Dealing with the mentally ill

Traffic Control

Tonight I was dispatched to a call involving a man who was yelling and kicking cars in a parking lot. I arrived a short time after the first cop got there. When I arrived, I saw a man on his knees  in the parking lot as the officer spoke to him with a  calm voice.

His shoes were off and he was yelling about God and Heaven. While he was on his knees he’d lean forward on his hands and make quick movements that made him unpredictable. It looked like he was going to tackle you at any moment. He also said, “Kill me.”

The other officer got his name and tried to get a phone number for someone who knew him so we could try and help him. He only gave us his name and birth date.

The time finally came for me to pat him down for weapons. Yes, he was mentally ill, but we needed to make sure there were no weapons, especially after the call for service and the behavior we saw.

I knew he needed to hear clear instructions because of his mental state. I told him to put his hands behind his back because I was going to pat him down for weapons.

He turned his head with a serious look and said, “What if I don’t want to?” His voice was something out of a horror movie.

He might’ve been crazy, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew enough to process what I said and what his answer was going to be.

I moved from behind him and said, “Look at me.”

The man, who was in his 50s, looked up at me. He stopped momentarily from picking imaginary bugs off of his body. I knew he wasn’t processing information normally, so I spoke slowly and firmly to him.

I told him I was there to help, but I needed him to cooperate. I also said, “I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to fight.” I let that sink in for a moment before I said, “Can you put your hands behind your back for me and help me out?”

He  listened and nodded his hand. I grabbed his hands from behind and stood him up. I told him not to move and started the pat down. He turned to his left and I firmly said, “Stop moving.”

I held onto his hands like he was going to turn and fight at any moment. After I was done with his left side, I switched hands and checked his right side. Once that was done I let go and he went back down to his knees and continued what he was doing before.

I was lucky he listened. He was eventually transported to the hospital for a mental evaluation.

I didn’t do anything special. I just did the same thing thousands of cops did Monday. I dealt with a mentally ill man who could go off at any moment. A fight with him would’ve been a code 3 response for help and injury to us.

No one wants to deal with a mentally ill person who can attack you at any moment, but that’s part of the job. We do it because someone called 911. We go toward the craziness when other people head the other way.

Anyone who wears the badge knows what I’m talking about. Be safe out there.

The 12 year old and the knife

The other night a call went out over the radio about a 12 year old who was locked in a bathroom with a knife to his throat. I heard this and gathered my paperwork. As one of my department’s negotiators I also responded to the call.

While I was en route, dispatch advised that the kid was on the balcony and possibly going to jump. The call was updated again about him leaving the knife behind and running away.

Two other officers arrived first to handle the call. When I got there I stood by and watched them talking with the kid’s sisters and grandmother. They asked the “who, what, where and why” questions, which were standard.

When there was a break in the conversation I asked the handling officer, “Do you mind if I ask some questions?”

I took my notepad out as I stepped forward. I didn’t ask the sister what her brother was wearing or his height or weight. I looked at the girl and said, “What does he like to do?”

I wanted to know more about him as a person in case I needed to talk him off a bridge. I wanted to know his likes and dislikes. I wanted to know what he did for fun and what he liked to talk about. I wanted to know about his parents and who he got along with. I also wanted to know about their living situation.

I took notes while she told me about her brother. After a few minutes I felt like I had enough to talk about with him if the opportunity came up. I turned toward the other cop and said I was done. I stepped aside and he continued.

A minute later the sergeant said, “He’s back.”

Well, at least he wasn’t on a bridge with a knife in his hand. I walked outside and went down the stairs to where the kid was. He was sitting on the stairs with his head down.

The officer, who was in his mid-20s knelt down and asked, “What’s wrong?” The kid just sat there and didn’t move. The cop asked the kid numerous times, but it was as if he wasn’t there. The young cop even said, “We want to help.” The kid just kept his head buried in his hands.

The second cop came down the stairs and looked at the first officer. The first said, “He’s not talking.”

The second cop asked the kid what was wrong and what happened numerous times. Each question was met with silence. Both cops looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

I asked, “Do you mind if I try?”

I walked over to the kid and turned to sit down on the steps next to him as I said, “Move over.” He had to move over because I was sitting down whether he was there or not. I took my seat and looked over at him.

He was about the same size as my daughter, who was the same age. I couldn’t help but compare the two. I wondered what was going on inside his head and what brought him to this point.

Earlier this kid had a knife to his throat at about the same time my daughter was having fun at gymnastics practice. Her biggest worry was her 4.0 GPA and a four-hour gymnastics workout. This kid had much bigger problems.

His head was still in his hands when I said, “So, tell me about Clash Royale.” That was the game his sister told me about.

He raised his head and smiled. It was like I flicked the light switch on.

“Ah, you smiled,” I said. This made him smile some more. “Tell me about the game. I don’t know what it is.”

Thats when he spoke.

After he was done talking about the game I said, “I hear you like to draw the characters from the game.”

