The Blue Nights…

I’ve been a night-shift cop for most of my 13 years on the job. As is the case with a lot of unusual circumstances, I’ve adapted to most of the unique challenges presented by keeping vampire hours.  If you are a fellow over-nighter, this will probably be like group therapy. If you happen to be a day-walker, here’s a guide to what you are missing while you’re sleeping the night away.

1.  Feeling like a zombie is the new normal.  Sleeping while the sun is up is never quite as restful as being in bed with the rest of the world. Daylight itself is disruptive at times, but since it happens when most humans are awake and being noisy day-sleep can be challenging at best.  Most everything is scheduled to accommodate the day-walkers, so those of us on an alternate sleep schedule have to sacrifice beauty rest just to meet everyone else’s schedule.

2.  It’s dark outside during most of my shift.  I know it seems like a no-brainer, but darkness brings about special problems for a street cop. Finding addresses on calls for service is much easier in the daylight. So is avoiding yard bombs left by dogs, the spiderwebs that seem to appear everywhere, and other obstacles like clothes lines, holes, and drop offs that are easy to see in the light of day.  Add in the visibility problems of seeing a suspect’s hands and waistband  completely and you start to get a full picture of being a night shift cop.

3.  The constant struggle with a fogged windshield is real.  The Donut’s Midwestern climate means that my police car’s windshield will be foggy during most of the year. Fluctuations in the heat and humidity of late spring, summer, and early fall mean that I constantly have to sacrifice personal comfort for vision.  The wintertime chill reverses the situation by freezing the outside while my car struggles to heat up the windshield. Finding a balance that works one night is no guarantee that it will work the next day.

4.  Real food options don’t really exist.  I usually try to eat meals at home. This allows me to actually get a break from the public eye, catch up with Mrs. Donut, and eat spit-free food. If we are too busy for me to stop at home and I finally get a chance to eat at about 02:00, I’m stuck with limited options for anything that actually resembles food.  I refuse to order fast food at a drive-thru in a police car for multiple reasons, so that leaves me with cold sandwiches from a grocery store, roller food from a gas station, or worse.

5.  My calendar is not like your calendar.  When every scheduled work night spans two actual days things can get interesting. To keep my own version of sanity, I don’t consider it a new day until I wake up after I sleep. Of course I have to adjust the dates on paperwork generated after midnight on any given shift, but otherwise it remains the same day in my mind until after I break contact with the mattress.

6.  My trip-time estimator is not properly calibrated.  One of my favorite parts of working at night is that the daytime traffic is usually gone by the time I come to work. This means I can usually get from point A to point B fairly easily while I’m working, even without emergency lights. When I’m trying to plan out how to best carpe my diem during the daytime I struggle to account for the added drive time that suburban traffic requires.

7.  I see the people most don’t know exist.  There are other “normal” folks that are tasked with working while everyone else sleeps, but they don’t usually generate much work for us. Most of the Donut’s citizens have no idea how many homeless folks, addicts, drunks, and other derelicts appear while they sleep because they typically disappear from the public eye at sunrise.

8.  I’ve developed the ability to function in strobe-mode.  Emergency lights during the day don’t have much of an impact on vision.  They do at night. It’s like living in a roller rink or live version of Metallica’s Enter Sandman music video minus the mullet. Every movement looks choppy. Things in the distance start to move, even signs that are cemented in place. After a while it becomes normal, an afterthought and consequence of being a cop at night.

9.  I freaking hate high-beam headlights.  Emergency lights wash away night vision, but adapting to them isn’t too hard given some time. When you are accustomed to night driving, high beam headlights aren’t real necessary. The day-walker who is out way past their typical time loves high beam headlights and waits until the very last minute to dim them-if they do so at all. When you are driving toward the high beam dependent day-walker who is replicating the sun’s rays at night, you end up with absolutely no vision for at least a few moments. Driving while waiting for the white spots disappear can be loads of fun.

10.  It’s like a live episode of Suburban National Geographic at night.  Raccoons, skunks, coyotes, bats, deer, and foxes seem to appear from nowhere at night in the Donut. Many of them don’t know they’re supposed to yield to emergency vehicles and end up as roadkill.  Combine those with the plethora of flying insects that meet their fate on my bumper and windshield and you’ll begin to understand why my car looks the way it does in the daylight.

So what did I miss, my graveyard shift brothers and sisters?  Make sure to add yours in the comments section so our sunglasses wearing comrades remember what it’s like.

Those of you that are used to a bi-weekly dose of the Donut on the Uniform Stories website won’t find any new material there. Praetorian Group, publisher of PoliceOne.com purchased the site about a month ago and has migrated some of the posts there.  I’ve had some correspondence with them, but nothing has been finalized as of yet. In the meantime, please show Praetorian Group that there’s a good reason to run with Donut County Cop on their pages by sharing my posts with your friends to show your support.

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Suburbs | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Never Forgotten

On September 11, 2001 I was just a month into my junior year in college.  Since I’ve never been a morning person, I avoided scheduling any early classes that semester, but I was up early on that day to get an oil change done on my truck.  I returned home at around 8:15 am and clicked on the television while I continued to try and find the bottom of a pot of coffee just to feel somewhat human.

