Sunday, April 27, 2008

Training Day

It's been over 2 years since I graduated from the police academy. On Monday, I will perform my first official duty as an FTO (Field Training Officer) when my OIT (Officer in Training) reports for duty. He'll be assigned to me for the first several weeks and will be graded daily on his performace. New officers are on probation for the first year and are especially vulnerable during the FTO process since they'll be terminated if unable to meet the standard evaluation guidelines.

I drove to the academy to meet him a few days ago. I and several other FTO's from various precincts arrived to introduce ourselves to the newly graduated class of recruits.

As I walked into the room I had a flashback of waiting to meet my FTO. I was nervous and anxious at the same time. I felt confident back then (finishing at the top of my class) but was still concerned about slipping up, looking stupid, or not meeting the expectations of my trainer. I knew there was a big difference between the academic success I had and the 'street smarts' I lacked. I was glad to be assigned to a great FTO who taught me more in 4 weeks than I had learned in 16 at the academy.

I had reviewed my OIT's file before I came to meet him so I knew what he looked like. I read his bio and several essays he had written during the academy. He seemed sharp, enthusiastic, fit, and respectable. When I entered the room I spotted him right away. He and many others were finishing up some paperwork so I stood at the back of the room and waited with the other FTO's. He nervously glanced at the group of us and was surely wondering which one was assigned to him.

I approached, introduced myself and gave him some brief instructions for his first day at the precinct. I felt his apprehension the same way my FTO probably felt mine. We talked for a few minutes and then I was on my way.

When Monday arrives, we'll both be out of our comfort zones. I want to be successful as a trainer and he will be my measuring stick. His ascension to solo-capable officer and performance thereafter will be a direct reflection on my training. It's a strange feeling to be responsible for another officer's safety, learning, and future career. Especially when I still feel like a rookie myself sometimes.

I hope in two more years from now I can boast about the success of my first Officer In Training(and hopefully many others to follow).

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Bit Slow

A woman wakes up from an afternoon nap and glances at the clock. Her world turns to panic as she realizes her 6 year old son was let out of school half an hour ago. She leaps to her feet, runs to her car and races to the grade school.

She arrives to find the parking lot empty. She knows that any kids not picked up by their parents are escorted to the school office. She runs to the office and finds the door locked. She peers into the window and sees all of the lights off.

Now she realizes her son has been kidnapped or maybe he wandered off into the surrounding neighborhood. She frantically dials 911 and reports her son's kidnapping.

Police race to the school to find her hysterically crying and yelling about her missing son. I tell her to sit down and try to relax. I need to get some information from her to begin a search. She tells me she's been feeling sick lately and overslept. She is convinced he is kidnapped since the office never called her to ask why she didn't pick up her son.

She then tells me, "Maybe I already picked him up. I can't remember. No, I definitely didn't pick him up I would have remembered it."

I ask if she checked her house for him before leaving. She tells me, "No, I saw the time and just ran out of the house."

I take her house key off the key ring and send another officer back to her house to check it.

Mom keeps mumbling, "Did I already pick him up? No, I couldn't have. I'm sure he's missing"

A few minutes later my fellow officer reports over the radio that she has found the kid sitting in his room.

Mom can't believe it but somehow forgot she had picked him up. We drive her home and reunite her with her "missing" son. The boy's father shows up and to our relief, agrees to take him home with him for the weekend.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Business Opportunity

With the current real estate market woes, sluggish stock market, and whispers of 'recession' in the wind many of us are looking for a legitimate way to make a little extra money. Now this might sound too good to be true but I came across a young lady with what seems to be a pretty good business opportunity.

Here are some of her 'tools of the trade' needed to run her "home-based business."

I was called to a bank located inside a supermarket because a young lady (I'll call her Lisa) was trying to cash a credit card balance transfer check for over $1,000. She provided a state ID card and two paycheck stubs as identification.

The check looked legitimate but the bank teller was suspicious since these kinds of balance transfer checks are rarely given to others and made out to 'cash'. As an added precaution he asked Lisa to provide her fingerprint on the front of the check. She pressed her finger into teh ink pad and then pressed the very tip (or point) of her finger onto the check. This did not leave the necessary fingerprint so the teller told her to do it again using the pad of her finger. Again, she only used the tip of her finger.

Becoming more suspicious, he called the credit card company to verify the check and was told it was authentic. Next he called the account holder to confirm he'd given this check to the nice young lady. "What check?" the man asked. "I just got this credit card and I never received any balance transfer checks. I certainly did not write any checks to anyone."

The teller turned around to see Lisa had already left the building leaving her ID behind. He returned to his work and then called police about an hour later to file a report. While taking the report, Lisa returned and walked right up to the bank counter. She was quickly detained for questioning.

