Note: The core premise of this story is based on an actual policeman’s anecdote.

With the descent of Minnesota into a land of lawlessness and emasculated law enforcement, it’s perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on an altogether different era in the state’s history.

Legend has it that in the 1980’s, there was a cop whose reputation was known far and wide. To the public, he was known as Officer Jensen. But to anyone in Minnesota or anywhere else for that matter who wore a badge, he was known only as “Four Fingers.”

The name came from the fact that the pinky of his right hand had been severed during a childhood accident. As a result, it looked at though he was imitating the shape of a gun when he waved or gestured at people. Whether or not that contributed to his personality in adulthood will never be known.

What is certain is that he was a rough son of a bitch, the kind of officer that everyone wanted as a partner if trouble arose during a confrontation. But you didn’t want him as wingman in the local bar—especially after his third drink. How he graduated the police academy and been entrusted with so much as a toy gun has long been a topic of speculation among the old-timers now retired from the force and with the time to reminiscence on such things.

Nobody even recalls what city department he worked for, though it’s guessed he was in one of those rural areas where the pay wasn’t that great and as a result they couldn’t hire the best. Regardless, it was a community that experienced a surge of crime by the time Four Fingers arrived to work the night patrol. It wasn’t the gruesome stuff of Ted Bundy or Gary Ridgeway, but the petty things. The snatch-and-grab, breaking-and-entering, vandalism type stuff. Things that didn’t harm anybody or make much of a fuss even in the local newspaper.

But for Four Fingers, it was in some ways worse. It was unnecessary. It was out of boredom or convenience, not desperation or privation. He hated doing patrol to find graffiti on the railroad bridges and underpasses. The shattered glass of broken windows from drug stores on the sidewalk was an annoyance. It left everyone tense and anxious, especially him as he drove past neighborhoods.

And Four Fingers wasn’t the kind of man who had a good grip on his nerves.

Then one day, it happened.

As it turned out, he on the clock one evening when he turned onto the main street to find a burglar leaving a sporting goods store with a bag in hand. Dashing out of his patrol car, he ran up to the suspect and pinned him to the ground. Proper procedure was to handcuff him, cite Miranda, then take him back to the station for booking.

But something snapped inside Four Fingers. Who knows what pushed him over the edge. One old-timer claims the suspect had the stupidity to smile at him. Or perhaps he just didn’t like the look of the man’s face.

Whatever it was, Four Fingers took out his baton and proceeded to beat the man. Not in a Rodney King-like manner. More like Muhammed Ali smacking around an arrogant amateur who needed the kind of humility only a solid beating would provide. There were no screams, just shocked groans as the suspect absorbed blow after blow. He probably refrained from calling for help because he was terrified it would escalate.

Eventually, Four Fingers stopped and stepped back from the man. No clothes torn. No blood drawn. Unlikely he left serious bruises. He had struck in all the right places. Besides, “resisting arrest” meant a hell of a different thing in the 1980’s than it does now.

It’s then that Four Fingers felt a twinge of guilt. His conscience tugged at him. One can only guess he felt he hadn’t lived up to his own sense of duty as an officer. Of course, it’s possible he was just crazy.

Bringing the suspect up to his feet, Four Fingers apologized.

Then he offered to buy him some KFC.

The suspect was bewildered, but agreed. A half an hour later, they left the nearest KFC with a backseat filled with chicken wings, mashed potatoes, and a giant soda drink. Four Fingers parked and let the suspect eat until he was full, then took him to the station to have him booked. To his amazement, the suspect never mentioned the beating he took when he was eventually charged and plead guilty to a gross misdemeanor.

It’s known only to God whether the suspect cleaned up his act after that or whether the beating had had the proper effect.

But he never caused trouble in that town ever again.

The beating had been like a drug cocktail injected into Four Finger’s veins, and he couldn’t quit. Shift after shift he encountered petty criminals and beat them, only to apologize and buy them KFC afterwards. This continued for weeks, and with it the small-time crime in their town during his shift decreased noticeably. So much so he was given an Officer of the Month award. Other cops in the department were aware of his MO, but nobody protested. Some of them preferred to let him do what it took to deal with the vandalism. Others just found him so plain scary they couldn’t imagine ratting on him, especially when the head of their union made it clear Four Fingers had his back. The criminals themselves also never filed a complaint, likely just as bemused by his conduct as everyone else.

But all the awards and commendations and praise couldn’t ease the conflict within Four Fingers’ conscience. He felt deep down that his behavior was wrong. Yet, a part of him couldn’t cut loose of what he was. Though he only inflicted minor injuries to those who deserved worse, he feared he’d never be able to let it go until it destroyed him.

This went on for a while. Then one evening, he was again on patrol and encountered a guy graffitiing an old brick building. Four Fingers thought something was up when the perp looked at him through the blinding patrol car headlights for an extended moment before taking off. Now on foot, Four Fingers pursued him and easily caught up, tackling him to the ground. The guy appeared barely 25, but had that haggard look and those sullen cheeks of a druggie.

Handcuffing him, Four Fingers kept him on his knees as he reached for his baton at his side and drew it, preparing to initiate a ritual that he had commenced so many times before.

But this time…this time, he hesitated. Just long enough for the suspect to speak.

“Would you hurry up?”

Four Fingers looked at him puzzlingly. “You looking forward to a beating?”

“No. I’m looking forward to my KFC.”


“Come on. We all know you’re the cop who gives people KFC after he beats them.”

“You graffitied just to get beat by me?”

“No, I graffitied to get KFC. I’m hungry!”

Four Fingers looked at the pathetic man, his hand gripping the baton even tighter. The suspect watched with eager anticipation in his ravenous eyes.

To his horror, Four Fingers instead put the baton away before grabbing the man and raising him from the ground. Leading him back to his patrol car, the suspect heard the officer mutter under his breath.

“You did it. You sons of a bitches managed to make an honest cop out of me.”