Can you open the door?

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Tonight, I responded to a gas station because a man barricaded himself in the restroom after breaking into an apartment across the street. I attempted to negotiate as I tried to get him to come out.

At the time, I only knew his first name and nothing else. I later learned his full name and got a cell phone number for him. I stood near the door and talked to him, but I literally was talking to a wall because he wouldn’t respond. I talked and talked for an hour without so much as a peep out of him. I called his phone, but it was turned off. 

It seemed like my cat paid more attention to me than this guy. 

During that time I learned from family that he had a young son. I thought this was my hook to get through to him, so I steered my negotiation in that direction.

I was met with silence and he eventually started a fire, so officers had to go get him.

Later on, I conducted a records check and learned that his license was suspended. You might wondering a what a suspended license has to do with a barricaded suspect, who started a fire.

It turned out his license was suspended for lack of child support……

I laughed and shook my head when I saw that. I guess that’s why he didn’t open the door when I brought up his son. You just can’t make this stuff up. 

Until the next negotiation….

A great one-liner

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Courtesy of Flickr

My friend Matt is the master of the quick-witted one-liner. In fact, if you’re not paying attention, he can zap you and walk away before you even know what hit you.

Yesterday he went to a crash where a psychic’s building was struck.

He walked up to the psychic and said, “I know you already know my name, but can I get yours?”

I’m still laughing…………

“Where’s my car?”

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Last night I saw my friend Sean sitting in a parking lot as I drove by. He had just been on a fight call that sounded interesting on the radio so I went to ask him about it. As soon as I pulled up Sean said, “This would make a great blog story.”

Sean was sent to a call in which a couple of women were fighting. When he arrived, Sean saw them still fighting and yelling at each other on the east side of the street. He separated everyone and waited for the other officers to arrive.

“Have a seat and tell me what happened,” Sean said to one of the women.

The woman was breathing hard and was upset, but she sat down as she said, “I’m the oldest. She’s my sister and we were trying to get her back into the car.”

The woman then stood up as she looked across the street like she was stranded on a life boat and just saw land for the first time in a month. That’s when she said, “Where’s my car?”

“Where did you park your car?” Sean asked.

“Across the street. Where’s my mother fucking car?”

The woman then ran across a major road without looking for traffic. It’s amazing she didn’t get hit by a car. She screamed “Where’s my car?” the entire time.  Once she got to the west side of the street she ran back across to where Sean was while she was still yelling, “Where’s my car?”

When she got back she told Sean, “Do something! You’re the police!”

“Did you leave your car running with the keys in it?”

“Yeah! Where’s my car?”

“What kind of car do you have?”

“Hurry! The longer you wait, the farther it gets away!”

She was so distraught her brother had to scream at her to calm down. When she finally was able to give a description of the car she told the officers it had paper plates.

Sean told me, “I bet the suspect saw the car and drove away while I was across the street.”

I wish I had been there! You can’t make this stuff up.

But it’s not my fault

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

There’s a something funny that happens when a person finds out they’re at fault when they rear end another car. You would think it was pretty obvious who was at fault in that situation, but sometimes there’s drama when they ask.

The rear end collision is one of the most common I go. You would think this particular type of collision would be the easiest to avoid since the car was right in front of the other driver. There’s no surprises here. The car was either moving, slowing down or stopped.

After the collision the driver will sometimes ask if they’re at fault for rear ending the car. I actually think it’s funny when they ask that. That’s like a baseball player dropping an easy fly ball and asking if it was his fault.

They other night I went to a rear end collision where the driver was shocked when she found out she was at fault for crashing into the vehicle in front of her. She was going 40 miles per hour while following a vehicle less than a car length behind when the car stopped in front of her.

Of course, she didn’t have time to stop and crashed into the car. One person went to the hospital and one of the cars had to be towed. She then wanted to debate and argue with me when she asked if she was at fault.

There’s something that happens to people who can’t believe they’re at fault when they rear end a car. I call this the “I can’t believe I’m at fault” reaction.

