Did I Jinx That Guy?

Traffic cones set up to direct traffic around a police car.

Have you ever jinxed someone, but didn’t know it?

A few weeks ago I was at a red light right after leaving the police department parking lot. While I was stopped, a guy rode by me on a bicycle who was pulling a shopping cart. That was something I hadn’t seen before. Lately, I’ve been seeing bicyclist pulling suitcases, but not shopping carts.

I thought to myself how I’ve never taken a crash with a guy on a bike who was pulling a shopping cart before. It was a quick thought that I forgot as soon as I said it.

About 7 hours later I was sent to an injury collision involving a bicycle and a vehicle on the west side of the city. When I got there, the officers told me the fire department had already come and gone after the injured rider refused aid. There was a witness standing by, so I spoke to her first.

The witness told me where she was standing when she saw the crash. She described how he was riding the wrong way on the street and how he crossed directly in front of the vehicle when the collision occurred.

She said, “He was pulling a shopping cart.”

Of course, that made the call more interesting now. “He was? Where’s the cart?”

“Yeah, it’s still in the street,” she said as she pointed.

I looked and sure enough, there was a shopping cart that was knocked over in the street. The bicycle was damaged beyond repair and was lying next to the cart.

I had jinxed the guy for sure.

I then spoke to the bicyclist and asked him what happened. He gave me a slightly different version of how the collision occurred, but it was close enough. I looked at the rear wheel of the bicycle and saw that it was bent and twisted from the collision. It was more a paper weight than a bicycle now.

After I was done with the investigation, the rider asked, “What do I do with my bike?”

“Do you want to put it in the shopping cart?” I asked.

By the look on his face, it wasn’t the answer he was looking for. With a bit of a pout he walked over to the cart and picked it up. He then lifted the bicycle into the air and half threw it into the shopping cart with a frustrated look on his face. The bike landed hard in the cart and caused it to tip over with a loud crash that echoed in the night.

It was actually pretty funny to watch.

The rider stood there in the street with a defeated look on his face as his shoulders sagged. He then pulled the bicycle out and got the shopping cart back up on its wheels again.

Now it was time to watch operation bicycle in a shopping cart 2.0.

He lifted the bicycle up in the air and put it in the cart with more care this time. He picked up the rest of his belongings and was able to push the cart out of the street. The cart looked funny with half of the bike sticking up in the air like it was doing a wheelie.

It just proves that you can’t make this stuff up.

This job cracks me up

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Every night there always seems to be some type of comedy going on. You can go from one call to the next with crazy things happening that you could never think of. Those are the calls that make this job fun and make up for the bad experiences.

Tonight a pedestrian ran across the street against a red light. There was cross traffic at the time and a car almost hit him. After the near miss, the pedestrian turned toward that car and gave the driver the middle finger as he threw out F-bombs.

That when he was then struck by another car……That by itself was funny. You can’t make that up, but the comedy continued.

Luckily the pedestrian wasn’t hurt and there was no damage to the car. The driver was shaken from the experience and we sent her on her way with a report number. We then had to deal with the pedestrian, who was under age.

He didn’t know his address, despite living in the same location for the last year, so we gave him a ride home. When we arrived at his home we spoke to his sister because his mother was at work.

She looked at him and said, “Really? You can’t obey a light?”

“I thought I was going to make it, but I didn’t make it at the end,” the pedestrian said as he laughed.

“You can’t even wait for the little man to light up so you can walk?” she said.

She then made me laugh when she told him, “Even if you’re blind you can see it.” She looked at us and said, “Give him a ticket.”

She was great with the way she spoke to her brother, but she might as well have been talking to a wall. Everything was going in one ear and out the other. After she was done giving him a tongue lashing, we walked back to our patrol cars with a good story to tell for later.

Here’s the best part. It turned out the pedestrian’s name was Angel and the witness was Moses.

There’s no way you can make this stuff up.

