Friday, June 30, 2006

Chaos and Confusion

On Sunday night, a woman using a drive-through ATM accidentally left her wallet on top of the teller-machine and drove away. About ten minutes later, she realized her mistake and drove back to the bank to get her wallet. As she arrived, a man was just leaving the same ATM she had used. She saw the wallet was no longer on the ATM and was convinced the man had taken it. She and her male passenger jumped out of her car and ran over to the man as he started driving away.

They tried to get him to stop but he sped away as he thought he was being car-jacked by these two screaming maniacs. His quick departure convinced the woman he must be guilty of the wallet theft; Why else would he drive away so quickly? She got back in her car and began to chase him and called 911 to report the "robbery."

At the same time, the man called 911 to report the "attempted car-jacking". Both callers were on the phone with 911 operators -one yelling about being chased by car-jackers, the other screaming about the fleeing wallet robber.

Several police officers responded and were able to stop both cars a few miles away to try to sort out the whole affair. I arrived a few seconds later and pulled in behind a guy in plain clothes who was just pulling up to the stopped cars. At first I thought he was an undercover officer that happened to be in the area who stopped to help out. He then told me he was a citizen that "saw the whole thing" and wanted to help police solve the case. I asked him give me details of the incident and he replied, "I saw two cars driving very fast with police officers chasing, we must have been going about 70 down Indian School." He hadn't seen anything of the incident at the bank, only cars being chased by cops. He joined the chase to tell us he saw a chase. The public can be very helpful in providing police with valuable information but I would encourage some 'helpful' citizens to not engage in a high-speed pursuit in order to tell us he saw a pursuit.

Tell me if something sounds suspicious about this missing juvenile call I heard tonight:

Complainant is mother who last saw 13 year old son leaving with a friend to watch a movie on June 5th.......June 5th????!!!!! That was 24 days ago. I just pictured this concerned mother going about her business for over three weeks and then thinking to herself, "Hmmm, it's been 24 days since my boy left the house -that movie has got to be over by now. That's it, I'm calling police."

Thursday, June 22, 2006


We've all got stereotypes about cops, right? You know, arrogant, insensitive, aggressive, elitist control freaks. I've been lumped into this category since joining the police force last year but don't agree that's a fair assessment. What I've learned from the inside is cops are pretty ordinary. They do, however, seem to exhibit a peculiar stereotype of materialism. By this, I mean the obsessive desire to own motorcycles, guns, ATV's, trucks and truck accessories.

The problem is: the average cop doesn't make much money. This leads to an endless cycle of buying expensive toys and then selling them in order to buy other expensive toys. Take a look at this picture I took of the 'for sale' bulletin board in the breakroom of my precinct (click on it to enlarge). Do you see a pattern here? This is just one corner of the board shot close-up to see the pictures but there are many more motorcycles for sale. We have numerous and generous opportunities for overtime that allow the average patrolman to make extra money. This only adds to the cylce, though, as those in debt are forced to work off-duty jobs on their days off. The coveted three-day weekend is sacrificed chasing the almighty dollar.

I've only seen one mini-van parked at the police station: mine. The parking lot contains about 90% trucks, 5% motorcycles, 4% cars, and my minivan. I've been asked several times by other cops, "How many kids do you HAVE?" (in a tone that says, "there's no way you'd be driving that thing unless you had at least six kids). I then find myself explaining the benefits and features of minivans like a salesman at the car dealership.

I'm proud to say I'm not one of the materialistic cops. In fact, I'm almost the opposite. I gave up a much higher paying job (and the materialism it afforded) for the non-monetary rewards of a career in public service.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


On Sunday I stopped a car occupied by two men at Indian School and 20th St. for having a suspended license plate. One of my squadmates saw me pull over the car and pulled in behind me to provide backup. I approached the driver's window and asked the driver for his license. He told me he had no identification (a criminal offense and grounds for arrest.) The passenger was hiding one of his hands under his leg and I told him to let me see his hands. My backup officer walked up the passenger side and we both knew there was something wrong.

