You Gotta Have Heart


On Wednesday evening I was typing reports in Starbucks. There’s nothing better than having my paperwork spread out all over the table and a drink right next to me. A refill is just steps away.

Every once in a while someone will ask me a question about police work. I don’t mind answering their questions because they get to see me as a real person sitting in Starbucks just like them.

This young guy in his early twenties walked up to me and asked, “Can I ask you a question?”
“What’s the difference between a reserve officer and a full time officer?”

I told him the difference and I asked him why he wanted to know.

“I was thinking about being a reserve officer. I figured it was a good way to get my foot in the door,” he said.
“Why don’t you put your foot all the way through the door and try to become a fulltime officer?”
“I was in the process with Anaheim and Costa Mesa, but I pulled out.”
“I got this real estate job and I wanted to try it out. Maybe I’ll do both.”

I got the impression his heart wasn’t into it. He said it like he was trying to decide if he should wear Nike or New Balance shoes. His answer was so casual it didn’t seem like he was that serious about it.

Anyone who has been through the hiring process, the academy, field officer training and then working the street, knows this isn’t the right frame of mind.

That’s when I said, “Either you want it or you don’t. This isn’t a job you try out to see if you like it.”

I wasn’t trying to be mean, but I think he needed to hear straight talk. I then went on.

“This is a rewarding job, but it has its moments. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. You need to take a look in the mirror and decide how bad you want it. This job isn’t for everyone. Your heart has to be into it.”

He told me he understood and said he had been on some ride alongs. I told him about the different types of situations an officers faces and stressed to him how much responsibility went with the job.

That’s when the radio came to life about an injury collision involving a bicyclist and a truck. I told him good luck and I cleaned up my stuff.

A few minutes later, I was standing over a dead body in the street. The victim’s brains were all over the place.

I then thought back to the guy at Starbucks. I wondered how he would’ve reacted to seeing this.

I could tell he was young and maybe this wasn’t the job for him right now. I’ve spoken to other people his age that were so much more focused about where they were going in life and what they wanted to do. Maybe I was the fork in the road of life for him right now. Only time will tell.

Like I told him, this job isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain type of person to do it. Some people are just made for the job. For some, it’s a calling. It requires sacrifice and determination. I could go on and on, but there’s one thing in the world that’s the most important.

You gotta have heart.

Where Does An Addict Get His Money?


The other night I went to Fullerton PD for my DRE certifications as part of the class I completed a few weeks ago. I had an interesting conversation with a suspect and I wanted to share it with people who are not familiar with addicts.


First of all, most of these people don’t have jobs, but they need income to support their habit. Where do you think they get their money from?
From you!


These addicts break into your cars, your houses and your businesses. They steal and then steal some more.


During our conversation I asked him how often he uses meth and marijuana. Without hesitation he replied, “Every day.”


“How do you feel when you don’t do meth?
“I get anxiety.”
“Does the drug make you feel well?” I asked.
“Do you drink?”
“How come?”
“Because I lose everything when I drink.”
“What do you mean?”
“I lose my car and I go to jail. So, now I don’t drink at all.”
“How many DUI’s do you have?”
“How much do you spend a day on meth?”
“Do you have a job?”


Let’s assume he over estimated his daily usage. Either way he still needs money for his habit. Where do you think he gets that money from?


“Where do you steal from?” I asked.
“I don’t do anything in my city. I have pride in my city.”


It seemed like he really wanted me to understand he had pride in his city and it was important to him that I knew that. I asked him more questions about his thefts, but he didn’t want to tell me. At one point he smiled and said, “I’m a criminal.”


At least he knows it.


Is this a guy you want roaming around your city? Absolutely not, but guess what? He was cited out. He was cited out like all the people who were arrested for being under the influence of a drug that night.


He was cited out because of Prop 47 in California. Prior to Prop 47, he would’ve remained in custody for the under the influence and drug paraphernalia charges. Now we have to cite him out. I’m sure that pink copy of the citation made him feel bad.


He said he normally starts to feel the anxiety about six hours after doing meth. That means he’s ready for more meth or he has to find more before that feeling of anxiety takes over.


Guess what he’s going to do if he’s short on cash?  You guessed it. He’s going to rip someone off.


I still find it shocking that people in California voted for Prop 47 and allow people like Frank to be out on the street to do their thing.