The girl with perfect glasses

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A few weeks ago I was in a store with my daughter when she told me she wanted to buy clear glasses. I asked her why she wanted those. She said, “They’re cute.”

Well, they weren’t that cute for $12. As we walked to the car,  I told her those glasses reminded me of a story from work. After I got done telling them the story, both of my kids shook their heads in amazement.

One night it was raining when I was dispatched to a hit and run collision in which the victim was chasing the suspect. The victim didn’t know where she was at and we couldn’t find her.

The call then got really confusing when someone else called 911 related to the collision. Dispatch got a call from some guy who said he was a passenger from the suspect vehicle, but he was now a passenger in the victim vehicle. He didn’t know where he was either.

Confused?

The call was so confusing I finally told dispatch I was going to park at Target and the victim could find me since we couldn’t locate her. A few minutes later she showed up alone. A carload of her friends also showed up because she called them.

The victim told me she was rear ended by a car that took off. She chased after the car until it drove into a cul-de-sac. Once in the cul-de-sac, the car stopped and a male passenger got out. The suspect vehicle then took off again, but left the male there.

The male ran up to her car and got into the passenger seat and told her to chase after the suspect, which she did.

At that point, there were two people in the victim vehicle calling 911.

During the chase they lost the suspect vehicle and the guy told her to stop. He got out of the car and took off too. Of course, she had no idea where she left him because she was lost herself. We never found that guy. It was probably better that way. If he needed the cops he would’ve called back.

While I was talking with her, I noticed that the lenses on her glasses were really clear. My lenses were spotted from working in the rain that night, but her lenses were in perfect condition. They were almost too perfect.

“Do you have lenses in your glasses?” I asked.

“No,” she said it with a straight face.

After an awkward silence I asked, “Why would you wear glasses with no lenses?”

“I have a fat face. They make me look thinner.”

I actually busted up laughing in front of her. I couldn’t help it. This was just a weird call. You can’t make this stuff up.

We call it the Dirty Tree

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This job is about having fun. One night that fun was provided by a tree in a parking lot of a gas station. You might wonder how a tree can provide humor. With a little imagination and cop humor, you can have fun with anything.

We were in the parking lot of a Chevron gas station for a DUI crash. While the DUI investigation was being conducted, someone pointed to a tree in the parking lot and told me to look. I turned toward the tree and started laughing because it looked like it had legs that were spread open in a weird position.

I then told another officer to look at the tree. A surprised look flashed across his face as he immediately started laughing too.

While we were laughing, the suspect caught a glimpse of us while he was doing his field sobriety tests. He kept looking at us the entire time even though we were at least 40 feet from him. When he was finally arrested, the suspect told us he was upset because we were making fun of him.

I said, “We weren’t laughing at you.”

“That’s mess up man.”

“Seriously, we weren’t. We were laughing at something else.”

He was really upset now and nothing I said was going to change his mind. I didn’t want him to go to jail mad so I decided to show him the real reason why we were laughing. It wasn’t like it was going to make things worse. We walked him over to the tree and said, “Look.”

He looked at the tree and suddenly busted up laughing. That made all of us laugh even more. There was just something funny about that tree.

He then walked to the police car with a smile on his face and sat down in the backseat with no problems. While he was in the backseat one of the officers went up to the tree and took a picture of it with his phone.

The suspect was watching and asked, “Can you take a picture with my phone too? It’s in my pocket.”

Sure, why not. One of the guys got the phone out of his pocket and took the picture for him. The DUI guy said, “Thanks,” as they put his phone back in his pocket.

You can never be too serious on this job. Sometimes humor is right around the corner, or at the next tree….

That tree will forever be known as the “The Dirty Tree.”

What did you find in his pants?

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One night I pulled up to a traffic collision scene in which a vehicle had collided into a wall. The suspect vehicle was an SUV and its rear door was open. I walked up to the vehicle and saw an officer franticly rubbing his hands with an alcohol wipe. In fact, he was rubbing his hands so fast I thought the friction was going to start a fire.

