Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

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You can lie, but your fingerprints never will.

At my department we have the greatest piece of technology to combat LLPOF. That’s short for “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” We use the Bluecheck fingerprint device whenever someone doesn’t have identification. It’s a game changer when it comes to trying to identify someone. The look on the suspect’s face is priceless when we tell them what their real name is.

This device is easy to use and works wonders. The device communicates with my work laptop computer and the internet. Both of the person’s index fingers are placed on the device and it captures the prints. The prints are then sent to the computer via Bluetooth. A search is then done through our police department records, the Department of Justice and the FBI. The results usually come back within a minute. If they have been arrested before then the prints will come back with a name.

If the person had been booked at our department then their picture, name and birth date will appear on the screen. If their fingerprints are in the DOJ database then just their name and date of birth will appear. Finally the FBI might alert on the prints.

Here are a few examples when the Bluecheck alerted us to LLPOF:

I responded to a car stop on Saturday night and was asked to Bluecheck someone. I walked up to the suspect and asked him what his name and birth date were. After he answered, I asked him if he had ever used a different name. He replied he had not. After he answered, I captured his fingerprints and let my computer do the work. Within a minute it gave me an FBI hit, along with a different name and date of birth. After looking at my computer I walked over to him and asked, “Who is Joey?” He just stared at me like he was trying to figure out what to say. When he opened his mouth, all he could do was stutter as he tried to get the words out. I then said to him, “This is my favorite part.” The suspect could only say he had been stopped by the police department in a neighboring city and they had checked his name and let him go. I pointed to the Bluecheck and said, “I bet they didn’t have this.” He only shook his head in defeat and said, “No.”

He finally admitted to using his brother’s name and birth date because he had two warrants. He also had warrants in another state. I think this guy was feeling pretty confident with the information he had given before the Bluecheck was used.

Another time I used the Bluecheck at a traffic accident scene was when one of the drivers was unlicensed. My gut feeling was the driver wasn’t telling me the truth about his name so I brought out my LLPOF detector. Before checking his prints, I asked him the same basic questions about his information and I asked if he had ever used a different name before. Of course, he said he was telling me the truth and he had given me his true name. Within a minute his picture appeared on my screen with a different name and birth date.

The picture on my screen was from twelve years ago and he looked considerably younger. A little research showed he had been arrested twelve years earlier for driving while unlicensed. I’m sure he failed to appear on that charge, but it didn’t matter now because here we were over a decade later. I took my lap top over to the suspect and showed him his picture. The look of surprise on his face was awesome as he said, “That was a long time ago.” As he went to jail, the suspect said, “I’m telling the truth now.” Whatever.

One of my favorite Bluecheck stories involved another traffic collision. There had been four people in the suspect vehicle that had crashed at 3AM. One of the people lied to us about being the driver and was arrested after witnesses came forward and pointed out who the real driver was. The real driver went to jail for DUI. That left two other passengers. They both gave false names and birth dates to the other officers. The Bluecheck revealed their real names and they both had warrants. Four occupants. Four arrests. Good thing they didn’t have a minivan full of people.

And finally, I was sent to a car stop one night for the Bluecheck. The officer had already written the ticket for the driver, who was unlicensed, but he hadn’t signed it yet. There was a sergeant and another officer from a different department on the car stop with our officer. They had never seen the Bluecheck before and I explained to them what it did before I captured the prints of the suspect. Within five minutes the suspect was in custody for lying about his name. He also had a DUI warrant for his arrest.

There are times when the person is telling the truth and the Bluecheck confirms their information. Other times there is no record of the person’s prints because they had never been arrested before. This device is pretty cool to see in action and it always amazes people when they see it used. Every department should invest in this technology.

The bad guys in our city never know when I’m going to call out “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.”