What if Frank gets caught stealing at a store? He’ll get another citation for petty theft. That’s just an inconvenience to Frank. It’s the cost of doing business.


Eventually things will catch up with Frank, but right now he only has to worry about a citation. County jail time is the least of his worries.


Frank’s job is stealing and getting high. At thirty-one years old he’s got all the time in the world.

DRE School


What is a DRE?

If you asked me what a DRE was ten years ago I would have said it was an officer who dealt with street drugs and addicts. Those were two subjects that I stayed away from because they didn’t interest me.

Ask me the same question today and I’ll have an entirely different answer. In fact, I’ll talk your head off about the subject and tell you why it is so important.

The first thing I learned at DRE School was how much we take DRE trained officers for granted. The average cop has no idea what they do, or how much training they have been through. That includes the brand new cop all the way up to the chief of police. Unless you’ve been through the training, you have no idea how much work it is.

Say “DRE School” to most cops and they’ll run the other way. I know because I was one of them.

Cops would rather go to an active shooter call at a nuclear power plant meltdown than go to DRE School. Handling a triple fatality collision sounded much more appealing than going to DRE School.

On the first day, the instructors told us this was going to be the hardest advanced officer training class we would ever take. They weren’t lying.

The information was piled onto us with no mercy. It was like a wheel barrel pouring concrete onto a new house foundation. It went everywhere and there was no room to breathe.

My world suddenly revolved around CNS Depressants, CNS Stimulants, Hallucinogens, Dissociative Anesthetics, Narcotic Analgesics, Inhalants, Cannabis, nerves, neurotransmitters, blood pressure and heart rates.

The eyes were now the window to the soul as pupil sizes and reaction to light helped tell the tale of drug use.

By the third night I felt overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I was going to remember all of this stuff. It was like going up a steep mountain in a snowstorm with a strong headwind pounding my face.

There were two choices. Put up the white flag of surrender or I could listen to the “Eye of The Tiger” song from Rocky 3 and gut it out.

The first week of DRE School was like watching a foreign language film with no subtitles. I know I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.

At one point the light bulb switched on. It was dim at first, but then got brighter. The drug matrix card started to make sense after a while. It started to become more than just a bunch of boxes with words in them.

Slowly the subtitles started to appear in that foreign language film that made no sense a week before. Then, by some miracle it clicked.

What was once pure nonsense in the first week was now like listening to the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It all came together. If you’ve heard the symphony, then you know what I mean.

Those two weeks of DRE School turned my household upside down. Everything revolved around my class. All scheduling for my kid’s school, childcare, practices and dinner was planned around my school and studying.

Then there was the occasional DRE dream where I was evaluating someone for drug use. Friends in the class told me they also had the dreams.

At the end of the class our main instructor asked us if we were ready to stop alienating our families and having those dreams. I laughed hard because it was so true.

So, what is this DRE class?

The Drug Recognition Expert program had its beginnings with the LAPD in the 1970s.

Before an officer can become a DRE they have to attend two prerequisite training classes, along with the 72 hour DRE School.

You must get 80% or higher to pass the class.

After passing the course, the officer must complete twelve under the influence evaluations with a DRE instructor present. The officer must be able to name which of the seven drug categories the suspect is under the influence of and this must be confirmed through the chemical test. And finally the officer must pass another written test after their drug evaluations have been approved.

This was not a class I signed up for. It was a class I was told I had to go to. I started out being forced to go, but I had an epiphany half way through. I saw just how important this training was for me. I realized how important it was for every officer on the street. I also saw how important it was for public safety.

Say “DUI” and people automatically think of drinking and driving. That’s no longer the case. Marijuana and prescription drug use is on the rise like never before.

And finally, this isn’t the class we should be running away from. This should be the class officers are trying to get into.

Almost every crime we deal with revolves around drugs. The word “drug” doesn’t mean illicit drugs anymore. It also means prescription drugs.

A heroin junkie is just as dangerous behind the wheel as the soccer mom who is abusing Xanax or the person who is stoned on marijuana.

Next time you’re stopped at a red light. Take a look around. Chances are they’re probably next to you. Do you really want to share the road with that person?

I don’t either.

Let’s train more DREs to help stop these people before they hurt someone.

