Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Authorized Emergency Vehicles Only" sign means me, not you.

Today, as I was out checking on my crop of new rookies, I had occasion to use one of our emergency turn-around strips that goes between two opposing lanes of a highway. This particular one is fairly long and it runs between two long hedgerows so that the vehicles traversing it are not readily apparent to oncoming traffic in either direction. naturally it's great for radar/laser work and other traffic-monitoring activities.

But today it was just supposed to be a way for me to quickly reach the scene of a new officer's traffic stop, saving me the trouble of going all the way up to the next exit and back. However, as I turned into this lane from one direction, what did I encounter but a Mercedes SUV coming the other way!

I stopped.
The Mercedes stopped.
My overhead lights came on and my ticket pen came out.
The woman driving the Mercedes buried her face in her hands, certain that her day was about to get expensive.
It did. To the tune of $275.00 plus $50.00 more for not wearing her seat belt.

Those cross-over lanes, folks? Those are for us, not the general public. We take it kinda personal when people presume to encroach upon our exclusive domain. And besides that, they're not set up to allow the average person to safely exit and re-enter traffic. So please, save us the aggravation and yourselves the risk and the fines if we catch you, and just go up to the next exit like you're supposed to.

This has been a public service announcement from Sgt. Krupke.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pursuit...without a police car.

So the other evening--my night off--I'm heading back to my house with a friend of mine who is in town for the night. We'd been out for dinner and as we're driving back on the two-lane highway well outside of town, I see that the vehicle coming head-on in the opposite lane is encroaching over the solid double-yellow line.
"He's over the line," I say as I swerve to the right. But before I can even finish the sentence, there's a loud "WHAM!" as his mirror hits mine. At a combined closing speed of over a hundred miles an hour, this jack-ass who couldn't hold his own lane damn near killed us all. I slow to a stop, but as we look back, we see that the other vehicle--a pick-up truck--isn't stopping. "Oh, no," I say. He is not going to hit and run me. That's NOT happening." I commence to turn around, and my pal tells me that he'll be gone before we can catch up. But this is a long road with no side roads to turn off on, and while it's all hills and curves, it's a road that I know intimately as I drive it every day to and from work. I know this road better than I know our agency's pursuit track, and I can run this road.

As my pal dials the local law enforcement agency via his cell phone, I manage to make up enough lost ground to come up behind what we think is the striking vehicle caught behind a couple of slower vehicles ahead of him. Sure enough--it's an older full-sized pick-up and what's left of it's driver's mirror is hanging.

My initial plan is just to stick with him until he gets back into town where the local law guys can intercept him, but when we get to an intersection, he messes that up by trying to turn left onto a road that will take him well away from where help is on the way to us from. So I pull left of the center line, pass him, and cut him off. As I stop, my dashing pal is already out of my vehicle and getting ready to snatch this miscreant out of his. But the hit-and-run driver has other ideas and he throws his truck into reverse, backs down the highway past several other cars, then three-points it and heads back the way that he came. And we're off after him again.

Back down the highway we go, his old pick-up moving so slow compared to my vehicle that this hardly counts as a chase. The local law has been advised of the change in direction, the tag number of the offender, and the fact that the two occupants of the pursuing vehicle are, in fact, off-duty police officers.

We roll on behind this truck, and the pursuit is about ten miles old and approaching the jurisdiction's boundary when we see behind us a fast-approaching car with the familiar Ford Crown Vic front end...the calvary's arrived. The red and blue lights come on, but again, our fleeing truck doesn't stop. So I pull over, expecting the officer to take up the lead, but to my frustration, he pulls over behind US instead.

Now shame on me--I know better--but when he didn't immediately come out of his cruiser, I opened my door, stepped out holding my badge up, and yelled: "That one! Get him!"
The officer stepped out of his cruiser and yelled back, "Did he hit you?"

"Yeah! Now go get him!""

"Don't yell at me!" the other officer responds, getting back into his car.

