When the cop is there and you have no idea- Priceless

Actual skids from the car.

Actual skids from the Dodge.

Today I was minding my own business as I sat at a red light. The sun had just dipped below the horizon as dusk descended on the area. My windows were down and the late summer breeze felt good.

When the light turned green, I coasted into the intersection with no particular place to go. I was just going to cruise around and enjoy a drive through the city. That’s when a large cloud of smoke caught my eye off to my right on a street that paralleled the one I was on.

The cloud was getting larger by the second as it surrounded a red Dodge Charger. The burn out seemed to last forever and was actually kind of impressive to watch.

I made a right turn on the side street to go talk to the driver about his lack of common sense. As soon as the driver saw me his tires quit spinning, but the cloud of burned rubber floated with the afternoon breeze toward my car.

After I stopped the car I walked up and asked the driver, “Were you having some type of medical problem that made your foot press down on the gas pedal like that?”


“How old are you?”


I held up my hands as I asked, “Why?”

“I was being stupid,” the driver said as he put his head down on his steering wheel.

His license showed an address that was far away from where we were, so I asked him how he ended up on this particular street. The driver replied he was going to a local club around the corner and he wanted to test out his new car. He told me he picked this street because no one was around.

I was amazed by his honesty. I also appreciated how he picked a street with no cars, businesses or homes to practice his speed skills on. I told the driver, “You did a dumb thing, but you were smart about it. I appreciate that.”

He gave me half a smile and didn’t say anything.

“What did you say when you saw me?” I asked.

“I said F#@K!”

“I would’ve said the same thing. Did you know you’re going to be my next blog story?”

“I didn’t know you had a blog.”

“I do and this story is too good to pass up.”

A records check showed that the driver was very experienced in the traffic ticket world. I walked back to him and asked, “How many tickets have you had?”

“Probably 7.”

“Well, today you’re only getting a ticket for not having the insurance paper in the car. Is that better than another mover?”

The driver let out of huge sigh of relief as his entire body relaxed. He stuck out his right hand and offered to shake mine. I shook his hand and told him I hope he understood what a huge break I was giving him.

He said, “I know. Thank you.”

After he signed the ticket I said, “Out of all the cops you’ve ever spoken to, was I the best?”

He laughed as he said, “Yes.”

I gave him his copy and offered my left fist as I said, “Give me knuckles.”

He fist bumped me with a smile and I walked away wondering why every person couldn’t be like that guy. Life would be so much easier if they were.

The night I heard “Officer Down” on the radio


“Officer down! Officer Down! We need units code 3!”

Those were the words from our helicopter pilot in December, 2004 when he saw one of our officers get hit by a car. The tone in his voice told everyone this was bad and to get there fast.

I was parked behind a building at the time with some friends while taking a break when that radio transmission went out. It didn’t seem real and it took a moment for the words “Officer down” to sink in. I can still picture where I was standing and how I felt when I heard the radio come to life.

I jumped into my car and raced to the location like everyone else. The collision was at least two miles away and I pushed the car as hard as I’ve ever pushed a police car before or since. The radio traffic was frantic and it seemed like it took forever to get there.

At one point, there was a radio transmission about organizing an escort for the ambulance. At ache shot through me as I heard that and feared the worst.

Who was it? I still had no idea. I didn’t want to see one of my co-workers dead. Nobody does.

As I got closer to the crash, the tension rose 1,000% because I didn’t know what I was going to see when I got there. I knew there was nothing I could do to help, but there was still the need to get there fast.

I pulled up just as the ambulance was about to leave. There was a long line of police cars in front of the ambulance ready to clear intersections on the way to the hospital. I was filled with dread as I got out of my car.

I walked up to an officer and asked, “Who was it?”
“How bad is it?”
“I don’t know.”

I saw his police car in the middle of the street facing one way and the car that hit him facing the other. Its windshield was shattered and it looked bad. I stood there for a moment and took everything in as I decided where to start. The thought of the impact made me cringe.

There was a warm breeze coming from the east due to a Santa Ana Wind condition that night. The scene was quiet and somber after the ambulance left because no one knew how badly hurt Kelly was. After everything calmed down the only sound was from the idling patrol cars and the police radio. The sea of police lights were a reminder to anyone who drove by that something bad had happened here.

Kelly’s gun and equipment were strewn in the street in a perfect V from the area of impact. I noticed a steno pad lying among the debris which looked like someone put it there. It was in perfect condition. Everything else in the street was in total disarray.

An officer walked up to me and said, “I put the steno pad there because I didn’t want Kelly’s hair to fly away.”

What he said didn’t make sense and it made me go to the steno pad to see what he was talking about. I knelt down and lifted it up.

