Thank You

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There’s a Mexican restaurant in a tired looking strip mall that I’ve driven by many times over the years. From the outside,  I couldn’t tell if it was a sit down place or one where you ordered at the counter.

It turned out to be a sit down place with loud music and bright colors inside.  I normally don’t eat at sit down places because I want my food quick in case I have to run. The food took a long time to come out, but it ended up being good.

When the check came I got a surprise I had never seen before in my 22 year career. There was a neatly written message on a Post It that said, “Thank you for your service and all you do for our city.”

Wow.

When she came back I thanked the waitress for her note. In heavily accented English, she told me how much she appreciated what the police do and that she had moved here from Mexico two years ago.

The waitress said she loved it here and it was much better than where she came from. She also said she was going to take a class at Fullerton College to work on her English.  You could tell she felt lucky to live here.

It’s not every day someone takes the time to write an encouraging note like that to the cops. It was a good reminder that there are good people out there among the negatively and evil we see on the streets.

That note was also a good reminder to all of us to never forget those people who support the Thin Blue Line because they’re the ones who need us just like we need them.

 

Better than cow shit

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The other day I was driving my daughter to practice when we passed a strawberry field. She pointed it out and said something about getting some. I glanced over and it reminded me of a crash I took years ago. I looked at my daughter and said, “I had a car crash at a strawberry field once.”

She relied, “You did?”

Some crashes are easily forgotten, while others stand out. Some stand out because of what I saw or heard, while this particular one stood out because of what I smelled.

One night, I was dispatched to a roll-over crash in the eastern part of the city. I pulled up to the scene and expected to see the car either in the street or on the sidewalk. I scanned the area, but there was nothing. Then I looked at the northeast corner and saw a car deep into the strawberry field.

There aren”t a lot of fields for agriculture where I work so, having a crash at one was really unusual.

I parked and started walking toward the car. I stepped into the field and tried to walk between the rows to avoid stepping on the strawberries. There were crushed strawberries everywhere with an incredible smell was in the air.

I ended up having strawberries in the groves of my boots and some on my pants. You name it and there were bits of strawberry everywhere on the crashed car.

After I left my patrol car smelled like a bottle of strawberry soap exploded inside.

For some strange reason I felt like having a strawberry margarita after that. At least the guy didn’t crash into a dairy farm full of cow shit. I’ll take a strawberry field any day.

Dealing with the mentally ill

Traffic Control

Tonight I was dispatched to a call involving a man who was yelling and kicking cars in a parking lot. I arrived a short time after the first cop got there. When I arrived, I saw a man on his knees  in the parking lot as the officer spoke to him with a  calm voice.

His shoes were off and he was yelling about God and Heaven. While he was on his knees he’d lean forward on his hands and make quick movements that made him unpredictable. It looked like he was going to tackle you at any moment. He also said, “Kill me.”

The other officer got his name and tried to get a phone number for someone who knew him so we could try and help him. He only gave us his name and birth date.

The time finally came for me to pat him down for weapons. Yes, he was mentally ill, but we needed to make sure there were no weapons, especially after the call for service and the behavior we saw.

I knew he needed to hear clear instructions because of his mental state. I told him to put his hands behind his back because I was going to pat him down for weapons.

He turned his head with a serious look and said, “What if I don’t want to?” His voice was something out of a horror movie.

He might’ve been crazy, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew enough to process what I said and what his answer was going to be.

I moved from behind him and said, “Look at me.”

The man, who was in his 50s, looked up at me. He stopped momentarily from picking imaginary bugs off of his body. I knew he wasn’t processing information normally, so I spoke slowly and firmly to him.

I told him I was there to help, but I needed him to cooperate. I also said, “I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to fight.” I let that sink in for a moment before I said, “Can you put your hands behind your back for me and help me out?”

He  listened and nodded his hand. I grabbed his hands from behind and stood him up. I told him not to move and started the pat down. He turned to his left and I firmly said, “Stop moving.”

I held onto his hands like he was going to turn and fight at any moment. After I was done with his left side, I switched hands and checked his right side. Once that was done I let go and he went back down to his knees and continued what he was doing before.

