Michael Wells is no longer a police officer, and he is miserably unhappy about it.
Five years ago, Wells was shot in the neck and the arm with a .357 magnum at close range when he tried single-handedly to arrest a man who had barricaded himself inside a Capitol Hill house. The man who shot him went to jail.
After his partial recovery from the shooting, Wells and the department fought bitterly over what kind of work he would perform when he returned to the department.
Wells argued that he should return to regular status with specialized duties that would take into account his limited use of his arm. The department wanted to slate him for "permanent limited duty," which involves nonstrenuous work and the loss of police powers.
Officers in this category are sometimes derisively called the "rubber gun squad."
On May 29, Wells was fired.
Wells says he chose the police force after returning from Vietnam and trying several construction jobs. He says there are two kinds of police officers--the "rollers," who don't hesitate to act, and the rest.
"I am proud to be a roller. I pride myself on my abilities. The night I got shot, I was enforcing the law and I got shot. . . . I live by my wits. I don't need 15 police to back me up."
Since the shooting on that spring afternoon, which Wells remembers as "a lovely day, warm enough for everyone to be in shirt sleeves," he has had four operations on his arm and shoulder. He says he spends his time raising his two children, consulting with the lawyer he hired to represent him in his job battle, and getting together with other "rollers" to keep up on street news.
The indoctrination days on the job and the testing by other officers are still vivid for Wells.
"You drink on the job sometimes to calm your nerves. You have a hit with a cup of coffee and then you go back out there. That's a test. You see some young officer and you offer him a drink to see if he will do it. You see someone with potential, a raw recruit with something to offer. And then you pull him out and you hone him to be a good police officer. That was done for me, and I did it for others.
"God, I miss it. I had found my niche in life."