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Police Academy Redux, part 3

By Gerry Goldshine

Petaluma Police Department, retired

Part 3 (conclusion)
While firearm training was an ongoing process, almost from day one to graduation, emergency vehicle operation training was done over a three day period. All of us were excited because we were going to be the first class to receive training through the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at what would one day become Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma (Now Sonoma Raceway) . Sadly, we were all sorely disappointed. First of all, the vehicles we were to train with were compact cars, nothing like the big high powered beasts we would be driving with our various departments. None of the vehicles had any emergency equipment installed. There were no flashing lights, no sirens wailing and no blaring radios; none of the distractions that would drive our adrenaline sky-high under actual emergency driving conditions. Then, there were the instructors; they may have been excellent race car drivers but none had any law enforcement background or experience driving emergency vehicles that they could share with us. I suppose the final frustration was that we were not permitted to drive over 35 miles per hour during any phase of this training. I got very proficient at avoiding cones that day and not much more.
The first supplemental training that I received upon graduation was eight hours of training with a Sheriff Office’s driving instructor using retired patrol cars. I’m here to tell you there is no quicker learning experience than losing control one of those high powered vehicles in turn at 65 miles an hour because you didn’t set up properly entering a corner. As a result of that, as well as refresher training, I had confidence in my driving abilities the night I pursued a suspect, who had just stabbed someone as well as trying to run me and other officers off the road, down Highway 101 at over 120 miles per hour. With one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding the microphone to communicate with dispatch, the siren, radio and scanner blared away. At the same time, I had to be aware of my location, that of other responding units, other traffic ahead and around me, changing weather and road conditions. I had to constantly evaluate whether any of those variables would make the safety of the public outweigh the need to continue the pursuit. All of that was something the Bondurant experience failed to provide in their block of training.

As the weeks passed, our sponge-like brains desperately tried to absorb still more material in other subject areas. There were more classes on how to write police reports, criminalistics (that whole CSI thing) and seemed to be everyone’s least favorite subject, traffic accident investigation. There was also training in non-lethal defense methods, which meant some form of CN or CS or what is more commonly known as tear gas. Our practical exercise involved a group of recruits going inside a closed plywood shed accompanied by an instructor where they would expose them to some form of that blessed substance. Unbeknownst to our instructor, a retired FBI Agent, was the fact that I had also been an instructor of essentially the same type of training for many years in the Army. As my group nervously entered the shed, I found a corner, leaned back, slowed and steadied my breathing, knowing what was about to happen. As the effects of the gas hit them, my fellow recruits hit the door like a stampede of water buffaloes. It wasn’t long before it was just the instructor and me staring at each other, him with a very surprised expression. “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” he asked after about five minutes had passed and I still hadn’t gone running for the exit. I nodded my head and then explained my background. He sheepishly asked if I wouldn’t mind leaving before him, as it would damage his mystique if I came out last. Still, I had quite the charisma having stayed as long as I did.
As we neared graduation, we were all looking forward towards finally getting practical training on making vehicular stops. Vehicle stops are perhaps the most common, most complex as well as most dangerous activities for a patrol officer. When an officer makes a traffic stop, they have no idea what the driver’s intentions are. Has the driver just committed a crime? Are they armed with a weapon? Are they intoxicated? Are they going to flee when you turn on your emergency lights? In addition, an officer has to exercise proper radio procedure in notifying dispatch of the stop. They have to know something as basic as their location, which can be difficult in a large city or seldom traveled country roads. An officer has to be aware of traffic around them, how they park their patrol vehicle and how they walk up to the car they’ve stopped. An officer also has to pick a strategic spot to stand when they make contact with the driver. While no means the last thing that goes into a traffic stop is how an officer talks to the driver. He can calm a tense situation or escalate a calm one. Though I had already made several hundred vehicle stops while in the Military Police, I was painfully aware that back then, circumstances were far different on a military base than in a city. Not exactly something to inspire confidence in my abilities.
As was the case with my firearms training, I’m still not sure what my expectations were as to training when it came to vehicle or traffic stops, both low risk or “routine” and high risk or “felony” stops. I know I anticipated more than twelve hours of both classroom and practical instruction. Many of us felt the scenarios devised by our instructors for the high risk stop exercises were ridiculously complex and bordered on the impossible. The geekier side of me recalls the Star Trek “Koboyasi Maru” test; for those non-Trekkies, it was a final exam scenario at the Starfleet Academy that was designed to be impossible to survive. I can still vaguely recall my own Academy “Koboyashi Maru” test; it was at night in a poorly lit area. Another recruit and I were to make a car stop on a vehicle that contained four “armed” suspects. As the car came to a stop, all four bailed out of the car and ran off into a darkened field. Our “backup” was many minutes away, leaving us to decide on a course of action. If both of us went after the suspect, the bad guys would have been lying in wait and “killed” us both. If one of us stayed and one pursued the suspect, the chase would have ended with either recruit officer being “shot” or taken hostage. If both officers stayed, then they would be ambushed because the suspects had doubled backed to launch an attack. It was a designed to be a no win scenario which does little to teach or inspire confidence outside of Star Fleet Academy.

Finally, the big day arrived; graduation. I was pleased, having finished fourth out of our graduating class of twenty-four. I walked up to the auditorium stage in my spiffy new Deputy Sheriff uniform, almost ready to bust my buttons with pride. Alongside my two fellow deputies, we received our graduation certificates from the Sheriff. Unlike Mahoney and his bunch of misfits from the Police Academy movies, we weren’t about to be turned loose upon an unsuspecting public. Ahead of us lay nearly another twelve weeks of training in the field under the watch eyes of our Field Training Officers (FTOs).
This was by no means a complete detailed accounting of the academy I attended nor should it be considered a blueprint for what’s taught today. Each recruit or cadet comes away with their own unique litany of successes, failures, achievements and disappointments. Laws change. Police tactics evolve as the threats change. Public perception of law enforcement changes as well. When I was taking Criminal Justice classes in college, the field of Police-Community Relations was new and a response to the turmoil of the Sixties and Seventies. When I had to retire in the late Nineties, Community Oriented Policing was the new buzzword after the public paroxysms that followed the Rodney King incident. While the reasons are many and varied, public perception of Law Enforcement integrity has waned again and once more administrators are looking for ways to shore up community support. Whatever the program’s name or acronym, its ultimate goals will have foundations in the next Police Academy.


Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine aka T-36  Petaluma Police Department mid-1980's
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine
aka T-36
Petaluma Police Department mid-1980’s
More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Police Academy Redux, part 2

By Gerry Goldshine

Petaluma Police Department, retired



Part 2 (part one appeared April 2, 2015)
Beside myself, there were two other recruits from the Sheriff’s Office attending the Academy with me. The largest contingent of recruits was from a Silicon Valley Department of Public Safety. I found it a bit startling when I learned that there were several people in the class who had not been hired by any particular department; in essence, they were “civilians” putting themselves through the training in the hopes that successful completion would make them a more attractive employment prospect. I was also surprised at how small our class was; while I don’t recall the exact number of people who started training, I do know that 24 of us graduated and there was not an especially high attrition rate. Contrary to my fearful expectations, SRJC did indeed run a low stress, twelve-week-long training program whose atmosphere was almost collegial. Having a small class was not necessarily a bad thing because it meant much more one to one interaction with the various instructors. For me, the relaxed training environment took some getting used to and as I was the only recruit with any military training, I often found the lack of discipline and decorum disconcerting.

In 1979, women moving from administrative and non-sworn positions to becoming street officers were still somewhat of a “novelty”. In my class, they numbered less than a half dozen, one of whom was a fellow SCSO recruit. I didn’t find it particularly unsettling to have women among my classmates; they had been moving into “non-traditional” occupational specialties in the Army for some time, so I was quite used to training alongside and working with women. Some of the less enlightened male recruits felt differently and made no effort to hide their opinion that women did not belong, behaving like stereotypical misogynists. One of these “gentlemen” was almost a match to the “Police Academy” character “Mahoney” but with all the negative traits and none of the positive. Like Mahoney, somehow this person managed to make it all the way through training and graduated with the other recruits from his department.

Police Academy 3-Officer Hooks
Police Academy 3-Officer Hooks

Nearly every training course I’ve taken has had a cast of characters very much like those in the Police Academy movies. There always seemed to be a “Tackleberry” type; the borderline super-macho personality disorder who carried a virtual arsenal in the trunk of his car, always wore camouflage fatigues, often reckless and overeager. In most of the coed classes I been in, there was usually someone very much like the character “Hooks”; a female trainee soft of voice, uncertain of her abilities, and often deferring to men. Invariably there was someone like “Hightower”, the huge muscular guy who was smarter that he appeared, gentler than he seemed and loyal as a puppy dog to his friends. Finally there invariably seemed to be someone like the characters “Sweetchuck” and “Fackler”; this was the guy who tripped over his own feet, walked into closed doors, had a voice that cracked when under stress, lacked a scintilla of common sense and invariably either shot himself in the foot or a fellow classmate in the arse. Looking back, each in their own way, made the training far more interesting as well as more memorable, though at the time I sure many of us considered them with less kindly thoughts.

Having just come out of the Army where highly strenuous physical fitness standards were de rigueur, I found the “PT” at the Academy less than challenging. Unlike the other subject areas, such as criminal law, criminalistics, and firearms, our class did not have an instructor dedicated to physical conditioning. To be sure, we had someone to teach weaponless or hand to hand tactics but no one was assigned for every day physical training or “PT,” something which I had practically lived by over the prior four years in the Army. More often than not, our PT consisted of volleyball or disorganized workouts in the weight room. We did do some running, usually no more than two miles and generally less, during which time nearly everyone complained. For me at that time, a mile run was a warm up as I had been used to running up to five miles in full combat gear in under 40 minutes. I cannot recall if we had to pass a PT test to graduate beyond completing an obstacle course within a specified time frame. I thought then as I do now that we rendered a disservice with such lackadaisical physical conditioning. Aside from the obvious health benefits, maintaining a high state of physical conditioning is essential in surviving street encounters from fist fights to foot pursuits to the use of deadly force. I wasn’t the only recruit that was disconcerted by this and I do know it eventually changed for the better.

Contrary to Zed’s bit of wisdom, my academy class spent a great deal of time in the classroom receiving instruction on subjects ranging from the obvious, such as criminal law to less considered but critical report writing. However, looking back over 35 years later, the very first place to which my Field Training Officer took me, when I was with the Sheriff’s Office, was a Winchell’s Donut shop. Much as I hate to admit it, even to this day many a cop visits the local donut eatery because it’s fast and the coffee is always hot; I guess there was a bit of truth to what Zed had to say.

Police Cadets
Police Cadets

Donuts aside, we were about to get a great deal of information distilled and condensed into a 12 week time frame. Hours were spent on learning the fundamentals of California Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. Things that now still seem so basic were new to many of us back then, such as the differences between statutory and case law–both of which we needed to know. What were felony, misdemeanor and infraction type of crimes? We committed to memory the elements of the more commonly used sections of the Penal Code, such as 211 P.C. which is robbery or 459 P.C. which is burglary. We had to know the applicable sections of the Business and Professions Code, particularly those parts dealing with alcoholic beverages. There were the parts of the Health and Safety Code that dealt with drugs, legal and illicit. We had to know the parts of the Welfare and Institutions Code some of which dealt with children and psychiatric cases. Then there was the California Vehicle Code, which covered everything from driving while intoxicated to what color the front turn signals on a particular year car have to be.

All those various codes and laws were just really a foundation and a starting point. Knowing what constituted a violation of a particular law was just part of the process. There followed training on the complex laws governing arrest, probable cause to detain versus probable cause to arrest. We had to know the most up to date court decisions and laws governing arrest, search and seizure. Then there were the courts; traffic, municipal and superior. As a peace officer, you had to know the differences between them and what type of case went to what court. Beyond that, we had to have a working knowledge of how the criminal justice system functioned, from the filing of a criminal complaint to an arraignment to a court or jury trial. If that wasn’t complex enough, there were separate systems for adult and juveniles.
I was not the only one with a college background in Criminal Justice and though we were familiar with much of the material, there was still much that was new in some manner. It was all coming at us fast and furious. Fortunately, there was plenty of practical, hands-on training that got us out of the classroom to stretch our legs and shake out the cobwebs that inevitably formed in our minds. Naturally, we all looked forward to firearms training. Levels of experience with firearms varied greatly among us. Many grew up around guns through hunting and other sporting activities. As a result of my Army training, I had a familiarity with a very wide assortment of weapons, though it seemed highly unlikely I would have need of an anti-tank missile system as a Deputy Sheriff. As a deputy, my duty weapon was going to be a Smith and Wesson Model 66, .357 magnum revolver, which took some adjustment, as my sidearm while in the Military Police was the classic military Model 1911, .45 semi-automatic pistol. In the late seventies and early eighties, firearm training was on the cusp of a revolution, both in technology and theory. I was fortunate to have been exposed to some of it while in the Army. There was interactive training with lasers giving immediate feedback under simulated combat conditions; automated targets made to look like human silhouettes; and shooting in a variety of conditions both in lighting and weather. Our instructors were some of the best, most knowledgeable military people in the world when it came to firearms. Gone were the days of plinking away at a circular stationary target some hundred yards away.


