How deep did I stick my foot in my mouth?


One night I responded to an injury collision at a freeway off ramp. When I got there, I saw two crashed cars in the intersection and the southbound lanes of the street were blocked.

There was something in the street I had never seen before. One of the drivers was sitting in a lawn chair. I’d seen a lot of things in my time as an officer, but never a chair in the street with an injured person sitting in it. I later found out the witness had taken a chair out of her trunk and gave it to the driver to sit in.

The woman looked to be about 60 years old. She had a frail look about her by the way she sat in the chair. She was leaning to the side and looked to be in lot of pain.

I asked her what happened while she was still sitting in the chair. She answered my questions in a way that made it look like she was older than she appeared. She was either very frail or had a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by the collision.

There was a man standing next to the woman the entire time. He looked to be in his mid-30s. When I was done with the interview I wrote the report number down on a card. I decided to hand the card to the male because I assumed he was the woman’s son.

I looked at the man and asked, “Are you her son?”

“She’s my wife,” he replied with a funny look.

“Oh, you look good for your age.” I said as I tried to turn a negative into a positive.

That’s when the woman in the chair said, “Are you saying I look old?”


The witness started laughing in the background as she put her hand up to her mouth. I turned toward the woman in the chair and said the first thing that popped into my head.

“Wow, that got awkward. Here’s the report number and call your insurance company.”

There wasn’t much left for me to do or say after that so I walked over to the officer who was helping me with the paperwork and asked, “How old is she?”

I found out the woman was only in her early-40s. I stood there and asked one of the firefighters how old he thought the woman was. He estimated she was about 60 years old. I then asked another firefighter and he gave the same answer. Now I didn’t feel so bad.

Of course, I told them what happened to me and they laughed at how I put my foot in my mouth.

You never know what’s going to happen out on the street.

The Star Wars couple


Last night I went to a call in which two parked cars were hit. When I arrived, I saw a man standing there with a Darth Vader t-shirt on. His wife’s shirt had a Storm Trooper shooting a blaster with a laser coming out of it with the words “Pew Pew.” It’s not every day you get to meet a Star Wars couple at a crash.

The driver, who we will call Frank, told me he was tired and spent the entire day at Disneyland. His wife was driving in front of him at the time in another vehicle with their kids. He dozed off and never saw the parked cars before the crash. His wife didn’t know about the collision until he called her with the bad news.

His wife was both upset and hilarious at the same time. She couldn’t believe he had crashed into the parked cars. Their car suffered major damage and she said, “I’m getting the new car. He can have mine.”  At one point Frank was banished to the other vehicle as she said, “Go wait over there.”

We talked with her as we waited for the tow truck. Of course, the subject of Star Wars came up and we learned she was a huge fan. We also found out Frank didn’t become a Star Wars fan until he met his wife. From that point on, he was young Jedi in training.


As the tow truck picked up the car, it got closer for Frank to meet his fate on the drive home with his Master Jedi.  When it was time to leave, Frank walked up to us and said goodbye as he held out his hand. Something told me he was going to need Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi on his side at the same time. I shook his hand as I said, “May the force be with you.” He laughed after hearing that.

That’s when his wife said, “When he gets home I’m going to Pew Pew him.” That just made us laugh even more because of the shirt she was wearing. After all these years, I never thought I would hear the words “Pew Pew” at a collision scene.

In the end I asked if I could take pictures of their shirts. They proudly posed for the photos and shook our hands when they left.

That’s when one of the officers said, “Why can’t they all be like that?” I totally agreed. It always makes the job easier and fun when you run into super nice people.


Frank, I hope the “Pew Pew” wasn’t that bad when you got home.

Hitting the jackpot on September 11

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

One of the fun parts of this job is the reactions that kids give when they see you walking around in uniform or sitting in the police car. Whenever I see a child waving at me, I make sure to wave back. The smile on their face and the wave back is always worth it.

On September 11, I was sitting in my car in a parking lot when a family walked by. The mother and father told their 5 year old son to wave at me, which he did. I said hi back at the same time I put my emergency lights on for him. He was surprised to see the lights come on and had the “wow” look on his face.

I got out of the car and said, “Do you want to sit in the police car?”

The boy’s face lit up as he turned toward his parents. His mom and dad told him to go ahead. He started to climb into the car when he spotted a penny that was near the seat. He grabbed the penny and tried to give it to me. I waved my hand at him as I said, “Keep it. It’s yours.”

