Why Is Collision Investigation Important?

This is an excerpt from my new book Is Traffic Available? The Patrol Officer’s Guide To Collision Investigation

A crash could be a life-altering event for you, a friend or someone you love. When a crash happens, people look to us, the police, for help. People don’t care if you like traffic accident reports or not. They don’t care if you’ve taken a thousand crashes in your career or if this was your tenth. They just want your help. 

The collision report is more than just the event that took place on that day or night because what we do affects people’s lives. This is why we, the accident investigators, need to take pride in what we do and how we do it.

Some things in police work aren’t sexy and in the opinion of most, traffic accident reports are at the same level of going to the dentist. Ask patrol cops and they’ll tell you they’d rather take a domestic violence report than a collision report.

What scares cops so much about crashes? Is it the measurements, the diagram or is it the fear of the unknown? Is it the feeling of not knowing where to start on a five-car DUI roll-over crash at 2AM or is it because you’re out of your comfort level?

Well, I used to be one of those guys because I didn’t know what to do or where to start. I only had one ten-hour shift of traffic training during FTO and I only took report that day.  I can vividly remember being dispatched to a roll-over crash at 2:37AM (I was off at 3AM) and the dread I felt. When I arrived, I saw a downed light pole, two downed palm trees and a crashed car with a male in the backseat whose head was twisted in a weird angle. 

It was like a bomb exploded with tree parts and jagged concrete pieces from the light pole strewn about the street. Talk about feeling alone because the fire department wasn’t there yet.  I was screwed big time. How was I going to measure this? Where was I supposed to start? How was I going to draw the diagram? Where were the graveyard units!

Then it happened. There was bright light that made me squint and turn my head as I raised a hand to shield my eyes. Was it proof of life in a far-off galaxy, or was it a secret weapon designed by the military? No, it was the Traffic Guy and he walked with the swagger of a gunslinger in the Old West and the sound of his spurs clicking on the asphalt. He stopped, took in the scene and said, “I got it.”

I stood there with my mouth wide open and wondered, “How?”  I took a step back and watched as he worked his traffic magic like an artist painting a masterpiece or Beethoven conducting the 9th Symphony.

This might be a bit exaggerated, but it’s not that far from the truth. I was scared of crashes and I truly had no idea where to start that night. I felt helpless, which was not a good thing if you’re a cop. As police officers we’re supposed to know all the answers because we’re problem solvers. We’re finger pointers, not thumb suckers.

Well, at that moment I was thumb sucker just like some cops are when it comes to the world of traffic investigation. It’s not to put them down. It’s just a fact. Traffic investigation is mysterious to some and hated by others. It is also known as the best kept secret by those who work it.

In conclusion, traffic collisions might not be your cup of tea, but they’re part of the job, so let’s make the best of the situation and investigate them with the same enthusiasm as the “real” crimes.

They keep crashing

On my first day in the traffic detail in 1999 my training officer told me to keep a log of every report I took. He suggested I get a steno pad and write down every report number by the month and keep a running total.

Over the years this number has grown and is sometimes the subject of conversation with other officers, who ask how many I’m up to now.

Today was my first shift of the new year and I added up my yearly total for 2020. The total was four hundred collision reports for the year. That was a little down from 2019 when I took four hundred thirty five and four hundred thirty eight in 2018.

Here’s what make my 2020 stats significant.

In April of 2020, we stopped responding to non-injury accidents, along with hit and runs with no suspect info. You’d think my numbers would be down significantly from the years before, but they weren’t.

It’s also significant because that doesn’t count the reports that trainees took when they rode with me. Who knows what that number would’ve been had I been solo those nights.

So, what does it all mean?

It means there are some careless MOFOs out there and you don’t want to end up in my log, which is 8,202 and counting as of tonight.


Scripps Pier in La Jolla, CA

Where did the time go? I looked at the blog and saw my last post was in 2019. Now, at the dawn of 2021, I figured this would be as good as time as any to get these rusty fingers flying across the keyboard again with some sarcasm.

I’m not going to bore you with talk about how people thought 2020 sucked or how much better 2021 will be. If you ask me, it really wasn’t that bad at all. That, of course, depends on where you were sitting and what kind of view you had for the shit show.

What I really want to talk about is how I’m Woke AF now. Yes, that’s me, the awakened one. The one who was blind to all the un-wokeness of the past. I now view the past through the Woke prescription glasses of enlightenment.

In fact, I feel the Woke AF-ness flowing through me like The Force flows through Luke Skywalker.

You might wonder where this came from? What was my epiphany? Where was the U-turn sign in life that got me going in the Woke direction?

I’m kidding. I’m actually Sarcastic AF.

Did they dent the hood?


