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.

Happy New Year

_DSC7459The clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve night and it didn’t take long before we had our first DUI collision of 2016. Luckily the first victim was only a tree and not some unlucky person, who was minding their own business on their way home.

After the DUI investigation was completed, the driver was handcuffed and told he was under arrest. I was standing there when he said, “But I’m not drunk.”

I pointed to the tree the guy crashed into and joked to another officer, “Doesn’t he realize he failed the driving test?”

The driver was given the option of a blood or breath test. After he decided on the blood test I started to walk away. That’s when he said, “I’m not drunk” again. 

His car was stuck on the median and up against a tree with a flat tire and a damaged rim. Its front bumper and grille were also damaged. After looking at the car and hearing him over and over,  I wondered if he realized how silly he sounded at this moment.

You just can’t go around hitting things. Especially after drinking 4 or 5 beers on New Year’s Eve night. Maybe it’s time he drank from the cup of responsibility instead. It wasn’t like tree jumped out in front of him.

Have a safe 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

I shouldn’t comment on DMV photos

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The other night I responded to a hit and run collision in the parking lot at a fast food restaurant. When I arrived, I saw a man in the parking lot, who was about 35 years old. He saw the police car and flagged me down. I stopped and asked, “Did you call the police?”

“Yes. Thank you for coming.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“I was walking past the drive thru when a Jeep hit me. I ended up on the hood.”

“Did you fall to the ground?”

“No, I fell on my feet.”

“You fell on your feet? Don’t you mean you landed on your feet?”

“No. I fell on my feet.”

I had never heard that before, but I went with it. After he gave me a description of the driver and vehicle, I asked if he was injured from the collision.

“My shoulder hurts. I asked my wife to look at my face to see if one side was drooping.”

What? Was this guy injured in a crash or was he having a stroke? I should’ve asked if one of his arms was numb too.

After I got his statement, I asked him if I could see his identification. He reached into his back pocket and pulled his wallet out. He thumbed through it and handed me his license. I looked at it and noticed his eyes were looking up and to the right. I turned the license toward him and asked, “What were you looking at when they took the picture?”

“My eyes are kind of crooked,” he replied.

Oops, I hadn’t noticed that. I wasn’t really sure where the conversation could go from there, but I tried to salvage it. That was the least I could do.

“Look at me.” I said. He turned his head as I took a quick look. “Naw. You look fine.”

He laughed at that, which was good, because I thought it was funny. Maybe I shouldn’t comment on people’s DMV photo anymore. Well, I probably will. You never know what’s going to come up.

It was a no brainer crash

FullSizeRender(29)On Wednesday night, I went to an injury collision involving a pedestrian and a vehicle. When I drove up, the pedestrian was still down in the street being treated by fire personnel.

The involved vehicle was parked along the curb, not too far from where the pedestrian was. I looked over at the SUV and saw fluid splashed all over the driver side window, hood, windshield and fender. It looked and smelled like coffee. There was also fluid spilled in the street and a lone paper cup in the road waiting to be run over.

The driver told me she was making a left turn at the intersection when she felt a thud and then saw fluid splash onto her vehicle. After the collision, she stopped and saw the pedestrian down in the street.

As calm as can be, the woman said, “I thought it was his brains.”

How traumatic that must’ve been for her. This isn’t something you hear every day and it wouldn’t have been my first time seeing splattered brain matter on the side of a car.

Of course, it’s a no brainer I was glad he wasn’t seriously injured. That would’ve been one headache of a call.

The naughty tie

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One common theme in police work is that you never know what’s going to happen next. You also never know what you’re going to hear either.

The other night, I was standing in a restaurant while on a hit and run call. A man and woman walked around the corner and stopped because we were in the way.

The woman then seductively ran her hand over the man’s holiday themed tie as she said, “Can I touch your Christmas balls?

That was too funny to hear. She thought it was amusing too and ran her hand over each and every ball on the tie.

My partner and I moved out of the way so they could pass. They had both been drinking and seemed like they were having a good time. As they walked by she mentioned his Christmas balls again.

That’s when I said, “Can I take a picture of your tie?”

“Sure.”

I took my phone out as he posed. That’s when she moved her hand to his tie and asked, “Do you want me to touch his Christmas balls again?”

I laughed again as I said, “That’s OK.” I took the picture knowing I had a new blog story to write. You can’t make this stuff up.

