Be thankful for your family

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How many of us will go to Thanksgiving dinner and truly be thankful for what we have? Will you be thankful for the family around you today or will we go through the motions because that’s what you have always done?

On Wednesday afternoon, I dropped my daughter off at my mom’s house on the way to work. After I said goodbye, I drove down the street and stopped for the stop sign before making a right turn. While I was stopped, I saw a man sitting in a chair at the southeast corner.

The sight of the man made my heart ache as a father because I knew why he was sitting there. He was there because this was the spot where his son died many years ago in a traffic collision.

He was sitting in a chair in a small grass area next to his son’s memorial, which included a skateboard and pictures. He was alone with a book in his hand as he looked down, lost in his own thoughts as traffic went by. I have seen him here before over the years, along with a woman, who I assumed was his wife.

I watched him for a moment and couldn’t imagine the emptiness he felt. This was his spot to mourn a life that was taken away too soon. This was his spot to be close to last place his son ever stood on earth. This spot was his last connection to his son.

After I turned, I thought how different my Thanksgiving was going to be compared to this man and his wife. I’m sure they wished they could have one more Thanksgiving dinner together as a family with their son.

This is something to think about when you sit down to have your Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Take a moment and be thankful for the people around you because there are others who wish they had one more chance.

Every corner has a story

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As cop, it seems like every street corner has a story. After a while, some street corners have more than one story. Driving around on patrol is like watching a highlights movie of your career as you pass spots that remind you of old stories.

Not too long ago I responded to an injury traffic collision where the vehicles were on fire. The heat was intense as I watched the fire consume the vehicles like they were wood at a campfire.

As I walked up, I saw a lifeless body in the street in a pool of blood not far from the burning vehicles. The person was picked up and put on a gurney. As the person was wheeled to the ambulance, I took a quick peek and knew it didn’t look good. The person died a short time later at the hospital.

Hours later; the scene was cleared and the vehicles were towed away. The streets were opened back up and traffic resumed. People went on with their lives as if nothing happened.

Now, fast forward a week later when I was dispatched to another injury collision at the same location. When I arrived,  I saw one of the vehicles stopped in the street a few feet away from where the fire had been.

I contacted one of the drivers at the southeast corner and interviewed her. While she told me what happened,  I glanced around because we were only a few feet away from where the body was last week. That’s when I saw a blood stain at the crosswalk. The stain and burn marks in the street were reminders of the chaos from the week before.

It turned out both collisions involved cars making left turns and were almost identical to each other. I found it a little eerie to be standing in the same spot under similar circumstances so soon afterward. If the people from the crash only knew what happened here the week before.

As the tow truck cleaned up,  I looked over at the blood stain and wondered how many more stories I will have at this corner before I retire. Unfortunately I’m sure there will plenty.

 

 

“Your mom still loves you”

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“Unit involved 902T.”

I was loading my patrol car up when I heard an officer broadcast over the radio that he was involved in a non-injury traffic collision. He gave his location and asked for a sergeant and a traffic unit to respond.

“729 en route,” I said as I drove out of the police department parking lot.

I arrived a short time later and saw a patrol car in a parking space next to a black car. John, the officer I heard on the radio, got out of the passenger seat and shook his head at me.

“Where’s the other car?” I asked.

John told me his trainee had side swiped a parked car while backing up. That’s when the trainee got out of the driver seat and walked up to us with his head held low. He looked like a guy who lived in a one-bedroom apartment that just found out his wife was pregnant with octuplets.

I wanted to laugh when I saw the look on his face. Not because I wanted to make fun of him. It was because I had that same look over 20 years ago when I crashed two weeks after getting out of training.

The damage on this call was nothing compared to my first traffic collision where both cars were towed away and the other driver was transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Now that was a bad day in 1995.

There’s also another reason why I remembered the day so well. It was because of the traffic officer laughing at me as he tried to make me feel better when he said, “It’s OK. Everyone crashes.”

Nothing was going to make me feel better that day because I was at fault, Of course, that didn’t stop him from joking around a lot. Looking back, that was his way of telling me this wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

After everything was cleaned up I got into my sergeant’s car so he could give me a ride back to the station. As we drove down the street he said, “I’ll buy you a soda.”

He pulled into the Burger King drive thru and said, “What do you want?”

“I’ll take a root beer,” I said with a dejected look.

“Don’t worry, everyone crashes.”

“Have you ever crashed?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said with a smile.

I got back to the station and walked in with my tail between my legs. At the end of shift I got a good dose of humor thrown my way from my co-workers.

I remembered all of this as I stood in front of the trainee, who recently graduated from the academy. Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make a joke as I said, “Don’t worry. Your mom still loves you.”

I laughed as an uneasy smile came across his face. I took his statement and told him the same thing I heard all those years ago when I was new to the world of police work. “Don’t worry. Everyone crashes.”

“Yes, sir,” was all he could say.

When I was done I handed him a collision card with the report number on it as I said, “Here’s a card.”

It was the same card I give out to regular people at collisions. “Keep this so you can look back and laugh one day.”