First there’s the look of disbelief. Their eyes get wide, the jaw clinches, the head goes back and the upper body makes an involuntary jerk to the rear. They then shake their head side to side like it’s going to go away.

This particular reaction comes in different levels of disbelief, which makes it funnier at times. The reaction can be very slight to down right drama.

Once the reaction has been displayed I try and explain to the driver that they have to drive at a speed and distance that is safe for the conditions.

Whenever the person hears that they come back with, “But I was.” They say this without realizing that they just crashed into the back of a car that was stopped in front of them.

If they had been driving at a speed and distance that was safe for the conditions I would still be sitting in Starbucks rather than standing in the street with them.

Never mind that there’s an ambulance and a fire truck taking the victim away, who was just violently assaulted from behind by a 3,000lbs object on four wheels.

The process of explaining this can be painful at times, because the driver is in defensive mode. At that point they just want to debate.

There finally comes a point where nothing I say is good enough. That’s when I bring out this one simple sentence that works every time. It’s the “I should’ve had a V8” moment for the driver who is arguing with me.

I say, “You just can’t around hitting cars.”

Once the person hears that they stop arguing. Sometimes they display the “I can’t believe I’m at fault” reaction again. That means I get to see their body involuntarily jerk backwards again, along with the jaw clenching and shake of the head. This time the eyes don’t get wide. They instead squint like the villain from a Disney movie.

Too bad I can’t say what I really want to…….. ” You just can’t go around hitting shit.”

Another Facebook story

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Do you know who your child’s Facebook friends are? Do you inspect their social media accounts? Here’s a story that will make you think twice.

I have a friend at work who is assigned to the safe schools detail and she told me a story I had to share.

The officer contacted a seventeen year old girl at one of our high schools one day. The girl told the officer she had received a “friend request” on Facebook from a stranger, who was also seventeen years old.

Even though she didn’t know the male, she accepted his friend request. After becoming “friends” they started messaging each other through Facebook.

At one point, the male asked the girl to take a picture and send it to him. She did and sent him the photo. Their conversation continued as he gave her compliments about how good looking she was.

The male then asked her to take a topless picture and send it to him. She took the selfie and sent the photo.

He complemented her some more and then asked that she take a picture below the waist. She took it and sent the pic.

Then something happened she never thought of. The pictures got out. Worst of all, the picture got out with her name and face.

The male really was seventeen years old and was in high school. He had a girlfriend who found the pictures and she posted them to her Facebook page for all to see.

That private message and picture weren’t so private anymore.

When the officer was taking the report, the girl said she liked the attention the male gave her. Wow.

That was all it took to get this girl to send naked pictures of herself to a stranger. Attention….

How many other kids are doing this? What other apps or social media sites are your kids being exploited on without you or them knowing?

Take the time to talk with your kids. Make sure they don’t end up like this one girl, who showed a little more than she wanted on Facebook.

There’s no “LIKE” button for that.

The sound the body makes when it hits the ground

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Another officer at work gave me permission to share one of his stories. He would also like to remain anonymous, so I’ll call him Jim.

One night, Jim was dispatched to a family disturbance call in which a son had threatened his mother with a knife. The location they responded to was on the fourth floor of an apartment complex. The complex had a courtyard and the apartment doors faced toward the center. Each floor had a metal railing about five feet from the apartment front doors.

When the officers arrived, they climbed up the stairs to the apartment and saw the front door open. Jim went up to the door and peered in. He saw the suspect standing in the hallway with something in his hand. As Jim looked more closely, he saw that one of the suspect’s hands was wrapped in bloody towel. Jim tried to see if the suspect had the knife on him, but didn’t see it.

With a blank look of a zombie, the suspect turned toward the front door where Jim was. The suspect continued to stare blankly in that direction when he saw the officers. With a crazy and determined look, the suspect started running in a full sprint toward the door. Without hesitation, the man exited the apartment toward the railing and dove over the side. Jim tried to grab the man, but he was not able to.

