Saturday, December 30, 2006

The unpleasantries of policing

I love my job and have talked about the great sense of pride and honor I feel being a cop. It's a fulfilling and intersting career and I'm glad to be doing it. Policework is not always the clean, orderly, and glorified duty as portrayed on TV or the movies. To provide an inside view of the job, here are some things you probably didn't want to know about policework:

Patrol Cars: Most police cars are disgusting. The seats are coated with a protective layer of waxy-grease-grime built up over years of use. I'm pretty sure the fabric wasn't designed to be water proof but has become so over time. The "passenger" compartment in the back is even worse. Biological material of every type has been artfully displayed on the seat, doors, and plexiglass shield. Discarded food, wrappers, loose change and everything else has wedged itself into every nook and cranny of the interior. Many times I've reached down behind a seat to retrieve the radio micraphone and have ended up with a handful of unspeakable mess.

Ballistic Vests: Don't get me wrong; these things will save your life and are an engineering miracle. But the downside is the creation of a body odor never before possible by pre-modern humans. There's something about a compressed layer of thick padded material pressed closely to the body that inspires the glands to put out an extra effort to announce their presence. It's as if the armpits felt shut out and launched an all-out odor assault.
Also, the common fatty area around a man's mid-section is perfectly situated between the bottom of the bullet-proof vest and the top of the stiff leather gun belt. While sitting, this is the ideal recipe for a constant pinching of the small 'spare tire' of fat as it gets caught in the middle (like those inflatable rubber buoys placed on the side of large boats to prevent it from slamming into the dock it is moored to).

Restrooms: Most people have the convenience of using the bathroom at home or at a typical corporate office complex. Out on the streets, however, choices are a bit more limited. I've seen some of the foulest, dirtiest, back-room toilets in convenience stores and in other 'employee-only' areas. Forget about sitting down. The time it would take to disassemble and reassemble a gun belt with its various buckles, pouches, etc. would never be worth it. I don't know how the female officers deal with this (to whoever invented the fly-front pant -God bless you.) Finding the time to use a bathroom can be another challenge. You never know when you'll be stuck directing traffic in the middle of an intersection or posted on the perimeter of a crime scene.

Paperwork: For anyone who enjoyed the movie 'Office Space' you'll know what I mean by, "All TPS reports require a cover sheet." I the chain of command style of police work, we have a 5 inch thick binder of policies called operation orders. The orders are written in such an incomprehensible style that it would take a team of genious cryptographers days to figure out the proper way to issue a traffic citation. Sometime I think the Bible must be easier to interpret.

Odors: Aside from the bullet-proof vest comments above, police officers are subjected to the most awful odors imaginable. I've been around homeless people before but have never been in the same car with a person whose limbs and appendages are rotted with disease, filth, and parasites. Try conducting a thorough search of a drunk transient and you'll know what I mean. The combination of bacteria, alcohol, vomit, urine, feces, rotten teeth, open sores, grease, grime, and mold creates a body odor too overwhelming to describe in words. Once, a man arrested for trespassing took off his shoes in my police precinct and people down the hall and several rooms away were choking on the smell. We double-bagged the wretched sneakers and still couldn't kill the stench.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Good Calls

Some interesting calls dispatched tonight:

Incorrigible juveniles- mother in an argument with 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter. Kids have locked mom out of her house and won't let her in.

Fight - 72 year old man arguing with 45 year old girlfriend. Girlfriend locked him out of house and called medical personnel to treat old man boyfriend. Man transported to hospital and is now outside of emergency room requesting police. There was nothing wrong with him medically and he wants to report his girlfriend for convincing paramedics to take him away.

Incorrigible juveniles- Same kids as before have locked mom out of her house for second time tonight.

Armed Robbery - Woman walking on sidewalk robbed at gunpoint by two men. Woman does not want any police contact and will not give description of suspects or their direction of travel. She just wanted to give us a 'heads up' on armed assailants.