I was lucky he listened. He was eventually transported to the hospital for a mental evaluation.

I didn’t do anything special. I just did the same thing thousands of cops did Monday. I dealt with a mentally ill man who could go off at any moment. A fight with him would’ve been a code 3 response for help and injury to us.

No one wants to deal with a mentally ill person who can attack you at any moment, but that’s part of the job. We do it because someone called 911. We go toward the craziness when other people head the other way.

Anyone who wears the badge knows what I’m talking about. Be safe out there.

Postal?

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Photo from Newsweek.com

The other day I was at the station getting ready to go 10-8 when a sergeant broadcasted on the radio that he came across a non-injury collision. About a minute later he came back on the radio saying a postal truck was involved and the parties wanted a report.

He also inquired about another crash involving a postal truck and asked if his call was the same as the other. I didn’t know what he was talking about so I paid attention to the next transmission.

The dispatcher came on the radio telling him there were two separate collisions involving postal trucks. One was at his location and the other was in the western part of the city.

I keyed the mic as I said, “729.”

“729?” the dispatcher parroted back.

“729, confirming the crashes have gone postal?”

The radio was silent for what seemed like forever. It was an awkward silence like when someone farts in an elevator and you can’t wait for the doors to open.

The silence was finally broken as she acknowledged me.

I got into my car and looked at my MDT. There was a message from DSP1 that simply said, “REALLY????!!!”

“I couldn’t resist,” I typed back.

I went to the crash and handled it. About 35 minutes later I was ready to clear the call, but I needed to get on the radio one last time.

“729.”

“729?”

“Are there any other crashes involving postal trucks that are holding?”

“Negative,” came the reply.

My MDT beeped as “MESS” appeared on my screen from DSP1.

What other time am I ever going to say “postal” on the radio twice  in less than 40 minutes? Probably never again.

Sometimes you just have to roll with it and have fun.

 

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….

4Runner target practice

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On Thursday night, I responded to a hit and run call in an alley. When I arrived, I found a parked Toyota 4Runner with front end damage and the front bumper from the suspect vehicle on the ground right next to it.

Another officer advised over the radio that he was out with the suspect and the victim at a 7-Eleven parking lot about a half mile away. I interviewed a witness at the scene and then drove to the suspect’s location.

It turned out the suspect, who we’ll call Tammy, crashed into the parked 4Runner when she was trying to drop someone off.

Right after the collision, a vehicle drove into the alley and stopped. Coincidentally, it was the owner of the parked 4Runner, who just happened to arrive in the alley.

The guy got out of his vehicle and saw that his 4Runner was just hit. Tammy decided she was going to split and started to drive away. The only problem was that Tammy crashed into the guy’s other vehicle, which was also a Toyota 4Runner!

After the second collision Tammy fled the scene as the victim chased after her. She finally gave up and pulled over in the 7-Eleven parking lot.

What were the odds of the victim owning two 4Runners and having them hit by the same suspect in two separate collisions?

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Witchcraft?

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A few months ago, I was sent to a call in which a woman wanted to speak to officers about witchcraft. This was a first for me. I’ve always been a Jedi Mind Trick sort of guy, but I’d give the witchcraft conversation a shot.

I was working a graveyard patrol shift when I was sent to an apartment at 4:30AM. The gate was locked, so I asked dispatch to call the RP (reporting party) to let us in.

We waited for a while, but no one came to the gate. After a few minutes I got on the radio and asked, “Can you call the RP and see if they could make up a spell to open the gate?”

A minute later the RP appeared as she walked down a pathway toward us. She was in her late 30s, short, had a round face and brown shoulder length wavy hair. She was wide eyed with a gaze that was cast downward. She only spoke Spanish, so I called dispatch and had someone translate for me over the phone.

The woman told the translator someone had cast a spell on her because they were jealous of her kids. Cast a spell on her? This was indeed a new type of call for me.
I asked the woman where her children were. The woman replied her kids lived with someone else.

We handed the phone back and forth as I used the translator to help us communicate. In the end she didn’t want to hurt herself, but she was truly fearful of the witchcraft that was around her. It was her reality. I could’ve said, “Boo” and she would’ve jumped into the air.