There was a strong smell of marijuana and both men claimed to speak no English. We pulled them both out of the car and put them in handcuffs while preparing to search the car. My partner yelled to me that he found a baggie of cocaine in the driver's pocket. I put the passenger in my patrol car and in my broken Spanish asked him were the marijuan was. He motioned his head towards his car. I asked him if it was a "pequito" or "mucho" amount. He answered, "One pound." I thought I probably misheard him since one pound is a lot. I walked back to the passenger side of the car and felt my heart start racing when I saw a 9mm Ruger handgun sitting between the front seats partially under a piece of paper. The hammer of the gun was cocked back and it was loaded. It would have taken two seconds for the passenger to pick it up if he had wanted to.

He wasn't kidding about the pot. I found over a pound of weed in a gallon-sized freezer bag in the back seat. Here's a picuture of the big bag of marijuna and the sandwich baggie of cocaine. There were three cell phones and a notebook containing what appeared to be a ledger of transactions. The large amounts of drugs combined with the phones and ledger lead me to charge them both with possession for sale (as opposed to just possession which is a much lessor crime). And, possession with intent to sell is grounds for vehicle seizure. I hope to see the Ford Taurus they were driving in service soon with the undercover drug agents.

Later that night, I was even more surprised to find a second gun next to the driver's seat. It was stuffed down between the seat and the center console. I looked there at least twice during the traffic stop and didn't see it. I've thought a lot about how I handled the traffic stop on Sunday and see many flaws. I had two Mexican Nationals committing serious felonies with loaded guns within reach. If my backup partner hadn't arrived a few seconds after I did, I wonder if the outcome may have been any different. Two against one may have encouraged them to take a chance with running or even shooting. My partner and I talked about all the things we did wrong and all the things we'll do right in the future.

I spent several hours interviewing, processing, and booking the two into jail. Both were charged with several felonies for drugs and weapons. I was commended by my sergeant and squadmates for the sizeable drug bust but would have felt better about it had I seen the guns right away and never gave them a chance to use them. Here's the gun I saw next the passenger seat (and some of the money):

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Court, Calls, and Care

I made my first court appearance last week regarding a traffic citation I issued for a woman driving with a learner's permit. Her restricted license required another licensed driver to be in the front seat with her (she was alone). She decided to fight the charge and hence, the court date. She went to MVD after I wrote her the ticket and was issued a real driver license. She then went to court and thought this would erase the fact that I caught her driving with the learner's permit. The judge asked her if she was driving alone with a learner's permit on the night I stopped her and she replied, "yes." The case was closed and she was found guilty. She was fined $150 and will possibly have her new driver license suspended.
Calls I did NOT have the pleasure of responding to:
Check Welfare - Adult male lying in the grass; Is double amputee and totally naked on the ground next to wheelchair.

Indecent Exposure- Transient female with short skirt and no underwear exposing herself to children in store parking lot.

Suspicious Vehicle -Two adults engaged in inappropriate activity inside van in Weight Watchers parking lot.

Domestic Violence -son in law removed child booster seat from grandma's car and refuses to re-install it.

Calls I WAS lucky enough to handle:

Found Property -used medical waste strewn on street. Dirty gloves, air tubes, syringes, and other contaminated materials discarded on public street.

Trespasser -70 year old man wearing nothing but underwear harassing customers of restaurant about CIA assassination cover up scandal involving his distant, distant, distant, relative Hillary Clinton.

Threat -letter sent to State Bar ranting about a Utah Senator giving nuclear warheads to whoever asks for them and how Utah police are paid $17,000 for each bullet fired into human tissue.

Threat -report from case worker about bipolar client who had visions of harming her former coworkers because her cat died and she was recently denied Social Security disability payments.

I honed my budding detective skills the other day when a non-English speaking hispanic shoplifter told me his name was Francisco Xavier Delgado. I called the police records and identification bureau who was unable to find any information about a person with that name. He had no identification on him but had a set of car keys with a grocery rewards card. I called the store and asked them to verify the name and address of the cardholder. They promised to leave a message for me at the police precinct. All the while, Mr. "Delgado" starting acting nervous and finally admitted his real name and birth date. His real name was confirmed by the grocery store manager. He didn't have any warrants outstanding and was only lying to make the arrest difficult. In addition to the misdemeanor shoplifting charge, I added a charge of False Reporting to Law Enforcement.