Calling 911 can ruin your drug business

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Don’t be a drug dealer and call 911

Back in late 1995 or early 1996, I was dispatched to another 911 call at a small apartment complex I had never been to before. It seemed like it was going to be the typical hang up call where someone was either playing with the phone or dialed 911 by accident. Whenever a 911 call is received, dispatch will call the number back to see what the problem was. If there’s no answer then officers will have to be sent out. On this particular day there was no answer on recall. I figured I would be done with this call in one minute tops.

A Caucasian male in his twenties opened the door just a crack. Not like most people do when they open the door wide open. This was just enough to see his face and nothing else inside the apartment from where I was standing. I told him the reason we were there and that we needed to go in and make sure there was no one injured inside. The man seemed a little hesitant at first, but he backed away from the door as he opened it for us.

I noticed he was wearing boxer shorts and he was holding a pair of jeans in his hand. Maybe he was just being shy when he had opened the door. Since we still didn’t know what we had on this call yet, I told the man to give me his pants because I wanted to check them for weapons. I then found a large knife in a sheath that was attached to the belt. I didn’t give him his pants back and had him sit down.

From where I was standing, I scanned the apartment interior. It was the typical small apartment I was used to going into. A small kitchen was to my left with very old and stained counter tiles and dirty grout. A couch, chair and coffee table were in the front room where we were standing. This room was a little messy, but I had seen worse. There was a hallway between the front room and the kitchen, which lead to the bedroom. The room was dark and the window blinds were closed.

I looked down at the coffee table and saw two scales in plain view. They were three beam scales, which is not something you see every day unless you’re watching Miami Vice or in the police evidence room. I then saw small plastic zip lock bags on the table next to the scales. These particular bags were smaller than sandwich bags and are used to package methamphetamine to sell. I looked even closer and there were small bits of marijuana crumbs all over the table next to the scales. Of course, the one gallon zip lock bag full of marijuana sitting there on the table didn’t look out of place.

I looked over at the male and asked him why he had the scales. The male hesitated as he was trying to figure out damage control. He then said, “I collect them.” That was the best he could do? Now, I was starting to think this wasn’t the smartest drug dealer in the world. He could’ve at least tried to say, “Those aren’t my scales.”

This call was a done deal for me and it was time to handcuff him to go to jail. I told him to stand up and turn around, which he did. I noticed that one hand was open, but the other was balled into a fist. I told him to put his hands together, but he wouldn’t. After a few seconds he revealed a large rock of meth that he had been holding. Who opens the door for the police while holding a rock of meth in their hand?

There was no one else in the apartment and I learned that he had just had an argument with his girlfriend today and she had left right before we arrived. I’m pretty sure she had the last laugh on that one!

Never upset your girlfriend when you’re a drug dealer.

The sound the body makes when it hits the ground

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Another officer at work gave me permission to share one of his stories. He would also like to remain anonymous, so I’ll call him Jim.

One night, Jim was dispatched to a family disturbance call in which a son had threatened his mother with a knife. The location they responded to was on the fourth floor of an apartment complex. The complex had a courtyard and the apartment doors faced toward the center. Each floor had a metal railing about five feet from the apartment front doors.

When the officers arrived, they climbed up the stairs to the apartment and saw the front door open. Jim went up to the door and peered in. He saw the suspect standing in the hallway with something in his hand. As Jim looked more closely, he saw that one of the suspect’s hands was wrapped in bloody towel. Jim tried to see if the suspect had the knife on him, but didn’t see it.

With a blank look of a zombie, the suspect turned toward the front door where Jim was. The suspect continued to stare blankly in that direction when he saw the officers. With a crazy and determined look, the suspect started running in a full sprint toward the door. Without hesitation, the man exited the apartment toward the railing and dove over the side. Jim tried to grab the man, but he was not able to.

Jim noticed that the man did not fall the way they do in the movies with their arms flailing about in the air. As the suspect went over the railing, he turned around and locked eyes with Jim. They then stared at each other as the body fell toward the unforgiving concrete below. Their eyes stayed on each other until the suspect’s body crash onto the pavement with a sound that Jim will never forget.

