Monday, March 26, 2007

Crash 2

I've experienced my second patrol-car collision in a year.

This time, I was not the driver. I was riding as passenger in a two-man unit when an urgent call for help was put out on the radio by a squadmate. He was surrounded by a hostile group of people and needed help ASAP. He was in obvious distress and we were close by. These situations can turn deadly in a heartbeat and invoked a sense of urgency for my partner and me.

The only problem was we didn't know where he was. Every time he tried to announce his location over the radio, the background noise drowned out his voice. We knew we were within a block or so of him so we raced up and down the streets looking for his patrol car.

Finally, he was able to clearly provide his location inside the courtyard of a nearby apartment complex. We could hear the panic in his voice and imagined the worse. We drove down the street and turned into the parking lot of the complex. Our patrol car turned too wide and collided into a parked car. We immediately jumped out and ran through the complex looking for our squadmate. It was dark as we ran through the various twists and turns inside the complex. We found our squadmate kneeling on an arrested subject with dozens of angry family members shouting and threatening.

Nobody was injured and several other units arrived to control the scene. It was the longest two minutes of my life hearing our fellow officer in trouble while we tried frantically to find him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) is a peer support group that meets regularly to try to cope with the loss of loved ones.

I attended a Parents of Murdered Children meeting tonight with my investigator school classmates. It's a group I respect but don't envy. One I admire but never want to be a member of. The attendees each wore a name tag with two names: their own, and that of their murdered child.

My fellow officers and I sat quitely in the back while the parents took turns introducing themselves. One by one they told of violent assaults, shootings, robberies, and home invasions that claimed the lives of one or more of their children. Their stories were horrific, tragic, and painfully sad. I listened to them describe the brutal and senseless murders of toddlers, teenagers, and young adults as they trembled with anguish, anger, and grief.

A few of the stories were familiar to me as being higher profile cases. I had long forgotten these news stories and now saw the grieving moms and dads trying to piece together their lives. They described the years of court hearings, trials, plea bargains, and interviews. They spoke of unsolved murders, ridiculously short prison terms, and unscrupulous defense attorneys. It was obvious some of these parents will never 'get over it' and I don't blame them. Some were too grief-stricken to speak while others vocalized their fury.

I learned a lot about how important the initial contact between police officer and relative of victim is. Many felt victimized twice (by the murderer and by an insensitive, accusatory police officer). I will think about this night and these parents for a long time.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Listen up, kids

In case you've been inspired to imitate these teenage girls who decided to rob a bank, you better think it over.

Like the three 17 year old girls I arrested. These geniouses planned their "mission" from a nearby apartment and then walked to a drugstore on the corner of an intersection 1 mile away from my police station to carry it out.

They decided to snatch a purse from "an easy target" so they could go out to eat. So, they waited outside the drugstore for half an hour watching customers come and go. Then, the spotted a 50 year old woman get out of her car carrying an open purse. As the woman approached the entrance, two of the girls snuck up behind her. One girl reached into the purse trying to grab her wallet. The woman felt a pull on the purse and turned around to see the two teenagers trying to take it from her. She screamed and called 911. They let go of her purse and ran away. Their timing was impeccable as the police helicopter was directly overhead.

A radio broadcast was sent out describing three teenage girls (2 white and 1 black) running westbound from the drugstore. They were impossible to miss; Especially with the helicopter's spotlight beaming directly on them as the pilot relayed their exact position.

Me and another officer caught them a few blocks away and arrested them. They thought a simple 'purse snatch' was no big deal especially since they didn't even get any money. They admitted to trying to take the wallet from the purse and didn't seem to care much about being arrested.

I contacted the victim who happened to be shopping for supplies she was going to donate to female teenage victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse (irony??). She wanted to press charges and was brought to the arrest location to positively identify the suspects.

In my state, theft of an item under $250 is a midemeanor and usually results in a fine or possible time in juvenile detention if you're under 18. This, however, was not simple theft. Because force was used to take the purse, the crime was elevated to robbery. Because there was more than one person involved, the crime was elevated to aggravated robbery. The girls were each charged with a class 2 felony.

They still didn't care much since they figured the worse that could happen was a short stint in juvenile detention until they turned eighteen in a few months. WRONG: Since aggravated robbery is defined as a violent felony (injury to the victim is not required), they could be tried in an adult court. In addition, the prosecuting attorney can hold the charges until they turn 18 and then try them in court. It doesn't matter how old you are when the crime occurs, but your age at the time charges are officially filed by the attorney. If convicted in adult court, the girls are looking at a possible sentence of 4.5 to 10 years in adult prison.

When I explained all of this to them, there was a noticeable shift in their attitudes. Can you imagine serving 10 years in prison because you want to go out to eat but you're too lazy to get a job or borrow from a friend?

Here's an even bigger thing to think about when committing a crime: The felony murder rule. During the commission of a felony, if a person dies for any reason, all suspects are charged with murder. In the example above, if the woman had a heart attack and died, the girls could be charged with murder.

Even if one of the suspect dies, the rule applies. If a getaway driver speeds off with his bank robber friends and is killed in a car crash, the friends can be charged with murder. If a shootout occurs in the bank and one of the robbers is killed by police, the driver and other robber get charged with murder.

It doesn't take much for a misdemeanor to become a felony when things get out of hand. And, you never know when someone might die so don't do it.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I see these all the time but I know how your civilians love to see car accidents. Here's a few interesting ones from the past few weeks:

This woman was driving to an adult care facility for her first day of work. She pulled into the parking lot and instead of applying the brake, she stomped on the gas pedal. Her car jumped the curbed and slammed into her new employer's building. One look at her large orthpedic brick shoe with four inch sole was explanation enough for me.

This woman lost control of her car duing rush hour and ended up perched atop a pile of dirt. Her car was not damaged but the tires were in the air so she could not move off the dirt pile.

A male driver was doing about 60 mph down the street when he suddenly swerved off the road, across the sidewalk and into a block wall. He hit a large light pole so hard that it snapped at the base and was launched up into a tree. The base of the pole is up in the tree while the top (where the light is) was touching the street. The driver was fine but his female passenger had a nasty compound fracture at the ankle and will probably lose her foot. Just another reminder to not get into a vehicle with a person who just finished off 5 boubons. The airbag and seatbelt surely saved her life but not her foot.

Speaking of driving: my city has an ordinance that requires vehicles being driven by unlicensed drivers be impounded for 30 days. It doesn't matter who owns the car -if you borrow a friend's or relative's car and drive it without a license, it will be impounded. After fees for towing, storage, and administration, a person with a valid driver license, insurance, and registration can retrieve the vehicle between the 30th and 45th day (after that, the tow company applies for salvage title and will auction the car).

The other night I pulled over a car with three people in it for making an incorrect turn. The driver had no license or insurance so I issued him a citation and called for a tow truck to come impound the vehicle. The occupants walked home. As soon as the vehicle was towed away, I went back into service and quickly pulled over another car for poor driving. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was the same three people I had just finished with. Apparently, they walked home and enticed a fourth person (also without a license) to drive them to their original destination (McDonald's). I issued another set of citations and called the tow truck to impound their second vehicle. I'm not sure a Big Mac and fries is worth the thousands of dollars in tickets and towing expenses they'll be facing.

If you feel sorry for them, just wait until you're involved in a car accident with a person with no license or insurance. If you don't have full insurance coverage (un-insured and under-insured coverage), chances are you'll be the one paying for everything -even when it's not your fault.