Thanks In-N-Out

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Last night I was stopped for a red light when I looked over and saw In-N-Out Burger. Even though I had food in my cooler, In-N-Out sounded so much better since I hadn’t been there in a long time.

The drive-thru line was long as usual, so I decided to go inside. I stood in line and was greeted by two employees at the counter. They took my order and one asked, “What do the stars mean?” as he pointed to my shirt sleeve.

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I pointed to the four stars and said, “Each one represents five years of service.”

“Wow. Twenty years.”

“Yep. Now, you can tell how old I am,” I said with a smile.

“You don’t look that old,” one replied.

I thanked him and laughed because he was about 20 years old. I took my receipt and one of the guys said, “Thank you for your service.”

I thanked him again and knew In-N-Out had to be a Badge415 blog story for sure.

Thanks In-N-Out Burger. Your employees can always be counted on to be super nice whether I’m on or off-duty.

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.

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.

 

“Is your license really valid?”

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The other night I decided to watch a stop sign in a neighborhood because of a complaint. I parked at an L shaped intersection in plain view for all to see. I was parked along the curb in the dark when this car passed me on the left as it approached the stop sign. The car rolled through the stop and made its turn like I wasn’t there. I threw my lights on and stopped the car, wondering what the heck the driver was thinking.

I walked up to the car and asked the driver why she didn’t stop for the stop sign and if she saw the police car. At first, the driver told me she stopped. After further questioning and a Jedi Mind Trick, she admitted to not stopping. I next asked her if she had a license.

“Not with me,” she replied.

“Where is it at?”

“It broke in half two days ago.”

That was one of the dumbest excuses I had ever heard. Now I was sure her license was either suspended or she was never issued one.

“Is your license valid?”

“Yes.”

I walked back to my car and entered her name into the computer. I knew it was a waste of time because there was no way her license was valid after the “broke in half” excuse. Call me skeptical, but it was a gut feeling.

Of course, it wasn’t valid. Her license expired in 2009 and she had two prior convictions for driving on a suspended license. Her license wasn’t just barely expired. It was really, really expired.

I couldn’t believe she tried telling me it was valid, but it was a nice try. I went back up to the driver and asked her about her license. She again told me it was valid. When do these people give up?

She next said it was set to be renewed in December of 2015. She was getting nervous at this point and started talking more and more. She then said something about failing the written test.

I asked her how many times she had failed the written test in the last year. She said, “Six times.”

“You know, they don’t make you take the test six times if you already have a valid driver’s license?”

“I have to take the test to renew it.”

That’s when she threw out one more excuse, hoping it would stick on the wall somewhere.

“I have a permit.”

“Ok. Show it to me.”

“It’s in storage,” she said.

“That doesn’t make sense. No one would put their permit in storage when they need it to drive,” I said.

Now she needed a diversion. She raised her voice and told me cops make her nervous because of all the things that happen on the news.

“Have I done anything wrong?” I asked.

“No.”

Good, I wanted that for my body worn camera in case she tried to complain about me. I went back to my car and started writing her the ticket. I also called for a tow truck.

When I went back up to the driver door she was upset. She signed the ticket and asked to keep the car. I told her it was getting impounded because her license expired 6 years ago.

She exited the car and said, “I bet you’d let me keep the car if I was white.”

I almost laughed when I heard that since the driver and I were both Hispanic. I wanted so bad to say, “Nope, I’d take the car if you were white too,” but I held my tongue.

Then with a mean and sarcastic tone she said, “Thank you for protecting and serving,”

“Your welcome,” I replied.

She turned toward me with all the evilness she could muster. She even threw some imaginary darts my way with her eyes. Who cares? She lied and I was just doing my job. She could’ve stopped for the stop sign and made things easier for both of us.

After she left I told the tow truck driver what she said. He laughed as he said, “You take everybody’s car. It doesn’t matter if they’re white, black, Asian or Hispanic. If they’re wrong you take the car.”

At least the tow truck driver knew I was fair!

A few days letter there was a note in my mailbox at work from the driver. She left it after getting a release for the impound. The note said she was sorry for being rude at the end of the stop. It also said she was lagging and she finally got her license back.

She wasn’t such a bad person after all. She was just really mad because her car was impounded and that remark was the best she could come up with. At least she has her license now. I bet she stops the next time she comes up to that stop sign.

It’s not every day you get an apology from someone. I actually appreciated the note because she didn’t have to write it. Just another happy ending in police work.