Sunday, March 29, 2009

The story behind the picture on the wall

My squad sergeant called me into his office one day several years ago. When I arrived and--per his instructions--closed the door (gulp!), he threw a photograph onto the desk.

It was a photograph taken by one of those infernal speed cameras on a highway not too far from our station.

It shows a car. It's a police car. It's clearly visible as one of ours.
It also shows the date, the time, and the vehicle's speed: 123mph.

The speed limit on that section of highway was 50mph, so I was summoned one fine day to explain to the sergeant how it came to pass that a cruiser signed out to me on that date and time was photographed traveling 73mph over the posted speed limit.

Oh--and a speed limit sign was clearly visible in that picture, just to make it all the more farcical.

"Well you see, Sarge..." I began. It didn't help that I was a relative newbie and still on probation. I paused, reflecting on the fact that my career might well be hanging in the balance.

"Go on," he said. "I've been waiting for you to come in and explain it all day, and I expect that this is going to be good."

And for a moment, I was at a loss. Why the hell would I have been going 123 mph? The date was over a month ago and this was the first I was hearing about it. I couldn't remember that day. What was going on that would have made me drive like that? The only reason I'd ever do it was if...

And then I remembered. A call had come out for an officer in trouble in our neighboring precinct. Our dispatcher had put it out and as luck would have it, I was the only one not already on a call or a traffic stop of my own. So I pulled onto the highway just before 2AM and punched the gas to the floor. I'd forgotten all about the presence of those stupid cameras and wouldn't have cared in any case. One of our own needed help and I was the only one available.

That night I'd made the scene in pretty good time, arriving just after our guy had finished kicking the ass of a punk who'd swung on him during a frisk and then knocked out that punk's cousin after he'd decided to dip in and jump our guy. Hood rats tend to be cowardly when there's just one of them, but when they have numbers on you they get brave, and they'll jump you if they think they can outnumber you. well that had happened here, and it was still simmering when I arrived in a cloud of brake smoke and burnt transmission fluid. A couple of other local mooks were crossing the street to join in, but on my arrival they changed their minds and took off. I didn't even get to hit anybody so I just helped our original guy secure the two that he'd cleaned up and I watched his back while he searched punk #1's car and recovered a small quantity of dope to augment the stash that he'd already taken out of that knucklehead's pocket. I transported one of the two to our lock-up for him and had forgotten all about that wild ride until the sergeant threw the speed cam picture on his desk and demanded an accounting.

So I told him where I'd been going any why, and as soon as he confirmed it with a call to Dispatch, he looked at me, smiled, and said "Good job". Then he proceeded to have the picture framed and it hung on his wall until he retired. I don't know what happened to it--I sure would have liked it--but it appears that he decided to take it out to pasture with him. But he was old school and a real cop's cop, so I won't begrudge him that photo. Hell, I'd even have autographed it if he'd asked. Step off, Jeff Gordon. You and that NASCAR crowd ain't got nothing on a cop on a mission to back another cop. Because that's how we roll.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Savages dance while four better men die

Fuck the City of Oakland. Straight up.
I don't mean the police officers there, or the firefighters, or the other couple of dozen people who live there who actually have jobs and no arrest histories, but the rest of them--the mouth-breathing, liquor-drinking, dope-smoking, wife-and-child-beating, welfare-getting, ex-con losers like these scumbags standing across the street from the scene where two police officers were murdered by a parolee and yelling "fuck the police".
Ultimately four brave, selfless police officer were murdered by parolee Lovell Mixon before other officers put him down like the rabid dog that he was. Meanwhile, the surviving officers have to put up with taunts from this band of mutts?

Screw that.

There was a time when my department actually had balls. Had something like this happened back then, we'd have had something for the savages. At Roll Call the next day, every spare officer would have been told to head into that area as part of a total "zero tolerance" campaign. Every violation would result in police attention, meaning that every untagged car would be towed, every observed moving violation or equipment violation would result in tickets and warrant checks on all occupants, all suspicious persons would be contacted and searched, and anyone who could be arrested for any violation would be hauled in. At the same time, the warrant squads would be hitting the houses of anyone known to have outstanding warrants in that area and the narcotics team would be closing up every dope house that they knew about. In short, life would become very unpleasant for the savages while the decent citizens would enjoy a few days with little or no crime.