I saw an unusual call holding the other night about a man and woman having sex on the hood of a car in a cul-de-sac. Not in the car…..On the car.

I drove into an industrial area and headed toward the cul-de-sac in question. I knew the area well because I’ve typed reports there before. I turned onto the street and followed the road as it curved to the left. As the street straightened out, I could see a man and a woman standing next to a car at the dead end.

There was a blanket covering the hood and the windshield. The blanket looked cozy. These people were serious about their car sex.

I stopped my car, which didn’t have a blanket on it, and got out as they continued to talk as if I wasn’t there. When they finally looked at me I noticed a “glow” about them. It must’ve been the mood, the lighting and the endorphins.

I said, “Hi. I’m here because someone called.”

They gave me a confused look at first.  The look changed when they realized what I was talking about as they looked at each other.

“You had an audience,” I said. “Someone was watching and called the police. That’s why I’m here.”

That was when the “glow” look turned to embarrassment.

I pointed to the blanket as I pulled out my phone and said, “I gotta get a picture of this.”

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Tore up from the floor up


The call went out as a fight on the fifth floor of a hotel involving numerous subjects in a room. A two-man car was dispatched and went on scene. I happened to be driving by and decided to stop.

I took the elevator up and turned left when the doors opened up. There was an officer standing outside the room with a male, who was a hotel guest with five other people.

After talking with him for a few minutes, I learned his friend was a mean drunk and all-around party buzzkill. He told me she was out of control and yelling.

I could tell his shirt was stretched from being pulled on, so I asked him about it. He looked down at the stretch marks and told me the party buzzkill drunk had done that when they tried calming her down.

She sounded like a keeper.

We stood by while the other officer went to speak to the hotel management about the room. It turned out there were so many complaints about the room the hotel wanted them out. The officer came back and gave them the bad news.

The group heard this and started gathering their belongings while the drunk buzzkill was still on the floor. After everything was packed they tried to get her up.

I was still in the hallway when one of the female friends said, “She’s still swinging. You guys are going to have to get her.”

We walked into the room just in time to see her get up from the floor. Her hair was like she stuck her finger in the light socket. Her clothes were disheveled and she looked like a hot mess. In short, she was tore up from the floor up.

I walked into the hallway to get out of the way of “tore up from the floor up.” I stood against the wall as the group walked by. She then started walking down the hall like the floor shifted for her.

It was like she was a piece of metal and I was a magnet as a 170lbs hot mess went toward me in slow motion. There was nowhere for me to go as her head and body bounced off of my chest like we were a in a pinball machine.

The friends grabbed her as they looked at me and said, “Sorry!”

The party buzzkill next walked up to the fire door in the hallway and punched it. The door started to close as her friends said, “Calm down. They’re going to arrest you.”

When they got to the car she wouldn’t get in. She put her arms on top of the roof and leaned on the car as they tried to push her in. After a few tries they got her in.

The entire scene was hilarious. Too bad I didn’t get a picture of her hair. That would’ve made this story perfect.

A night in Hollywood



The other night, I took my kids to the Hollywood Bowl to see John Williams conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. We sat there under the stars as they played music from movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Superman.

When the concert was over we took our shuttle back to the shopping center at Hollywood Bl and Highland. My kids asked if we could take a stroll on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when we got back there.

It was almost 11PM and there was a carnival like atmosphere on the Walk of Fame. Besides the street performers, there were also vendors selling hot dogs from grills.


The smell drew me in like a magnet. The sizzle of the the hot dog, grilled onions and peppers had me pulling $4 out of my wallet before I knew it. Both of my kids passed and said they didn’t want one. After paying,  they watched with anticipation as I ate it. After one bite I instantly knew it was the best hot dog I’d ever had.


Then there was a man with a giant snake on his shoulders. You couldn’t help but stop and look at that thing hanging from his shoulders. He  was quite the attention getter. There was also a guy wearing a mask walking around carrying a backpack with a cat strapped on top.

He saw us looking and said, “You can pet him. He’s a nice cat.” He then leaned down so my daughter could pet the cat. I’m surprised the cat didn’t have a mask on too. Here’s the funny part. The masked guy with the cat seemed normal and fit right in.


Only on Hollywood Bl can you see a masked catman walking around next to Superman and Batman on the Walk of Fame.

It was a great way to end the night.




That’s just weird

The other night, a gang unit came on the radio saying they were trying to stop a person on a bike who was trying to get away from them. I was close by and got there a moment after the suspect was caught.

When I arrived, the helicopter directed me into the alley where the officers were. I saw a Honda stopped facing eastbound and a police car behind it. There was also a BMX bicycle on its side.

One of the gang cops pointed to the Honda and told me the suspect broke off its passenger side mirror when he hit the car. After the collision, the suspect left the bike and fled on foot. That’s when they caught him.