He smiled and took the card. Hopefully in a few years he’ll think the card was as funny as I did.

 

“The car was going fast”

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“The car was going fast.”

“Did you see it before the collision?”

“No.”

This exchange happens all the time at traffic collisions. In most cases, the same person did one of two things. They turned left in front of a car or pulled out from a driveway in front of a car. Either way they crashed into another driver, who was minding their own business while traveling down a road.

When this happens, the driver who is at fault tries to blame the other car because it was “going too fast.” My next question always is, “How do you know the car was going fast if you didn’t see it?”

This question usually triggers a twitch in the driver’s face that causes them to squint and give me that deep in thought look. It’s almost like I have a hidden switch that I flicked with my finger to get them to do that because it happens every I ask that question. Actually, there’s no switch. It just their confused look.

One confused driver once replied, “It felt fast.”

“It felt fast?”

“Yeah, it felt fast.”

I think the better way to describe the crash was that it felt hard, but who am I to point that out?

“The car was going fast” statement is alive and well in the traffic collision world. It is said a few times a week without fail. In fact, it came up again on Wednesday night in a four-car crash involving a driver with a suspended license.

I guess when there are five points of impact, four cars and a vehicle in someone’s front yard, a person might want to deflect blame onto someone else by saying, “He was going fast.”

I have an idea. How about following the f#$%ing rules and not drive? It would be easier for everyone out there on the roads.

Where’s his foot?

_DSC4559-2The other night I went to an injury traffic collision involving a motorcycle and a car. The first officer on scene got on the radio and said it was a possible fatality. He also needed more traffic control to shut down the street. I was on a car stop at the time and gave the driver a break because I had to go.

As I drove away with my lights and siren on, I thought how this guy got a huge break on an expensive ticket because the other guy crashed. Kind of weird how one person’s misfortune was another person’s luck.

When I got to the scene, I saw the rider down in the street with fire personnel around him. There was a large group of people standing on the sidewalk watching.

His femur was sticking out of the skin above the knee in wound that looked right out of a war movie. There was also a large piece of flesh in the middle of the intersection that looked like a slice of cheese pizza.

After looking at the injury, I walked around to where his head was. That’s when I did a double take at the victim’s leg. It didn’t look right. From my angle the end of his leg looked like a pointy stub. The first thing that came to mind was, “Where’s his foot?”

I then looked around the area for the missing foot. I didn’t want anyone to trip over it or kick it around. As I did that, I thought how bizarre it was to be looking around for something like that.

I walked around the victim again and guess what I saw? His foot!

Thank goodness it was still attached, but it didn’t look the way it was supposed to. His shoe was off to the side and his foot was pointed down in an unnatural angle. It’s kind of funny now. I just hadn’t seen it right the first time.

One this is for sure,  it’s not every day you get to say, “Where’s his foot?” I’m glad the victim survived with both feet still attached.

Two different types of drunks

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The other night we were in the 7-Eleven parking lot on a DUI crash. When I first got there, I saw a male standing in front and didn’t pay much attention to him. Where I work, it’s not uncommon to see people hanging around 7-Eleven with nothing to do. I figured he was just one of those guys.

I did my interviews and the DUI driver was arrested. He was a happy drunk and was very cooperative. He was a carefree guy and was handcuffed with no problems. After he was arrested the driver smiled and said, “Come on. Let me go.” The patrol officer then took him to the car and had him sit in the backseat.

That’s when the guy from in front of 7-Eleven started walking toward us with his hands out like a drunk zombie as he said, “Arrest me instead.”

What a guy, right? It was out of the ordinary for a stranger to act like this on a collision call, but then again, nothing is too weird at work.

We told the guy to step back and go away, but he wouldn’t listen. He kept coming closer and closer. He eventually got arrested and became a bigger idiot after he was handcuffed. The officers took him to the car so he could get a ride with the DUI driver.

Well, he didn’t want to get into the car. The officers took the DUI out and asked me to standby with him. During this time, the other drunk was yelling, screaming and telling everyone what he really thought of cops in his best Rated R language.

That’s when the DUI guy said, “Look at this guy. He’s full of shit. I’m not like that. Let me go.”

I told him, “We appreciate it, but we just can’t let you go. We have to do our jobs.”

“Come on. Let me go.”

“You were DUI and you crashed into that woman. Plus, you don’t even have a license.”

“I know, but look at him. I’m not like that.”

It was funny to listen to nice suspect while the other guy was being such an ass. It almost made me want to give the guy a freebie. Not really. I was kidding. It was amazing to see how a regular call could go downhill in a matter of seconds because of a drunk knucklehead who wasn’t even involved.

That’s police work for you though.

Get a license

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I go to a lot of traffic collisions involving drivers who are unlicensed. You’d be shocked how often this happens. It happens so much, I’m amazed when I go to a call where all of the drivers have licenses. When that happens, I want to hug each driver just for following the damn rules.

This past weekend reached new lows when it comes to unlicensed driver crashes. On Friday night I went to a crash where a driver with a suspended license crashed into an unlicensed driver.

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does I find it kind of ironic. Out of the thousands of cars on the street at that moment, what are the chances of those two finding each other and crashing?