Witchita, Kansas Police Recruit shooting training
Witchita, Kansas Police Recruit shooting training

Back to my Academy firearms training, I wasn’t expecting our instructor to be someone who split his time between firefighting and police work in the South Bay. Understand that I’m not saying he was a poor instructor; it just was not what I was expecting. While I had qualified “Expert” with nearly every Infantry weapon in the Army, I was only shooting just slightly above average with that .357 pistol. It wasn’t until several years later, when I was a Petaluma Police Officer, a range master discovered while right-handed, I was left eye dominant, which had a great effect on my pistol shooting accuracy. In addition to the live fire range, we also received instruction in what was called “Shoot-Don’t Shoot”, the idea being to develop situational awareness and judgment when employing deadly force. In 1979, our “state of the art” technology for the practical portion of this training consisted of a video projector which showed a scenario on a butcher paper screen and a pistol that fired wax bullets. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that felt a bit foolish yelling “Freeze!” at that butcher paper.

Read the conclusion of Police Academy Redux on April 9, 2015

Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine aka T-36  Petaluma Police Department mid-1980's
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine
aka T-36
Petaluma Police Department mid-1980’s
More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Police Academy – Redux, part 1

By Gerry Goldshine

“Cadets, I’d now like to discuss something that’ll be vital for you to know when your, like, out here, on the job, as a police officer. And, that’s the correct way on how to eat a doughnut”

Zed McGlunk
Zed McGlunk

Zed McGlunk, “Police Academy 2”

When I first wrote this piece back in November of 2012, I took a slightly lighthearted look on the training I received when I attended the local regional Police Academy back in 1979. However, since then, almost daily controversial incidents are shaking the Law Enforcement profession to its core. One question I keep hearing with increasing frequency, and that I find myself asking, is what training these officers are receiving. When I attended my academy, in many respects, the curriculum was developed in response to the tumult and unrest that characterized much of the late 1960 and early 1970’s. The pushback against Civil Rights led to riots that tore apart entire cities. The dissatisfaction with the War in Viet Nam led to violent protest that spilled onto university campuses. Radical terrorists with violent agendas led the way to a surge in violent crime. Without delving into a historical dissertation of those troubled times, law enforcement found itself mired in an unprecedented quagmire caught between those wanting social change and those demanding a return to “law and order.” Short staffed, ill-equipped and ill-trained, police officers across the country found themselves the target of dissatisfaction from all sides, often with tragic outcomes. It soon became obvious the old way of policing was not working and change began to take place.
Among its virtues and vices, the first “Police Academy” movie was a satirical look at some of the “revolutionary” adjustments Law Enforcement was undergoing in the early 1980’s. While mostly farcical, one of the few aspects of police work the movie did get right was that first critical training every police officer, deputy sheriff, highway patrol officer, constable and every Federal Agent has to successfully complete, known as “The Academy.” Most all such academies generally have a two-fold purpose. Obviously, the first is to prepare a cadet or recruit both academically and physically for the rigors of law enforcement field work. More feared, the second is to identify and screen out those individuals who prove unsuitable for a career in law enforcement either because of academic deficiencies, an inability to meet the physical training demands or from a variety of other reasons, including psychological.


Tampa, Fla cadets PT
Tampa, Fla cadets PT

How this is accomplished can vary widely; sometimes state training regulations mandate what is taught and how. In other instances, departmental training philosophies dictate training methodology. More often than not, it’s a combination of both. Some are near-military in their training approach with high stress and intense discipline as one might find in a “boot” camp. Others take a more relaxed, college campus type approach to training. Budgetary concerns are a significant factor; some agencies either by choice or necessity, put their recruits through the bare minimum of required training hours taking the approach that what is learned “on the job” is more meaningful. Other departments want better rounded recruits and can afford longer training academies.
In California, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training mandates that a police recruit have a minimum “Basic Training” course of 664 hours. Most all police agencies in California have some type of field training program that follows graduation from an academy; they are usually around 12 weeks long or about 480 hours. Now 1200 hours or more of training may seem like a lot but consider this: in order to get a Cosmetologist license in California an individual must have 1600 hours of classroom instruction and another 3200 hours of formal apprenticeship. That’s a total of over 4800 hours! When’s the last time you read about a beautician taking someone’s life with a mascara wand?
Despite the plethora of books, movies or television shows of the police genre, few if any ever really devote much time to this essential beginners experience in anyway other than in a cursory manner. As every recruit is an individual, they bring to this formative training, differing levels of life experience, work experience, schooling, physical capabilities and emotional maturity. Consequently, while there are common training goals every recruit must meet, each always comes away with a differing perspective of their overall academy experience.
My own academy training took place in late 1979. While what I encountered was unique to me given my background, it does provide a framework for what someone going into the profession and attending a smaller, regional police academy in the early 1980’s would likely encounter.


SCSO Badge
SCSO Badge

I was hired by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in September, 1979, who sent me to the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) Police Academy in Santa Rosa, California. I had a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Los Angeles and had just spent four years in the Army on active duty, most of that time as a commissioned officer. I had actually begun my law enforcement career almost two years earlier when I received a transfer from the Infantry to the Military Police. Still, I was savvy enough to know I had much to learn as there are vast differences between the missions of military law enforcement and civilian.


Joseph Wambaugh author of "The New Centurions"
Joseph Wambaugh author of “The New Centurions”

So, what were my overall expectations and goals as I embarked upon this new training experience? I had been through some of the most stressful, physically demanding and mentally challenging training that the military offered at that time. I had read Joseph Wambaugh’s early book “The New Centurions” which painted a very stark portrait of the Los Angeles Police Academy of the 1960’s very much like what I had encountered in Officer Candidate School, where the slightest mistake or rule infraction could mean failure and dismissal. The training sergeant from the Sheriff’s Office had told me the regional academy I was to attend was pretty laid back compared to what I’d encountered in the Army. However, having been erroneously lulled by such descriptions before, I was going to hope he was right but prepare for the worst case scenario.

Read part 2 on Thursday, April 2nd

Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine aka T-36  Petaluma Police Department mid-1980's
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine
aka T-36
Petaluma Police Department mid-1980’s
More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Bulletin-Gerry Goldshine will return on Thursday, April 2, 2015

No Wednesday post but Gerry Goldshine will return on Thursday, April 2, 2015. His feature will discuss police training over the years, how it can be a reflection of current culture and his personal experience.

