One day, early in my career with the Los Angeles Police Department, I needed to look up the telephone number for some departmental entity or another. Scanning the desk blotter on which were printed the phone numbers for the LAPD’s many bureaus, divisions, and sections, I came upon this enigmatic little entry way down in one corner: “WRONG DOORS.” Its purpose was a mystery to me at the time and remained so until, some years later, I began taking part in investigations targeting drug dealers. It was the phone number for the city carpentry shop, which we called when we had served a search warrant and broken down, yes, the wrong door.
In the years I spent working in drug investigations, I had occasion to call the number only once, this after relying on an inaccurate map of a public-housing project provided by the building management. The four-bedroom apartment I had described in the warrant affidavit and thought I was entering had in fact been converted into a pair of two-bedroom units, and I had chosen the wrong one. For the people in the apartment we mistakenly entered, it was no doubt a jarring experience. Bad enough to live next door to a drug dealer, even worse to have the police come barging into your home looking for him.