With a surprised look he shoved the penny into his shorts pocket as fast as he could. He then sat down in the driver seat with a satisfied look on his face as I closed the door for him.

His mother took out her phone and told him to smile so she could take a picture. After the photo was taken I opened the door so he could get out. As he started to get out of the car I pointed to the area on the door where I put spare change as I said, “What’s in there?”

The little boy peeked at the door handle and saw nickels, dimes and a quarter. He looked at me as I said, “Go ahead. You can have them.”

His eyes got huge and then looked back at the coins because he had just hit the lottery. His huge jackpot eyes then looked back at me to be sure.

“Go ahead.”

He grabbed at the change like his hands were miniature Pac Mans gobbling up everything he could find. He had the biggest smile as he put the change into his pockets as deep as he could to make sure none would come out. His parents then told him, “What do you say?”

With a quick turn of the head he said, “Thank you.”

Before the boy left, I said, “Keep the coins so you will always remember that today was September 11th.”


Talking with a drug addict


A few weeks ago I was driving through an intersection when I noticed a transient standing on the median with a sign asking for money. On my second pass around the area I saw the same guy step into the street against the “Don’t Walk” symbol as he walked in front of a car. That’s when I decided I was going to stop and talk with him.

I parked my car in the driveway of a gas station and waited for him to come over to the corner. I told him hi and asked to speak with him. He waved both hands in the air as he said, “Come on man. I’m starving. I’m just trying to make some money.”

I told him I wanted talk for two reasons. The first was about walking in front of the car. The second was because someone had just taken money from the tip jar at my favorite chicken restaurant 100 yards down the street. I gave him the description of the suspect and asked if he had seen that guy walking around here.

He calmed down after hearing that and told me he liked the food at that restaurant too. He also said he hadn’t seen anyone that fit the description.

I then decided to ask him questions about how long he’d been on the street, where he grew up and where his family was. For the next 15 to 20 minutes he talked about being addicted to heroin, being homeless and not being able to walk away from living on the street. He told me where he grew up and said his mother sometimes visited him out here.

I felt bad for his mother and wondered what she had gone through over the years, yet she still drove out to visit him on the street. Based on where she lived, she had to take two different freeways to get here.

I asked him about being able to go back home for help. The man, who was in his early 30s, said he could, but he always ended up back on the street because of his addiction.

I asked how him much he spent a day on heroin. He said, “I spent $45 today and I didn’t even get high. I’m pissed.” He then said, “I spent enough to stay well.”

We talked for a little while longer about what it’s like to have withdrawal symptoms and how he started using drugs, along with his time in jail. He had been nice to me and spoke freely about his problems so I asked, “Do you want a sandwich?”

His eyes lit up as he said, “Yes.”

“It’s salami.”

“I love salami.”

I walked over to my car and got the sandwich out of my cooler. I went back to where he was and handed it to him.

He smiled as he said, “Thanks officer. What’s your name?” I told him and we said goodbye.

I drove away still thinking about his mother coming out to visit him. That wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about a parent coming out to see their homeless adult child on the street. We never wonder about the families and what they sometimes go through. It’s something to think about.

A once in a lifetime moment in my police career


Everyone knows what happened on September 11, 2001, but does anyone remember the candle light vigil that was planned a few days later?

Back in September of 2001,  I was on my way to work when I heard on the radio about a national candle light vigil that was planned at dusk. I didn’t think anything of it because I was working.

During that time, a new officer named Steve came to the traffic detail from patrol. He was going to ride with me for three weeks before going on his own as an accident investigator.

When we loaded up the patrol car that night I had no idea what Steve had planned for me. I thought it was going to be a regular night, but it turned out to be something much more.

Before we left the back lot of the police station Steve said, “I brought candles. We’re going to stand on the street and light them.”

I wasn’t sure about his idea. I couldn’t see myself standing on the side of the road while holding a candle. Steve seemed pretty passionate about it so I figured I would just roll with it.

As dusk approached it was time for the candle light vigil. We stopped on a small street and Steve pulled out two huge candles. The candles were so big I figured Steve was planning on staying for a while. We lit them and stood there on the sidewalk next to our patrol car.

I felt a little self-conscious just standing there by ourselves. I wasn’t sure how long we were going to stay, but Steve was in this for the long haul. There was plenty of wax on those candles so we weren’t leaving any time soon.

As cars passed, I wondered what they were thinking. I wondered if they had ever seen two officers standing on the side of the road with large candles in their hands. The answer was probably not.