Saturday April 4th will feature Marilyn Meredith, author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mysteries and The Rocky Bluff PD Series

Sunday, Hal Collier will return with his third installment of “Court”

I’ll try to post information on the funeral of San Jose Police Officer Mike Johnson on Friday.

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Three Ounces of Polished Metal


By Gerry Goldshine



Petaluma Police badges
Petaluma Police badges

Three ounces, that’s what my badge weighs. I shared in common with those around me, a three-ounce piece of polished metal, whether it is a star or shield. Some wore uniforms in shades of blue, others tan and a few, khaki. Soon, they had filled all the seats. Yet, more filed inside, civilians and officers alike, lining up against the walls. More of them stood outside, uncomplaining. I saw few familiar faces among those assembled. Many showed the strains of unimaginable grief.


I finally looked to the stage in front. A small group of Marines, resplendent in their dress uniforms and stood at attention on both sides of a casket covered with an American flag. A single spotlight shined on it, bathing it in a bright white light. Photos taken during more serene and happier times lined a table to one side. On the other side, in front of many ornate floral displays, hung the dress uniform of a United States Marine Corps Major. There among the many decorations pinned to the tunic, I recognized a Silver Star and the Purple Heart.


The officer was experienced, with more than seventeen years of service. He had gone into one of the half-dozen McDonalds in the small city where he worked, for lunch. Nothing heroic, nothing dangerous, he just wanted lunch. He never knew that the man sitting in the corner, next to the soft drink dispenser, had just shot and killed his wife.


Looking around the auditorium, I glanced at some of the people in uniform. Was I the only one there wondering if a similar fate awaited me?


baltimore sunWhen the police chaplain began the service with a prayer, we bowed our heads. Friends, family, coworkers and a few city dignitaries then came forward to tell of the impact this officer had on them or the community. Some of those speaking could not finish before their anguish overwhelmed them. A Marine Brigadier General, his eyes red with tears, spoke of the officer’s heroism while serving with the Reserves in Iraq. The Chief of Police, his voice breaking, next spoke of not only the community’s loss of a dedicated police officer but also of a family’s loss of a son, a husband and a father. When he introduced the widow, many of us were surprised to see she wore the same blue police uniform as her husband had. She stood there, tears running down her cheeks, unable to utter a single word. She finally broke down, sobbing and needed the Chief and General’s help to move from the podium. Then, as if her tears were silent permission, most of us also lost the tight grip we had on our own feelings.


An eerie silence fell when the color guard moved out, marching together up the center aisle in step to a trained silent cadence. The American flag went first, followed by the California State flag and that of the US Marine Corps. Following them was the honor guard, consisting of four police officers and three Marines, each of whom carried a ceremonial rifle. We stood as the pallbearers walked past, carrying their sacred burden and my eyes started to water. I struggled not to surrender to the grief I felt for this man I’d never met. This was not the time, not yet. of us spoke much as we filed outside to our cars. I took my place in a motorcade dominated by black and white police vehicles that officers drove there from police departments all over the state. Behind the dozens of police motorcycles leading the way were six camouflaged Marine Corps Humvees. Driving out of the parking lot, we passed beneath a huge American flag, hanging from the top of the raised ladders of two fire trucks. Black bunting hung from each of them.  The hundreds of flashing red and blue lights drew attention to the orderly procession that stretched out for more than a mile. How strange this all must have appeared those we passed, to those who did not know. If only they had an inkling of the emotional turmoil within us. I imagined the disruption caused by our little convoy annoyed more than a few, as we worked our way to the cemetery, some miles distant. I’m also certain, not one of us cared.



citizens honor fallen officer photo by sfgate
citizens honor fallen officer photo by sfgate

I marveled at the skilled performance of the motorcycle officers, leapfrogging from intersection to intersection so we could pass unhindered. We drove under a bridge from which hung dozens of handmade signs honoring the fallen officer. I felt my eyes tear up yet again as car after car drove past two disheveled homeless men standing motionless, at attention, presenting a salute as smart as that of any active Marine. The officer had been a regular visitor to their shelter.


Silently, we walked to the gravesite, the creak of our polished leather gear the only sound anyone could hear. For some odd reason, I couldn’t help noticing how the gray of the granite headstones starkly contrasted with the vivid green of the freshly mown grass. Soon, we could hear the distinctive sound of helicopters approaching and a flight of five passed overhead. As they did, one peeled away, leaving a vacant space to create the traditional missing man formation, honoring a fallen comrade. As those sounds faded, a sharp and precise command rang out a short distance away.


“Honor Guard, Attention!”


With practiced precision, the seven people, each with a ceremonial rifle, snapped to obey.




Most of the civilians present flinched when seven shots rang out simultaneously, shattering the solemn quiet of the cemetery. Twice more the commander gave the order to fire; a twenty-one gun salute.


As the sound of the last fusillade resounded across the grounds of the cemetery, someone else called us all to “Attention” soon followed by the order “Present Arms”. Those of us in uniform rendered a hand salute and held it. Moments later, two buglers, one a police officer and the other a Marine, began to play “Taps”. Hauntingly, one echoed the other. Several more of us lost the struggle to hold back our tears. The command “Order Arms” rang out just before the pallbearers removed the American flag from the casket and folded it with military precision. One officer then handed it to the Chief of Police.


bagpiperThough I couldn’t hear what he said, I could well imagine the Chief’s words of solace as he presented the tightly folded flag to the widow and her young son.  Finally, the mournful sound of a lone bagpipe playing “Amazing Grace” tore at our already aching hearts; aching for someone, most of us there never knew. Everyone around me was crying unashamedly. I felt no shame at the tears running down my own face.


The ceremony had ended. We had lain to rest a brave soul and a fellow law enforcement officer.


I shared with those present and the one now gone, three ounces of polished metal.

More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Field Training Tales, Part Two

By Gerry Goldshine


As Mike Dettling progressed in his reserve officer training, we had the opportunity to ride together quite frequently. One Friday night, dispatch sent us to the Lucky Market Shopping Center to check for a possible DWI that was supposedly cruising around the parking lot. The person who reported it described the suspect’s vehicle as a dark colored, Ford 4X4 pickup truck with roof mounted off-road lights.

On the way, we talked about how there happened to be a small bar located right next to the supermarket. I figured that our suspect was either coming from or going to it. Coincidentally, on the other side of the bar were the offices of a local advertising newspaper. My wife had a job there as a typesetter and I mentioned to Mike that she was working that night.

