen. We did not witness him driving and his car was not running, so he was not getting locked up for DWI. All we had on this guy was him being illegally parked. What I really wanted was to get someone to pick up his car and take him home.

I asked again for his home phone number. He just mumbled and laughed. He had a small address book in his other pocket. My partner grabbed it and tried to take it out. Once again, he grabbed my partner's arm and mumbled incoherently. We pushed him into the seat and took the book from him. He was an older guy in his 60s and we did not want to make this into something more serious than what it really was.

EMS arrived and the guy could hardly stand. We had to almost carry him into the ambulance.

I had his car towed and went back to the precinct. I was still annoyed that we could not get a home phone number from the guy. We had an old drunk going to the hospital for alcohol poisoning with nobody to call.

If I did not call his family soon, I would have to make an unidentified person report. More paperwork. I could have sent the Long Island cops to the address on his license, but I wanted to get the info on my own first. Wait, I thought to myself, his address book.

I opened it up and listed on each page were contacts from work. (This was 1998, so cellular phones were not around yet.) It would take some detective skills to get this all done.

I called the first number and it went straight to an answering machine. Let’s say the drunk guy’s name was Joe. My message went like this: Hello, this is officer Ferriso from the NYPD 110th Precinct. Joe was parked in his car and intoxicated under the Grand Central Parkway. We are trying to locate his family.

I would leave the 110 Precinct switchboard number and tell them to call me back. It was only 8:30 on a Sunday morning, so I assumed most of his work associates and friends were still sleeping

I continued with these messages for about a dozen calls. Most of these seemed like work numbers so offices were closed, and no person would get the message until Monday morning. I continued until I could say my speech without much thought involved. I was almost to the last page in his book when someone finally answered my call. This woman sounded like she was playing with her young kids when I called. The woman said that Joe was a salesman she sometimes worked with, yet she did not have a home number to contact him. She did give me the name of another co-worker who had his home number.

I called the number she gave and explained to another person why I was calling He gave me the guy’s home number and wife’s name. I was finally getting somewhere.

I called the wife’s number and she picked up on the first ring. I told her who I was and that her husband’s car was impounded. OK, so he is in jail, she said. I explained to her that he was not observed driving so all we did was send him to the emergency room to detox. This woman did not seem at all fazed by my call. It seemed as if she was aware of her husband’s drinking issues.

Sure enough, as I was leaving, the desk officer calls me over: Hey, you have a call. I pick up the phone and the woman says, Joe was found dead in the trunk of a car? I told her no, and said that he was only intoxicated.

Before the day was over people were waking up and retrieving their messages or calling their answering machines. Some were obviously contacted by others regarding my messages. They called the switchboard so I had to explain to them that Joe was fine. The game of Telephone was now playing out in real time with adult co-workers over the phone.

My partner looked at me and said, Can you imagine how he is going to go back to work on Monday?