Criminal = Not very smart
One of my squadmates just left for a different squad within my same precinct to get different days off. He responded to an aggravated assault where a man driving a blue truck pointed a handgun at a woman in the parking lot of her apartment. She told police she saw the truck in the parking lot three times in one day "peeling out". Another officer a few miles away was randomly checking records on license plates and received a hit on a stolen truck (the same one driven by the aggravated assault suspect). By the the time the hit registered, however, the truck was long gone. Since the truck was in the apartment three times, the officer decided to park in a back corner and wait to see if it returned a fourth time.

No armed car thief would be stupid enough to return to the same spot four times in one day, right? Well, guess what? After a short while waiting, the officer decided to leave. As he was exiting the parking lot, the blue truck approached the entrance but quickly drove off when he saw the police car. The officer followed him to a different parking lot and pulled in behind him as he parked in a spot. The driver got out of the truck with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other. He did the only smart thing of the night by quickly throwing his gun to the ground. He was arrested and found to have a long, long, criminal history record.

My night was not as exciting which is all right with me. It was raining all day and night (a very rare occurance in my city) and I was okay with staying dry. I did help take a mental patient into custody for a court-ordered trip to the hospital for evaluation. He threatened me with lawsuits for: police harassment, invasion of privacy, looking at his apartment furnishings without permission, and embarrasing him in front of his neighbors (other psychiatric patients).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Help Needed

I was dispatched to an apartment where a woman claimed she was hallucinating and hearing voices. A crisis team from a mental care facility was being sent and they wanted an officer to stand by in case the person became agitated. I knocked on the door and was let in by a size 30 woman wearing a size 8 nightgown. It was too short to cover her thighs and had a plunging neckline leaving little to the imagination. Her skin was pale white and her short blonde hair unwashed. She asked me to come in and started walking toward the bathroom. My prayer was soon answered when she put on a large silk robe covering most of her body.

She told me she was hearing voices and to back her claim, began talking with several other people I couldn't see. "You can't see him because he's talking to me from California -the L.A. area. I don't know how he does it; I'm computer illiterate and am not connected to the internet." We had several moments of uncomfortable silence interspersed with nonsensical conversation.

I was advised over the radio the crisis team would arrive in about 15 minutes. What seemed like days later, the team showed up along with my sergeant who was in the area and stopped in to monitor the situation. After conducting a short interview, the team determined it was best to take the woman to the hospital. They had worked with her before and told me she had a history of getting agressive so they requested I stay with them and drive her to the hospital.

They asked her to get dressed. "I'm not changing with that man in my house!!", she started yelling. "Tell him to get out!!" My sergeant calmly informed her I wasn't going anywhere and that she could change in the bathroom. To give her even more privacy, I moved to the kitchen where I had no view into the rest of the apartment. She kept demanding I leave, calling me "Saddam Hussein, the Clan, Aryan Brother, Hugh Heffner and George Bush." Then, her verbal outburst escalated, "FINE!! Let him see me then!!" A large pair of purple underwear sailed across the room and hit the wall of the kitchen. I knew what was coming next.

"You want some of this!!!??? C'mon, baby!!! GET SOME!! YEAH!! Here you go COP!! Look at me, look at this, come and get it!" Fully naked and shaking the second story apartment with a thunderous hopping, the woman ran to the kitchen dancing, gyrating, and juggling her breasts with her hands. As much as I wanted to witness the freak show, I directed my gaze to the floor and could only see her in my peripheral vision. My sergeant (also a woman) stopped her from coming into the kitchen (prayer #2 answered) and talked her into getting dressed.

I escorted her to my patrol car and placed her in the backseat. She politely and calmly talked to me, herself, and several other people on the way to the hospital.

Cable Guy:
A man called police claiming he was stranded on the roof of his house. Earlier, the cable guy had placed a ladder against the house and was on the roof installing cable. The homeowner climbed up the ladder and began pestering the cable technician about the job he was doing. Needing some peace and quiet to finish the job, the technician climbed down to the ground and then removed the ladder (leaving the homeowner on the roof). He then went inside the house and finished the installation job. The homeowner was furious about being left high and dry for an hour while the cable guy worked inside his house.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Training Day

No, not the film where Ethan Hawke spends his first day as a rookie cop under the misguided supervision of Denzel Washington. If you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend it.