Jim noticed that the man did not fall the way they do in the movies with their arms flailing about in the air. As the suspect went over the railing, he turned around and locked eyes with Jim. They then stared at each other as the body fell toward the unforgiving concrete below. Their eyes stayed on each other until the suspect’s body crash onto the pavement with a sound that Jim will never forget.

Immediately after the call was over, Jim started to wonder if he had done everything he could as he played the scene back over and over in his head. He replayed every detail with self doubt now. To make matters worse, the mother made an allegation that the officers had thrown her son over the railing. This added more stress to the situation because he had to deal with an internal affairs investigation also. Luckily the officers had been carrying recorders on them at the time and they were cleared.

I asked Jim if there had been anyone to talk to about this traumatic event. His department offered to bring a counselor in, but he shrugged it off and said he was fine. But in reality he wasn’t. He replayed the scene over and over in his head with the graphic images of the suspect locking eyes with him as he fell. The sound of the body crashing into the pavement also stayed with him. It’s a sound he will never forget. That ghostly image would have haunted anyone.

Jim’s father was a police officer at the time and his mother was a dispatcher. They both understood about the job and he was able to speak candidly with them about what had happened. He wasn’t comfortable speaking with the counselor, but he found comfort from his parents, who knew the job and what comes with it. He was able to confide in them and they were there for support.

There were two things his father told Jim that made him feel better and helped him deal with how he felt. His father told him that the suspect had planned on dying that night no matter what. It was as simple as that. That guy wanted to die and there was nothing anybody could do about it. The other thing was the suspect wanted to die alone. If he really wanted to, the suspect could’ve run into an officer like a linebacker going after a running back. He could’ve wrapped his arms around one of them and taken them over the edge with him.

I hadn’t thought about that when I first heard the story, but I agree. Jim told me he hadn’t thought about it either until his father mentioned it. This made it easier for Jim to deal with it, because it was clear there was nothing they could’ve done differently. About a week later, the other officer on the call approached Jim and said, ‘I’m having problems with this.’ Jim related what his father had told him and he’s pretty sure this helped the other officer out.

This was a good example of peer support on the job. In this incident, the person he trusted just happened to be a cop, who was also his father. That worked best for him.

Stay Safe

When 911 is at your house

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What happens when the 911 call comes from your house?

How many cops work in the same city they live or grew up in? How many cops have prepared to hear their address or their parent’s address over the radio for a medical aid call? How would you feel? How would you react? Do you have a plan or have you planned for this type of scenario? I used to live in the same city I work at, but I never thought about that happening at my house. That is something that happens to someone else, right?

As cops we have a plan for everything. We prepare and act. It’s just the way a person in law enforcement is. I moved out of the city years ago, so I don’t have to worry about hearing my address over the radio, but it recently happened to a friend of mine while he was working. After he told me the story he said, “You can use this on the blog.”

This officer grew up in the city we work in and his parents still live in the same house. In the last few years his mother has battled numerous medical issues, which have been challenging to her and the family. Now, in her mid-sixties, the officer worries about his mother’s health because she is more fragile now. He said he has hoped he would never have to hear his parent’s address over the radio, but because of her declining health he knew it was becoming a possibility. Just by thinking about it, this officer had at least run the scenario through in his head. Have you?

Then one day it happened. He was sitting in his patrol car while talking with another officer when he heard dispatch broadcast a medical aid call. He heard the radio code for medical aid (902M), so he briefly turned his attention to the radio for the location of the call. Any 902M call was always followed by a personal thought hoping it wasn’t his parent’s house. Then the dispatcher broadcasted the call details about a woman who was choking, not breathing and turning blue. This time it was his parent’s house!

A thought of dread punched him in the stomach as he got on the radio and said, “That’s my parent’s house.” He then took off with lights and siren as he rolled toward his childhood house as all kinds of emotions ran through him. With the horrible thought of losing his mother, the distance still couldn’t be covered fast enough as the siren sounded in the background.