The bicycle rider was the hit and run suspect? That’s a new one.

The victim was standing next to his car and I went to get his information for the report. Instead of a driver’s license, I got a blank look because he didn’t have one.

This call was already weird enough with the hit and run suspect being a guy on a bike. You might as well throw in another guy with no license to make it interesting. Maybe a circus was in town and we could have clowns too.

After I was done with the driver, I wrote down the suspect’s information. A record check showed he had a valid driver’s license.


So, let me get this straight. The hit and run dude on a bike had a driver’s license, but the guy driving the car didn’t????

Weird, right?

Weird is actually pretty normal for me at work. I wouldn’t expect anything else.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Looking back


Today, I found “Ally McBeal” on Netflix as I was scanning through the old TV shows section. My kids were sitting there with me and the first words out of my mouth were, “That was the best show.” They weren’t interested and quickly went upstairs. That’s when I hit the play button.

When the theme song started, I was transported back in time to the mid to late 1990s. This show, like others reminded me of those early years in my career  when I was still trying to figure out the world of police work.

It was a time when I thought I knew it all, but in reality, I had so much to learn. It was also a time when my hair line hadn’t retreated and surrendered to father time yet.

It was a time of excitement from working patrol in those first few years.

It was a time when I drove too fast and even got into a couple of car accidents that were my fault. It was back in the day when I was the silly one still doing car stops at 5:30AM on graveyard when we were off at 6:30AM.

For me, police work was go, go,  go. I was invincible and bullet proof at time same time.

It might sound funny, but those were the memories that were triggered by watching Ally McBeal and hearing the theme song.

Today, I’m no longer bullet proof or invincible. I looked back at those days from long ago with a smile  and I laughed at the younger version of myself. The calendar might say it was a long time ago,  but it really was just a blink of the eye.

If you’re a young cop, take the time to look around and enjoy the ride because time really does fly when you’re having fun.




He needed a hug instead of the paramedics


The other night I pulled up to an injury collision and saw two crashed cars still in the intersection. One of the cars had front end damage and was leaking a slippery fluid all over the street. The other car had damage to its passenger side.

The fire truck was already there and blocking traffic, making it safe for us to walk around in the intersection.

Both drivers were at the corner and a passenger was still sitting in the car being treated by fire personnel.

I interviewed one driver and a witness while fire was talking to the other driver. After I was done speaking to the first two guys, I was ready to talk to the other driver, but the paramedics were still talking to him.

It seemed to be taking a long time for the guy to decide what he wanted to do. I overheard the captain ask, “Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“I don’t know. My parents are almost here,” replied the man, who was in his mid-twenties.

The captain was trying his best to be patient at this point. I could tell they wanted to leave because this guy couldn’t make up his mind. I was standing there when the captain asked, “OK. What bothers you the most?”

With a hurt look on his face, the driver said, “The fact that I was in an accident.”

This made all of the fire fighters roll their eyes at me. Some of them even laughed when they heard that. I won’t lie, I did too. Luckily for all of us his mom showed up with a cup of “mamma’s boy” for her son to drink up.

That’s when I said to myself, “This guy didn’t need the paramedics. He needed a hug.”

Will he vote for Trump?


The other  night an officer stopped a male on a bicycle and asked for a follow up to assist. When I arrived, there was guy with a shaved head and wearing baggy clothes sitting on the curb next to the patrol car. The officer was talking with him and writing down his information.

The officer asked, “What’s your phone number?”

The suspect said, “I have an Obama phone.” He then gave her the number.

“They gave you a free phone?” I asked.

“Yeah. They give you a phone if you’re on welfare or food stamps.”

I asked, “Are you going to get a Trump phone next?”

He turned to me and gave me a confused look. That’s when I said, “If Donald Trump becomes president, does that mean you’ll get a Trump phone next?”

The officer said, “I think Trump would get rid of the Obama phones,” as she laughed.

I had some time to kill and you never know what you’re going to hear when you talk about random stuff, so I asked, “What do you think of Trump?”

Mr. shaved head said, “He’s winning because he’s keeping it real. He tells it like it is.”

That made me laugh because I wasn’t expecting him to say that. “Would you vote for him?” I asked.

“Well, he’s better that the rest and Hilary is full of shit.”

That’s when I asked him if I could take his picture from behind. I knew I was going to write a blog about the stop. He said sure and just sat there as I took my phone out.

After that we talked about all kinds of things like his two Baby Mammas and to his prior arrest record. He had quite the busy life compared to most people and he was entertaining. He ended up having a warrant and was arrested.  As he was put in the police car I told the other officer, “I Wish everyone was as nice as him.”  She agreed.