Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Watch Out

Last week my squad spent our shift down at the academy for our annual shooting qualification. I am happy to report I scored a 240 out of 250 points which was enough to earn the designation 'expert shooter'.

When I was a police recruit in the academy, I became a certified user of the expandable baton. This small telescoping metal rod is carried in a pouch on the belt and extends into 21 inches of terrifying automobile radio antenna. Once in the open position, you're lucky if it's not bent by the soft tissue of the target being struck. These things are notoriously ineffective and but are heralded for their portability and low cost.

Time to bring out the big boy equipment. After qualifying on the shooting range, my squad attended a side-handle baton certification class. The main difference between this and the fencing foil above is that it actually works. Not only is it physically powerful but psychologically intimidating. After a few hours learning the proper protocal (try not to smash skulls, puncture groins, sever spines, or pulverize kidneys), we put these things to work on the padded punching bags. After seeing the damage these things inflicted on the dummy bags, I could only think of one thing to say to would-be actively aggressive criminals:

Watch out....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Optional equipment

I think General Motors' marketing materials for the Yukon should point out the versatility of sun roofs as alternate escape hatches during rollover collisions.
The driver of this car popped open the sun roof, climbed out and walked around as if nothing happened.

When calling your girlfriend from a police holding cell to report you've been arrested, it's usually not a good idea to say the following while in earshot of police officers:

"Thank God they didn't find it."
"Please get rid of it, okay?"
"Thank you so much, just make sure you get rid of the stuff."

Before the prisoner hung up, I contacted the arresting officer and reported his statements. An undercover team returned to the vehicle where the arrest took place with a K-9 and a search warrant for the apartment.

Won't he be surprised when he sees his girlfriend in jail with him when she's caught in possession of whatever it was "they didn't find."

He had a small amount of drugs on him and was on probation but will be facing a lot more time with the additional drugs found in the car and in his apartment.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

On a recent call about an open door, a K-9 officer arrived to help with the search. As the dog and its handler began the search, one of my squadmates remarked how nice it would be to have some kind of training about K-9 searches. A few weeks later our Sergeant arranged for a training session with the K-9 squad.

A few nights ago, my squad met at a wharehouse after hours. As I parked my patrol car I was assailed by the vicious barking of all the dogs in the backs of the K-9 officer's cars. We sat through a short briefing then went to work with the dogs.

We learned how to position ourselves around the dog handler along with other responsibilities. We were asked to search a few rooms without the dog so they could critique our tactics. After we advised the rooms were "clear", the handler sent in the dog who promplty found one of the other K-9 officers hiding in a small cabinet we had all overlooked.

Next, we watched the dog search a large wharehouse with 30 foot ceilings and very tall metal racks containing construction supplies. After a few minutes, the dog located another actor hiding 15 feet off the ground behind some boxes. Regular officers would never have found him.

We then went outside to practice some tracking scenarios. Two officers walked/ran a few blocks through the neighborhood, crossing streets, walking through bushes, and scaling walls. The dog found their scent immediately and began a faced pace search. We had to run to keep up with the dog and his handler. After a few blocks, the dog suddenly lost the scent and backtracked to where the 'bad guys' had jumped over a fence. The dog could sense them behind the fence and started barking to indicate their location.

For the final tracking session I volunteered to flee from a parked car and hide in a commercial building a few blocks away. I was with a K-9 officer who was wearing a protective padded sleeve on his right arm. Soon, we could hear the dog coming as he bore down on our hiding spot. My heart started racing as the sound of the dog's heavy breathing neared. The dog spotted us and immediately turned into the devil. The handler let him off the lead and he darted toward us full steam ahead. I wedged myself behind a column of the building and let the K-9 officer bear the frontal assault. The dog charged, leapt into the air and clamped his jaws on the padded arm of the officer. He violently shook the officer's arm without realesing his grip. The dog handler approached and coaxed the dog to let go.

At the end of the training session, the handlers asked if any of us would like to be attacked by the dog. We all declined except for the smallest female officer on the squad. She put on the padded arm protector and bravely accepted the dog's onslaught . Reassured that she actually lived, I decided to give it a try.

I put on the thick leather arm sleeve and stood about ten feet away from the shimmering shepard of doom. The dog's fiery eyes were fixed on me and I could sense the surge of killer instinct coursing through his body. The handler let him loose, I swallowed a gulp of anxiety, and braced myself for the oncoming attack. The dog bounded off the ground in one giant leap and slammed into me jaws first. The initial force of the impact was surprisingly strong (especially considering he started from only ten feet away and wasn't able to build up much speed.) When the furry demon started thrashing its head side to side, I expected flames to billow from his snout.