Say A Prayer For Our Fallen Officers


It is Christmas night and all of the chaos is over. All of the presents have been handed out and all of the relatives have gone home. Now there is peace. 365 more days and we get to do it all over again.

Christmas is about tradition. We all have our Christmas routines that we follow every year. Having brunch at my grandparent’s house is one of my Christmas traditions. We have been going there since I was in elementary school.

Today, I told my daughter we have been doing brunch since I was her age. She gave me a shocked look and said, “Wow.” I guess that means I’m getting old in her eyes.

My wife and I started our own Christmas tradition by accident. Many years ago it was dinner time and we were getting hungry. My wife suggested we go to a restaurant.

You don’t have many options on Christmas night, but we were lucky enough to find an El Torito restaurant that was still open. We walked in and were surprised to see that it was packed. I guess everyone else had the same idea too.

Ever since that night we make sure to have our Christmas dinner at El Torito.

I hope one day my kids will tell the story about how mom and dad used to drag them to a Mexican restaurant on Christmas night. Who knows, maybe they’ll keep the tradition alive.

I’m lucky to still have those traditions after all these years, but there are others who were not so lucky.

I’m talking about those killed in the line of duty this year.

There is one important thing to remember at this time of the year. We have to make sure we don’t forget about those law enforcement families who lost loved ones in 2014.

There were over one hundred police families who lost someone to an on-duty death this year. Some were killed in traffic collisions. Some were killed by suspects. Either way, their deaths left broken hearts. The on-duty death of an officer leaves a hole in all of us.

Their deaths left family traditions that will never be the same again.

These officers gave the ultimate sacrifice and we need to keep their memory alive. More than ever, it’s important to support those who wear the badge and protect us.

Say a prayer for those fallen officers and their families. We owe that to our brothers and sisters, who died while on-duty.

As the saying goes, “Blue Lives Matter.”

Be safe

The Day I Almost Shot An Unarmed Man


What is it like to almost shoot an unarmed person?
I was working day shift in patrol when dispatch broadcasted a 417 call (man with a gun). I was sent as primary and my sergeant was my back up. The description of the suspect was: A white male in his thirties, wearing a hat, a vest, glasses, and headphones on his head.

The location was given and I was there within a minute. I got out of my car and guess what I saw? A white male in his thirties, wearing a hat, a vest, prescription glasses and headphones on his head.

He was walking in the middle of the street and did not see me pull up. I drew my gun as I yelled at him to stop and put his hands up. He turned around and looked at me with a confused look. I was less than thirty feet away from him.

He saw me, but it still didn’t click in his head that a police officer was pointing a gun at him and giving him orders to put his hands up. He then reached into his vest with his right hand.

What do you do?

• Did I have enough information that he was the correct suspect? Yes.
• Was he in the location dispatch sent me? Yes.
• Was he dressed as described? Yes.
• Did he put his hand into his vest? Yes.
• Could he have pulled a gun out? Yes.
• Did I have reason to fear for my life? Yes.
• Could I have shot him? Yes.

Here’s what happened.

I was prepared to shoot him, but there was something about his facial features that made me think twice. There was just something about him that told me I needed to give him an extra second before I pulled the trigger.

With my gun pointed at him, he then pulled his hand out of his vest. As I started to pull the trigger I saw that his hand was empty.

He didn’t have a gun. He was reaching into his vest to turn off his Walkman (yes, I dated myself). After speaking to him, it was clear he was mentally challenged.

Some might ask why I didn’t shoot him. Some might second guess me. But there was something about his face that told me I had to wait that extra second.

It was the decision I had to make right then and right now. I couldn’t make it two days, two months or two years from now. The decision could not be made from the comfort of my living room while watching the news on TV. Not in Starbucks with friends, wondering why the cops shot an unarmed, mentally challenged man. Not while reading about it on Facebook.

The decision to shoot him had to be made right there in the middle of the street at that very moment with the information that was given to me.

I didn’t ask to be there. I was sent because that was my job.

You can ask every cop and they’ll tell you a similar story where they could have shot someone, but didn’t. Think about that for a moment.

Every day and night across the United States there are situations where cops don’t shoot, but could have. The public never hears about the restraint officers have in these high pressure situations.

Only a person who has walked in those shoes can understand.

It’s important to remember that working the street is not like a video game. You can’t start the game over and there is no pause button.