Like most, my memory of that day is very vivid.  I remember sitting in my ratty old hand-me-down recliner and trying to preplan an interview I was scheduled to give on the air at our university radio station later that afternoon.  At the time I was the president of the Interfraternity Council and the host of the radio show invited me to speak about the benefits of Greek life.  As I really started to focus, my attention was drawn to the television set as the local news was interrupted by live video in New York City where an airplane had crashed into one of the World Train Center towers.

I remember wondering what kind of idiot pilot could have made such a horrific mistake while I listened to the broadcasters as they made speculations.  Having no knowledge of the inner workings of an airplane or the FAA approved flight plans near NYC, I started having a creeping feeling that this was no accident.  As I began to wrap my brain around everything that was unfolding, I had the unfortunate experience of watching as another airplane plowed into the side of the other tower.  At that moment, I realized that my suspicions were true.  Our nation was under attack.

As a USMC reservist, I immediately called and spoke with an admin clerk at my reserve training center to verify that my contact information was correct in the event of a call-up.  It was a Spartan-esque building with no television, but my call was apparently not the first received by the Sergeant.  I knew full well that I would not be at the “tip of the spear”, but I wanted to do something, so the phone call seemed to be at least a step in the right direction.

Less than an hour after my telephone call concluded, the news flashed to Washington D.C. where another airplane had crashed into the Pentagon.  The news began to report numerous aircraft that had not checked in as required by the FAA.  It seemed as though the world that I knew was coming to a halt.  I was frozen in that recliner, unable to move away from the television as if my gaze was going to somehow help those that were in peril.

Just as I began to consider how my life was going to be changing as a result of these acts of terror, the South Tower of the World Trade Center came crashing down and snapped me out of my trance.  Anger filled me as I sat helplessly watching my country under attack as the streets of New York City filled with debris and a white plume of dust and smoke.

News broadcasts began to focus on the second tower, and it seemed to come alive as the building strained under the pressure and heat from such a horrific event.  I watched as people dove from the windows to escape it, plummeting to what they knew would be a certain death in order to avoid the interior of the building and the suffering it held for them.  I hoped against hope that the North Tower would remain standing so that more people could be spared.  I beat the hell out of the poor old ratty recliner as it collapsed before my eyes.

I received a telephone call from the eventual Mrs. Donut as she was leaving her morning class and managed to convince her to come to my apartment rather than to continue to her next class.  My screaming and yelling at the television had already awakened my sleeping roommate and brought him downstairs, but I felt like I needed her to be by my side.  Although we were almost 1,000 miles away from New York City, at that moment it seemed like nowhere was safe and I felt much better having her with me.

Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day shortly after she arrived, presumptively because no one was going to be in class to begin with at that moment.  Higher education had no place in my thought processes at that time.

The campus radio station host called and asked me to keep the interview appointment in order to express my views on the attacks as a member of the military.  I remember walking to campus rather than driving to clear my head before I said something regrettable on the air.  I checked windows and corners almost as though I was on some sort of patrol the entire way as my brain reverted to a dark place where I was able to exact some kind of revenge.

The interview came and went without me dropping any vulgarities or declarations of war.  I’m not exactly sure what kind of insight she expected of a junior enlisted Marine reservist, but I answered the questions I could and returned home to my apartment and the television.

Like every other American in 2001, my world did change.  Nearly 3,000 families were devastated.  We all lost innocence.  We all felt the hopelessness of the moment and the extreme sorrow that followed.  We focused on the importance of “normalcy” while watching recovery efforts.  We learned about the heroism of the first responders who rushed to the scenes, and those passengers aboard Flight 93 that refused to be weaponized.  We all came together to stand as one for at least a brief period of solidarity as a nation.

As the war in Afghanistan began in earnest, I started to feel left behind as I returned to my coursework.  I remember the juxtaposed feelings of anger of being left out of the retaliation efforts and relief that my number had not yet been called in the “War on Terror”.

In order to graduate from college I was tasked with doing an internship in law enforcement.  When I began in this line of work as a reserve police officer to satisfy my internship requirements, our nation was extremely appreciative of the men and women who served as first responders.  I was still about 1,000 miles from New York City, but that day was still impacting my life.

During the time that I was just starting to get my feet wet as a policeman, our nation expanded the “War on Terror” and invaded Iraq.

After I graduated, I started as a fulltime officer and my lovely college girlfriend became Mrs. Donut.  Shortly after we said our vows and began our life together we discovered that the first sugar donut was on her way.  About a month later I was nearly 3,000 miles away from Washington, D.C. preparing to deploy to Iraq, but the events of 9/11 were still impacting my life.

The war in Iraq was not a direct result of the attacks on our nation, the door was opened by our pursuit of terrorists and that somehow extended into the country 6,000 miles away from New York City.  I had many experiences there that forever changed me, but perhaps the longest lasting was the birth of my first sugar donut; a child I would not see for several months until I was back on US soil and some 3,000 miles away from Shanksville, PA.

It’s been 15 years since that horrific day.  While I’ve still never stepped foot in the State of New York let alone New York City, it’s never too far from my mind.  I’ve never been to Shanksville, PA, but I often wonder if I have the courage to act as those heroes did as they sacrificed themselves to prevent Flight 93 from reaching its intended target.  About a year after the attack on the Pentagon, I saw the rebuilding efforts in progress there.  The scope of the damage even at that point was hard to digest.  It’s always below the surface in my subconscious.

As a father I’ve made it my personal goal to raise my children with the understanding that absolute evil exists.  I’ve seen it plenty of times in person, but never on the scale that I saw it on television on 9/11/2001 as 2,996 people perished.  Rather than focusing on evil alone, my children will forever know that heroes exist and that good will overcome evil.