Immediately after the call was over, Jim started to wonder if he had done everything he could as he played the scene back over and over in his head. He replayed every detail with self doubt now. To make matters worse, the mother made an allegation that the officers had thrown her son over the railing. This added more stress to the situation because he had to deal with an internal affairs investigation also. Luckily the officers had been carrying recorders on them at the time and they were cleared.

I asked Jim if there had been anyone to talk to about this traumatic event. His department offered to bring a counselor in, but he shrugged it off and said he was fine. But in reality he wasn’t. He replayed the scene over and over in his head with the graphic images of the suspect locking eyes with him as he fell. The sound of the body crashing into the pavement also stayed with him. It’s a sound he will never forget. That ghostly image would have haunted anyone.

Jim’s father was a police officer at the time and his mother was a dispatcher. They both understood about the job and he was able to speak candidly with them about what had happened. He wasn’t comfortable speaking with the counselor, but he found comfort from his parents, who knew the job and what comes with it. He was able to confide in them and they were there for support.

There were two things his father told Jim that made him feel better and helped him deal with how he felt. His father told him that the suspect had planned on dying that night no matter what. It was as simple as that. That guy wanted to die and there was nothing anybody could do about it. The other thing was the suspect wanted to die alone. If he really wanted to, the suspect could’ve run into an officer like a linebacker going after a running back. He could’ve wrapped his arms around one of them and taken them over the edge with him.

I hadn’t thought about that when I first heard the story, but I agree. Jim told me he hadn’t thought about it either until his father mentioned it. This made it easier for Jim to deal with it, because it was clear there was nothing they could’ve done differently. About a week later, the other officer on the call approached Jim and said, ‘I’m having problems with this.’ Jim related what his father had told him and he’s pretty sure this helped the other officer out.

This was a good example of peer support on the job. In this incident, the person he trusted just happened to be a cop, who was also his father. That worked best for him.

Stay Safe

Mr Clean

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It was a summer afternoon when I was dispatched to a non-injury collision on the west side of the city. It was just past 6PM and the call information made it sound like a simple traffic collision. When I pulled up, both drivers were standing by their cars in a residential area just off the main highway. Both vehicles had minor damage from the rear end collision. One car had its hood pushed up a little bit and its front bumper damaged. The other vehicle’s rear bumper was slightly damaged.

The first driver, who we will call Tom, was 19 years old and looked like a hippie from the late 60’s. He had brown shoulder length hair that was unkempt and parted down the middle. He also had round prescription glasses and a mustache that were right out of the hippie handbook. I was just surprised he wasn’t driving the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo.

After checking to make sure there were no injuries, I asked Tom what happened. He started to tell me how he had been driving northbound on the street when he rear ended the other vehicle. As Tom told me his story, a strong odor of alcohol was blown toward me by the afternoon breeze from his body. It was about as powerful as a fart in an elevator on a hot and humid day. While I spoke with him, I noticed his eyes were a little droopy and he had a slower than normal speech pattern. Tom had rear ended the other vehicle so I figured he was possible a DUI driver. I focused my questions toward that direction and asked him what he had to drink.

He denied drinking, so I asked Tom what was the odor that I smelled. He replied, “Deodorant.” I told Tom that there was something other than deodorant and I asked him again how many beers he had to drink today. Tom was adamant he had not been drinking. I again told him the odor I smelled wasn’t deodorant.

Tom hesitantly said, “It’s Lysol.”
“Lysol?”
Tom went on to say, “I put Lysol on.”
I was now curious why someone would put Lysol on their body. Since people usually tell me crazy stuff, I decided the Lysol part of this story was much more important than this silly crash. I asked, “You sprayed it on?”

“No, it was Lysol wipes,” as he pointed to his armpits. He then explained, “I wiped first and then sprayed deodorant on.”