Lisa looked like a typical college student with fair skin and long brown hair. She sat crying in the break room pleading "What's going on? What's happening to me?"

After reading her Miranda rights, I asked her about the check she was attempting to cash. She prefaced her story by telling me how she had a 5 year old daughter, an ex-husband with HIV who was secretly gay during their marriage, and countless other pleas for pity. She then told me she did not know the person listed on the check. In fact, she filled out the check, signed his name on it, and then endorsed the back. She had a perfectly good reason, though: "This is all part of a home based business." She then explained:

She was put on a mailing list (can't remember how or who put her on this list). Soon she (and presumably many other entrepreneurs) received packages in the mail containing blank checks with instructions to cash the checks in any amount desired in any way possible. For her services she was to keep 25% of the proceeds and mail back the remaining 75%. She could not remember who sent the packages or who she mailed the 75% to. She insisted it was a legitimate business sponsored by the credit card companies to "test out their ability to detect fraud". She said she's already cashed a bunch of these checks over the past few months.

The interview was going well. Even though she claimed to be part of a legitimate operation, she used the word "fraud". I told her she was under arrest for forgery and was going to be booked into jail. I conducted a records check on Lisa and found out a Detective was already working several other forgery cases against her.

Inside her car were duffel bags filled with notebooks, credit card statements, passports, driver licenses, blank check paper, tax records, and other personal documents for dozens of people. Between the front seats was a fully loaded shotgun with an extra box of shells.

One of her notebooks had a hand written entry titled, "Alibi"
It went something like this: "If I'm caught by the police, tell them it's a home-based business where credit card companies send blank checks in the mail with instructions to cash them any way possible."
The entry was a few pages long and outlined the whole story Lisa just finished telling me.
This was the first time I've ever heard of a suspect pre-writing an alibi on paper before committing the crime. I would consider this type of evidence "damning" to say the least.

There were other interesting entries including several "To Do" lists with items such as:
-find an apartment
-pick up groceries
-get a handgun and concealed weapons permit
-eliminate paper trail
-plan my next weekly hustle
-obtain passport photos, clear adhesive glue, red blue and blank ink stamps
-buy custom rims

She also had brochures from several legal and criminal seminars offering topics as, 'How not to get caught', and 'Avoiding prosecution', etc. She even had a paper printed from a court website showing the various classes of felonies and the minimum-maximum prison sentence that applied to each (the class of felony for forgery was highlighted in yellow). She obviously put a lot of consideration into her crimes since she knew the possible prison term. I wonder if she realized each separate incident would be its own charge.

The prison sentence for a non-violent class 4 felony (forgery) is 2.5 years. If convicted of (10) counts, however, you're looking at 25 years. She could also be charged with a class 3 felony (aggravated ID theft) which carries a 3.5 year sentence. With the stacks of evidence in her possession, I'm sure the detectives will have plenty to work with.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


There's no touchier subject in my city right now than law enforcement's handling of illegal immigrants. The mayor, county sheriff, chief of police, officers, and citizens have widely opinionated and territorial views. A panel of "experts" was recently created to come up with a new policy on how city police officers are to handle the immigration status of those we interact with.

I went to pick up my kids from school today saw a little boy I knew walking out of the school. His name is Ednick and was in my daughter's kindergarten class last year. When I met him he only spoke a few words of English and sat terrified among his classmates. Luckily, a few other students were bilingual and helped translate the teacher's instructions. Ednick was incredibly friendly and had a desire to learn like no other kid in the class. When I came to school in my police uniform a few times, he was mesmerized. When I talked to him, I could see genuine respect and admiration in his eyes. From that day on he always greeted me and would even tell other kids around him proudly, "He's a police!" By the end of that year Ednick was one of the top readers in the class and was well on his way to living the American dream.

As I approached him today, he smiled and opened his arms for the customary hug and knuckle-up greeting. "Hi, Ednick. How are you today?", I asked. "I'm good", he answered. I knew he usually met his grandmother at the school entrance and walked home with her.

"Waiting for your grandma?", I ask.

"No.", he replied sadly. "The police come to my house and take her away to Mexico."

He looked at me sadly and I wondered if he held me accountable in some way. I don't know the circumstances of his gramma's deportation or which law enforcement agency was involved. To a 7 year old, however, all 'police' are the same. I didn't know what to say except, "I'm sorry." How do you explain federal immigration laws to a kid who just saw his gramma hauled away?

It's obviously against the law to enter our country unlawfully (hence the term "Illegal Immigrant") but I have an unsettling feeling when I think about the tougher new deportation standards. I'm not saying it's okay to ignore the laws of this country. In fact, I took an oath to uphold them and have every intention of doing so. But have you ever tried to look at it from their perspective?