The selfless acts of 343 firemen, 8 paramedics, and 71 police officers at the World Trade Center and the untold numbers of others who walked away but have since contracted cancers and other diseases from those sites are unfathomable.  Their actions demonstrate that even in the darkest of days, there are people who are courageous enough to do everything they can to help others survive.

The Donut is about 1,000 miles from any of the sites directly impacted by these terror attacks, and yet every year on 9/11 I am transported back to that old recliner in my mind.  The emotions are still very raw.  Some years I have tried to completely avoid viewing anything about the attacks on television and other years I have allowed myself to soak it all in and embrace the pain.

My life is no different than anyone else who watched in horror fifteen years ago.  I will never be able to grasp it or set it aside.  I will never forgive.  I will never forget.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

Posted in Law Enforcement, Life, Police | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Sports and Politics…

I’ll preface the following with an admission.  I am a huge sports fan.  As a child, I learned a lot of important life lessons from playing organized sports.  I benefited a great deal from coaches that wouldn’t take excuses for poor performance and held me accountable for my own attitude and actions.  I learned the value of hard work, sportsmanship, and that the team was more important than the individual.

As a father, I have volunteered to coach several of my sugar donuts’ teams so I could be that kind of role model and impart those same lessons to the players.  It’s been more rewarding for me to have quality time with my children and their friends as it has been for any of the kids who played for me.  While the kids on the teams have changed, I’ve seen them progress and improve.  I take a great deal of pride in seeing their development and when any of them address me as “coach”, especially when I’m in uniform.

As an adult, sports are an escape from reality.  Most of my off duty attire is emblazoned with some sort of sports team logo.  If I’m working and one of the teams I follow are playing, I make sure to listen to the game on the radio as much as possible.  On any given day, I’ll skip the news, but I’m up to date on the win-loss record of my teams and any other important things that may impact their next game.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a collegiate sport, professional sport, the Olympics, or the Little League World Series.  If it’s on television and I have a spare moment, I’ll take in as much of the contests as I can.  Mrs. Donut has grown to understand that part of me, although I’m sure she’d rather watch just about anything else, she’ll at least humor me by feigning some sort of interest while I sit on the edge of my seat fully involved in a meaningless sporting event.

While I’m admittedly a sports addict, I fully understand that the broadcaster who is commending an athlete for being brave, courageous, or heroic is speaking those words in the context of what is ultimately only a game.

As a man who has spent his entire adult life in a uniform, armed with either a rifle or a pistol and varying levels of body armor, I have seen truly brave, courageous, and heroic acts in the face of actual physical peril.  Those actions are nothing like shooting free throws, kicking a last minute field goal, or hitting a walk-off home run.  Clanking free throws, going wide right, or striking out for the final out may be a horrible experience for the athlete, but they do not result in the loss of body parts or life.

Athletes bring notoriety to our nation, as evidenced by the impressive medal count piled up by the US Olympic Team in Rio earlier this month.  The prolific athletes who excelled in competition to win such accolades were able to do so because they live a life in a nation that holds athletics in high esteem.  They came from varied backgrounds, but they came from the United States; a nation that allows for such opportunities.

Athletes who compete at the highest levels make sacrifices and dedicate themselves to performance.  Some are blessed with natural abilities and others must overcome their own God-given shortcomings to develop skills and techniques that bring them up to the level of their competition.

In professional sports, these athletes are rewarded handsomely in contracts and endorsement deals that are the size of the gross national product of small nations.  They aren’t curing cancer.  They aren’t saving anyone’s life.  They aren’t producing anything other than entertainment, either in the form of dreams for children who are aspiring to be like them or for adults who can escape reality and stand in awe of their physical abilities.

Our men and women in uniform are paid little and held to extremely high standards.  If they place themselves in a perilous situation in order to save lives, they may be awarded some kind of medal or ribbon for their efforts.  If they do not survive, someone in their family will receive a folded American flag and condolences from either a grateful nation or community.

I am a combat veteran, but that does not make me special.  Thanks to over a decade of war, there are hundreds of thousands of people like me.  I have seen men in blood-soaked desert camouflage uniforms that had their young lives snatched away by IEDS or small arms fire in a country that was not theirs.  I have had the unfortunate experience of driving a long distance with an officer and a chaplain to deliver a notification that no military family wants to receive.  I have carried flag-draped caskets and meticulously folded the flag of our nation.  I have fired rifle salutes.  I have choked back tears as a single trumpeter plays taps, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

I have attended the funerals of law enforcement officers who were killed by accidents beyond their own control.  I have attended the funerals of law enforcement officers who were killed by felonious assaults.  I have watched as entire communities have come out to support the fallen officer, his immediate family, and his brothers and sisters in blue as we have escorted his body to its final resting place.  I have seen the flag-draped coffin as it is carefully, lovingly placed above the burial site.  I have watched as the law enforcement officer’s coffin was exposed and the flag of our nation has been slowly, meticulously transformed into a triangular sea of blue before being presented to a grief-stricken widow.

I have ventured to places inside my own head during these proceedings that I will never be able to verbalize.  These aren’t places I like to visit.

None of these flag-draped coffins contained men or women who died specifically for the flag, but the flag itself is a symbol that is greater than the individual it encompasses.  These men and women in uniform, either military, police, fire, or EMS, who are laid to rest with flags covering them are absorbed into the very fabric of those flags.  They become an intricate and invaluable part of the fabric itself to be remembered forever.