Within a minute, another officer arrived at the house and advised over the radio that she was now breathing. When he arrived, he saw the fire truck and ambulance parked in front of the house. He spoke to his father, who had dislodged the food from his wife’s throat with the Heimlich maneuver. She was transported to the hospital because of what had just happened and her fragile health.

Who wouldn’t have driven fast to this, right? The important thing to remember is that he had thought about this ahead of time and he had planned. Despite the highly emotional situation, he still recognized to be careful, despite driving to one of the worst calls anyone could imagine going to.

I wanted to share this story because it might help someone prepare for something we hope never happens.

The Intersection of Turmoil

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This story was told to me the other day by an officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, so I’ll call him Frank. This incident took place in the final phase of Frank’s training in the mid 1990s.

On this particular night, he had just finished a call and drove northbound on a side street as he approached a major highway in his city. Frank stopped at a stop sign as he tried to decide if he should go left or right. A short time passed before the silence of the night exploded with the sound of crashing metal that sounded like a plane crash. It seemed to last forever and it was hard to believe a car accident could make so much noise. Frank looked over to his left and saw a huge cloud of smoke and debris heading northbound like a tornado of destruction.

He grabbed the microphone and notified dispatch of the collision and its location. He then drove westbound toward the debris cloud in anticipation of what he would find. He stopped his patrol car in the intersection with his emergency lights on and saw the crashed vehicles. They were mangled pieces of twisted metal that used to be cars. He got out of his vehicle and decided to go up to the car, which was closest to him. When he walked up to the driver side of that car, he was shocked by what he saw.

Inside that car were two dead people, but it wasn’t the fact they were dead that affected him. It was the way they looked. The driver side of the vehicle was smashed and pushed in toward the driver’s compartment with such force that it looked like the people inside had been killed instantly. A man was sitting in the driver seat and the woman, who was his wife, was in the passenger seat. Both had their eyes closed and appeared to be sleeping peacefully. The woman didn’t appear to have any visible injuries that you would expect from such an impact. The man was a different story.

Frank saw a huge chunk of skin and flesh missing from the left side of the driver’s neck. It was so deep that Frank was able to see inside the man’s throat. He was also amazed at the lack of blood on the man’s neck. Frank then looked down at the center console and saw something that was amazing under the circumstances. Despite the violent impact of death that had been inflicted upon this couple, they were still holding hands. Frank showed me how the fingers had been interlaced with one hand on top of the other. The fingers and hands looked to him just as peaceful as the couple did, but equally troubling how they had died.

Frank just stood there for a moment and absorbed what was in front of him. Seconds ago he had been sitting at a stop sign, wondering which way to go. During that same time, this husband and wife had been holding hands together on a date night while on their way to pick up their child from grandma’s house. Now they were dead and a family was destroyed in the same time it took to snap your fingers.

He then heard yelling and screaming coming from another car, which snapped him out of what he had seen in the first car. This car had major front end damage and had been the vehicle which had broadsided the couple. Frank went to that driver and saw that one of his feet had been amputated at the ankle and was barely attached by what looked like a string. Frank then smelled the odor of a driver who had been drinking. He also described it as “the odor of blood and alcohol mixed together.”As he told me that part, Frank said he could clearly see the collision scene and he could actually smell the same odor now as he retold the story 19 years later.

Days after the collision, he learned some history about the married couple from the traffic investigators. Frank learned the couple had a five year old child at home, who was now an orphan. The child was being babysat by the grandparents when the couple had gone on a “date night” because it had been such a long time since they had done that together. They were on their way home when the drunk driver had stolen the child’s mother and father. This made the story more personal for Frank because of what he had seen that night and what he learned about the innocent people involved.

