Friday, June 27, 2008

Thanks, Mom

I was dispatched to Mervyn's store for a teenager in custody for shoplifting. I arrived to find a seventeen year old girl sitting in the security office with about $200 worth of clothing on the floor next to her. The store security officers caught her leaving the store without paying for the items and were busy typing up a report of the details.

Her younger sister was also at the store but did not participate in the theft. She told me her mom was at work but an uncle was on his way to take custody of the shoplifter. Since she was a juvenile, I was unable to just set her free with a ticket. Instead, a guardian or other family member had to come and get her.

Her jerk uncle arrived and barged into the security office demanding she be let go. I politely asked him to step outside and talk with me. He was a real Adam Henry and demanded to be in the room with her while I asked her questions. I explained to him I was going to read her juvenile Miranda rights to her and give her the choice to have a parent present while answering questions. His response was the typical, "I know a lawyer... I've got a friend who's an officer... I know some important people... You can't question a minor.. etc... etc.." I told him to wait outside and I went back into the office.

He burst in again and yelled to the girl, "Don't say anything!! Don't answer any questions!!" I read the Miranda rights to her and she told me she did not want to answer any questions. This was okay with me since I had eye witness accounts from the security officers and video surveillance. It would have been nice to have a confession, however, as this is an important part of securing a conviction.

The office phone rang and an irate mother screamed at me for not letting the girls' uncle in the room during questioning. I explained there was no questioning so there was no reason for him to be present. She told me she would arrive in five minutes and demanded her brother (uncle) be in the room. She told me not to ask her daughters any questions. I let him in the room and waited for mom to arrive. He looked at her again and said, "Remember, don't admit anything. Don't talk to the cops." The girl nodded.

Mom soon arrived and came into the office with me, my partner, uncle, shoplifter-daughter, and three security officers from the store. She looked at the store guard and asked, "What happened?" He told her he watched her daughter fill her purse with clothing and then leave the store without paying.

Mom turned to daughter and said, "Is that true?"
Daughter answered, "Yes."
Mom: "Did you actually leave the store with the stuff in your purse?"
Daughter: "Yes"
Mom: "You took those clothes on purpose?"
Daughter: "Yes"

I looked at the uncle, grinned, and then pulled out my notepad and wrote down the verbal exchange between mom and daughter. Uncle realized I was recording the 'free confession' and grit his teeth in anger (or maybe disgust; it's hard to tell the difference sometimes).

I wanted to personally thank Mom for getting her daughter to answer all the questions I planned on asking but was not allowed to after the teenager told me she would not talk to me.

FYI: Miranda rights allow a person in police custody not to answer questions. It offers no protection, however, if a non-police person asks the questions when an officer is standing within earshot.

Thanks, MOM.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Occupied Stolen

I was driving my patrol car last week randomly running license plates on my computer when I heard the distinctive beeping of a stolen vehicle hit. I double checked the plate I entered of the car in front of me and confirmed it was stolen.

I broadcast my location, direction of travel, and description of the car. The rest of my squad responded and I knew they were coming code 3 (lights and sirens) to back me up.

Our standard procedure is to wait for a few other patrol cars to arrive before attempting to pull over the stolen vehicle but the driver quickly turned into a mall parking lot when he saw me behind him. I didn't have time to wait for my backup to arrive but I knew they were close. I didn't want to give the driver a chance to run into the mall so I activated my lights as we entered the parking lot.

My heart started beating double time as I anticipated the possibility of him taking off, bailing out on foot, or even pulling a gun.

I positioned my car tactically behind his, opened my door and sat half-in, half-out of my patrol car with my gun trained on the driver. I kept my sights aligned on him and began shouting my commands:

DRIVER! PUT YOUR HANDS UP! (he complied)

Just then my Sergeant and another squadmate arrived and took up positions on both sides of me. With three guns pointing at the driver, I continued to give commands. The driver followed my every instruction and was taken into custody without any problems. I then noticed the crowd of shoppers, pedestrians, and other rubber-neckers who were standing downrange watching the felony stop. None of them had the sense to realize they were in the line of fire even though about 8 of us now had guns drawn and pointed toward the suspect (and also at them).

We cleared the car and confirmed it was only occupied by the driver. In a shaky and trembling voice the driver informed me it was his car. He told me he reported it stolen 2 months ago after leaving it parked in a bar parking lot and getting a ride home from a stranger. He then found his car a few days later but never bothered to call police. He had been driving it ever since and never considered telling the police the vehicle was no longer stolen. I guess he assumed we would somehow just know he found his own 'reportedly' stolen car.

I recently learned one of my friends has been accepted into the department. He actually graduated from the police academy two classes ahead of me and went to another agency. At the time, his wife wrote a blog of his academy experiences which I read every day in anticipation of my own pending academy enrollment. His blog inspired me to create this one so I owe him and his wife a big thanks for the idea. It didn't work out for him at his first agency so he returned to the civilian world for awhile. It looks like he still had cop in his blood and reapplied with my agency. Unfortunately, his extended time off meant another trip through the academy. Good luck, my friend!! I hope to see you out on the streets soon.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Drive Time

A fellow officer spotted a car driving at night with slowly creeping down the street with its high beams on. The car was a few inches from the curb and the officer expected it to run up onto the sidewalk at any moment. He ran the license plate and found it did not belong on the car he was following. Anticipating a drunk driver with a possible stolen license plate he called for backup and pulled the driver over in grocery store parking lot.

I arrived a minute later and saw a man in his 50's wearing thick glasses standing next to the driver's door of his car. I asked him what was going on and he told me he was on the way to the bar to meet some friends. He did not have a driver's license so he never bothered registering his car. Instead, he 'borrowed' his girlfriend's license plate and affixed it to his unregistered car. I asked him if he realized what he did was illegal and he was immediately offended at the suggestion:

"All I did was borrow my girlfriend's license plate. What's the big deal?"
"Well, each car is assigned its own plate and these cannot just be placed on any car you want."
"But I needed to use her plate 'cause my car doesn't have one."
"Why not?"
"Because I don't have a driver's license or insurance so there's no reason for me to get a plate."
"There's also no reason you should be driving."
"But I only live a few blocks away and I told my friends I'd meet them at the bar."
"How were you going to get home after you had a few drinks?"
" my car."
"Why don't you get a driver's license so you can drive legally?"
"Because I'm legally blind. The MVD won't issue me a license. That's why I was driving slowly next to the curb. To make sure I didn't run into anything."
"Do you realize your headlights were on high-beam?"
"That's because I can't see, I told you!!:
"Instead of borrowing your girlfriend's license plate, why didn't you just drive her car?"
"Because she knows I can't see and her car is a lot nicer than mine and she needs it for work."
"So she thought there was a good chance you'd crash her car and it would be better if you collided into somebody in your less expensive car?"
"I guess so. I should have just taken a ride from my friends when they offered it."

I told him I found it hard to believe a grown man didn't understand driving a car without registration, insurance, or a driver's license, with a fictitious plate, at night while legally blind was illegal and dangerous. His reply:

"C'mon man, can't you just give me a warning and follow me home to make sure I get there safely?"

My reply:
"Negative. . . . . . . . . . . You're being issued citations for no current registration, no insurance, no valid driver license, and intentionally using a fictitious license plate."


It's hard to believe 6 weeks have come and gone since I took on my first trainee. He now moves on to a different Field Training Officer for another six weeks. If all goes well, he'll return to me for his final 2 weeks. I've tried to prepare him the best I could but he's very young and still has an issued with command presence. It's impossible to teach someone confidence, assertiveness, poise or self-assurance. I am hoping these things will come to him as he progresses through the next phase of his training.