Being a Friday night, , the parking lot was chock-a-block full when we arrived with all sorts of vehicles belonging to folks rushing to buy groceries for their Friday night parties. We thought the likelihood of finding this one particular vehicle among all that traffic to be on the slim to none side. I no sooner finished saying this to Mike, when I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed that the vehicle behind us was all but riding our bumper. I did a double take when I realized, it was the truck we’d been searching for.

“Mike, I think he’s behind us.”

He whipped his head around and exclaimed, “No shit?”

Okay, so fortune dropped him almost into our laps, but now we had to figure out how to get behind the pickup to make a traffic stop. It took a few minutes to find a spot to pull over and let him pass by us. As soon as we were in back of him, I flipped on the emergency lights. We got a little tense when the truck kept on going. We followed as he maneuvered around to the back of the market, apparently oblivious to our presence. He continued to creep along at no more than 10 MPH and nearly collided with a perfectly innocent dumpster. Finally, I flipped the siren on just briefly to get his attention and at last, he slowed to a stop. The spot he chose happened to be in front of the window where my wife’s workstation was located. As Mike let dispatch know our location, it occurred to me that this might be a nice show for her and her co-workers.

A felony car stop
A felony car stop

As that old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Mike moved up along the passenger side of the truck while I did likewise on the driver’s side. I could smell the alcohol from his breath through his open window before I even reached the back of the cab. I had stopped just to the rear of the door and had just finished asking the driver for his license, when Mike called out the last thing any officer wants to hear.


To this day, I don’t recall pulling my sidearm out of the holster. I only remember pointing it at the back of the driver’s head and quietly telling him that if he so much as sneezed, it would his last one. Mike was also pointing his weapon at the driver. He told me that it was right under the driver’s seat. I quickly requested a clear radio channel and a back up unit, letting dispatch know that the driver had a gun. While we waited for the other unit, I suddenly hoped that my wife wasn’t watching.

Up until then, it had been a slow, boring Friday night. So naturally, every officer even remotely close by responded to back us up. After two cars rolled up with lights and siren blaring, I let dispatch know that we had sufficient help. Once everyone took up safe positions behind cover, I ordered the driver to get out, keeping his hands raised, of course. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when right as he got out he did a face plant onto the asphalt. The prospect of his getting to back up unaided seemed problematic. While the other officers covered us, Mike and I helped him to his feet and the handcuffed him. Once I patted him down for any weapons, one of the other officers took him to the front end of my car.

Now that the driver’s door was open, I could see the wooden grips of a revolver sticking out, ever so slightly, from under the front of the driver’s seat. There was no way I could have seen it from my side of the truck, even if I had been 6’6” tall, instead of 5’8” and had been standing right in front of the door. How Mike managed to see it from the other side was a wonder.

Do ya feel lucky, punk? Pinterest
Do ya feel lucky, punk?

When I pulled it out, I’m not sure whose eyes were wider; Mike’s or mine. The gun was a loaded, chrome .44 Magnum revolver. You know, the one about which Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan said, “This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off so you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

Yeah, that .44 Magnum revolver.

I unloaded the gun and gave it Mike to take as evidence. Then, I went back to talk with the driver. His physical symptoms of intoxication were plainly obvious even to the most casual observer. His clothes were disheveled, his breath reeked of alcohol and his eyes had more red lines than a Rand McNally road atlas. He was unsteady on his feet to the point that he had to lean against my car for balance. His speech was so slurred, it was questionable whether he was speaking English.

Not surprisingly, he was less than enthusiastic about our having stopped him and launched into a loud, vicious tirade about the police constantly harassing him. Aside from being “loaded”, the fact that he had two recent convictions for DWI on his driving record explained a good deal of his sour disposition toward us. Before I had a chance to get any further into my DWI investigation, he made it clear that he wasn’t taking any “drunk” tests. He groused about passing them the last time and still went to jail. That was fine with me because I had seen enough to articulate the needed probable cause to arrest him for driving under the influence of alcohol. Of course, there were also the additional concealed and loaded weapon charges as an added bonus for him. On went the handcuffs and we offered him a comfortable seat in the back of our patrol car.

Before I closed the door, I asked him why he had a loaded gun under his seat. His surly reply was, “for protection, of course”. Naturally, I was then just a wee bit curious what he needed he needed protection from.

He looked up at me, through his glazed, watery eyes and said rather emphatically, “From shit like this.”

I don’t know about Mike, but that gave me a slight case of the “willies” that I could well have gone without that or any other night.

On the way home, at around 3:00 AM, I started wondering how much my wife saw of what went on outside her window and if she was going to be upset or worried. When I got there, she was awake and asked me how the night went. I thought she was being funny.

“Well, what did you think?” I asked.

“Think about what?”

“The stop.”

“What stop?”

“The drunk driver Mike and I stopped right in front of the window where your workstation is.”

“Oh, I was at a different station tonight. Didn’t see a thing.”

Just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, she added, “But everyone else who saw it, told me all about the big gun that you found under the seat.”

With that, she turned out her nightstand light and went to sleep while I stood there feeling “had”.

As for Mike, despite that boundless energy of his, he had reacted in the calm manner of a seasoned officer. He didn’t second-guess what he saw, didn’t hesitate to take action and took the appropriate response. Mike didn’t stay a reserve officer with us for very long; the Department hired him as a regular, full-time officer.


More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Field Training Tales, part 1

By Gerry Goldshine


Of the many experiences I had as a police officer, training other officers as an FTO – Field Training Officer – gave me one of the greater senses of accomplishment that few other aspects of police work provided. Oh, I have my share of trainee horror stories, as most training officers usually do, but I was lucky. Most of what I taught involved the specialty at which I was very adept and enjoyed immensely—Traffic. Now, Traffic, be it accident investigation or enforcement, is an anathema to most cops for many reasons. But, that’s a discussion for another time. For now, just trust me. With the exception of us perverse few who enjoy the intricacies of the vehicle code or snagging a DWI just as were going to go off-duty or working through the physics of a major collision, the average beat cop abhors anything remotely related to Traffic.

Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine aka T-36  Petaluma Police Department mid-1980's
Traffic Officer Gerry Goldshine
aka T-36
Petaluma Police Department mid-1980’s

At the time I worked there, Petaluma Police Department (PPD) was a small agency that could not support a completely staffed and full time traffic bureau. (Now it has one complete with motorcycles.) That meant there were many occasions necessitating beat officers to investigate traffic accidents and process their own DWI’s. As the requirements for more detailed investigations grew, many officers began complaining that the training they had received at the academy was inadequate. The department asked me to put together some training to complement the FTO program; it evolved from a single shift into a one-week block of instruction. Teaching other officer the skills I had developed was a source of pride and a whole lot of fun.