Free medical care, courtesy of the City: What should you do if you overdose on heroin and become comatose? Just ask the drug addict who did this last week. He had a friend call for help. Eight firemen, two fire trucks, and one police officer later, and he was quickly treated for his self-induced condition. After injecting a dose of NARCAN, the effects of the heroin were neutralized and he almost instantly recovered. He was taking about three breaths per minute when we arrived and was few minutes from certain death. And what was the cost of this rapid response and treatment? ..Nothing. That's right, if someone injures you, expect to pay through the nose to receive medical treatment. But if you're smart enough to nearly kill yourself with an illegal substance, your medical care is free. Thank you, taxpayers.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Don't Play With Guns -Part 2

Rule #1 when dealing with firearms is: ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED. No matter how sure you are a gun is not loaded -never, ever point it at someone (or yourself) unless you intend the gun to fire. You have to live by this rule at all times to prevent accidental shootings.

Yesterday, I was the first person to arrive at an attempted suicide scene. When I arrived at the apartment complex a young woman was in front of her door screaming at me to hurry. She was frantic and kept yelling, "Oh my God!!", and "He's dead!!" I raced into the bedroom of the apartment and saw a 21 year old man lying on the floor with a terrible gunshot wound to the side and front of his head. A small semi-automatic pistol was on the ground by his feet. He was convulsing slightly and I could tell he was still breathing but there was a large amount of brain matter and blood beneath his head. More officers and the paramedics arrived so I escorted the woman away from the scene to find out what happened.

She was crying hysterically but was able to tell me what happened: She and her boyfriend lived in the apartment together and their next door neighbor was broken into the night before. The boyfriend went to a pawn shop and bought a pistol for protection. She was afraid of guns and didn't want him to have it. While both were in the bedroom together, he took it out and starting playing with it. He didn't know anything about guns and had never owned one before. He was joking around with the gun which made her nervous so she told him to put it away. He then said, "watch this", racked the slide, put the gun to his right temple and pulled the trigger. She was only a few feet away when the bullet ripped through his temple, exited through his forehead, and ended up in the ceiling. He fell on his back and began convulsing and choking on his own blood. She had to roll him onto his side to help clear a breathing passage.

He was rushed to the hospital and, last I heard, was in stable condition. He was breathing on his own but lost a lot of blood and tissue. The surgeon gave a 50-50 chance of survival with severe brain damage if he lives.

The girlfriend stayed with me in my patrol car for a few hours while the detectives investigated at the scene. She was traumatized by the shooting and had a hard time settling down. I felt helpless trying to calm her down and console her.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Summer Gear

Here's me in my summer class uniform. I'm starting to get used to wearing all of my gear in the heat but haven't had to spend too much time outside of the car yet. I'm dreading the day I'll be asked to direct traffic in the middle of the day.

Last night my partner and I were dispatched to a found 3 year old boy wandering the streets around 28th st and Osborn. As my partner and I were going door to door looking for his parents, a man in a truck came driving frantically down the street in an obvious panic. The boy had unlocked a back gate and walked about two blocks barefoot down the street. The neighbor who found the boy started chewing out the dad for his bad parenting skills. She was really mad and started calling him all kinds of names. We let her yell for a while and then separated them before it got any more heated.

At the end of the shift we heard an armed robbery in progress. The suspects fled in a truck a few miles away from us and were coming in our direction. We raced toward them and found an abandoned truck in the middle of McDowell Rd. with two unoccupied police cars right next to it. We were 15 seconds late to the foot pursuit that just happened. We drove ahead further and saw one suspect being arrested. We set up a perimeter and called for the helicopter and K-9's. After about 30 minutes we heard on the radio the second suspect was found. We then heard the officer asking for medical attention for a dog bite. It's some kind of justice when someone commits aggravated assault with a gun, gets away with money, flees from police, hides in the bushes and is then 'found' by the dog.