Fast forward to Saturday night.

The night was very busy and I ended up handling six crash investigations. Of those six, three involved unlicensed drivers. On the first call, an unlicensed driver made a left turn in front of a woman with a suspended license. On the next crash, an unlicensed driver was involved in a street race when he lost control and hit another car. On the third crash, an unlicensed DUI driver rear ended an unlicensed woman.

The night left the tow truck companies happy because of all the money they’re going to make from the impounds. I wondered what was going on. Had the world turned upside down and all of the unlicensed drivers landed in my city to conduct a game of demolition derby?

After almost 6,000 collisions and over 15 years of working traffic, I have never seen that many crashes involving unlicensed driver in such a short time.

By the end of the night I just wanted to make it to the freeway in one piece and avoid being another unlicensed driver victim.  That happened to me once while I was on-duty a long time ago, but that’s for another blog story.

“You look familiar”

_DSC7442The other night I was on a three-car collision when I looked at one of the drivers and said, “You look familiar.”

He turned to me with DUI looking eyes and didn’t say anything.

“Have you crashed before?” I asked.

He nodded his head as he said, “Yes.”

“Do you remember me?”

He shook his head no.

There was a tremor in the force because my Jedi senses told me I had run into this guy before. Well, he actually ran into someone else to be more accurate. I spent the rest of the call trying to figure out how I knew him.

A little while later, the arresting officer told me our driver was in a 2014 DUI collision that I was on. I knew it. Later on I did some research and read the old report. Bingo. I knew exactly who that was.

Back in May of 2014, I was stopped for a red light when my partner and I heard a crash. I looked across the intersection and saw two cars that were involved in a rear end collision. I drove across the street and pulled in behind the cars. The striking vehicle had front end damage and smoke was coming out from under the hood.

That’s when the door popped open and the driver fell out of the car. It was as if all of his weight was against the door and he rolled out onto the street. Once on the street, he flopped around like a sea lion at Sea World begging for a treat after doing a trick. The only thing missing was a crowd, a bucket of fish and a large pool of water.

After a few moments of animal entertainment he rolled over and started doing a low crawl like a sniper was shooting at him from a clock tower. It surely would’ve won the grand prize on America’s Funniest Home Videos. In the end, he was arrested for DUI and went to jail.

It was funny to watch because it’s not every day you get to see a grown man fall out of his car because he’s so drunk. It’s also not every day you get to run into him again at another collision.

Here’s the sad thing. This is the second time this year where I’ve contacted a previous DUI customer of mine at a crash where they were DUI again.

When are these people ever going to learn?

“I gotta pee too”

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When people don’t stop for red lights or stop signs they give all sort of excuses from “I didn’t see it” to “I stopped real fast.” Some will just lie about it and simply say, “I stopped.”

This past week an old favorite has come up again. A few women have tried using the old “I have to pee” excuse. I haven’t heard that one in a long time, but apparently there’s a reemergence of people relying on their large and small intestines to try and get them out of a ticket.

I applaud them for trying because it just gives me a reason to write a blog story. In fact, two women told me the “I have to pee” excuse while running the same stop sign on two separate days.

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That excuse always reminds me of the movie Forrest Gump when he told the president, “I gotta pee” after drinking 15 bottles of Dr Pepper while at the White House.

Whenever I hear someone say, “I have to pee,” I simply reply back, “I gotta pee too.”

The look on their face is priceless. They always pause for a moment as if they’re thinking, “Did that cop just tell me he had to pee?” That’s the best part because they all have the same look. It never gets old. To show them I was reading their mind I’ve always wanted to say, “Yeah, I just said I gotta pee.”

The all time best is when a woman said, “I have to poop” after running a stop sign.

Even though I didn’t say it, I fought the urge to reply, “I gotta poop too,” but it would’ve made everything feel awkward if I had.

You never know when “number one” or “number two” is going to come up in a conversation. This is police work and people say the funniest things.

Who doesn’t love the 80’s?

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I spent my teen years in the 1980s, which was a good thing. That decade brought us movies like Top Gun, Back to The Future and Rambo. On TV you had Miami Vice, Cheers and The A Team, just to name a few. And who could forget the music? I could go on an on about that one subject forever.

Luckily I have satellite radio and the 80’s live on inside my car. Even though the radio station in primarily on the “80’s on 8” I do switch it around once in a while depending on my mood.

We’ve listened to so much 80’s music my kids know the lyrics to some songs better than I do. They have even discovered 80’s movies, along with old TV shows because of Netflix.

What can I say? They have good taste.

Today, I was driving with my son when I noticed the radio station was on the “90’s on 9.” I looked at him and asked, “Did you change the station?”

“No, I thought you did,” He replied. “I was going to ask to put it back on the 80’s on 8.”

I thought it was cool to hear my son say that. He then said something even better.

“Listening to the 90’s on 9 is like being part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. You don’t know what to expect.”

That’s my boy. Only he could associate the Lewis and Clark expedition to the unknown of listening to 90’s music.

He gets a freebee the next time he gets in trouble.