One of the hardest things for a FTO to do is letting their trainee take control. If a trainee is having difficulties, the urge to jump in and do it your way can be almost overwhelming. Letting that trainee work it through is the best way for them to learn, provided of course, it’s not an officer safety issue.

Mike Dettling started at PPD as a reserve officer when he was 19 years old. Frequently, new officers have problems handling the radio for a variety of reasons. Mike was having trouble managing his vocal inflections when making traffic stops. Back then, Mike was a bundle of raw energy, often walking down the hallway singing Sting’s Roxanne at the top of his voice. He would also get so excited making traffic stops that it would come across on the radio that other officers occasionally thought something serious was happening. Since a good part of my job entailed making lots of traffic stops, one Friday night my Sergeant asked me to work with Mike on his radio procedure.

I came up with a simple training plan. Anytime we got behind a car or truck, I would have Mike pretend we were making a traffic stop on it and I would act as dispatch. After about two hours of doing this, controlling his vocal inflection was becoming almost second nature to him. So, when we started making actual stops, Mike handled them like a seasoned veteran.

Since he was doing so well, I decided to advance his training to handling the radio during a pursuit. I would start following random vehicle and have Mike act as if he was calling out a pursuit on the radio. I’m sure that during the course of these exercises, we probably made more than one driver paranoid as we followed them around. For the next couple of hours, between making actual traffic stops and working through several imaginary pursuits, Mike became steadier on the radio, doing a good job at keeping his emotions in check and his voice steady.

Around 10:30 or 11:00 that night, we were heading north on Petaluma Boulevard South, when we noticed a motorcycle ahead of us that appeared to be speeding.  Just before I started a pace to determine the motorcycle’s speed, the driver abruptly turned right, onto “D” Street and blew right through a red light. As I turned right to follow, the driver finally noticed we were behind him. He turned, looked at us and then hunkered-down on his bike. I knew right then what was going to happen next.

Motorcycle on the streets after dark by
Motorcycle on the streets after dark by

I told Mike that we were going in pursuit, though I had yet to turn on any of the emergency lights. Mike looked at me as if I had just sprouted a third eye or something, unsure if I were serious or if we were still training. I handed him the microphone and told him to do it just as we practiced and then flipped on the emergency lights.

As soon as they went on, the motorcycle took off like an F/A-18 hitting the afterburners. Mike just gaped, reminding me of Wiley Coyote’s expression when the Roadrunner vanishes in a cloud of dust. He quickly recovered his composure and began calling out the chase to dispatch. He gave them the motorcycle’s description, the street we were on, our direction of travel, the approaching cross street, traffic conditions and finally our speed just as we had practiced; as he did so, his voice began to rise a few octaves. This was pretty exciting stuff and his first chase. I told him to take a few deep breaths and just do as we had trained. From there on, Mike had it down.

This turned out to be one wild pursuit. After buzzing up and down a few residential side streets, the chase continued onto Highway 101. When we started to hit speeds over 100 MPH and fell further behind the motorcycle, I decided it was time to shut it down; jeopardizing everyone’s safety for a couple of traffic infractions wasn’t worth it. Then our sergeant came on the radio and told us if the traffic remained very light, we could continue the pursuit.

I sped up just as our errant motorcyclist exited the highway about a mile ahead of us. It was a “Tee” intersection and he was going so fast that he couldn’t make a turn. Fortunately for him, he was able drive straight across into a parking lot of a business directly opposite the off-ramp. By the time he circled around through the lot and back out onto the street, another officer who had been shadowing the pursuit came up behind him. At about the same time, we were coming down the off-ramp and the chase was back on, but now with two police units involved.

The street we were now on was a two lane state highway – Hwy 116 – and in no time, the motorcyclist was going more than 90 miles per hour and pulling away from us. When a third police unit joined us, our sergeant decided it was becoming a case of diminishing returns and terminated the chase.

On our way back to the station, Mike was almost goggled-eyed and full of post-pursuit adrenaline. He kept asking how I knew the motorcycle was going to run from us. He also seemed incredulous over how perfectly the chase dovetailed into that evening’s training. I swear he thought I had planned it.

To the best of my recollection, from that point on, Mike never again had problems with his radio usage. However, this was not the end of our training adventures together.

To be continued in Part Two of Field Training Tails.

More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Well, This Is a Fine Kettle of Fish


By Gerry Goldshine


Most people, when they hear the expression “an officer and a gentleman” think of a schmaltzy 1980’s movie Richard Gere and Debra Winger. When I received my commission, as an Infantry Second Lieutenant through Army OCS – Officer Candidate School, those words held special significance for my fellow graduates and me. By longstanding tradition, an officer did not lie, cheat or steal; their word was their bond. Most every officer held those obligations as sacrosanct. Without the unimpeachable integrity of one’s character, how can an officer lead men and women under fire, in combat? To be sure, military leadership entails far more than just character, but without belief, no one will follow. I mention this, as it is central to the following story. 

Fort Lewis Gate
Fort Lewis Gate

I’m going to need to set the Wayback Machine to late summer of 1978 and Ft. Lewis, Washington. Six months earlier, the Army had granted me a transfer from the Infantry to the Military Police and I had just been promoted to First Lieutenant. Though it called for a Captain, I was given command of the Military Police Traffic Section.

For most soldiers, there is usually no such thing as an eight hour day nor is there overtime. You worked until the task or mission was completed. Officers, particularly junior officers like me, were expected to be the first ones in and the last ones to leave. In order to familiarize myself with all the duties and responsibilities that went along with the new job, I was regularly putting in fifteen-hour workdays.

I had been reviewing accident reports and it was well after dark before I realized everyone else in the section had call it a day hours earlier. Back then, base security was amazingly lax compared to nowadays and there were many unmanned gates, through which the public was able to enter or leave Fort Lewis unhindered. On this particular night, I headed out Northgate Road, which was a two-lane road that cut through an undeveloped heavily wooded training area on the north side of the post. Looking at the tall evergreen pines during the day, you wouldn’t have guessed that you were on a military reservation. At night, it was a very dark and depending on traffic, could be quite desolate.  I was planning to grab something to eat in the small suburb of Lakewood, just outside the unmanned gate, before heading home to my apartment in nearby Steilacoom.

