It's Friday night in North Dakota, and I'm riding with Simmons as he patrols an area larger than Rhode Island in his Chevy Silverado. He's part of the reinforcements hired to fight the crime wave that comes when you double a county's population with 10,000 drunk 27-year-old men thousands of miles away from their women and common sense. Arrests went up from 832 in 2008 to 1,886 in 2011.
Newbies like Simmons are sent out on the prairie solo, the nearest backup sometimes 30 minutes away. "I like it," says Simmons, a 28-year-old with a crew cut and a soft voice. "Some people hate being alone and all the empty spaces, but I love it." We stop in a gas station for Lunchables, chase a drunk walking along the highway, and then head into Ray, a town of 600 now doubled in size due to the expansion of the Hess refinery.
That's where we meet Goatee Guy. Simmons handcuffs him and puts him in the back of his truck. Goatee Guy is displeased.
"Fucking Barney Fife cracker! You're arresting me because I'm a Mexican. Goddamn racist!"
Simmons sighs and puts the truck into gear. We stop gently at a stop sign. Goatee Guy slams his skull against the plexiglass. I look back, and he has a giant smile on his face, slurping up the blood running into his mouth.
"Fucking police brutality! You guys are fucked! I'm an oil roughneck, motherfucker."
Simmons slips the Silverado onto Highway 2. It's a good 40-minute drive back to the county jail, and Goatee Guy continues his running commentary.
"This is Rodney King all over! Country-ass motherfuckers! You're brutalizing me because I'm a Mexican!"
Simmons glances back to make sure his prisoner is still breathing.
"What bothers me is I've got family here," says Simmons. "Some of the people come here and trash whatever they see. Not everyone, but some of them do. And that's tough to watch."
We head over to the jail. Goatee Guy finally winds down and makes an admission.
"I'm actually not Mexican. I'm Italian! My people are from Sicily! They will fuck you up!"
He laughs the saddest laugh. At the jail, Simmons checks him in. He's got a roach in his cigarette pack, so that's another charge added to drunk-and-disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice. On his phone is a picture of his baby daughter wearing sunglasses shaped like giant pot leaves. Simmons sighs. "Some of these guys aren't so smart."
Simmons spends the next two hours doing paperwork while our new friend is sawing wood in his cell. I peek in. Even a creep can look pretty good when he's asleep.