Tom then told me he doesn’t take a shower sometimes and his mother gave him the Lysol wipes to help freshen up. I couldn’t resist, so I asked Tom when he last took a shower. Tom thought about it for a moment and then started to say three, but then said, “Two days.” I asked Tom why he didn’t just take a shower instead of using the Lysol Wipes. He told me he was in college and he was busy. I pointed out to Tom I used to go to college and I still managed to take a shower every day. I asked Tom if he had ever used baby wipes. He said he had, but he didn’t like them. I asked Tom if a Lysol wipe was something that should be used on the body. He replied it probably wasn’t.

I then started to wonder if Tom was a few cards shy of a full deck. I explained to him why I had asked so many questions about what he had to drink. Tom was very nice about it and told me he understood. One of the last things he told me was that it was embarrassing to tell people he used Lysol. Really?

I figured it was time to ask him about the collision again because I wasn’t sure what other household cleaning products were going to come up. T.M.I.

Just another normal day at work.

When 911 is at your house

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What happens when the 911 call comes from your house?

How many cops work in the same city they live or grew up in? How many cops have prepared to hear their address or their parent’s address over the radio for a medical aid call? How would you feel? How would you react? Do you have a plan or have you planned for this type of scenario? I used to live in the same city I work at, but I never thought about that happening at my house. That is something that happens to someone else, right?

As cops we have a plan for everything. We prepare and act. It’s just the way a person in law enforcement is. I moved out of the city years ago, so I don’t have to worry about hearing my address over the radio, but it recently happened to a friend of mine while he was working. After he told me the story he said, “You can use this on the blog.”

This officer grew up in the city we work in and his parents still live in the same house. In the last few years his mother has battled numerous medical issues, which have been challenging to her and the family. Now, in her mid-sixties, the officer worries about his mother’s health because she is more fragile now. He said he has hoped he would never have to hear his parent’s address over the radio, but because of her declining health he knew it was becoming a possibility. Just by thinking about it, this officer had at least run the scenario through in his head. Have you?

Then one day it happened. He was sitting in his patrol car while talking with another officer when he heard dispatch broadcast a medical aid call. He heard the radio code for medical aid (902M), so he briefly turned his attention to the radio for the location of the call. Any 902M call was always followed by a personal thought hoping it wasn’t his parent’s house. Then the dispatcher broadcasted the call details about a woman who was choking, not breathing and turning blue. This time it was his parent’s house!

A thought of dread punched him in the stomach as he got on the radio and said, “That’s my parent’s house.” He then took off with lights and siren as he rolled toward his childhood house as all kinds of emotions ran through him. With the horrible thought of losing his mother, the distance still couldn’t be covered fast enough as the siren sounded in the background.

Within a minute, another officer arrived at the house and advised over the radio that she was now breathing. When he arrived, he saw the fire truck and ambulance parked in front of the house. He spoke to his father, who had dislodged the food from his wife’s throat with the Heimlich maneuver. She was transported to the hospital because of what had just happened and her fragile health.

Who wouldn’t have driven fast to this, right? The important thing to remember is that he had thought about this ahead of time and he had planned. Despite the highly emotional situation, he still recognized to be careful, despite driving to one of the worst calls anyone could imagine going to.

I wanted to share this story because it might help someone prepare for something we hope never happens.

The Intersection of Turmoil

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This story was told to me the other day by an officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, so I’ll call him Frank. This incident took place in the final phase of Frank’s training in the mid 1990s.

On this particular night, he had just finished a call and drove northbound on a side street as he approached a major highway in his city. Frank stopped at a stop sign as he tried to decide if he should go left or right. A short time passed before the silence of the night exploded with the sound of crashing metal that sounded like a plane crash. It seemed to last forever and it was hard to believe a car accident could make so much noise. Frank looked over to his left and saw a huge cloud of smoke and debris heading northbound like a tornado of destruction.