No sooner had I turned onto Northgate Road, than I noticed the car ahead of me suddenly slow down only to increase speed seconds later. Then, as I watched in horror, this car abruptly swerved into the opposite lane, forcing an oncoming car onto the shoulder and missing a head-on collision with it by mere inches. When the car did the same thing again only moments later, I recalled reading somewhere, the lights of oncoming car often drew drunk drivers to them, much like moths; all too frequently, they steered right into the oncoming vehicle. The car ahead of me appeared to be doing exactly that. Though I was thoroughly lacking police street experience, I could clearly see that a serious crash was all but inevitable.

What in Sam Hell was I supposed to do? I was in my own vehicle, a bright yellow Toyota pickup, with no way to contact the military or civilian police. Cell phones were still the in the realm of science fiction or the very wealthy. There were no payphones or emergency assistance phones anywhere close. The likelihood that an MP on patrol would drive by was nonexistent. While I was considering my options, he narrowly missed hitting a third car, forcing it onto the shoulder before he swerved back across the road onto the opposite shoulder and nearly spun out in the process. However, as luck would have it, he still managed to continue on his way.

Feeling that I had an obligation to do something, I flashed my high beams on and off a couple of times and then honked my horn. To my utter astonishment, the vehicle quickly pulled to the shoulder and stopped just a couple hundred feet short of the exit from the post. I quickly scribbled down the car’s description and license number on a piece of paper lying on the seat next to me. Perhaps I was bordering on the overdramatic; I figured if they found me dead along the roadside, they would have some clue as to who did it. At least I was wearing my fatigue uniform and had my brand new Military Police badge hanging from the button of my left shirt pocket.

As I walked up to the driver’s door, my heart was nervously hammering away. I kept thinking I was doing an incredibly stupid thing but continued on to make contact with the driver. He was attired in civilian clothing, had a look on his face that I would come to know all too well in the ensuing years; dazed, almost to the point of stupefaction and his eyes were bloodshot, watery and unfocused. Well, I was all in at this point, as they say in poker.

“Good evening sir. I’m Lieutenant Goldshine, Ft. Lewis Military Police. How are you? Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine…just fine. Why?”

So far so good.

“Well, you seemed to be having some problems maintaining control of your car. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t sick or something.”

“Oh, well thanks but I’m fine.”

“Uh huh. So have you had anything to drink tonight?” I asked, though by then I could clearly smell the odor of intoxicants on his breath.

In an instant, his attitude went from cautious to belligerent.

“Yeah, I have been drinking but so what? I ain’t in your Army, Lootenant, so you don’t have any jurisdiction over me.”

Gerry Goldshine in dress uniform
Gerry Goldshine in dress uniform

That said, he put his car in gear and drove off. I decided I had pushed my luck far enough. Within seconds, he was off the base and I started looking for a payphone. By the time I found one, the errant driver was long out of my sight. I called the Pierce County Sheriff, who had jurisdiction of the unincorporated area outside that part of the post. I identified myself and gave them what information I had. The Military Police had an excellent working relationship with the surrounding police departments and the desk sergeant I spoke with told me he’d have someone call my office in the morning to let me know if they found the person. He said he would also notify Washington State Patrol for me.  I had done all I could and headed for home and a frozen dinner.

The next morning, I arrived at my office building earlier than usual, just before 6:00. SFC -Sergeant First Class – John D. Commons, the Traffic NCOIC – Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge – had already been at work for about a half hour. NCOICs do that sort of thing.

SFC Commons, who had been in the Army longer than I’d been alive, came to the United States from Ireland as a child and still had a touch of Irish brogue to his speech. It made him all that more intimidating when he was pissed-off. He graciously allowed me to think I would be running things and I respectfully deferred to him on most matters, for among his many duties, was keeping the OIC – me – from making stupid mistakes. Far be it for me to change that dynamic.

“Lieutenant, I took a curious call from the Pierce County Sheriff desk sergeant right after I got in.”

I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was not pleased but open to discussion. SFC Commons also had a well-deserved reputation for blistering the hide off errant Lieutenants, without a second thought.

“Would you like to tell me about what you did last night, sir?”

So, I told him what had transpired and after mulling it over for a bit, SFC Commons rendered his verdict.

Deliberately thickening his brogue to emphasize the point, he told me, “As long as you don’t be making a habit of looking for this kind of shit, Lieutenant, I’m okay with what you did. That said, sir, don’t do it again. I have enough gray hair.”

Of course, the inevitable question about what to do regarding the whole incident was on my mind and I hesitated to ask him but I didn’t have much of a choice.

“Sergeant Commons, seeing as how I’m new to this whole Military Police business and never done anything like this before, could you show me what I need to do to write this up?”

He rolled his eyes, as if he was seeking Divine assistance from above and then grinned at me.

 “At least you’re smart enough to admit you don’t know shit from Shinola, sir. I can work with that.”

Having won a modicum of his respect by my admission of ignorance, he guided me through the process of filing a complaint with the Federal District Magistrate, who was responsible for adjudicating all traffic matters on the base. With Commons help, I was able to confirm the identity of the driver from his license photo, which we obtained from the Washington Department of Motor Vehicles. We also discovered that he had a prior conviction for DWI two years earlier. I made sure to write a very detailed report focusing on my observations of the suspect’s driving and physical signs of intoxication since I had no evidence of his blood alcohol level. A couple of months later, I received a subpoena to appear in Federal Court before the District Magistrate.

The Ft. Lewis Magistrate Court operated in a similar fashion to Municipal Traffic Court. There were no lawyers present; each side would testify, offer evidence or present witnesses. The Magistrate can and often does ask questions of each party during testimony. At the conclusion, he would consider all the facts of the case and make a determination of guilt or innocence. Since this was going to be my first time in court, I was a tad nervous. SFC Commons, as well as some of the MPs who worked for me in the Traffic Section, told me what to expect and helped me prepare my testimony.

Showing up in blue jeans and a tee shirt is not the best way to impress a Federal Magistrate; telling him that he has no jurisdiction because you are a civilian is almost a sure bet to get on his bad side. The Judge quickly disabused the defendant of any mistaken notions he might have had about the jurisdiction of either the Military Police or the Federal Magistrate in this matter.

After I testified, the only question the Judge had was, had I given the defendant any Field Sobriety Tests. I explained that given the circumstances, I was not able to do give any roadside tests. Next the defendant testified and was brief and succinct.

“I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t driving the way he said I was. He’s got no evidence.”

The Magistrate smiled and then asked, “Had you been drinking?”

“Well, yeah, I had a couple beers but I wasn’t drunk.”

“How many beers had you consumed?”

It had not dawned on this rocket scientist that he had pretty much torpedoed his whole case.

“I don’t know…a couple of beers”

“How many was it? Two? More than two?”