He had a worried look on his face as he said, “Do you have any hand sanitizer.”

“No. Why?”

He then walked over to the suspect vehicle and showed me something that looked like a pink hammer. As I got closer, I saw it was a sex toy.

“What the heck is that?” I asked.

He said, “I was patting him down and I pulled that out of his pocket. The guy told me he used that on his girlfriend tonight.”

The officer wasn’t wearing gloves at the time and I busted up laughing. I laughed so loud someone would’ve wondered what was wrong with me. The poor officer didn’t think it was that funny though. He actually had a traumatized look on his face and I couldn’t blame him. I then took my phone out and snapped a picture of the thing.

Of course, the story was told over and over again after that. Everyone had the same look of shock and disgust when they saw the picture and heard the story.

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A few days later, I was in Target when I saw this curling iron on one of the main aisles. I instantly thought of the cop when I saw it. I sent him a picture  hoping he would think it was as funny as I did.  Luckily he was cool about it.

This was just one of those stories that had to be told.

You can sleep in my car tonight

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The other night we responded to a traffic collision call in which a man was threatening another man with a knife.

When I got there, I saw two cars in a Jack in the Box parking lot. One car had a bent right front wheel. The other car had minor damage to the front bumper. Both were parked in their own spaces.

One of the cars was stuffed full of items that would make a hoarder jealous. Then there was this suitcase, along with other miscellaneous things all over the place in the parking lot. There was basically crap everywhere. It was a like transient yard sale.

I pulled one of the guys aside and asked him what happened. The driver, who we’ll call Frank, said he and the other vehicle had crashed in the parking lot. After the collision, they moved their cars because they were blocking the driveway.

Frank then said, “We already exchanged information.”

“Wait time did the crash happen?” I asked.

“About 9:30?”

“That was ninety minutes ago. What have you been doing this whole time?”

Frank pointed to the other car and driver as he said, “My car isn’t drivable and his is. He lives in his car, so we decided to switch cars so I could go to work tomorrow.”

“You were going to let the homeless guy move into your car and sleep in it tonight?” I asked.

“Yes. I have to go to work tomorrow.”

I took a closer look at Frank’s car and it was stuffed with the homeless guy’s belongings. The homeless guy literally moved out of one car and into another. Well, he was almost moved in. The suitcase was still in the parking lot.

Most people call their insurance companies after a collision. These guys were taking traffic accident negotiations to an entirely new level. I bet Geico would love to help them save 15% on their car insurance.

We then found out Frank had taken the homeless guy’s car on a test drive to see how it ran. To top it off,Frank even had a suspended license.  The entire call was just bizarre.

In the end, the homeless guy moved out of Frank’s car and back into his vehicle again. He drove off to find another place to sleep for tonight. Frank got to make arrangements for transportation on his own. It was the shortest rental agreement ever.

Officers never found the knife Frank called 911 about. Kind of makes you think he made the whole thing up.

The entire story was crazy. Who agrees to swap cars with a complete stranger?

You never know what’s going to happen at work. And of course, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Why is there still a problem with drunk driving?

A photo I took at one of our DUI check points.

A photo I took at one of our DUI check points.

Why is there still a DUI problem?

Last Friday and Saturday night I handled eleven collisions. Six of those were DUI crashes. I even went to a head-on collision involving a DUI driver vs. DUI driver! What are the odds of two DUI drivers finding each other and crashing in the middle of the night? That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, everyone shakes their head.

On my last call on Saturday night, we were dealing with a driver who rear ended another car. Of course, he had been drinking too. While we were on that call, one of our officers was flagged down by a passing motorist about a person who was passed out behind the wheel. The vehicle was about one hundred yards behind us at the next intersection. That driver was also DUI. At least he didn’t crash into our police cars.

At the end of my shift on Saturday, I wondered what was going on. How come the message about drinking and driving was still falling on deaf ears? With all of the information and awareness out there about drunk driving, it’s hard to believe we still have such a problem.