That’s when I saw Kelly’s hair waving in the wind. It was like seaweed swishing side to side as it reached up to the sunlight from the ocean floor. His hair was actually stuck to the asphalt liked it was glued down.

I then looked at the upper corner of the windshield and saw another peculiar sight that was almost as weird as Kelly’s hair being stuck to the asphalt. There were dark blue fibers in the shattered glass. The fibers were small, but clear as day. They were from his uniform and were frozen in time like a fossil waiting to be discovered.

While I was still at the scene, word came from the hospital that Kelly was talking and doing better than was first thought. With that news the mood at the collision scene changed.

Later that night I sat down with the helicopter pilot and he told me what happened. It was intense hearing him describe Kelly getting hit by the car. I could tell he felt helpless as he flew overhead.

It’s funny because there is a new generation of cops at work that drive by that spot every day, who have no idea what happened there a decade ago. To the newer cops, it’s an east/west street. To me it’s a memory from a crazy night where everything was in chaos and one of my friends was hurt.

By the way, Kelly returned to work a few months later and made a full recovery.

Oh, and remember that hair that was blowing in the wind? Well, Kelly still has a bald spot on the back of his head after all these years……

Stay safe out there.

Last month was out of control


“Does every city have the same problems with crashes that we do or is it just us?”

That was the question I asked one of my traffic partners on Sunday morning after handling six traffic collisions that night, which included two DUI crashes.

“I think it’s just us,” was his reply.

I have kept track of the number of collisions I’ve handled since I started working in the traffic detail in January of 1999. It turned out May of 2015 was a little out of control in the city where I work. That’s why I was glad to see June 1st on the calendar.

It was actually the second highest total in my career for the number of traffic collision reports I took in one month. The grand total for May was 54 crashes. After last month I can’t imagine what the summer months are going to be like.

The national statistics related to traffic collision deaths in the United States has gone down over the last decade, but it seems like the number of collisions we handle has gone up.

Right before the recession started, traffic collisions were out of control every single night. I called it the Wild West because it seemed like every pole in the city was being crashed into nightly. It also seemed like every drunk driver took a detour through the city.

Then the recession hit and things really calmed down around 2009 and 2010. It was a like a ghost town some nights with no one crashing, which was good. It was nothing like the rest of the 2000s.

Since then I’ve seen a gradual increase in accidents and the volume of work that we do. It’s like the Wild West again and business is booming, which is not good for the average driver in my city.

I guess this means the recession is truly over because there are tons of people out there crashing like never before. It also means I might break my record if things continue the way they are.

One thing is for sure, I won’t break my record in June. It’s not because everyone is going to be careful. It’s because I’ll be on a cruise ship for a week and I’ll have a margarita in my hand instead of a flashlight and a clipboard.

Remember to keep your eyes open out there because we don’t want to meet by accident.

Do you know how many people died today in traffic collisions?


How important is traffic safety to you?

How many people were killed in the time it took you to watch your favorite TV show? Do you know how many people were killed in the time it took you to drive to work, pick up your kids and go to soccer practice?

How important is this subject to you?

Now, try asking how important this subject is to the person who lost their husband, wife, son, daughter, grandmother, grandpa or child in a traffic collision. Try asking someone who has permanent back pain after being involved in a collision.

How important is this subject to them? It’s more important than you know.

32,719 people were killed in traffic collisions in the United States in 2013. That’s an average of 89 people a day. Every day.

That’s almost an average of 4 people an hour.

Ask any officer or firefighter who has been to a fatal collision. They’ll tell you how it didn’t have to happen. They’ll also tell you how many times they’ve seen carelessness take a life away.

The most painful sound to hear is a family screaming and crying after being told that their loved one was killed in a car accident. It’s the type of sound that stays with you. It’s the type of sound that hurts to listen to it.

You can feel if vibrating through your bones as each cry seems to pass through you like a cold wind on a winter day. It bites and cuts through you. It makes you shiver.

The sound eventually leaves, but it lingers like fingers grabbing at your heart to tug at it. You try to ignore it, but you can’t.

If every person heard that sound, it would scare them into being a safer driver. If every person could walk with me as I stepped over body parts at a collision scene, they would understand what it means to be a safer driver.

If every person knew what it was like to look at the bottom of their boots to make sure there was no flesh or brains in the groves, they would be a safer driver.

If every driver knew what a burning car with people inside smelled like, they would want to be a safer driver.

And finally, if every person could see what a child looks like after their head was run over by a car, they too would want to be a safer driver.

It’s these sights, smells and sounds that have made me be a safer driver. Now, let’s talk about that question I asked in the beginning.

How important is this subject to you?

Pass this along to someone and let’s try and get people to be safer drivers.