Why do I do this job?

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Why do I do this job?
Why should I care if nobody else does?

A month ago these were the questions I asked myself after watching the civil unrest unfold in the Mid-West. I was shocked at the venom that was spewed by people. I was outraged by the negativity.

I wondered if it mattered anymore.

I then started reading the comments on social media and news stories. Some comments were ignorant and downright mean. The comments were from people, who have no idea what we do.

I started to wonder how much effort I was going to give at work. I felt like no one supported us and nobody cared. I started to wonder if anything I did as an officer mattered.

I started to wonder if any of this was worth it.

Why should I go risk my neck for people who don’t care? Why should I go that extra mile for strangers, who hated me?

I went back to work a few days after the civil unrest began. I was wondering how people were going to treat me.

I went on my first call and the people were nice to me. Then it happened again on the next call. And again after that. And again.

People were respectful and were happy I was there. They said thank you. They smiled. They told me to have a safe night. They said they appreciated what we do.” I started hearing it more than ever. Other officers told me they noticed the same thing.

I noticed there was actual support for us. I saw that people appreciated we were out there. All of this showed me there was a reason to still do my best for these people.

This past weekend, I witnessed the number one reason why we shouldn’t give up on the citizens we serve.

One incident was on Friday and the other was on Saturday night (the “You’re not the enemy” story).

On Friday night, a nine year old girl named Lilly handed two officers something that was wrapped in Christmas paper.

They opened it up and saw a United States flag she had made. Lilly told them she made the flag for the officers who had been killed in New York.

This nine year old girl did this for officers she didn’t know. She did this for strangers who wore a badge. It was important to her.

There was something about her gesture that was important to me. Her gesture should be important to everyone. It confirmed there was still good in the world and people cared.

This child hadn’t given up on us. That meant her parents hadn’t given up on us either.

This story about Lilly and the flag should matter to all officers. It should also matter to the citizens who support their police officers.

That paper flag is a symbol why we do this job and why it still matters.

And why do I still do this job?

I do this job because you haven’t given up on me.

Be safe

“You’re not the enemy”

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Tonight I went to a Mediterranean restaurant for Code 7 with my friend Rich. We ordered our food at the counter and went to our usual seats outside on the patio.  It was chilly, but not too bad.

While we were waiting for our food, a man and woman in their fifties left the restaurant. The man walked up to our table and said, “I appreciate what you do.” The woman said the same thing.

We both stood up and shook their hands and said thank you. He grabbed a hold of my hand and gave me the longest handshake ever.

“You guys have had a tough time lately and I wanted to say thank you,”  We both thanked him for stopping by and talking with us.

He went on to offer his support and said he felt compelled to speak with us. He told us that people don’t understand how hard it is to be an officer.

He shook our hands one more time and said something that was powerful, sincere and from the bottom of his heart.

“You’re not the enemy.”

Rich and I sat down and said, “Wow.” What can you say after that? We were speechless.

His words struck me like a bolt of lightning. It wasn’t  just the words. It was the way he said them. Here was a man who truly believed in us.

He saw us as the good guys.

I’m sure many officers have had this type of contact lately since the civil unrest started. It’s not something anyone talks about though. It’s not something you see on the news either.

Those people are out there and it’s important to know they support us.

To all those people who support the police, I want to say thank you. We need you more than ever.

Say A Prayer For Our Fallen Officers

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It is Christmas night and all of the chaos is over. All of the presents have been handed out and all of the relatives have gone home. Now there is peace. 365 more days and we get to do it all over again.

Christmas is about tradition. We all have our Christmas routines that we follow every year. Having brunch at my grandparent’s house is one of my Christmas traditions. We have been going there since I was in elementary school.

Today, I told my daughter we have been doing brunch since I was her age. She gave me a shocked look and said, “Wow.” I guess that means I’m getting old in her eyes.

My wife and I started our own Christmas tradition by accident. Many years ago it was dinner time and we were getting hungry. My wife suggested we go to a restaurant.