"Sorry!" I yell, getting back into mine. The officer takes off after the truck, and we naturally take off right after the officer. Two cars that had passed us as we sat on the side of the road were treated to the spectacle of seeing the police car passing them on the left with the car that it had just stopped in hot pursuit. I'm so used to doing this sort of thing on the clock that it never occurred to me not to do it here and now in my POV....besides, when this officer catches the truck, he's liable to be alone and we may well be his only back-up until others arrive.

A couple of miles up the road, the officer catches the truck. Just as he pulls up behind it, another police vehicle ahead of it puts it's lights on, and the truck is effectively trapped. It pulls into a gas station, as do the two police cars and us. I almost pulled in beside the cruiser "felony stop" style out of habit, but at the last second realized that my part in this was done. I stopped back a bit and my pal and I waited to make contact with one of the officers who was actually at work and in their own jurisdiction.

As it turned out, the driver of the truck was a punk teen. He told the officers that he was scared because we were chasing him, but he never explained while I was there why he didn't stop in the first place OR when the first officer put his lights on. My take is that the kid is both a coward and a liar, and now he's got a charge of Reckless Driving under a statute that imposes jail time upon conviction. And of course, as cops will do, we all got to be talking. Not unexpectedly, we all have mutual friends/co-workers in common. I even apologized to the nice young officer that I'd yelled at in the heat of things.
And of course THAT had to make the kid feel good, to see the cops detaining him acting like it was "old home week" and laughing with the people that he'd hit. Feeling a little but outnumbered there, junior? Good!

Anyway, it ended on a good note, in that the bad guy got caught and no one got hurt. Discussing it afterwards, my pal and I agreed that both of our respective agencies would probably have called that chase off long before it's conclusion, but since we didn't have any supervisors on the radio to tell us to break it off--and since traffic was light and the weather was good (and the bad guy only doing about 70mph max) we exercised our discretion and made use of our training and abilities to go a little (ok, a lot) farther than any civilians should ever have considered attempting. (In my defense, I'd just completed a 40-hour in-service pursuit driving refresher course.) Should we have chased the kid? Probably not. But we did, and a hit-run driver who would otherwise have gotten away with it got nabbed in the end, bascially because of all the cars that he could have hit that night, he had the bad luck to hit the one containing two police officers.

Oh, and a fair warning to people with GEICO insurance... GEICO has informed me that even though I'm not at fault in any way, I'm still responsible for a deductable. Apparently they don't waive that like other insurance companies do. So if you're a GEICO customer, you might want to re-think that.

And despite the drama, I did manage to get my pal to the airport on time the next day. He's off on a new adventure as one of Alaska's newest State Troopers.

Those moose and meth-heads have no idea what's coming their way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So today...

I'm sitting in my car, having what passes for breakfast. I'm parked in the shade alongside one of our local war memorials. As I sit there eating, I see a man in his 50's walking down the sidewalk toss a soda cup at a trashcan. He misses by a mile but he keeps walking as it hits the sidewalk.


I pick up my PA mike.

"How about you pick that up and put it in the trash can."

He stops. He looks all around. He obviously doesn't see my slick-top cruiser parked alongside the curb. He's Mr. Oblivious. No, make that Mr. Looks-Guilty-but-Oblivious.

"Sometime today would be nice."

He looks right. He looks left. He looks right at and past me. Then he looks UP. I was so tempted to key up again and say: "Yeah, that's right. it's me--God." But I managed to restrain myself.

Suddenly he sees me. He looks right at me, then points to himself and mouths "Who? Me?"

Like there was someone else walking down the sidwalk throwing paper cups on the ground? Seriously--there's just the two of us here, and I didn't throw that cup on the ground.

"Yes, you."

He looks at me, then looks at the cup as if he's seeing it for the first time. He walks over, picks it up, and deposits it in the trash can as reverently as one might place an envelope in the church collection plate. Then he shouts "Can I go now?"

It was so tempting to tell him that no, he now has to stay there and clean up after the next three litterbugs who happen along, but damn it, I'm a supervisor now. I can't be doing the sort of stuff that my rookies do--or that I used to do--any more. I dismiss him with a wave and he turns to walk away, leaving me to wonder how people that obtuse actually get to be that old.