Francis Scott Key wrote what would morph into our National Anthem in a patriotic and emotional moment when he saw that “our flag was still there” after a 27 hour bombardment at the hands of the British while he was being held as a prisoner at Fort McHenry in 1812.  Even at such an early time in our evolution as a nation, our flag inspired proud emotions.

As is the case in nearly every other country, as citizens we are expected to rise to our feet and pay homage to our great nation and our flag during the playing of our National Anthem.  Since our flag caries the weight of the sacrifices of so many that came before us, and our anthem was inspired by our own colors, it deserves proper respect regardless of one’s political views.

Those who choose to protest whatever social ills they wish by stomping, burning, or otherwise desecrating our flag are not damaging a piece of fabric.  They are disrespecting the memory of those who sacrificed everything and were laid to rest in a flag-draped coffin.  Those who choose to remain seated during the Star-Spangled Banner are demonstrating their lack of respect for the sacrifices of the men and women who have made our nation great.

If Colin Kaepernick thinks that his failure to rise to his feet in protest of what he believes is a nation of social injustice will do anything other than alienate him from the overwhelming majority of Americans, so be it.  It is his right.  A right provided by the very men and women he is choosing to disrespect.

If Colin Kaepernick, a man who lives a charmed life because of his physical ability in spite of the color of his skin-believes that he is somehow a victim of societal ills, then perhaps he should visit the 49ers team psychiatrist.  In order to have an opinion that matters, one must first get his or hands dirty.  Sitting on your ass and disrespecting men and women who have actually demonstrated bravery, courage, and heroism in the face of mortal danger does not an activist make.  It does make a classless jackass.

Perhaps Kaepernick is actually using these preseason games to practice what he will actually be doing for the 49ers this season, by riding the pines as the second or third string quarterback.

Let one of the many miscreants in the Bay Area place Kaepernick in fear, and we’ll see who he calls for help.  The very men and women he is disrespecting will rush to his aid and save his sorry ass so he can return to the sideline and perch himself on the bench.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Police Leadership | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Reserving Comment…

There is a segment of our law enforcement community that gets very little attention from anyone, both inside and outside of the agency.  Most of the time when they are interacting with the public, our citizens have no idea they are speaking with an unpaid reserve officer.  They face the same challenges and dangers as the full-time officers, but oftentimes they receive little more than personal satisfaction in return.

I began my career in law enforcement as a reserve officer.  Granted my reserve officer experience was fairly short-lived, since the agency brought me on as a full-time officer after about six months, but in that short period of time I learned a lot.  I learned that I had a knack for this line of work, and I learned that it seemed to be enjoyable enough to do all of the time.

It depends on what area of the country you find yourself, but in my area reserve officers are pretty common.  We have them in most places that “donut” our metropolitan area, and the major city that we surround has them too.  Each agency has its own policies that regulate the activities of their reserve officers, and mine is no exception.

At the Donut County PD, our reserve officers are expected to perform almost all of the tasks our full-time officers do.  The only exceptions center around the investigation of crimes that are of the highest priority which our reserve officers can respond to, but cannot report on these crimes alone.  Our reserve officers complete an in-depth training academy and field training program before they hit the streets alone.  Only a trained eye could differentiate a reserve officer from a full time officer in uniform at my agency.

Our reserve officers supplement our short manpower when needed and are typically tasked with volunteering their time to do tasks that the full-time officers would rather not do, such as community events and pre-planned traffic direction details.  They come from many different walks of life, and decide to come aboard for a variety of reasons.

A majority of our reserve officers begin their careers much like I did 13 years ago.  They use their time to gain training and experience to help them find a full-time police job, either at this agency or another.  It’s an opportunity to see if law enforcement is a fit for them, kind of a test drive.  These officers are a pleasure, they’re typically young and eager to work and train hard in order to hone their skills.  The vast majority of these officers do end up in a full-time spot somewhere, and some do so very quickly.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to hire them and other times they escape us.

There are reserve officers with a high-paying full-time career who have no intention of ever leaving their current jobs.  They may be from the corporate world or they may be successful small business owners, but law enforcement is still something they enjoy.  It’s a way for some to give back to the community, and for others it is more of a selfish yet selfless way to push their own limits.

Some have already spent a career as a full-time officer and decided to come back because they missed the life.  Most of them missed the camraderie more than the bullshit.  I think some of the retirees turned reserve officers just don’t have enough of a wardrobe to wear something that isn’t a uniform.

On occasion some slip through the selection process and quickly prove to be in well over their heads during the field training experience.  Most of the time those problem children get weeded out much quicker than a struggling full-time officer in field training since the agency hasn’t spent as much time or money on them.

The best of the reserve officers understand that they aren’t exposed to as much as the full-time officers, so they manage to find helpful roles while on scene at calls.  Just like their full time brothers and sisters, there are plenty of times that they will kick the proverbial hornet’s nest while conducting some form of proactive policing.  When that happens, the good ones quickly ask for any assistance they may need and won’t hesitate to get clarification when faced with something they haven’t dealt with before.  As a patrol supervisor, I have no issue with answering questions or helping out, especially in the case of a hard-charging reserve officer.