I also wondered if people really knew how big of a DUI problem we still have. At least I think there’s still a problem based on what I see at work every night.

Here’s something to think about. I have a running log of every accident report I’ve ever taken since I started working as a collision investigator in January of 1999. On average, 1 out of every 3 crashes I take is a DUI collision. Sometimes it’s 1 out of every 4. No matter what, it’s been the same numbers year after year.

I’m at 5,800 collisions in my career. Do the math. That’s pretty scary If you think about it.

If you’re one of those people who drink and drive, you should think about this.

No DUI driver ever expected to get arrested. No one thinks they’re going to crash and end up in jail. No DUI driver ever thought they would kill someone, but it happens every day. No one thinks it’s going to happen to them.

Let me say that again……

No one thinks it’s going to happen to them.

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Well, I have news for you. It happens more often than you think.

So, if you’re one of those guys who go out drinking, give us all a break and take a cab or use a designated driver. It’s easier for everyone, including the collision investigator.

And make sure your designated driver hasn’t been drinking too. I’ve taken a few crashes where the designated driver was DUI when they crashed. It always makes for a good story when that happens.

Remember, the designated driver is supposed to be the guy who didn’t drink at all. It’s not supposed to be the guy who was less drunk than his friends.

Be smart people. Your life and our lives depend on it.

The drunk driver and his family

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The other night I saw something that bothered me for some reason. It wasn’t a dead body, a horrific accident, or amputated body parts. It was a family watching their father get arrested for DUI.

On Saturday night, I was at a hit and run collision when this woman, in her early twenties, drove up and told me the suspect vehicle belonged to her father. The young woman, who I’ll Kate, told me someone called her mother to let her know her husband was involved in a collision and where the vehicle was.

While we were talking, her mother’s cell phone rang. It was the person who had originally called about her father. She handed me the phone and said, “You talk to him.”

A man told me he was with the driver from the collision at a nearby shopping center. I hung up and told Kate where her dad was. She asked, “Can I go with you?” I told her she would have to drive her car instead.

She knew which shopping center I was talking about and she pulled into the parking lot just ahead of me. Her brother, who was about 13 or 14 years old, jumped out of the vehicle and ran to his father. The boy was about my son’s height and age, with a similar build.

The son was crying hysterically as he wrapped both arms around his father. He held on to him like he didn’t want to let go because the police were going to take his father away. The boy’s display of emotions hit me like the sound of a door slamming in a quiet library. A pain shot through my heart as I thought of my son, knowing how much he loved me, just like this boy loved his father too. There wasn’t we could do here. The man had collided into a tree and a parked car. We had a job to do.

I then looked over to a little girl, who was about 7 years old. She was standing a few feet behind her brother and she was crying too. Kate was next to her with a different look on her face. It was a look of sadness, pain and disappointment, all mixed together. She seemed mad, but not at us. She was mad at her father. That’s when she said, “He’s done this before.”

“He’s been in a DUI crash before?”

“Yes, you can look it up. You’ll see.”

Kate wanted to know what was going to happen and stayed in the parking lot with her mom and siblings.

When I spoke to the driver, I was amazed how drunk he was. His was a mess. This wasn’t a guy who had one too many. This was a guy who had twenty too many. Thank goodness there was only one collision.

After I interviewed him, I spoke to some officers, who were at the scene of the crash. It turned out the driver had crashed in front of his sister’s apartment. Officers spoke to his sister and she told them her brother was always drunk.

Later that night I ran his driving record and found the DUI conviction Kate was talking about. It was a felony DUI conviction from almost ten years ago. That would’ve put Kate between 10 or 12 years old at the time. Now I knew what that look was on her face.

It was a look of sadness, pain and disappointment that was a combination of what happened tonight and what she went through as a child. It was also a look of a person, who was used to seeing her father this way. It was tragic.

I cleared the call and moved on, but I couldn’t shake the image of the son hanging onto his father while he cried.