What would you do if you were born in an impoverished town with no means of obtaining reliable work, education, or a respectable standard of living? What if you had children, parents, a spouse, siblings, or other family that relied on you for support? Would you risk your life, crossing a desert or paying a human smuggler to transport you to a better place? Although unlawful, I can picture myself doing whatever was necessary to support my family.

One of my fellow officers and personal friend Nick was killed by an illegal immigrant last September. Articles and commentary about his death were sure to relate illegal aliens with soaring crime rates. In my city, illegal alien bashing is a popular bandwagon to jump on. But why didn't the media speak this way about the Officer Cortez murderer. I didn't hear anything in the news about his citizenship (he was a Hispanic U.S. citizen). Why weren't American born Hispanics lambasted for being felons? Why is it certain groups are targeted and vilified when a member of the group commits crime when other times, the perpetrator's background is ignored?

It reminds me of Michael Moore's film 'Bowling for Columbine' about the teenagers that killed fellow high school students in Colorado. The media was quick to blame the rock group Marilyn Manson since this was the music the killers were listening to. Moore points out the killers were also involved in a bowling class in high school. He asked why the media wasn't targeting bowlers for their inclination to become murderers.

The solution to illegal immigration is not an easy one. They're not all bad people. Many times these 'illegals' have rushed to help me push a disabled car out of the roadway in the blazing heat (no 'regular' citizen has ever helped me do this). I've seen generosity, compassion, honesty, and plain old goodness from them.

I don't know what everyone else thinks about when they encounter an illegal immigrant but hre's what I think about:
(7 year-old Ednick) "Mister, tell the other police not to take my gramma away."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Respect for Your Elders

I received a call of woman trespassing at an apartment complex notorious for crime and drugs. We've been trying to clean the place up lately by arresting everyone on the property without a good reason to be there.

As I pulled up I saw the 50 year old woman sitting in the rocks in front of the main entrance. She was white, skinny, blonde, and filthy. Trash and plastic bags surrounded her and she was holding a crack pipe. Her arms featured scar upon scar of needle tracks and her partially-toothed crystal-meth smile was priceless.

"This isn't my pipe, officer.", she states. "I'm just holding it for a friend."
I tried explaining ownership of drug paraphernalia is determined by the person in possession of it. Her puzzled expression told me she either didn't have a clue what I just said or didn't care.
"But it's not mine. I'm just holding it. I don't even smoke crack anymore. I just use heroin and meth", she advised.

I got her ID and ran her name in my patrol car computer. In a few seconds I heard the familiar and welcomed beeping of a warrant hit. It was for misdemeanor theft but good enough for an arrest (and a surefire way to ensure I wouldn't receive any more calls about her trespassing for the night.)

I placed her in handcuffs and drove toward the police station for booking. She told me she was prostitute up until about 5 years ago and is a heroin addict. A few days prior she bought a cup of coffee and stole a $1 package of doughnuts from a convenience store. She was arrested but didn't show up for her court date (hence the warrant).

She pleaded for me to let her go and offered to give me the locations of several drug houses in the area. I politely declined her offer. She went into a rage about what a terrible cop I was and how I would be fired for arresting a woman on such a simple charge. She then told me if I tried to bring her to jail she would go berserk and it would take a whole fleet of officers to drag her out of the car.

She wasn't kidding.

When I pulled up to the station, she started screaming, kicking, spitting, and flailing around. Two of us carried her inside a placed her in a holding cell. She screamed every profanity I've ever heard (plus a few new ones). She repeatedly insisted she could not breath, was having a heart attack, and was vomiting. At one point she moaned, "I'm dying......I'm dying......" and then quietly, "I just died."

I could see she was not in any need of medical help and told her to stop faking it. She went batty and started slamming her head into the wall (but used her hand to cushion the blow). I then put her in my patrol car and headed for the county jail. I rolled down the rear windows so she could plead for help from passing motorists on the freeway.

"LADY! Help, He's hitting me, He's hurting me, police brutality!"
Since I was driving and she was in the rear seat separated from me by a Plexiglas shield, nobody seemed to believe her claims of being actively assaulted.
"MISTER! Help"

She screamed at everyone she could all the way to the jail. Some people laughed but most were too freaked out to even look at her. She repeatedly told me she was not going into the jail and that she knew all the head honchos of the jail system, city council, and news media. I would lose my job and be made a fool.

Once inside her antics continued. She berated the jail staff (even calling a female lieutenant 'Miss Piggy'). The jail intake nurse asked her if she was taking any prescribed medications. "Yeah, Oxycontin, Methadone, Cocaine, Heroin, Crystal-Meth". In the final search room before being placed in a cell she went for the grand finale.

"LET'S DO THIS!!" she screamed and yanked her pants and underwear to the ground. If you want to know how unsavory the image was, just picture your grandmother as a dirty, homeless, drugged out hooker. Then picture her naked from the waist down.