It’s not uncommon for a full-time officer to feel underappreciated and underpaid, so I can only imagine the place the reserve officer can find himself at times.  Often used as a stopgap for shift coverage or for shit details and seldom thanked by anyone in the command staff, the reserve officer is the definition of underappreciated and unpaid.

In these tumultuous times it’s even easier to internalize the issues of the world as we don our uniforms and hit the streets.  In the end, it’s still paying the bills for the full-time officer.  The reserve officer who still suits up and comes out to help deserves a lot more from all of us.  A quick pat on the back or a text message saying “thanks for helping out” can go a long way.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

cropped-dcc-logo.jpg

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Police Leadership, Suburbs | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Dispatch 10…

Put a bunch of street cops in a room for any period of time and it’s bound to be a topic of conversation eventually.  We’ve all had our share of good and bad ones, and there are plenty that fall into the in between category.  The bad ones get a lot more airplay because, frankly it’s more fun to bitch and complain.

It doesn’t matter if you call them RTO’s, communicators, or dispatchers; they connect available resources to emergencies in our communities.  They always tell us what to do and where to go, especially when the duty belt hits the restroom floor for a much needed session of 4.5″ x 4.5″ paperwork.

I’ve had my fair share of experience with our brothers and sisters that answer 911 calls and send us to them.  Although the names change, after a while it’s easier to pick up on some personalities behind the microphones.  Here are 10 of the most common ones I’ve worked with so far in my career.

  1. The “I wasn’t really listening; can you repeat your last”?
    Miami-Beach-dispatchers-allegedly-asleep-1-JPG_689212_ver1.0_640_360
    Ok, so I’ve never actually had a dispatcher come right out and say they weren’t listening, but after you have to repeat yourself every time you speak it becomes pretty evident.  Multitasking is a skill that I’ve seen more than a handful of young coppers struggle to master, so it’s easy to understand why a dispatcher would occasionally miss radio traffic while doing all of the things they are required to do.  Just not every time.  Put down the knitting needle and mute the soap opera for God’s sake.
  2. The human repeater.
    The human repeater is the exact opposite of the “repeat your last” communicator.  He or she will repeat every word uttered on the radio by any officer who spoke.  It’s all well and good on shifts that are slow, but when the call log is backing up and we’re busy it can tie up precious air time-and get pretty damn annoying.
  3. The detective/dispatcher.
    As soon as a call hits the screen the detective/dispatcher’s wheels start turning.  With every piece of information that is gained the detective/dispatcher will begin checking internet search engines, social media and the like to try and get as much of a back story as possible on the call for service.  No one asks the detective/dispatcher to do these things, but at least once or twice a shift he or she will ask an officer to call in for information that is typically non-essential.
  4. The tone deaf.
    The tone deaf RTO has no idea that he or she sounds like they are scolding everyone they speak to on the radio, it just happens.  It’s like his or her voice is stuck in CAPS LOCK.  Usually the tone deaf RTO ends up getting officers on the defensive, and small arguments begin on the radio all because it sounds like the officer is being acoustically accosted.
  5. The jargon king/queen.
    tumblr_lvtj8eAaPg1qkoakl
    Usually this one really wants to be on the other end of the radio, and he or she may eventually become an officer.  However, while he or she is sitting at a radio console some pretty random radio codes or abbreviations will spew forth.  For the most part we’re a plain-talk agency, but some short hand codes still get used on the air.  The jargon king/queen just seems to be trying too hard to coin new ones.
  6. Mr./Ms. Mispronunciation.
    We all have some words we don’t like to say because we jumble the pronunciation if we aren’t concentrating.  When the officers find those words, they’ll goad Mr./Ms. Mispronunciation into saying them just for a laugh.  Take the automobile manufacturer Mitsubishi for example.  I’ve heard more than one dispatcher botch it into something like “Mistabitchi” on a suspect vehicle.  Once it happens, at least one officer will ask for the make and model of the vehicle to be repeated.
  7. The throat clearer.
    Every time the throat clearer keys up a microphone, he or she will emit a short cough before transmitting.  It’s almost like an alarm that has no “off” switch.  If you hear the cough enough on a shift you’ll show up at the communications building with a bag of throat lozenges just in an attempt to make it stop.  But it won’t.
  8. The mouth breather.
    A close cousin of the throat clearer, the mouth breather will exhale loudly into the microphone during every transmission.    Every.  Transmission.
  9. The omit-er.
    The omit-er has a bad habit of not providing all of the pertinent
    information on calls, which is especially bad if one of the parties in a disturbance is waiving a firearm at the other person or people involved and the responding officers have no clue beforehand.  Brevity is great, just don’t get me killed because you were trying to be quick on the radio.  Jackass.
  10. The superstar.
    Scene from rock concert
    The superstar may have moments that aren’t so super on rare occasions, but it’s so few and far between that no one ever notices.  This communicator remains calm no matter what is going on and seems to anticipate what needs to happen next.  He or she will speak in an even, reassuring tone even when his or her heart is racing.  The superstar will do everything possible to bring everyone home safe at the end of the shift.  Every officer begins a shift hoping to hear the superstar on the other end of the radio.

I don’t envy the men and women who sit behind the communications consoles in the least.  They get to deal with the public on the telephone and the men and women who respond to those calls on the radio.  The good ones truly do everything they can to keep us safe.  Thankfully, the other ones don’t typically last too long here in the Donut.

Feel free to add the ones I missed in the comments section, and stay safe out there!