You don’t have many options on Christmas night, but we were lucky enough to find an El Torito restaurant that was still open. We walked in and were surprised to see that it was packed. I guess everyone else had the same idea too.

Ever since that night we make sure to have our Christmas dinner at El Torito.

I hope one day my kids will tell the story about how mom and dad used to drag them to a Mexican restaurant on Christmas night. Who knows, maybe they’ll keep the tradition alive.

I’m lucky to still have those traditions after all these years, but there are others who were not so lucky.

I’m talking about those killed in the line of duty this year.

There is one important thing to remember at this time of the year. We have to make sure we don’t forget about those law enforcement families who lost loved ones in 2014.

There were over one hundred police families who lost someone to an on-duty death this year. Some were killed in traffic collisions. Some were killed by suspects. Either way, their deaths left broken hearts. The on-duty death of an officer leaves a hole in all of us.

Their deaths left family traditions that will never be the same again.

These officers gave the ultimate sacrifice and we need to keep their memory alive. More than ever, it’s important to support those who wear the badge and protect us.

Say a prayer for those fallen officers and their families. We owe that to our brothers and sisters, who died while on-duty.

As the saying goes, “Blue Lives Matter.”

Be safe

A Christmas Trip to Payless

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One night, I responded to a collision involving two cars. One car made a left turn in front of another and they crashed at the driveway of the Goodwill store. The male who made the left turn was at fault and had a suspended license. I impounded his vehicle and took the report. It was a week before Christmas, about six or seven years ago.

The male told me he was going to the Goodwill store to buy shoes for his three kids when he crashed. From our conversation I found out he was no stranger to spending time in custody. He was very respectful and never asked for a chance about the car.

His three kids were passengers in the car at the time. I can’t remember their exact ages, but they were between ten and six years old. The youngest was a girl. My children were about the same age at the time.

I compared the Christmas my children were about to have to these three young passengers. My children’s lives were of comfort. These other children lived in a world where their father was in and out of jail. I knew they probably would never have a Christmas like my kids.

The next day I spoke to my wife and told her about the children. We agreed we were going to buy them shoes for Christmas.

A few days later, I went to the driver’s apartment after going 10-8. He wasn’t home, but a relative was. I told her the reason I was there and she said she would pass on the message.

A little while later, I spoke with the father on the phone. I told him we wanted to get his children shoes for Christmas. He was very thankful and accepted our offer . The next day I met him at Payless after coming on-duty.

The clerk had a confused look when we walked in. The parents helped their kids with sizes while I waited.

The boys got tennis shoes and the little girl put on black dress shoes. They were not exactly what I was thinking. I had a more practical shoe in mind, but the smile on her face was awesome. When we were done, I paid for the shoes and we walked out together.

The man and his wife thanked me and we parted ways, wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas and be safe.

Listen To Your Partner

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Sometimes you should just listen to your partner.

One Sunday night 1996, I was working a graveyard shift a few days before Christmas. It was a cold night, and the radio was dead. I was sitting in a parking lot next to my partner Rich as we counted down the hours until our weekend started.

It was around 2AM and I was bored. I told Rich I was going to drive around and stop a car. Rich told me it was Christmas time and to stay put. He said something bad could happen.

I told him nothing was going to happen and drove off.

What could go wrong?

There were hardly any cars on the road, but I still drove around. I saw a car that was weaving and stopped it to see if the driver was DUI. The car stop was made on a six-lane road in front of the Convention Center. We were in the far right lane.

I walked up to the car and spoke to the driver. I stood at his driver door for a minute and was satisfied he had not been drinking. I let the driver go and then walked back to my car to leave. As I walked back to my unit, I glanced up and didn’t see any cars coming up from behind.

It was dead quiet out there.

The only sound was from my boots and the squeak of my leather gear as I walked. I reached my driver door and took another peek to my right.

I then saw a car coming right at me. The front end was only feet away from my patrol car. It only had its parking lights on.