“Yeah.”

“Which ones?”

After he was done I pulled out my phone and asked him if he wanted to see a video of my son being mad and trying not to smile. He nodded his head and I hit play. I said, “I call him a man-child. He thinks he’s a man, but he’s still a kid.”

The boy laughed as he wiped away tears from his face. I had him now.

I next asked him about the Golden State Warriors and his favorite player. He talked about that also and  I was thankful he didn’t ask me any questions because I’m not a basketball fan.

Now that the ice was broken I asked, “Did you put the knife to your throat?”

“Yeah.”

I next asked him why he was mad today. He told me his sisters were bothering him.

“My sister and I used to bug each other too, but we’re friends now,” I said trying to sound encouraging.

After a few more minutes of talking I pointed to the other cops and said, “I think they feel bad you talked with me and not them. Can you talk to them now?”

The boy nodded his head.

It was now time for me to go. I shook his little hand and said bye to him. I walked up to the other officers and told them what he said about the knife. They took over from there.

Feeling proud to be a negotiator, I walked through the run down apartment complex and out to the street toward my car. I felt like I had made a difference today. I might not have talked him off a bridge or a rooftop, but at least I got through to him in his time of need.

That was a win today.

Postal?

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Photo from Newsweek.com

The other day I was at the station getting ready to go 10-8 when a sergeant broadcasted on the radio that he came across a non-injury collision. About a minute later he came back on the radio saying a postal truck was involved and the parties wanted a report.

He also inquired about another crash involving a postal truck and asked if his call was the same as the other. I didn’t know what he was talking about so I paid attention to the next transmission.

The dispatcher came on the radio telling him there were two separate collisions involving postal trucks. One was at his location and the other was in the western part of the city.

I keyed the mic as I said, “729.”

“729?” the dispatcher parroted back.

“729, confirming the crashes have gone postal?”

The radio was silent for what seemed like forever. It was an awkward silence like when someone farts in an elevator and you can’t wait for the doors to open.

The silence was finally broken as she acknowledged me.

I got into my car and looked at my MDT. There was a message from DSP1 that simply said, “REALLY????!!!”

“I couldn’t resist,” I typed back.

I went to the crash and handled it. About 35 minutes later I was ready to clear the call, but I needed to get on the radio one last time.

“729.”

“729?”

“Are there any other crashes involving postal trucks that are holding?”

“Negative,” came the reply.

My MDT beeped as “MESS” appeared on my screen from DSP1.

What other time am I ever going to say “postal” on the radio twice  in less than 40 minutes? Probably never again.

Sometimes you just have to roll with it and have fun.

 

33 years?

 

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On Monday morning, I was sitting in a courtroom after working a graveyard shift the night before. I was in the corner with other cops, who were as unlucky as me to be there.

My head was in a tire fog as the judge spoke to lawyers about current and upcoming cases. There were also people in custody, who were in the caged area. I couldn’t see them from where I sitting, but I could hear them when they answered the judge.

I wasn’t really paying attention to what was being said until I heard the judge say, “You do realize you’re looking at 33 years in prison,” as she looked toward the caged area.

A male voice replied, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you sure you want to represent yourself at trial,” the judge asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Wow. 33 years?

The judge asked the man if he really wanted to act as his own lawyer at trial. He told her he wanted to. The judge told him about certain courtroom procedures that he was going to be expected to know. She also told the man he was going to be up against an experienced deputy district attorney.

The judge brought up the possible 33 year sentence again and asked him if he really wanted to represent himself.

“Yes, ma’am.”

The cops around me all shook their heads.

Wow. I guess that guy really wants three guaranteed meals for the next three decades.

Can you open the door?

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Tonight, I responded to a gas station because a man barricaded himself in the restroom after breaking into an apartment across the street. I attempted to negotiate as I tried to get him to come out.

At the time, I only knew his first name and nothing else. I later learned his full name and got a cell phone number for him. I stood near the door and talked to him, but I literally was talking to a wall because he wouldn’t respond. I talked and talked for an hour without so much as a peep out of him. I called his phone, but it was turned off. 

It seemed like my cat paid more attention to me than this guy. 

During that time I learned from family that he had a young son. I thought this was my hook to get through to him, so I steered my negotiation in that direction.

I was met with silence and he eventually started a fire, so officers had to go get him.

Later on, I conducted a records check and learned that his license was suspended. You might wondering a what a suspended license has to do with a barricaded suspect, who started a fire.

It turned out his license was suspended for lack of child support……

I laughed and shook my head when I saw that. I guess that’s why he didn’t open the door when I brought up his son. You just can’t make this stuff up. 

Until the next negotiation….

2016 went out with a crash

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I worked New Year’s Eve and 2016 went out with a bang. Actually, more like a crash.

When I first went into the traffic detail 17 years ago, my training officer told me to keep track of every crash I took so I could testify to it. Since that day all those years ago this week, I have done that for every crash.