We used to do that back in the day in instances where a group of residents would decide to harass or interfere with out officers during arrests or traffic stops. We'd hit that neighborhood hard for days on end and just rack up a hellacious number of arrests. Meanwhile, the drug dealers couldn't operate as we were scooping up their street sales boys and nailing their customers who tried to get into or out of the neighborhood. Oftentimes after a few days, the drug boys were known to administer summary punishment to a few of the offenders just to get us to back off. Oppressive? Damn straight. Unconstitutional? Don't care. What mattered was that these thugs learned to show respect for the police. They didn't have to like us, but they damned sure had to show enough respect to think twice about challenging us. And in instances where we had fools like those in Oakland running their mouths...well our sweeps might not have caught all of them up, but you can bet that we'd eventually snag their friends or relatives and their local dope connection, and often if we made life hard enough for the savages around them, someone would eventually make their life hard too.

It was largely because of that policy that we were able to run single-man cars long after the other area agencies doubled up, and why we had fewer chases and fights than neighboring departments. The bad guys knew that to go out of their way to mess with us was risking bringing a ton of heat down on the whole neighborhood in addition to the very real possibility of getting an ass-whipping. Our guys didn't play and our brass didn't expect them to. And if a criminal came in a bit banged up--or had to be arraigned on release from the hospital--so be it. Our officers were expected to win every time and complaints from lumped-up prisoners or their angry mammas were shrugged off. And the predictable result was that our officers got respect and grudging compliance from mutts that would have given crap to any other agency, and criminals often decided to do their thing in other areas because they didn't want their asses kicked. That type doesn't mind going to jail, but the possibility of a fat lip or a black eye on the way resonates with them like conscience or reason will not.

Alas, we're not allowed to do that any more. The unwritten but accepted policy of street justice, aka: "holding court in the alley" or "beat-and-release", was ended several years ago by a new "reform" chief that the higher-ups brought in from outside the department. It took a while for the mutts to catch on to the fact that they could now be as disrespectful to us as they were to other police agencies and everyone else in their little thug world, but they've figured it out now and we have the same problems that all of our neighboring agencies have--and as our brothers in Oakland are now having--where the thugs act as if they own the 'hood and taunting and harassing the police is not only condoned but encouraged. The police-hating, anti-American lawyer groups like the ACLU have done their best to handcuff us, and the tragic result is that now the honest citizens are that much less safe. Evil triumphs when good men aren't allowed to do anything, and it also triumphs in places like California where scumbags like Lovell Mixon are even granted parole.

Look west, people. Because as California is today, much of the rest of America may well be tomorrow. And if I can't stop it, I hope that I'm no longer around to see it happen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pursuits can be fun

Who am I kidding? They ARE fun. However most departments frown on them these days because oftentimes people get hurt. Now if it's just the jerkwater who decides to run, that's no big deal in my personal opinion. Call it a case of the Karma fairy settling accounts. But sometimes it's one of the good guys, and that's bad. And sometimes it's an innocent, totally uninvolved citizen. And that's unacceptable.

I remember my first pursuit like it was yesterday. I'd been on my own out of training for two days and a couple of hours when I saw a beat-up, tinted-out ex-police Caprice going down the road.

Now other than cab companies, only two kinds of people buy ex-police cars: Geeky, unpopular high school kids who are still a step above the Columbine trench Coat Mafia, and thugs.

The first group are mostly harmless. It's just goofy, antisocial little white boys who think that if they buy an ex-police car, someone might think for a moment that they're police officers instead of nerds and they hope that someone might actually respect or fear them. Usually they trick these cars up with as many lights and do-dads as they can to make them look even more like police cars, often to the point of actually getting in trouble for impersonating real police when they start using those lights in traffic, but usually they land a fat girlfriend who treats them like crap and they gladly ditch the toy cop car for her.

The second group is the dope boys and assorted hood rats who think that if they get a car that was once used to arrest many of the people that they know, it'll give them some sort of "street cred" and also allow them to flee from the real police, because everyone knows that an untrained fool driving an ex-police car that hasn't been maintained for crap can out-drive any seasoned police officer in a newer car that's actually been taken care of.