He grabbed the microphone and notified dispatch of the collision and its location. He then drove westbound toward the debris cloud in anticipation of what he would find. He stopped his patrol car in the intersection with his emergency lights on and saw the crashed vehicles. They were mangled pieces of twisted metal that used to be cars. He got out of his vehicle and decided to go up to the car, which was closest to him. When he walked up to the driver side of that car, he was shocked by what he saw.

Inside that car were two dead people, but it wasn’t the fact they were dead that affected him. It was the way they looked. The driver side of the vehicle was smashed and pushed in toward the driver’s compartment with such force that it looked like the people inside had been killed instantly. A man was sitting in the driver seat and the woman, who was his wife, was in the passenger seat. Both had their eyes closed and appeared to be sleeping peacefully. The woman didn’t appear to have any visible injuries that you would expect from such an impact. The man was a different story.

Frank saw a huge chunk of skin and flesh missing from the left side of the driver’s neck. It was so deep that Frank was able to see inside the man’s throat. He was also amazed at the lack of blood on the man’s neck. Frank then looked down at the center console and saw something that was amazing under the circumstances. Despite the violent impact of death that had been inflicted upon this couple, they were still holding hands. Frank showed me how the fingers had been interlaced with one hand on top of the other. The fingers and hands looked to him just as peaceful as the couple did, but equally troubling how they had died.

Frank just stood there for a moment and absorbed what was in front of him. Seconds ago he had been sitting at a stop sign, wondering which way to go. During that same time, this husband and wife had been holding hands together on a date night while on their way to pick up their child from grandma’s house. Now they were dead and a family was destroyed in the same time it took to snap your fingers.

He then heard yelling and screaming coming from another car, which snapped him out of what he had seen in the first car. This car had major front end damage and had been the vehicle which had broadsided the couple. Frank went to that driver and saw that one of his feet had been amputated at the ankle and was barely attached by what looked like a string. Frank then smelled the odor of a driver who had been drinking. He also described it as “the odor of blood and alcohol mixed together.”As he told me that part, Frank said he could clearly see the collision scene and he could actually smell the same odor now as he retold the story 19 years later.

Days after the collision, he learned some history about the married couple from the traffic investigators. Frank learned the couple had a five year old child at home, who was now an orphan. The child was being babysat by the grandparents when the couple had gone on a “date night” because it had been such a long time since they had done that together. They were on their way home when the drunk driver had stolen the child’s mother and father. This made the story more personal for Frank because of what he had seen that night and what he learned about the innocent people involved.

He told me how he felt about that particular intersection from that moment on. The thought of driving through the intersection caused him to feel anxiety. Throughout his patrol time, Frank never worked that part of the city because he didn’t want to drive through that area. He always chose to work a different area, which kept him away from that intersection of death. If for some reason he was put in that area, he would drive around that particular intersection. He just plain avoided it because it bothered him.

Years later, he transferred to a different detail in the police department. One day he decided to drive through this intersection by himself. As he got closer to the intersection, he felt his heart beating faster as his chest tightened and perspiration started to form on his forehead. This all happened at once as part of him went back to that night of death from all those years ago. He had been to bloody scenes involving gunshot victims and other violent crimes since that night, but this was the one that bothered him most. It was the one that had stayed with him after all these years.

With the feeling of anxiety, he kept driving toward the point of no return. He was then through the intersection, which now felt like the finish line of a marathon with no emotional energy left in him. He had a brief moment of triumph as relief flowed through him. He then did it again with almost the same level of anticipation and anxiety. After a few more passes through the intersection, the feeling decreased as each layer of emotional baggage seemed to be lifted off his shoulders. He described it with such detail that I felt like I was there with him, going through that intersection of personal turmoil, relief, and liberation.

Years later, he can drive through that part of town without the feelings he once had. Now it’s a memory from a night long ago. This was a very traumatic experience for such a young officer, who was so new to the job.

Remember, it’s OK to tell you’re partner a call bothered you. Chances are, it bothered them too.