She said she wanted to talk to a mental health professional and we arranged transportation for her. As she left I thought about how lucky we were that she didn’t own a black cat. I didn’t see a broom either.

Did you fall in the pool?

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The other night, I was at a hit and run call when one of the officers got on the radio and said he was in foot pursuit of the suspect. I looked northbound and saw a shadow running down the street.

They were at least 100 yards away, so I jumped into my patrol car and floored the accelerator as the Dodge’s engine roared to life. My tires were making up the distance fast when I saw the shadow turn left toward a house.

The officer in foot pursuit broadcasted the suspect went into a backyard and he was jumping fences heading northbound. I drove to the end of the block and set up on the north end of the perimeter. Our helicopter arrived overhead and the suspect was caught a short time later.

After he was taken into custody. I drove over to where the suspect was so I could talk to him about the collision. I opened the door of the police car and noticed he wasn’t wearing a shirt. I wondered what happened because it was cold out.

After I was done with the interview I joked as I said, “You’re lucky the K9 didn’t get you.”

“I heard barking,” he replied.

“It wasn’t from our dog. He was cancelled.”

“I heard fake barking.”

“What do you mean fake barking?” I asked.

“I heard the cops fake barking.”

I gave him a puzzled look, but his face told me he really heard “fake barking.” After I closed the door I wondered who the K9 impersonator was. I walked over to where the other cops were and they told me the suspect had fallen into a pool. Now I knew why he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

I opened the door again and asked, “Did you fall in a pool?”

“Yeah.”

“What happened?”

“I jumped a fence and fell in the water.”

It’s not every day when a hit and run suspect falls into a pool and hears the cops fake barking at him.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

By the way, I found out who the K9 impersonator was. That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard a suspect say. Well played. Well played.

Track marks to nowhere

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On Thursday night I was driving down the street when I came to a four-way stop at a residential intersection. I stopped for the stop sign and was about to go when I saw a guy on his bicycle heading toward me from the cross street. He was about to run the stop sign, but he saw the police car at the last moment. Instead of going straight he made a quick right turn without stopping.

I made a U-turn and decided to talk with rider about the violation. After I stopped him the rider said, “Sorry, I don’t have brakes.”

I spoke to him briefly about the violation and found out he really didn’t have brakes. Who rides a bike with no brakes? That’s like playing football without a helmet or sky diving without a parachute.

We then spent the next 15 minutes talking about his heroin addiction and life on the street. He told me that he and his “baby’s momma” had their son taken away from them when he was born. He was in prison at the time and she was a heroin addict. The child was eventually adopted and now lives in the Midwest.

After talking about his son he told me about being homeless and injecting heroin two or three times a day.

When I was about to leave I asked, “Can I see your track marks?” I explained to him I wanted to take a picture of them so other people could learn from his addiction.

“Yeah, you’ve been cool,” he replied as he pulled up the sleeve of his hoodie. I took my phone out and he became an “arm model” for a brief moment.

The tracks marks told the story of addiction that a lot of people don’t understand or have any idea what these people go through. They also told the story of a homeless 30 year old, who doesn’t even have a driver’s license and lives behind Walmart.

This guy was the perfect example of why people should stay away from drugs.

Could it be any closer?

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Starbucks and Subway in the background

On Friday night, I drove to my favorite Starbucks to type reports and grab a drink. I was even feeling adventurous and got a chicken and artichoke panini.

I ate my sandwich and had my drink as I typed at the same time. My fingers were hitting the laptop keys with the effortlessness of a pianist playing Rhapsody in Blue.

Thats when it all came to an end when another injury crash went out down the street. The location of the call was maybe 150 yards away. At least it was close. It’s the little things, right?

I gathered all of my paperwork, got my drink and walked out to my car. I pulled out of the parking lot and saw that the crash was much closer than 150 yards. It was more like 100 feet away. It actually took me longer to get my stuff and walk out to my car than it did to drive there.

I parked my car in the middle of the street with my overhead lights on and called for a tow truck. I interviewed the drivers and wrapped it up pretty fast. After the tow truck was done cleaning up I went back to my Starbucks staging area. The Barista said, “You’re back already?”

“Yes, and I’ll take another black tea.”