Happy retirement Deputy

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In May of 1990, my uncle Eddie (Ed to most people) graduated from the academy and became a Deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I missed his graduation because I had a final to take at school.

I remember the graduation party at my grandmother’s house after I finished my test at school. Eddie was wearing his uniform with his shiny deputy star on his chest as he posed for pictures with us. He was 4 years older than me and the first cop in our family. I was proud of him.

After he started working, he encouraged me to be a deputy. One day I went over his house and we had a long talk about police work. That conversation, along with another with a family neighbor, who worked for LAPD, pushed me toward a police career.

I can still picture where I sat in his house and how I left knowing the seed was planted for a career in law enforcement. That seed was later watered during a ride along with the Los Angeles Police Department that was set up through my mom’s neighbor.

I graduated from the Orange County Sheriff’s academy about 1 1/2 years after that conversation at Eddie’s house. It was a great moment to stand next to Eddie, who was there in his uniform. It was actually the only time we were in uniform together.

Now, after almost 26 years as a deputy, Eddie retired. It’s hard to believe he’s now a “retired cop.” Knowing he’s retired means I’m really not that far behind him, which is weird. I still have a ways to go, but the sun will set on my police career before I know it just like it did for Eddie.

Congrats on your retirement. Now, let’s go back to Maui.

We need to treat our people better

_DSC8694How many of us know someone who was injured on-duty and was off of work for an extended period of time. Now, think of how many times you called that person or sent them a text message to see how they were doing? Probably not often or at all. Over the years I’ve been guilty of not making that call also.

Recently I got to thinking about this and I wondered why we don’t call our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform when they get hurt. I’m sure a buddy calls, but what about the rest of us?

No one wants to be injured and away from work, but it happens to cops and firefighters all of the time. More often than not, they sit at home frustrated with their injury, works comp and the city. They do all of this alone with no word from their chief, immediate supervisor or fellow officers. It’s as if they were forgotten by everyone.

The deserve better and we need to make an effort to show them they matter when they’re injured. Anything can happen on the street, which means you could be the next cop or firefighter injured while doing the job you love.

Just something to think about.

What kind of dream was that?

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I rarely have dreams about work. If I do, it has to do with going back to the academy for some reason, but that’s another story. The other night I had a dream with an accident investigation twist to it.

The dream started out with me driving down the street in my patrol car in the early evening. There was also a clown and a midget singing a Barry Manilow song in the backseat.

I’m kidding. My dreams aren’t that weird, but if yours are, you might want to seek out some help.

Back to the story. I was driving down the street when I saw a car going the same direction as it suddenly swerved to the right. The passenger side tires went up the curb as the car started driving down the sidewalk. The car swerved back to the left and ran a red light as it crashed into a car.

This is where the dream gets weird. OK, maybe more weird.

After the initial collision, one of the vehicles went toward the corner and crashed into the parking lot at a car dealership. It seemed like every car was hit as a shock wave went through the parking lot.

That’s when I wondered in the dream how I was going to measure all of the points of impact for the report. I also thought about how I was going to do the diagram with all of those crashed cars in the parking lot. If you work traffic, you know what a pain in the butt this would be. This probably became a stressful dream at this point.

Anyways. The suspect vehicle stopped and two guys started running northbound at the intersection. I got out of the patrol car and started chasing them. Somehow I caught one (it’s a dream) and then fought to get his hands behind his back. That’s when I woke up wondering what kind of dream I just had.

I told my son about my dream and he said, “Who dreams about stuff like that?” He then made me laugh even more when he said, “I guess 20 years will do that to you.”

Maybe in my next dream every driver will have a license, be sober and actually have insurance. Probably not, but one can hope.

“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.

Don’t tell your kids I’m going to take them away

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“See the police? He’s going to take you away if you don’t listen.”

This is a statement we, as officers, have all heard at one time or another when parents try to scare their children into listening to them. I’ve heard it said in restaurants, in stores and on neighborhood streets while on calls for service.

Now, the statement, “See the police? He’s going to take you away if you’re bad,”
is correct if you’re committing a crime. If you’re stealing something, assaulting someone or driving drunk, then yes, the police are going to take you away. But why tell that to a child?