At this rate I’m probably hit 7,000 crashes in early 2018.

In 2016, I handled 470 collisions that included 7 fatalities. My record month was 60 crash reports a few years ago in November. It turned out that December of 2016 went down as the second most for me at 59!

Here’s the worst part about that statistic. I took two days off in December.

Be careful out there.

Thanks for reading and sharing Badge415

A dumb excuse

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A few weeks ago, it was a rainy Friday night when I heard one of the dumbest excuses ever.  It was 2AM when I arrived at a crash where an officer pointed to a driver and said he was unlicensed.

During the interview with the driver I asked, “Who owns the car you were driving?”

“My mom.”

“Does she know you don’t have a license.”

“Yeah.”

After I was done talking with the son, I spoke to mom.

“Did you know he is unlicensed?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Why did you let him drive.”

“He was practicing.”

Practicing? That was the best she could come up with ?

“In the middle of the night and in the rain?” I asked with a surprised tone in my voice.

In the end,  the car was impounded for 30 days. Mom and son both got tickets. Mom for allowing an unlicensed person to drive her car and son for being unlicensed. 

Here’s the ironic part. Mom was the one who called the cops because she thought the other driver was DUI…… He wasn’t. 

 

4Runner target practice

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On Thursday night, I responded to a hit and run call in an alley. When I arrived, I found a parked Toyota 4Runner with front end damage and the front bumper from the suspect vehicle on the ground right next to it.

Another officer advised over the radio that he was out with the suspect and the victim at a 7-Eleven parking lot about a half mile away. I interviewed a witness at the scene and then drove to the suspect’s location.

It turned out the suspect, who we’ll call Tammy, crashed into the parked 4Runner when she was trying to drop someone off.

Right after the collision, a vehicle drove into the alley and stopped. Coincidentally, it was the owner of the parked 4Runner, who just happened to arrive in the alley.

The guy got out of his vehicle and saw that his 4Runner was just hit. Tammy decided she was going to split and started to drive away. The only problem was that Tammy crashed into the guy’s other vehicle, which was also a Toyota 4Runner!

After the second collision Tammy fled the scene as the victim chased after her. She finally gave up and pulled over in the 7-Eleven parking lot.

What were the odds of the victim owning two 4Runners and having them hit by the same suspect in two separate collisions?

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Witchcraft?

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A few months ago, I was sent to a call in which a woman wanted to speak to officers about witchcraft. This was a first for me. I’ve always been a Jedi Mind Trick sort of guy, but I’d give the witchcraft conversation a shot.

I was working a graveyard patrol shift when I was sent to an apartment at 4:30AM. The gate was locked, so I asked dispatch to call the RP (reporting party) to let us in.

We waited for a while, but no one came to the gate. After a few minutes I got on the radio and asked, “Can you call the RP and see if they could make up a spell to open the gate?”

A minute later the RP appeared as she walked down a pathway toward us. She was in her late 30s, short, had a round face and brown shoulder length wavy hair. She was wide eyed with a gaze that was cast downward. She only spoke Spanish, so I called dispatch and had someone translate for me over the phone.

The woman told the translator someone had cast a spell on her because they were jealous of her kids. Cast a spell on her? This was indeed a new type of call for me.
I asked the woman where her children were. The woman replied her kids lived with someone else.

We handed the phone back and forth as I used the translator to help us communicate. In the end she didn’t want to hurt herself, but she was truly fearful of the witchcraft that was around her. It was her reality. I could’ve said, “Boo” and she would’ve jumped into the air.

She said she wanted to talk to a mental health professional and we arranged transportation for her. As she left I thought about how lucky we were that she didn’t own a black cat. I didn’t see a broom either.

The little Christmas tree

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A few weeks ago, I was working overtime in patrol when I was dispatched to a disturbance call at a run down motel. The tenant in one of the rooms was drunk and causing problems. When we arrived, Tom was sleeping, so our problem was solved. Why wake him up? He was having sleepy time.

A few hours later, Sleeping Beauty was up again. He was still drunk and wanted to fight with the motel owner. This generated another call for service and I was back for part two.

When I arrived, he was buying more beer at the liquor store next door. I went over there and waited for him to come outside. He was eventually arrested and the motel owner said he was going to kick Tom out.

After Tom was handcuffed he was told about getting kicked out. That’s when a friend walked by and said he’d help. The friend agreed to clear the room out and hold onto the stuff until he got out of jail.

After he was taken to jail I went back to the motel room to drop off the beer  he just bought.

When I drove up, I saw the friend already hard at work getting Tom’s stuff packed up. That’s when a bare Christmas tree got moved to the front door. It reminded me of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree when I saw it.

This guy was an alcoholic and according to him, living in a bedbug infested motel room. I didn’t know anything about him, but seeing that little Christmas tree made me feel bad for him because he was probably going to be alone during the holidays.

Tom might’ve wanted to fight the motel owner, but he still had a little Christmas spirit left in him.