That’s when something amazing happened. The moment was like the sound of a bat knocking a baseball out of the park for a home run. A little girl, her younger brother and her mother walked up to us with candles. The girl, who was about 10 years said, “Can we pray with you?”

It’s a sentence I’ve never forgotten. Out of the tens of thousands of people I’ve met on this job, she’s one of the people I’ll never forget.

“Of course,” we said.

Now we were five. We lit their candles and stood with them. We couldn’t communicate with her mother because she only spoke Spanish, so we stood there and just smiled at each other.

Then it happened again and again. More people came up and stood with us. They all had candles in their hands. Our group that started out as two had now grown to fifteen. I never expected this. Who would’ve thought this was possible?

And it continued to happen as more people came out and stood with us. They all had candles in their hands also. Before we knew it, our group had grown to 30 people.

I was amazed that these people wanted to stand with us. We had never met, but it didn’t matter. We weren’t cops and citizens at that moment. We were just people who were touched by what happened on 9/11.

Over half of the group didn’t speak English, but that didn’t matter to them or us. Our hearts and minds spoke RED, WHITE and BLUE, which was the only language that mattered at that moment.

The United States of America was attacked and they were there to stand with us and show their support. The destruction and death was at such a large scale, they felt compelled to come out.

After a while the candles started to go out and it was time to leave. The moment was over as quickly as it took to blow out a flame. The group broke apart and everyone walked back to their homes, never to be seen again.

I often wonder if any of those people look at that spot and remember how great of a moment it really was for us to come together like that. There are a lot of street corners in the city that have stories that I’ve been part of. Each corner has a unique story, but this patch of sidewalk has a story that will never be seen again. It was on moment in time that will stay with Steve and I forever.

After we left, there were people all over the streets waving American flags and cheering at the police car as we went by. It was one of those nights where it was great to be out there to witness so many people united as Americans.

It was a once in a life time moment and I’m glad I was part of it.

Where were you on September 11, 2001 and what do you do to remember that day?


What were you doing on September 11, 2001 when you first heard about the attacks?

It was after 8AM on that day when my friend Robert called and woke me up. I had been asleep for 3 hours when the phone rang. I answered the phone with my eyes closed as I said, “Hello.”

“John, two planes hit the World Trade Center,” said Robert.

I was half asleep and I wondered why he was calling about a plane crash. Robert was my first roommate from college. We had always kept in touch, but a call from him at this time of the day was unusual.

All I could say was, “Huh?”

“Turn on the TV. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. It’s horrible.”

That got my eyes to open up this time. How could two planes crash into each other and hit the buildings? This must’ve been some type of horrible accident. Robert’s voice told me something was wrong and I should turn on the TV.

I turned the TV on and the grogginess left my body as I took in the images of the Twin Towers collapsing into a pile of twisted metal as it was replayed over and over. Then there was the video of the crowd running away from the large cloud of dust that soon surrounded and choked them. There was no way I was going back to sleep after seeing that. It was a day no one would forget.

Fast forward 14 years later.

This Friday, my daughter’s elementary school will celebrate Patriot Day with an assembly. The assembly is an annual event at the school where parents are invited to come. Additionally, parents, who are firefighters, police officers, or in the military are invited to attend in uniform to participate also.

Every year the principal introduces the people in uniform at the start of the assembly. One by one, we stand up and wave at the crowd.

After the introductions, the principal gives a speech to the children about what 9-11 means and why it’s important to remember that day. Every year her words are powerful and passionate as she talks about those who lost their lives on that day. She also tells the children about what people in uniform do to protect them and the sacrifices they make.

Afterward, children from the different grade levels come up and give short speeches about Patriot Day and what it means. This is followed by each grade performing a patriotic song for the school.

This will be my last Patriot Day assembly because my daughter is in sixth grade. It’s weird to know this will be the final time I wear my uniform at her school. Patriot Day was always something my kids looked forward to because the school made it a big deal.

Every year it’s been fun to see the smile on my kid’s faces when I’ve shown up. The pride in their eyes made me feel like I hit the jackpot at a Las Vegas casino. One fond memory I have was when my daughter pointed to me with a big smile and said, “That’s my dad.”

This Friday I’ll be there for the final time, along with other parents in uniform as our elementary school pays tribute to the fallen from that day. None of the children at the school were born at the time, but our principal will make sure they never forget.

Take a moment on Friday and remember those who died on that September morning in 2001. It was a day when things changed forever and when the fight was brought to us.

Never forget.