As a kid, I never saw the police as people who were going to take me away if I didn’t listen. That was what my mom’s wooden spoon was for.That’s also what a spanking from my dad’s right hand were for. I didn’t have to worry about the cops. I had to worry about my parents.

If I acted up, there were consequences. It was simple. We had rules to follow and if you didn’t follow them then you knew what to expect. Listening, following the rules and respect were instilled in us at an early age. My parents didn’t have to point at a cop and threaten they were going to take us away. They just had to give me the evil eye and I knew I should listen.

So, rather than tell your kids the cops are going to take them away for being bad, try telling them you’re going to punish them for their actions and follow through on it. It’s OK to be the boss in your house. When I was growing up I sure knew who the boss was in my house.

Remember, officers can’t fix the problem when a parent didn’t do their job 10 or 15 years ago.

 

The Stick Figure Guy

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Anyone who has ever worked this job knows you joke around a lot. Some call it a defense mechanism to all of the things you see and hear at work. That being said, there are certain things that I find funny that the regular person wouldn’t. It’s not that I’m uncaring. It’s just part of this job.

I’ve always joked saying the Heisman Trophy looks like a pedestrian right before a collision occurs.  Since I can’t put the Heisman in the drawing I have to use a Stick Figure Guy.

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Last night I was finishing up a report involving a pedestrian who was hit by a car. The pedestrians in my drawings are always stick figure guys with their hands in the up position. There’s no particular reason why their hands are in the up position. That’s just the way I’ve always done it.

When the drawing was done, I looked at the computer screen and I wondered what the stick figure guy would look like with his hands down. But in reality, what pedestrian has their hands down when a car is about to hit them.

The hands in the up position as the pedestrian says, “Oh shit” was more believable to me.

Then I thought about turning in the report with the hands in a different position, like one up and one down. I clicked on the hands and it reminded me of John Travolta in the movie Saturday Night Fever. A Bee Gees song from the movie flashed in my head as my stick figure guy’s arms assumed the disco position.

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Of course, this was funny to me for no other reason that just because. I guess some things are funnier at 2AM.

After that I wondered what other ways I could draw the stick figure guy in my report. That’s when I came up with the last stick man with his legs and arms bent in different positions.

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I actually laughed when I saw it. That stick figure guy was probably closer to what we see at collisions when people look like human pretzels. Maybe after almost 6,000 crashes I’ve become a little twisted. Like I said, I find humor in stuff the regular person wouldn’t.

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Be safe out there and don’t become the stick figure guy in a drawing. Watch for cars when you cross the street.

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

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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.

Thank you for your support

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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.

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“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

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“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.

His name was Deputy Goforth

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His name was Darren Goforth. He was a deputy with the Harris County Sheriff Department in Texas and he was murdered on August 28, 2015 at 8:25PM.

He wasn’t bothering anyone. He was only pumping gas into his patrol car. The news account say he was shot from behind and fell to the ground. The suspect then stood over him and shot Deputy Goforth a couple of more times.

The suspect drove away like a coward and left him to die.

Just reading this made me angry. Every law-abiding citizen should be angry at such a senseless killing of a man and a symbol of law and order. This wasn’t just an attack on a police officer. It was an attack against what we stand for as a society.

Deputy Goforth wasn’t involved in a high risk warrant service. He wasn’t on a car stop or on a domestic violence call. He was putting gas in his patrol car at a gas station. The senselessness is beyond words to me. The evil shown by the suspect is beyond comprehension.

This all happened because of the uniform and badge he was wearing. He was on-duty tonight, just like I was. He was serving his community just like thousands of other officers.

During my 30 minute drive home, I thought about how this could’ve happened to me or one of my friends. It could’ve happened to an officer in a neighboring city. As the minutes ticked away on my drive, I got angrier as I thought about what happened.

I didn’t know him, but he wore a badge just like I do.  He wore a badge just like over 800,000 other officers in the United States. That badge might not be the same, but we all grieve for him and his family.

Take a moment today and reflect on what you have and think about Deputy Goforth’s family. They didn’t deserve this. No one does.

His name was Deputy Goforth and he was a police officer. His life mattered.