"OK, men, here's the ground rules. You crooks dress comfortably and carry on any way you like. You cops wear ridiculous uniforms, follow every rule ever written and some that haven't been yet, maintain an even temper even under the most adverse. . . ."
That's a judge speaking, instructing two nauseated-looking police officers and two beaming criminals in one of Police Officer Wally Davis' "Crime Crushers" cartoons. The drawing, Davis says, is intended to win a few chuckles--and to "alert people to the fact that we (police) are extremely limited in what we can do" to keep the civic peace.
Most of all, Davis says, the cartoons in his two published books ("Crime Crushers" and "Son of . . . Crime Crushers") are meant to show that police are as humanly fallible as everybody else. A little humor, Davis says, can help relieve the intense stress that every "street cop" feels every day on the job.
Davis writes and draws from experience. The 34-year-old Anaheim resident and La Palma Police Department officer has been a patrolman for 11 years and a part-time cartoonist since his high school days. For the past seven years, Davis has been lampooning aspects of police life that strike him as funny, and in December, 1984, his first cartoon collection was published.
Humor Is 'Best Defense'
"Everybody in police work has to have a funny side. Humor is one of the best defenses we have against stress. . . . People expect us to be more (in control) than they are. We have to be strong all the time . . . but we're flesh and blood," Davis said in an interview a few days before he left on a monthlong cross-country trip to promote literacy. "If you learn to put things in perspective and find out what's funny in a situation, it's not going to bother you as much."
Davis--who hopes eventually to syndicate his work--had his first two books published by Fragments West/The Valentine Press, a small Long Beach company run by cartoonist Phil Yeh. Davis' books have sold "about 9,000 or 10,000 copies between them," mostly through mail orders, he said. More books will be coming from Davis' own recently formed mail-order company, Copouts Ink. (The address is P.O. Box 6223, Anaheim 92806.)
As far as he knows, Davis said, he is the only police officer-cartoonist in the United States who is publishing books of cartoons that poke fun at police officers' lives.
His cartooning is encouraged by administrators and patrol officers in the La Palma department, Davis said. He came to the station seven years ago, 18 months after he had "burned out" from what he called 4 1/2 high-stress years at the Colton Police Department in Riverside County. Davis said he worked as a sales representative after leaving Colton but "realized (police work) is where my interests lie," so he found a job at La Palma, a much smaller police department, in 1979. Although he later transferred to two other cities' police stations in pursuit of career advancement, Davis said he "went home" to La Palma in 1984.
Source of Cartoons
Shortly after his return, "without my knowing about it," Davis said, the La Palma officers hung a small bulletin board above a hallway drinking fountain. Dubbed "Wally's World," the bulletin board now displays several Davis cartoons. Material for these cartoons is drawn from what Davis observes in his own work and from what other officers tell him--although he said he often fictionalizes situations.
As an officer, Davis works three 12-hour shifts and has four days off each week. He does the cartooning on his days off but carries "a little book with me, and when I get an idea I write it down" while patrolling, he said. When other officers "goof up, they'll tell me about it themselves" rather than have someone else tell him first, Davis added. Before long, a satirical look at the "goof-up" may be on the bulletin board. Davis said he believes that seeing a funny cartoon about a problem situation may help an officer "realize it (the problem) is not the end of the world."
Plenty of Davis' cartoons poke fun at civilians, too. "We (police officers) do see a lot of stupid stuff," Davis said. One of his favorite "Crime Crushers" cartoons is a drawing of a man in a sports car pulled up to a police barrier emblazoned with "Do Not Cross," "No Entry," "Keep Out" and "Stop" signs. In the cartoon, the driver asks a nearby officer, "Excuse me, officer, can I get through here?"
"That particular situation comes up all the time," Davis said.
Cast of Characters