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

cropped-dcc-logo.jpg

 

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Suburbs | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Broken Windows Matter

The “Broken Window Policing” theory was published in the early 1980’s as a general construct.  It’s main tenet is that once a community begins to turn a blind eye to minor criminal activity, more serious criminal activity is inherently inbound.  Like any other topic, there are those who fully support the theory and others that think it is garbage.

I first heard of this theory while I was in college.  It was one of many that were presented and studied during my time in academia.  As is often the case, I learned enough about it to pass an exam and filed it away as something I’d probably never use again.

In my professional life as a law enforcement officer, I’ve never had any supervisor bring up the topic of “broken window policing”.  However, I’ve encountered many suspects that have reminded me that “the Donut doesn’t play around”, meaning that they knew if they were caught  committing a crime in my county they would likely get the proverbial book thrown at them.

A good number of the citizens of the Donut are here because they used to live in the big city that we border and did not want their children subjected to the crime and dangers that are rampant there.  We have no fence keeping the murderers, rapists, and gangbangers out of the Donut.  What we do have is an active approach to enforcing the law and ensuring that anyone caught breaking the law is held accountable for their actions.

We aren’t always thrilled with the plea agreements and slaps on the wrist that sometimes get handed to our arrestees once they hit the courtroom by our own prosecutors, but those sanctions are typically far more severe than they would have been just a few miles down the road.

I don’t fault my brothers and sisters who work in the big city; there are far more people there than we have in the Donut.  Our prosecuting attorneys do not have the case load that their counterparts have in the big city.  Our probation officers are overworked, but not on the level of those in the big city.  Our jail is kept busy enough, but those tasked with working as correctional officers here do not have nearly the volume of inmates as our neighbors.

Since we have a little more time than the big city folks, we do seek out those who commit smaller crimes in an effort to keep the major crimes away.  We deal with folks who live in the big city on a regular basis.  If they are caught breaking the law here, they know what is coming.  It’s their choice.

I won’t promote the “movement” that is now vilifying the men and women who enforce the law by mentioning them by name, but it is common to hear the so-called leaders call for an end to “broken window policing”.  What these people are missing is that law enforcement officers do not write the laws in our nation.  Instead, we are tasked with enforcing those laws and they are expected to comply with the law as citizens.

Many say that enforcing these “victimless” crimes is criminalizing the poor.  They say that things like driving without a valid license, drinking in public places, drug possession, and prostitution are harmless.  I would agree that it is harmless to drive without a seatbelt-until you are in a crash without one, there’s a law on the books that makes wearing a seatbelt a requirement because they protect the occupants of vehicles and make crashes more survivable.

In my experience those who drive without a license don’t typically have vehicle insurance either.  So when they are involved in a crash with someone who does have insurance, the insured motorist gets screwed financially.  Harmless.

Drinking in public areas can be harmless, until drunks do what drunks do.  Pissing in the street, swearing, fighting, and being generally unfit for children to be around really isn’t what I’d like my sugar donuts to see while they are at the park.

I’ve seen more lives ruined by drug use in my community than our citizens would ever believe.  Overdoses are not uncommon.  Quite a few of the crimes committed in the Donut are committed by someone who is either under the influence of an illicit drug, or in order to get an illicit drug.  Everything from petty thefts to armed robberies, but those possessing drugs are harmless.

Most of the prostitutes I have encountered are not necessarily willing participants in the trade.  They answer to a pimp that controls them, and for good measure they are also typically drug users who are supporting their habit by selling their bodies.  Harmless, right?

I learned early in my career that you cannot explain logical things to illogical people.  It doesn’t matter how the facts are laid out, if someone is too committed to a false idea there is no way to convince them of the truth.

These are the same people that would argue that police officers shoot more black men than white men although the numbers don’t lie.  They can’t fathom why an officer would ever shoot someone who was trying to kill them.  They call us racists but target white folks for attacks while they burn down businesses in their own communities.  Everyone else is to blame while they decry their own deplorable situation that came to life because no one stood up for their community and drove the thugs away.  Instead, the thugs are celebrated and made into martyrs and an excuse to riot.

I’ll continue to do everything I can to keep the “broken windows” at bay here in the Donut because I’ve seen the slippery slope that comes when they are ignored.  It’s not an issue of rich or poor, black or white, or anything else.  It is a matter of holding those who commit crimes accountable for their actions so they know we are paying attention.  If that keeps criminals out of the Donut, well I guess I’ve done my job.  If that offends those who support criminals, well, frankly I’m fresh out of fucks to give.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

 

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Police Leadership, Suburbs | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Suspicious?  Here’s Why I Am…

http://uniformstories.com/police/lists/10-ways-to-raise-a-police-officer-s-suspicion

Posted in Law Enforcement | Leave a comment

Why I’m Still a Cop

My latest post available at 

http://uniformstories.com/police/lists/7-reasons-i-m-still-a-police-officer

Posted in Law Enforcement | 1 Comment

It Takes Two…

At every level of my training as a police officer, I’ve been constantly reminded to “train like my life depends on it”.  I’ve heard it at the range, I’ve heard it during emergency driving, and I’ve heard it during traffic stop training.  I’m almost positive our report writing instructor in the police academy managed to squeeze in some form of life and death threat.  I can’t be sure though, because that was some boring shit and I don’t think I was awake for most of it.  I end up with some pretty awesome doodles around the dried slobber in the margins of my notebook though.