He wanted to make me his bitch and if not for the hardened leather, steel bar reinforced arm protector, I would now be Mrs. Officer Gary. I let go of the sleeve and watched him attempt to shred the the lifeless leather arm on the ground. A moment later, the monster morphed back into dog form when the handler rewarded him with a cloth chew toy.

These dogs' combination of speed, power, agility, and ferocity make them terrifying. I am thankful these trained attack machines are on our side.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Scared Straight

In the phrase, "to protect and to serve", it's the 'protection' part that most people think of when they see a police officer. But sometimes, we have the opportunity to serve the community in meaningful, inspiring, and honorable ways.

Last week was not one of those times.

What started as a minor noise disturbance in an upscale neighborhood ended with much more.

I backed up another officer responding to an incessantly barking dog. When I arrived, a neighbor with keys to the dog owner's house came over and put the dog inside. This neighbor, however, had locked herself out of her own house and was trying for the past few hours to get in. She had two little boys with her about 5 and 3 years old. The 5 year old was still wearing his Superman pajamas and stared at me with wide admiring eyes while I worked on prying open a screen from a backyard window.

His mother explained how he was fascinated by police officers and so I did my best to include him in the 'rescue' operation. I could tell he was excited to have a police officer in his own backyard as he stayed right next to me the whole time.

After removing the screen, he was hoisted through the open window. He walked over to the door and unlocked it to the cheers of mom, me and my fellow officer. He felt the hero that day and I was happy to play my part.

The family went into the house so I let myself out of the backyard through a side gate. I got in my patrol and cleared the call from my computer. As I started to pull away from the curb, I saw little Superman standing in his driveway by himself preparing to send me off with a wave and a proud smile.

I know how much kids love the sweeping red and blue overhead lights so I reached for the switch to make my exit a memorable one. In true retard fashion, I accidentally pressed a second switch that controls the siren. As the ear-piercing whail of a full siren blasted the neighborhood, the boy nearly jumped out of his pajamas and, terrified, bolted for the front door in an all out panic. I turned off the control to the lights but the siren was still blaring as I fumbled for the secondary switch while trying to make my getaway.

I can only imagine the emotional trauma inflicted on the little man of steel.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bank Night

I received a call from a bank teller of a man trying to pass fake money. By the time I arrived, the man was already gone. The teller handed me (2) incredibly obvious fake $50 bills. The paper was bad, the color was wrong, and the printing was ridiculous. The fraudster thought he could fool the teller by handing her the 2 bad fifties along with $70 in genuine money. He then asked if he could get change for the $170 in five dollar bills. I guess he figured she would look at the good bills on top and ignore the counterfeit bills on the bottom of the stack. She took the whole stack to the back and called police. He became nervous and quickly left. Realizing he just gave away $70 in genuine money, he came back into the bank to get it back. The teller tried to stall him but he left again. I was disappointed we didn't catch him but was glad to see he lost $70 of his own money in the scam.

Later that night, a call came out from a different bank. An alarm was triggered in the drive-through ATM machine. I pulled up to see an armored truck parked next to the ATM. A uniformed armored guard was kneeling in front of the ATM removing the cash. I announced "Police", and approached him. Seeing a man in a dark uniform approaching at night, the guard reached for his holstered gun. "Police!" I announced again and prepared to take cover behind the armored truck if he drew his weapon. I don't blame him for being nervous. A few months ago, an armored truck was attacked by a team of armed robbers in tactical military gear. They pepper-sprayed a guard while he was transferring cash from an ATM and got away with quite a bundle.

I told him I was responding to the ATM alarm he triggered when he opened the machine. "Damn it!!", he said, "My dispatcher told me the alarm was disabled." I walked up to get his name and operator number to document my reponse. He was nervously transferring cash into a large box but didn't seem to be very aware of his surroundings. I could have walked right up to him if I hadn't announced myself from a distance. He was alone at the ATM with only the driver of the truck sitting in the cab watching. With the large amount of cash in the box I was surprised there wasn't any other guards outside with him. The only cover he had was the driver who is trained not to get out of the truck for any reason. As I walked back to my patrol car, I watched a grungy dressed man walk past the guard to another ATM machine behind him. The guard paid no attention as this guy used the machine and then walked by him again.

I was behind a driver who made a turn without signalling. I ran the license plate and found out the registered owner of the car was named Darren Duran. Anyone familiar with 80's pop bands will understand me when I say he's probably been punished enough for his name. He drove away without ever knowing the break he received.