When two DUI drivers crash into each other

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

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

A common theme of the blog is, “You just can’t make this stuff up.” The other night we had such a call. In fact, the cops on the call were still talking about it tonight.

The story starts out with two friends. We’ll call them Tom and Frank to make it easier. Tom went to visit Frank at his house. Tom and Frank decided to get drunk at the house, which was fine. But rather than stay at Frank’s house where they were safe, they decided to leave and drive in separate cars. You can probably see where this is going already.

Of course, it didn’t matter that they didn’t have driver’s licenses even though they have lived in California for over 10 years.

As they left the house, Frank was in front of Tom. Frank approached a stop sign at a major cross street and stopped. Unfortunately for Tom, he was drunk and his driving ability was about as good as a snake trying to play a piano.

Disaster was moments away for Tom as he was about to achieve Badge415 blog status. He rear ended Frank and rolled over onto his roof, sending glass all over the street. But wait, there’s more……

After the collision, Frank made a U-turn and stopped at Tom’s car. Tom crawled out and jumped into Frank’s car so they could get out of there before the cops showed up.

Frank drove 100 yards down the street to his house and pulled into the driveway. He made a clean get away except for one thing. Frank somehow felt the need to achieve Badge415 blog status also. As he pulled into his driveway he sideswiped his roommate’s truck. Frank was now at fault for the second collision after being the “victim” of the first. Tom was the suspect of the first collision and a passenger in the second.

DUI investigations were conducted on both drivers and they were arrested for driving while under the influence. They went from one house to the Big House all because they chose poorly.

You couldn’t make this story up even if you tried. It was a lot of extra work, but it was worth it. It wouldn’t be a “normal” police shift without some type of craziness to shake things up.

Thank you for your support


Tonight, I went to Starbucks to get a drink and do some much needed report writing. I went to my usual table and put my computer down as I hoped for some peace and quiet to catch up on my work.

I ordered my drink and then dove into my paperwork. While I sat there, I scanned the crowed as people came and went. Every so often a person would smile and say hi as they walked past my table toward the bathroom.

I continued to fill out report forms and type as the Starbucks crowd went about their business.

The time finally came for me to leave when a collision call went out over the radio. I was gathering my stuff when a man walked by and said, “Thank you for your service.”

He was about 50 years old and smiled as he said it. His blue eyes were warm, sincere and friendly.

I smiled back and said, “Thank you.” I hoped he could see I meant and appreciated his kind words. The moment was brief and then he walked away.


“Thank you for you service” were just five words. But they weren’t just any five words. They were five words that he didn’t have to say. The man didn’t have to take the time to walk over and say anything. I was a just a stranger, who was wearing a uniform and a badge.

I don’t think people realize how much we, as officers, appreciate it when they come up and offer encouragement like that. Those moments mean something.

With all of the negativity out there, the world forgets about the people who support the police. We know you’re out there. We see you when you smile at us. We see you when you wave at us at stop lights. We see and hear your kids when they yell out, “Hi police!”

We know there are good people out there, just like you know there are good cops doing their best to make you safe. Keep the faith because the cops haven’t forgotten about you.

Officers still go out to protect people no matter what


“Nine officers murdered in 10 days. No national outrage…and you know what? Our men & women in blue KEEP holding that line. *salute*”

– Chief Jeffery Katz of the Boynton Beach Police Dept (Florida).

I read this quote today on Twitter and I instantly clicked “favorite.” I then clicked on Chief Katz’s profile and scanned his Tweets. I clicked “follow” because I liked what he had to say. Chief Katz followed me back, which I appreciated.

I liked his Tweet because it was true. Officers still do the job they have sworn to do no matter which way the political winds are blowing. They continue to protect people no matter which group is spewing hatred toward them. They still report to work because it’s the job they have sworn to do.

Chief Katz’s statement was short and to the point, but as an officer, I appreciated it. As a citizen, I appreciated it also. I think officers and citizens want to see their police chiefs out in front leading to reassure them that police officers are there no matter what. People expect officers to be there, but it’s still an important message to put out there for them to hear.

This is our chosen profession and we put our uniforms and badges on despite what’s going on in the world. This career is a calling that very few answer.

Thousands of men and women will go to work tomorrow and do their very best to protect people they have never met.  Police officers will do this knowing the dangers they face as they charge toward the unknown.

We, as a profession, need to make some noise about the good work officers do every day  to help people and impact them in a positive way. We need to get our stories out there for people to see and hear.

Remember, officers are out there holding the line between good and evil, but you just don’t hear about it.

Be safe out there.