As an instructor, I’ve taught lots of in-service classes and I’ve returned to teach recruits at the police academy several times.  Depending on the subject matter, I’ve also been guilty of the “you better pay attention to this shit, because one day your life may depend on it” type of attention getter for my students.

As a field training officer, I’ve spent a lot of time pouring over the 1,001 ways cops die with my trainees.  We cover policies and report writing and other mundane topics, but ultimately the officer safety topics take a priority.

As a patrol supervisor I do my best to remind my squad of “type A personalities” that they are not invincible.  I ensure that they are as reflective as possible as they direct traffic, that seatbelts are being worn inside patrol cars, and that they are up to speed on local threats and other trends that may endanger them.

There’s a social movement stating that we are too focused on the dangers of our job and not focused enough on the preservation of life.  To these folks, I offer a heartfelt “fuck you, you first”.

You see, our lessons are learned in blood.  There are moments in the history of American policing that have left a mark on the way we train our people.  The killing of 4 California Highway Patrol officers in the unincorporated Newhall area of Los Angeles in 1970 led to revolutionary changes in the way officers were trained in the use of firearms.  We learned tactical lessons from Columbine, from the North Hollywood bank shootout and other major incidents that followed.  We watch dash cam videos of officers who made fatal mistakes during traffic stops and solemnly vow to not repeat those same mistakes ourselves.

Now we face threats from domestic and foreign terrorists in addition to the standard pieces of shit that would rather shoot it out than return to a cell where they belong.  Cowardly unprovoked ambushes of officers seem to be the newest methodology for those who are bent on doing harm to the men and women in blue, and I fear that will evolve into something worse.

An officer who is placed in fear of mortal injury and discharges a firearm in the defense of his or her own life is in the middle of a life altering situation.  He or she will deal with the aftermath forever, even if there is no public outcry.  Even if no cellphone video snippet is aired nationally, even if there is no media crucifixion or a political figure finding immediate fault with little or no information, the officer who pulls the trigger will revisit the moment forever.

There are cries for a nationwide law enforcement use of force policy which will change nothing.  A duck is a duck is a duck, and a deadly force incident is a deadly force incident.  Our officers already understand that shooting another human being is a last resort.  Go ahead and put some sort of flowery verbiage on paper, it will change nothing while our society falls apart at the seams.  There are no free toasters awarded to the officer with the most confirmed kills.  It is a last resort because life is precious.

Although I have never been the one to pull the trigger, I have been involved in some manner in four officer-involved shootings in 13 years.  None of those officers were injured.  None of them wanted to be placed in that situation.  None of them created the situation.  The officers simply responded to the actions of the suspects in order to defend themselves from a lethal threat.  In these incidents, two of the suspects were killed.  One was wounded severely but managed to survive and later stood trial for his crimes.  One was somehow unharmed.  In these incidents, all of the involved officers were changed forever because life is precious.

In the same period of time, I’ve attended the funerals of more officers than I care to mention.  Unfortunately most of those officers met their end because of the actions of some walking, talking, human piece of shit.  A police funeral brings about a full range of emotions that cascade from rage, sadness, and pride.  Those emotions come from deep within because life is precious.

Death is a part of life.  Unfortunately it is an area that law enforcement officers are all too familiar.  If your final breath is taken outside of a hospital or assisted living facility while you’re in the Donut, someone dressed like me will show up to document and investigate the scene.  Homicides, suicides, accidents, and natural deaths, it doesn’t matter, we’ll be there.  We’ll console the families.  We’ll seek out the perpetrators if it’s appropriate.  We do these things because life is precious.

If we happen upon the scene before the suspect leaves, we’ll insert ourselves and do everything in our power to protect the perfect strangers there who are endangered.  If the suspect surrenders, he or she will be taken into custody unharmed.  If he or she decides to continue an attempt to harm anyone with a lethal threat, it was his or her decision.  With any luck, it will be the last decision made by the suspect in that situation.  We do these things because life is precious.

At times our most reliable way to save a life is to take another, but we train our officers in first aid, CPR, and the treatment of gunshot wounds.  We equip them with medical kits so they may be able to save a life.  Most officers have performed chest compressions more than they’ve ever applied pressure to the trigger of their service weapon while on duty.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a heroin addict that has overdosed several times in the last month, a soccer mom, or someone who we just had to shoot because they posed a mortal danger to us, we’ll do everything we can to revive them.  We do these things because life is precious.

The lives of Mrs. Donut and my sugar donuts are precious to me, too.  In order to remain a part of their lives, I have to sustain my own.  If you have your own family that you value, don’t put me in a place that I have to defend my ability to return to mine.

It is human nature to blame others for the faults of our own ilk.  As a law enforcement trainer, supervisor, and uniformed officer, I am sure there are plenty of things I can do to increase my own effectiveness and safety.  Our approach can be refined.

Those who scream for change need to make the change.  If you don’t enjoy seeing officers in riot gear and militaristic equipment, don’t riot or create disturbances that call for such equipment.  Civil discourse is just that…civil.  Forming as a large group and chanting “What do we want?  Dead Cops!” repeatedly while blocking interstate travel is not necessarily a civil means to go about business.  Any group pushing a rhetoric that is divisive and paints all law enforcement as an enemy only leads to violence; violence from cowardly fanatics like the shooters in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Milwaukee who ambushed police officers with tragic results.