I was inches from my driver door and there was nowhere for me to go. I leaned toward my car with my hips as I arched my back. I braced impact.

I then felt the wind of the passing car as it missed me.

My sergeant just happened to be behind the car at the time and stopped it. The driver simply forgot to turn her lights on.

I can still see that car coming right at me. I can clearly picture the street lighting and the road like it was yesterday. I can still feel the angle of lean I made toward my car. As weird as it sounds, I can still feel the wind of that passing car as I typed this. It’s been eighteen years and I still remember how lucky I was.

I should’ve listened to my partner’s gut feeling.

By the way, that was the last car stop I made that night…..

What The Heck?

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Have you ever wondered what your real name was? Probably not.

Recently, I was at a collision involving a driver who did not have a license. He gave the officers one name, but his girlfriend gave them another. The officers asked that I use my Bluecheck fingerprint device to try and confirm his name. I call this my Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire detector.

I’m going to change his name(s) to protect the guilty.

“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Frank Jones,” he replied.
“Does your girlfriend know you by a different name?”
“Yes, she knows me as Tom Smith.”
“Is that your stage name?” I asked.
“No, it’s my work name.”
“Let me get this right. Your girlfriend thinks you have a different name?”
“Yes.”
“How long have you been dating her?”
“Two years. She also has a baby.”
“Is the baby yours? I asked.
“No, but he has my name.”
“Which name?
“Smith,” he said.
This was getting better by the second.“Wait, the baby has your fake last name?”
“Yes.”

The driver went on to explain that his girlfriend was pregnant when he met her. When the child was born, he let the baby have his fake last name for the birth certificate. I asked Frank/Tom why he did that. Frank/Tom explained he needed a dependent so he could get money back on his taxes at the end of the year.

Just when I thought I had heard everything……

You can’t make this stuff up.

The Day I Almost Shot An Unarmed Man

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What is it like to almost shoot an unarmed person?
I was working day shift in patrol when dispatch broadcasted a 417 call (man with a gun). I was sent as primary and my sergeant was my back up. The description of the suspect was: A white male in his thirties, wearing a hat, a vest, glasses, and headphones on his head.

The location was given and I was there within a minute. I got out of my car and guess what I saw? A white male in his thirties, wearing a hat, a vest, prescription glasses and headphones on his head.

He was walking in the middle of the street and did not see me pull up. I drew my gun as I yelled at him to stop and put his hands up. He turned around and looked at me with a confused look. I was less than thirty feet away from him.

He saw me, but it still didn’t click in his head that a police officer was pointing a gun at him and giving him orders to put his hands up. He then reached into his vest with his right hand.

What do you do?

• Did I have enough information that he was the correct suspect? Yes.
• Was he in the location dispatch sent me? Yes.
• Was he dressed as described? Yes.
• Did he put his hand into his vest? Yes.
• Could he have pulled a gun out? Yes.
• Did I have reason to fear for my life? Yes.
• Could I have shot him? Yes.

Here’s what happened.

I was prepared to shoot him, but there was something about his facial features that made me think twice. There was just something about him that told me I needed to give him an extra second before I pulled the trigger.

With my gun pointed at him, he then pulled his hand out of his vest. As I started to pull the trigger I saw that his hand was empty.

He didn’t have a gun. He was reaching into his vest to turn off his Walkman (yes, I dated myself). After speaking to him, it was clear he was mentally challenged.

Some might ask why I didn’t shoot him. Some might second guess me. But there was something about his face that told me I had to wait that extra second.

It was the decision I had to make right then and right now. I couldn’t make it two days, two months or two years from now. The decision could not be made from the comfort of my living room while watching the news on TV. Not in Starbucks with friends, wondering why the cops shot an unarmed, mentally challenged man. Not while reading about it on Facebook.

The decision to shoot him had to be made right there in the middle of the street at that very moment with the information that was given to me.

I didn’t ask to be there. I was sent because that was my job.