He told me how he felt about that particular intersection from that moment on. The thought of driving through the intersection caused him to feel anxiety. Throughout his patrol time, Frank never worked that part of the city because he didn’t want to drive through that area. He always chose to work a different area, which kept him away from that intersection of death. If for some reason he was put in that area, he would drive around that particular intersection. He just plain avoided it because it bothered him.

Years later, he transferred to a different detail in the police department. One day he decided to drive through this intersection by himself. As he got closer to the intersection, he felt his heart beating faster as his chest tightened and perspiration started to form on his forehead. This all happened at once as part of him went back to that night of death from all those years ago. He had been to bloody scenes involving gunshot victims and other violent crimes since that night, but this was the one that bothered him most. It was the one that had stayed with him after all these years.

With the feeling of anxiety, he kept driving toward the point of no return. He was then through the intersection, which now felt like the finish line of a marathon with no emotional energy left in him. He had a brief moment of triumph as relief flowed through him. He then did it again with almost the same level of anticipation and anxiety. After a few more passes through the intersection, the feeling decreased as each layer of emotional baggage seemed to be lifted off his shoulders. He described it with such detail that I felt like I was there with him, going through that intersection of personal turmoil, relief, and liberation.

Years later, he can drive through that part of town without the feelings he once had. Now it’s a memory from a night long ago. This was a very traumatic experience for such a young officer, who was so new to the job.

Remember, it’s OK to tell you’re partner a call bothered you. Chances are, it bothered them too.

The Death of a Child

A child’s death is never easy for the first responder, who has to experience it up close and personal. A friend at work related this personal and touching story about her experience at this type of call.

When she was sixteen, her 2-year old brother suddenly passed away. About eight years ago, this officer was working patrol and in her mid-thirties when she and a sergeant were dispatched to a call involving a dead child.

When she arrived on scene, she saw the child’s body in the bedroom and was instantly filled with the painful memory of her brother’s death all those years ago. The agonizing memory was made worse by the child’s family being there, which reminded her of how her mother had felt.

In that instant, the memory flashed into her head of performing CPR on her brother’s lifeless body as she tried to breathe life back into him. The memory of him lying in his coffin also flashed into her head like a bolt of lightning striking into her heart.

The officer had to get out of the house because she needed to separate herself from the situation. Distance was her friend and the only thing that was going to help her at this moment. Distance from the death, pain and grief that this house symbolized to her. She told the sergeant about her brother’s death and that she needed to be alone for a few minutes.

She quickly got out of the house and sat alone in her patrol car as she cried. She had no one to talk to at this painful and personal moment, which had just flooded back into her mind after seeing the dead child.

After a few minutes she composed herself and was ready to go back in. I asked her, “What did you do?” She replied, “I went back in. I had to handle the call.”

She went back into that house, which had been an emotional trigger and did what we’re supposed do. That was to be strong when others needed us to be.

All first responders have gone through similar emotions at one time or another while at work. Our job is not to stand by. Ours is to be strong, despite the tragedies we have experienced at work or in our personal lives.

This is what makes the first responders special. We are still doing the job that has to be done even though our emotions might be fighting an inner battle.

Stay safe

A story from another cop

I wanted to share a story from one of my co-workers, who sent me a message after reading “The Drowning.” He wanted to remain anonymous.

This officer’s very first call out of training was a medical aid involving a 40-year old male, who was in cardiac arrest. The victim had gone jogging while on vacation in our city. The officer went on scene and gave chest compressions for a few minutes until paramedics arrived. The victim survived and the officer was given the department’s life saving award in his first year.

Below is a quote from him about what happened later:

 

While this story had a happy ending…it too set me up for some rather tough calls.

A couple months back I got the same exact call at a home in the canyon. I was first on scene and the wife led me upstairs to her 40 year old husband, who was in full cardiac arrest.

I frantically started chest compression thinking it would be the same result as the jogger. But it       was not…he died on scene. I will never forget his wife screaming, crying and falling to the ground.

Some calls leave marks and if ignored they become scars.

Thanks for sharing….I think you’re onto something that can help a lot of cops.