I'm talking about a day back at the police academy with my squad learning new firearm techniques and trying to qualify for the department's new physical fitness level. The fitness test consists of 5 consecutive exercises and can earn an officer points towards a pay raise depending on how well one performs. Here are the tests and minimums needed to qualify for the higher level of fitness award:

300 Meter Sprint (55 seconds or less)
Sit-ups (39 in one minute)
Pushups (33 w/out stopping, no time limit)
Vertical Jump (18 inches)
Agility Course* (16.4 seconds)
1.5 Mile Run (13:46)

*the agility course is a short course where you start on your stomach on the ground, leap up and sprint about 15 yards forward and back, weave up and back through cones, and another sprint 15 yards back and forth.

While in the academy, meeting these minimums was simple. Almost a year later I had a bit of difficulty. My squad made a bad decision to consume a large lunch of Mexican food immediately before the fitness exam. The pushups, situps, vertical jump and sprint were fairly easy for me. I didn't make the cutoff on the agility course on my first try but was able to squeeze out a time of 16.35 seconds on my last attempt.

Last up was the 1.5 mile run. Normally this would be an easy event for me. I've completed two marathons and several half-marathons over the past few years and used to use 1.5 miles as a warm-up. Today was a different story. With 3 pounds of chips, beans, tostada, rice and tacos in my gut it took all I had not to vomit during the first lap. I was exhausted from the agility course and never fully recovered before the 1.5 miler. With leg muscles burning, lungs wheezing, and stomach contents moving in reverse, I managed to drag myself across the finish line with a time of 12:54, an 8:36/mile pace (my best time while in the academy was 9:45, a 6:30/mile pace).

Overall I qualified for the highest fitness level award but wasn't entirely thrilled about my performance. I think this was just the kind of wake up call I needed to get back into top shape.
I was overexherted but found some consolation in watching a class of police recruits go through the pepper-spray in the face day. Nothing I've ever done compares to the misery of that day.

By the way, one of my squadmates struggled mightely on the long run but was able to sprint to the finish just under the cutoff time. He celebrated by puking volumes of half-processed Mexican food in the grass next to the running track.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I arrived at a house surrounded on three sides by apartment complexes. The house is for sale and the owner has finished pouring in tons of dough in upgrades. He happens to be an architect and has done a great job remodeling. Unfortunately, the landscaped backyard is hemmed in on all sides by the towering multi-story walls of the apartment complexes. I'm at the house because the owner's father is taking care of the place and noticed the back door pried open and a few items missing. The house is completely vacant but some vandal took a fire extinguisher and a wall mounted speaker and threw them in the swimming pool. I completed the short report and wished the old man good luck. He thanked me for my time and extended his the universal gesture of friendship: the handshake.

I'm sure you've all experienced a bad handshake. Steve from 'the sneeze' wrote about one awhile back that I found particulary funny. Let me tell you about mine:

In perfect sync, our hands met at the proper elevation and speed (check), the positioning of the palms, thumbs and fingers was spot-on (nice), and the firmness of the grip equalized to the appropriate pressure (so far, so good). We'd gotten through the hard part and only the 'shake' itself remained. Once the hands are interlocked, the movement part is a cinch (or so I thought). I began the vertical up and down movement I've been using since I was a kid. My partner, however, began a side-to-side sweeping motion. The counteracting forces of my up and down vs. his side to side contorted the shake into a clockwise circular swing. It now looked like we were swinging a jumprope only without the third person in the middle doing the jumping. 'You've gotta be kidding', I thought to myself as I tried to guide the shake into the proper upright position. He would have none of that, however, and continued his sideways oscillation.

After what felt like an hour we managed to release grip and go our separate ways.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Technology is making law enforcement more effective than ever. I can't imagine the days of policework without a computer or decent radio. You might think police departments are privileged to have the finest technology available. You would be mistaken. My precinct has recently been outfitted with new computer systems but here are some actual gems of technology still in use today:

Ah yes, the streamlined beige box monitor. Notice the desk is too narrow for both the monitor and keyboard to fit. This requires one to hold the wrists in mid-air for as long as it takes to complete the nightly reports.