The next day started my days off. I told my family about the call and how it affected me. I also told them other stories from the night before. We laughed at some of the crazy things people do.

Life was back to normal for me with my family. What most people take for granted, I see as a blessing because of what I experience at work.

On Monday I barbecued and we had dinner as a family. As I sat there, I thought back to that kid hugging his father. What a different world my kids live in compared to that kid. Later that night, my son and I stayed up late watching Netflix. Life was good.

There’s one thing about police work. This job always has a way of reminding you how good you have it. It’s important never to forget that.

Do you still have passion for the job?

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I saw a Tweet today that I wanted to share. It was from an officer with less than a year on the job.

“In terms of how addicting it is, no drug has anything on police work. Once you get in it, you’re hooked.”

Those two sentences said a lot about what it’s like to be young and new on the job. A lot of us can remember saying something similar to that when we started this roller coaster career called police work.

When I first started back in the mid-nineties, I would’ve done this job for free. I couldn’t wait to get back to work from my days off. It might sound funny to some, but unless you’ve done the job in the city I work at, it’s hard to describe to a non-officer.

Back then each new shift was an adventure. Going to work was like stepping through a magic door into a distant world that was like a crazy circus with a cast of characters that was equal to none.

Simply put. It was the greatest show on earth.

Every day was different and brought a new thrill. Each new day was a learning experience as I tried to figure out how to be a cop.

Early on I knew there was no way I could ever work in an office and sit behind a computer. Driving around in a black and white was where it was at for me.

As an older officer with time on, I like seeing new cops who want to save the world and arrest bad guys. They want to do well and make a difference. I can fondly look back at those days and chuckle at myself because I see a little of myself in some of them.

Despite all the problems in police work, this still is the best job in the world. I’m still amazed they pay me to do this. Each day is still an adventure with crazy things happening to keep it interesting. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, something else happens to prove me wrong.

Twenty years later, I’m happy to say the enthusiasm and passion is still there. I love my job, but I wouldn’t do it for free though. I’m older and wiser now. Let’s not get crazy.

To all the new cops out there. Have fun. The job is what you make of it.

Be safe.

Do you know who Barry Manilow is?

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Anyone who has worked with me knows I like to joke around with citizens. Sometimes the person is drunk and the opportunity is too good to pass up.

One night we had an officer involved shooting in a residential neighborhood. By the time I arrived, the scene was Code 4, but they still needed traffic control to keep cars out of the area.

I parked my patrol car just south of the shooting scene at an intersection and waited until it was okay to send traffic in that direction again. Every once in a while a resident would drive up and ask if they could get to their house. After screening them, I moved my car to let them pass.

That’s when I saw a car pull up to a house at the corner where I was at. A person got out of the car and walked up to the front door. The man was looking in my direction because I was blocking the street. He then looked northbound on the street to where all the police lights were.

He went inside his house, but came right back outside. He walked to the sidewalk and looked back down the street again. I could tell he was curious about what happened. Heck, I would’ve been curious too.

He then started walking toward my car. There was something about the way he walked that told me he had been drinking.

He got to my driver door and I saw the “drunk” look. His eyes were red and droopy with all the classic signs of a person who had been drinking. He was tall, thin and about 25 years old, with the smell of beer on his breath. I just hopped he wasn’t obnoxious.

“What happened?”

“Barry Manilow is down there.” I couldn’t resist saying it. It had been a while since I threw Barry Manilow’s name out like that.

“Really?”  he said with a confused look on his face.

“Yeah,” I said as I tried to keep a straight face.

“Is he bad?”

“He’s badass. You should Google him.”

“Really?”

“Yes. He’s bigtime.”

“OK, thanks officer, I’ll Google him.”

The man smiled and turned around to walk away. It made me laugh because he had no idea I was kidding around. It also told me that more people in the world need to learn who Barry Manilow is.

Sometimes you just have to have fun on this job.  Are you a Fanilow?