Well it was one of the second sort that I saw on this day, and sure enough, as soon as I went to stop the driver for the window-tint violation, he stomped on the gas and took off. I hit the lights and gunned it, all excited because I had my very own first pursuit. Go, me! And I called it in on the radio, just like I'd been taught, clarifying that it was a pursuit for traffic, giving a description of the vehicle, our direction of travel, and road and traffic conditions. I was doing everything right, just like I'd been taught to do for months in the academy. My fellow recent graduates were no doubt listening, green with envy. This was a great game.

Then a voice came over the radio. It was the shift Lieutenant, ordering Dispatch to tell me to break it off and quit chasing.

WTF?! I was right on this guy! I practically had him, other than the fact that he wasn't stopping. Dispatch relayed the command to me. "Break it off."

And here's where I almost ended my police career in it's opening days. I pulled a trick that I'd heard other officers do, both on TV and even in Field Training:

"Repeat that,'re breaking up." I pretended that I couldn't hear the order to stop. Just give me a few more seconds and I know that this guy'll stop and surrender to me, or something. He'll, that car's probably chock full of guns and drugs...

But it only lasted long enough for Dispatch to repeat the command, the tone making it clear that they weren't buying it.

I immediately wised up and complied, doing it "by the book" again. I turned my lights off, and I slowed to a stop, preparing to make a U-turn and leave the area so that I wouldn't even be accidentally going in the same direction of the Caprice that was now a two blocks away and disappearing fast. I gave it one more wistful glance. I'd almost had him...

Then I saw him hit the pedestrian--an old man who was just crossing the street three blocks down. The old man flew through the air like a rag doll, his bag of groceries scattering everywhere. SHIT!!!

"Dispatch! I stopped chasing but he just hit a pedestrian! Roll EMS! Get some people over here!" This wasn't a game anymore. Now somebody was really hurt--somebody who wasn't even playing. It wasn't supposed to work like this.

Fast-forward a lifetime as I pulled up and did what I could to render aid and keep the growing crowd back. I was deep in the 'hood--the only cop or white guy for a long ways--and everyone knew and liked this guy. Not good. Several of the crowd tried to rally the rest to attack me, but I was able to exert enough command presence to convince them that my goal was to help this guy and that they needed to help me by staying back. It bought me time until the cavalry got there.

Long story short, the guy was medivac'd out, and turned out to have relatively minor injuries, despite flipping clean over the car that had hit him. Apparently as drunk as he was, he was relaxed and he bent instead of breaking. He was angry about one thing, and that was the destruction of his recently-opened 40oz. malt liquor.

But then the perjury circus started. A million witnesses surged forth to swear on their last food stamps that I'd still been in full pursuit when the man was hit, and some even claimed that I'd hit him. It always amazed me how no one could be out on the street when something goes down, but if the police is involved, hundreds of them still see "everything"--even people who arrived ten or fifteen minutes later in cars or got off the city bus. And they all want to be witnesses against the police.

Fortunately my supervisors and the investigators knew what was going on, and they managed to find one honest person of the bunch who said that he'd seen me shut my lights and siren off and pull to the curb three blocks away, well before the fleeing Caprice had hit the man. This man's honesty might well have saved my job, an act which caused his wonderful neighbors to subsequently vandalize both his house and his car. I was found to be not responsible, even though I heard a few references to my "radio trouble" as part of the counseling session that followed. But the point was driven home to me that day that chases aren't kid games like you see on TV. They're serious safety hazards to anyone around, and each has the potential to hurt or kill someone who doesn't deserve it. I still chase, but always with that incident in mind. And now I break them off myself if the risks get too heavy.

But sometimes, chase endings are pre-ordained based simply on where you're chasing. There is a section of road in my area that ends in an on-ramp to the highway, and that ramp has a fairly steep descent that conceals from view a 15-mph, nearly 90-degree curve. Any vehicle hitting that curve as any kind of speed winds up on it's roof and/or in the woods. We chase three or four cars a year into that curve and the end result is as predictable as it is inevitable. Here's one that I chased into it a while back:
The driver was a early-twenties woman from a local "better-than-you" wealthy family who'd decided that she didn't want to get a third DWI. Well needless to say, she got it anyway and went to jail for 120 days once the judge heard my testimony and saw the pictures. Sometimes there is a happy ending.

Oh--and the best part about pursuits that end in that curve? The bottom of that ramp is the state highway patrol's jurisdiction. They get to handle the crash reports and clean-up!