What high-speed, memory-monster of a harddrive could power such a monitor? Why, this beauty, of course. The sharp edged block of computing power has proven itself a survivor of countless kicks from police boots over the past decade or so. What better place for a 'desktop computer' than on the floor between roller chairs? Front USB ports? Who needs 'em? We like bending down, crawling under a table, swiveling a 40lb PC around and searching for a tiny port in the dark.

If you were impressed with the computing power, wait till you see some of the telecommunication systems in place. We pride ourselves on the finest communication equipment available. It's obvious someone had a penchant for style, versatility and practicality when selecting this particular model. One of the department's cost cutting secrets is to order phones with only the most commonly used buttons on it. I can only wonder how much money was saved by eliminating access to the four different lines, volume, hold, and transfer buttons.

Here are some calls I saw holding on my computer that I was unable to get to:

MISSING JUVENILE -complainant's teenage son left home hours ago in unknown direction after little sister saw him doing something embarassing

AGGRAVATED ASSAULT - complainant says his neighbor threw a potted plant at him.

CHECK WELFARE - female complainant home alone afraid to answer door. Her next door neighbor is spraying hose water on her front door and yelling anrily at her to come look and his new boxer shorts.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Workin' on my Fitness

Everybody should try to stay fit and improve their health but today I learned an even greater motivation: Not being the cop who was left in the dust by a fleeing prisoner. Did I mention the prisoner was handcuffed behind the back?

I had just walked out of the precinct when I heard the winded plea for assistance come over the radio. Any hint of distress in an officer's voice over the radio causes and instinctual state of hyper-vigilance to kick in. "He's running north....out of the parking lot.....across the street.....behind the bank.......into the apartments....." I raced to the scene with several other officers to set up a perimeter. A shoplifter was being escorted out of the store to the officer's patrol car when he just sprinted away. He was later caught hiding in an apartment complex trash dumpster (hands still cuffed behind his back). Now, the officer will endure endless ridicule from his peers about 'the one that got away.'

The department just rolled out a new incentive plan to earn points towards a higher pay scale based on physical fitness. I will be testing for this new level next week with my new found motivation.

Later, I was sent to the home of a mother reporting her missing daughter. The girl had run away a dozen times before and was now pregnant by the mom's ex-boyfriend. The girl has a diminished mental capacity and is expecting to deliver her child somewhere near her 14th birthday. Her boyfriend is in his mid-twenties and has been listed a suspect in several misconduct w/minor reports but has eluded detectives thus far. This is the second time I've taken a report of a child being impregnated by her mom's ex-boyfriend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Name Calling

I've been called many things as a cop and I don't mean to shock you but; not all of them are nice. Most every cuss word has been bestowed upon me, most commonly with a pattern of caucaisan references such as 'whitepolicebitch', 'whiteassmotherfuc***', etc.

The other week, however, I was knighted with a new title, curteousy of young gangbanger type. He called me, "Hellaplayeriffic." I'm not certain of its exact meaning but his tone and smile implied it was pretty good. You will not hear this term in my vocabulary as I plan to keep it in reserve for very special moments. Until then, I walk the streets a more confident man knowing I'm more than a player, and more than terrific. In fact, I'm a hell of a terrific player.

Be Careful:
I've talked about wearing seatbelts in previous posts but thought I'd take a minute to send out an extra reminder this holiday season. If only the two people sitting in the open bed of the pickup truck that was t-boned last week were listening. One was ejected into the busy intersection and luckily was not seriously injured. The other somehow remained in the back of the truck without a bruise. I've seen many collisions and can only imagine how badly the collision could have turned out. Please don't rely on luck to keep you safe/alive -wear a seatbelt all the time.

I attended court recently for a DUI case I handled as a trainee several months ago. A guy swerved across several lanes of traffic, jumped the sidewalk, and wedged his truck between a palm tree and a block wall. He said he was cut off by another driver. His blood alcohol concentration made me believe differently. When I entered the courtroom with my Field Training Officer and the witness who called 911, the defendent decided to waive the trial and plead guilty. There was another person in court for an unrelated DUI that morning that occured in 1999. Imagine our surprise when the officer handling the original DUI was not present for court. Even if he/she had attended, how much detail can one be expected to remember from seven years ago? There's something wrong with our justice system when extensive delays almost guarantee a dismissal.