The phrase “community policing” involves two key words.  Community is the first.  If the community does not support us, there is no community policing.  If we are to make progress, the community must also embrace change.  If we are expected to engage in self-reflection and task analysis to find faults in our own policies and actions, those who scream the loudest for change should also take those steps in their own peer groups.  As an agency, if we have well publicized public forums and community outreach programs that have little to no attendance, it is no longer our fault.  If no one happened to witness a crime that occurred directly in front of them, the fault is not ours.

The majority of the law enforcement agencies in our nation do not have the time, budget, or manpower to spend in order to campaign for support in their communities.  That support is garnered by doing a service for the citizens, every day, without fail.  If the community can call 911 and receive a response and lawful resolution to the problem at hand, the officers have represented their agency well.

Policing will remain in place regardless as to the cooperation and participation of the community.  Laws must be upheld to maintain peace and order.  There will always be those who break laws, and so there will always be a need for those who are there to pursue the law breakers.  This is the case because life is precious.

If you want to see a change in law enforcement, change your community.  If there is no longer a constant threat of death or grave bodily harm to the officers, there will no longer be a need for us to remind officers of their mortality at every step in the training cycle.

My heart is breaking for those who lost loved ones and partners alike in the horrific and cowardly shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.  I wish the survivors a speedy recovery and hope that the good people of our nation begin to stand up to the media outlets and other purveyors of hate speech against the men and women of our law enforcement in the United States.

“Stay frosty” my brothers and sisters in blue.  Be a hard target and fight the good fight.  At the end of the day it’s all about going home to squeeze your loved ones.  After your shift is done, if you can look in the mirror and be proud of the man or woman who is staring back, you’ve done everything we can ask of you.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

 

 

Posted in Law Enforcement | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Poké Patrol

Since the Donut is a suburban area, there are several nice parks for the citizens to enjoy from dawn until dusk.  As is the case in most US cities, there is a city ordinance that prohibits people from entering the park during the nighttime.  The intention of the ordinance is to protect the property and equipment from vandalism and it provides the police department with authority to issue citations for violating the ordinance.

In over a decade of experience in the Donut, a night shift officer that saw a vehicle inside a city park after hours has typically been able to make one of two assumptions.  Either the vehicle is occupied by folks who are engaging in a sexual escapade of some variety, or the occupants are using some form of drug, most commonly marijuana.

Of course these two were not the only reasons for finding people in the park at night, but they were certainly the most typical results found by an officer who decided to check the offending vehicle.  Given that the officer found no criminal activity, typically the vehicle and its occupants were sent away without anything other than a reminder about the park hours.

About a week ago, things changed.  A new scourge has taken hold in the Donut as hordes of socially awkward millennials have abandoned their parents’ basements and descended into the area in search of a fix.  Apparently this “fix” is easier to find when the sun sets, as the single-minded masses congregate in prohibited areas like our parks with faces solidly affixed to the glowing screens of smartphones.

Fearing that the neighborhood parks were being overrun by miscreants with nefarious intent, citizens began calling to report the presence of groups inside our parks after sunset.  At the peak of one of our busiest seasons for call volume, officers have consistently been dispatched to these calls only to find that the only balls being displayed were those of an electronic variety, and the drug is the pursuit of “them all”.

Officers who have engaged in conversation with these individuals have been faced with an almost unsurmountable language barrier as the suspicious persons have used words such as Zubats, Paras, whirls, and Pokéstops as though the officers should understand what the hell they are talking about.  After explaining the ordinance in regards to park hours and informing the offenders that it is time to leave, many officers have been questioned as to whether or not the individual can continue to search for more “balls” in spite of the ordinance, “you know, just this one time, pretty please?”

According to a confidential informant, there is a large vortex of nerdom in the Donut that has drawn folks from near and far in search of these things called “Pokéballs” and “Pikachu”.    Unbeknownst to the police department, many a crazed battle has been waged in our parks during the evening hours.

As a result of this virtual violence in our parks, DCPD Chief Stu Pidasso has instituted a zero-tolerance policy and disseminated public information statements to the media through our PIO, Captain Isa Stammers.  Chief Pidasso is seeking grant money to provide training and resources to our officers in an effort to drive these folks back into their parents’ basements where they belong.

In response to the police department’s stance, a local opposition group calling themselves Lambda Lambda Lambda or “Tri-Lamb” has arisen.  Their leaders, Lewis Skolnick and Dudley Dawson have been quoted as saying that the enforcement of a long standing ordinance for park hours is “not fair” and ”no one will truly be free until nerd persecution ends” in between sips of Mountain Dew Code Red and Cheetos.  Skolnick and Dawson also added that “the police department’s role is to protect and serve all, including nerds”, and that “our parents pay your salaries”.

Chief Pidasso’s public statement has recently been bolstered by the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Pokémon (PETP) who have spoken out against the capture of electronic “pocket monsters” and subsequently forcing them to engage in battles.  In her statement, PETP spokesperson Moonflower said “I know it’s not cool to like the police, but Pokémon have feelings too, so we support anyone who will keep them from being captured and forced into being electronic gladiators”.

Our world is a strange place, and it’s only getting worse.  Surely the Donut isn’t the only place to have been invaded by crazed Pokémon Go players.  I’ve already had my fill, and plenty of odd conversations with these folks, how about you?

Time to go patrol the Donut…cropped-dcc-logo.jpg

Posted in Law Enforcement, Police, Suburbs | Tagged , , | 3 Comments