You can ask every cop and they’ll tell you a similar story where they could have shot someone, but didn’t. Think about that for a moment.

Every day and night across the United States there are situations where cops don’t shoot, but could have. The public never hears about the restraint officers have in these high pressure situations.

Only a person who has walked in those shoes can understand.

It’s important to remember that working the street is not like a video game. You can’t start the game over and there is no pause button.

What’s On Your Teen’s Phone?

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Do you have any idea what’s on your teen’s phone?

Sometimes I just shake my head at work. I still get amazed by what people do to get themselves into bad situations.

The other night I went to a head-on collision involving a wrong way driver. There were seven occupants between the two vehicles and I was surprised only one person went to the hospital.

There were five people in the wrong way car. Three of the occupants were males who were twenty-three, twenty and eighteen years old. The two females in the car were fifteen and seventeen years old. The fifteen year old ended up being transported to the hospital.

The driver was arrested for various charges and the two other males got to leave. The only person left was the seventeen year old girl.

During the investigation I asked her to point out who the driver was. She said, “I’m ninety nine percent sure it was him,” as she pointed to one of the males.

I asked, “How come you’re only ninety-nine percent sure?”
“I just met them an hour ago.”
“What do mean you just met them an hour ago?”
“They just picked us up.”
“Where were you going?
“To a party.”

The males were adults and from Los Angeles County. I asked, “How did you meet them?”

“I met them on an app,” she said.
That was when my jaw dropped and hit the floor.
“What’s the app called?
“Meet Me.”
“You let complete strangers pick you up at your house?”
“No. It was in front of an apartment. We gave them a different address, but it wasn’t where we lived.”
“Don’t you think that’s dangerous?” I asked.
“It’s never been dangerous before.”
I pointed to the two vehicles and said, “Until tonight.”
She shrugged and said, “Yeah.”

She went on to tell me there was another friend, who was sixteen years old, that was also supposed to go. When the males arrived, there was only room for two passengers, so the sixteen year old went home.

It makes you wonder how many other teenagers are meeting adults on apps like this and going places with them. Makes you also wonder how many are being abused.

This is just something to think about if you’re a parent of a teen. You might want to check their phone to see what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.

There’s a chance you have no idea.  That should be a scary thought for any parent.

Avoid being a victim during the holiday shopping season

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The holiday season is a time for giving, right? Unfortunately, it is also the season for taking and stealing.

It sounds bad, but it’s true. There are predators that prey on people during the holiday season.

Here are six tips to think about.

LOCK your car
Sounds easy, but it still needs to be said.

People forget to lock their doors all the time. How easy is it for a thief to try door handles while walking around a crowded parking lot? It’s very easy and that is why they do it.

Don’t leave your purse open in the shopping cart
I’m amazed how often I see this. How long does it take you to reach into your purse to get something out? Now think how fast a thief can do it when you’re not looking.

Don’t get distracted by a stranger
A stranger might distract you with questions. If that happens, there might be a partner lurking close by. They will seize the opportunity to steal something from you when you’re distracted.

Certain groups work in teams that are made up men, women and children. They’re good at what they do. They are betting you won’t suspect them and you’ll be ripped off before you know it.

Pay attention.

Don’t text in the parking lot
You can’t see the bad guy if your head is looking down while you text. You need to pay attention in the parking lot when you walk to your car.

Don’t make it easy for someone to rip you off because you weren’t paying attention. They’ll be gone before you know it.

There’s no LOL here. Only a 😦

UPS/Fed Ex boxes
Don’t forget the packages that were delivered to your porch. A thief could follow the UPS or Fed Ex truck and make their own pick up after the delivery is made.

Don’t leave boxes on the porch any longer than you have to. Have a neighbor, who is home during the day, get the boxes for you.

Hide your things
Common sense says don’t leave valuables in plain sight in the car. The problem is people continue to do it. Afterward, they wonder why the car window was smashed and their valuables were stolen.
Just a few things to think about. Don’t be a victim this holiday season.