My father-in-law came participated in the police ride-along program last week. It was a relatively slow night but he was able to see some of the things I do on the job. A few years ago he and I would watch 'Cops' on T.V. together and remark on what a crazy job that would be. At the time I wondered if I could be an actual police officer. Did I have what it takes to be a cop? I'm still just cracking the surface of this job but I love it and am glad I took the chance.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dirty Rat

I responded to a house to take a theft report. I arrived and was told by the homeowner he was missing some money. He had returned from a weeklong vacation and discovered $18,000 in cash missing from it's hiding place in the attic. The stack of $100 bills was wrapped in layers of cellophane and aluminum foil buried under insulation. His wife was home during the week and did not notice any signs of a break-in. I climbed up the ladder in the bedroom closet and peered into the attic where the cash was hidden. There was loose insulation everywhere (the kind you spray in, not the pink rolled kind.)

Nothing else in the house was missing and only the homeowners had keys or knew about the hiding spot. I had trouble believing a stranger broke into the house, found a ladder, entered the attic from a ceiling panel in the bedroom closet, dug through an ocean of shredded insulation and found a stack of money. Even more troublesome was a second stash of bills ($10,000) in plain view next to where the missing bundle was taken from. Why would a thief take one bundle of cash and leave another bundle alone?

I asked to see the $10,000 bundle the 'thief' left behind. The plastic and foil wrapping was already discarded but the homeowner mentioned it was partially torn open when he found it. The 15 or so bills on top of the stack had rat-sized chew marks. I informed the homeowner the likely culprit was a roof rat found in attics and sheds throughout the city.

The 'missing' cash bundle was probably dragged to another spot in the attic by the crafty rodent. I recommended he search the rest of the attic before the bills were shredded into an $18,000 rat nest.

Almost Famous: I was at the county jail dropping off a prisoner when a guard walked up and questioned, "Officer Gary, right?" My first name does not appear on my uniform so I asked him how he knew it. "You write, don't you?" I admitted I was the author and asked him how he came about it. He told me he was thinking of becoming a police officer and was researching the police academy and happened to find my blog. He complimented my blog while I tried to encourage him to consider becoming a police officer.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hard Time

Tonight I was on wagon duty (transporting arrestees from my police precinct to the county jail). I take delight in learning about the jailbound and often ask questions about their history. Most of the other officers I work with couldn't care less about prisoners and wouldn't dream of actually talking to them (other than interrogating for arrest purposes).

Perhaps my attitude will sour with tenure but for this rookie, the novelty has not yet worn off. As I readied a young for transport, I asked him what he was arrested for. He admitted he had a felony warrant out of California for a probation violation.
"What did you serve time for?", I asked.
"Murder? How much time did you serve for that?"
"One year."
"One year? You served just one year?"

For comparison purposes, here are some things that could earn you a 1 year prison term in Arizona:
Possession of Burglary Tools
Shoplifting property valued over $250
Bribery of a public servant
Betting and Wagering
Possession of Marijuana
Bigamy (Marrying a second person, or marrying someone you know is already married)

It's reassuring to know you could serve more time in prison for making chickens fight in your backyard or stealing a bottle of wine from Costco than for taking the life of another human being.

Also, hard times ahead for employees (and CEO) of a local internet search company. One of my squadmates was asked to assist the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) as they seized computers, files, and other property of a company called He was told to stand by in case any employees came looking for a paycheck and became upset upon learning of the firm's frozen assets. The company billed itself as 'the fastest growing search engine in the world' but appears to have been involved in some kind of scamming/fraudulent activity judging by the FTC's surprise visit. I took a report at this company a few months ago and noticed the CEO's office was furnished with plush leather couches and a plasma TV with Xbox 360 installed. Perhaps he should have spent more time on his business plan than on Call of Duty 3. Just last week I saw the CEO of this firm showcasing his convertible sports car in a ritzy part of the city with his personalized company license plate.