This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Law enforcement has changed a lot since I became a cop in 1978. There were no cellphones, Tasers, laptop computers or DNA screening then. It was like being a cop on "Gunsmoke."
The '70s were a dangerous time for cops. Speculated causes were drugs, elevated crime, poor training and poverty. My money was on disco.
We worried about being shot, stabbed or with increasing likelihood getting hit by motorists driving with their heads in their butts. To the best of my recollection, we never worried about getting killed by barf.
Thanks to SB97 sponsored by Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, it may soon become a felony to intentionally "propel" vomit at a cop. It joins the list of other human-produced goo that is illegal to propel at the police, including saliva, blood, urine and poo.
Note: Yeah, I know "poo" is not the scientific or legal word cops use, but I got an editor now.
Back in the day, whatever was inside people was simply a disgusting adjunct of a job in public safety. It was gross, but it wasn't potentially life-threatening.
If you found a drunk annealed to a hot sidewalk in his own juice, you simply peeled him off, tossed him in the car and drove him to jail.
Couldn't have been easier … unless he started spitting. Then you pulled over and put a bag on his head. Optimally it was a bag he could breathe through but really just about anything would do. You worried about the spit in your hair later.
Speaking of saliva, in 1979 I got bit by a teenage girl who didn't want to go to youth detention. I cleaned it up with some alcohol, stuck a bandage on and forgot about it. And since it occurred way before Stephenie Vamp-Meyer, the only thing I got was a scar.
Likewise we didn't glove up to gather body parts, we performed unprotected CPR and washed bodily effluents out of the backseats of our patrol cars with a hose and called it good.
We did take some precautions. My wife had a separate laundry hamper for my uniforms. Not because she was worried about infection, but rather because a couple of times she found really disturbing parts stuck to them.
Times changed. Not only did computers finally come along, but so did the viruses that could infect them. And so did stuff that could infect cops, EMTs and firefighters.
As dangerous as the '70s were, it seems far scarier today. Human beings carry all sorts of concealed weapons now, including hepatitis B and C, HIV, hemorrhagic fevers and even lycanthrope germs.
All of those can intentionally be turned into weapons by some [poo]head who combines them with a personal stew and then deliberately hurls it at public-safety workers. If he knows he's infected, it should be worth a felony and a bag over his head.
But I don't think it should just be cops who are protected from potentially lethal slime. Moms of toddlers should get medals of valor.
My wife still finds it humorous that I could put up with all of that but could never change my own kids' diapers. Some of those were the worst felonies I ever saw.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.