 “I guess it was two. Sure, two beers. I know I wasn’t drunk and I think he’s lying about the way I was driving.”

It quickly became clear to everyone in the courtroom that was precisely the wrong thing to say. The Magistrate bristled, now visibly angered; he spoke with a clipped tone.

“Why would the Lieutenant be lying about the way you were driving that night?”

Clueless about the world of hurt about to descend upon him, the defendant haughtily replied, “I don’t know. Maybe he has a quota or something. All I know is that I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t swerving all over the road the way he said I was.”

The Judge paused almost as if he was trying to collect himself before speaking again.

“Mr. Dumbasarock. This Military Policeman is a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army. Aside from the fact that he testified under oath, you should know that Commissioned Officers do not lie. Since you have admitted to drinking at least two beers, I am more than inclined to believe you were driving just the way the Lieutenant testified. Therefore, I find you guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Since this is your second conviction within five years, I am also suspending your privilege to drive for a year.”

There could have been no finer lesson as to the importance of honesty and integrity to the core values of being a Commissioned Officer. These days, the media barrages us with a near constant barrage of mea culpas from an endless list of public officials over their transgressions of the public trust. As corny as it may sound in light of that, I like to think that when I traded olive drab for navy blue I never sullied those principles and ideals I learned as an Officer and a Gentleman.

Epilogue – My traffic guys felt it necessary to regale all the other MPs about how “their” Lieutenant obtained a DWI conviction without an arrest, with any field sobriety test and without a blood alcohol level test. Of course, it didn’t take long for the Provost Marshal, Colonel Weinberg, to summon me to his office and explain my actions. The Colonel was a micro-managing authoritarian martinet who seemed to delight in making life miserable for all the officers he commanded.

He frowned menacingly throughout my explanation of what had happened. The Colonel had an especially annoying way of drawing out his words when addressing subordinates, particularly when he was displeased which was all the time.

“Lieuuuuutenaaaant Goldshine. I do not expect my officerssss to be running around at night playing cowboy. If you feel you mussssst do sooooo, I can arrange to have you sssssent right back to the Infantry. Are we clear on that point, Lieuuuutenaaaant?”

“Crystal clear, sir.” – What, you thought Tom Cruise was the first to use that expression?

“The Magistrate called to tell me what a fine job you did on this case and commended you on your testimony in court. Good job. That will be all.”

I rendered a smart salute, did a sharp about face and left his office.

At that moment, much to my surprise, I suddenly felt the longing to dig foxholes and freeze my tuchas off, drenched from the constant rain that is the Pacific Northwest while lost somewhere in the dank woods of Ft. Lewis.



More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse



By Gerry Goldshine


Police work can be soul-crushingly stressful. To keep from going off the deep end or venturing over to the Dark Side, many officers devise harmless but often humorous diversions – well, at least funny to them. To be sure, if the public or police department supervisors were to become aware of some of these high-jinks, more than likely outrage, internal investigations and discipline would surely be forthcoming. Some of these people have no sense of humor. So, as a result, this story may self-destruct when you’re finished reading it.

Having worked Traffic most of my career, there were times that constantly crapping on someone’s day by issuing them a citation or spending hours investigating some gruesome traffic accident occasionally got me thinking about paying a visit to our local 5150 depository. However, I managed to find my own ways to keep from being fitted with a straitjacket.

Kustom Radar
Kustom Radar

On one occasion, my department had long last taken delivery of a brand new, Kustom Electronics, dash mounted, moving radar for the traffic car. It had all the latest whistles and bells and it was Radar Love for yours truly. This marvel of early 90’s electronic engineering came with an instant on-off feature designed to defeat radar detectors. On this particular day, I was driving through downtown, heading north, when I noticed that the car in front of me had a radar detector clipped to the driver’s sun visor. After a moment of contemplation, I flipped the instant-on switch and saw a small red light illuminate on the guy’s radar detector. I suspected it also had an alert tone because the driver, who had been blissfully gazing out his window, suddenly became alert and vigilant.

For whatever reason, he failed to see me in his rearview mirror, so I flipped the radar off.  I could see the light on his detector go out. A few blocks later, we stopped for a red light. Seizing the opportunity, I toggled the radar on and off a couple of times, each time setting off his radar detector. By the time the light turned green, he was making all sorts of adjustments to the device. He even went so far as to tap it a few times, as most all males are wont to do when something electronic appears to be malfunctioning. I let a little distance open up between us and another car soon filled the gap, but I could see that the radar detector was still reacting whenever I flipped the switch. For the next mile or so, I think I might have driven this poor guy to the brink of lunacy when, with what had to be a display of disgust, he ripped his radar detector from the visor and tossed onto the seat. Mission accomplished, I took the next side street.

Juvenile? Yeah, probably. Did I have the giggles for the next couple of hours? You bet!

When I started working Traffic, I became to DWIs what the Great White Shark was to people in Peter Benchley’s Jaws. After awhile, it was almost as if I had a sixth sense and could close my eyes, point at a random car and that driver would turn out to be under the influence. Sometimes that ability was a bit of a curse. One Saturday night, at about 2:15 AM, I was heading into the station more than ready to call it a night. No sooner had I contemplated going home on time than good old Murphy’s Law intervened. The car in front of me began to swerve, weaving from one shoulder, across both lanes and onto the other shoulder, kicking up a slight cloud of dust, all the while, gradually slowing down to about 15-20 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. My inner DWI alarm went off. This guy had to be stopped and while I could have passed the arrest onto a Graveyard shift officer, that wasn’t how I viewed my job; I saw it as relieving Patrol from having to deal with anything traffic related.

Long story short, I arrested the driver for DWI. He was so intoxicated that while we were enroute to the station, he repeatedly kept asking me where he was. Though he wasn’t nasty or combative, around the twentieth time, in the space of five minutes, he asked me where he was, I started to get annoyed. I have no idea why I did it, but I finally told him he was in Reno, Nevada. Much to my surprise, that shut him up until we got to the station.

The first question he asked as I got him out of the back seat of my patrol car?

“How the hell did I get to Reno?”

Clearly, I had him hooked. After I booked him and he completed the Breath Test – I don’t recall his BAC other than, he was way over the limit – the question for me then became, should I tell him the truth or reel him in? I reeled him in, of course!

Reno, Nevada
Reno, Nevada

Though I knew nothing about Reno – this was years before the show Reno 911– I kept up a conversation with him as if we actually were in Reno. Finally, he stared at my uniform patch, which of course, had Petaluma Police embroidered on it.

“Hey! Hey! Hey, wait a minnnnute! How come your uniform patch says Petaluma Police on it? That’s where I’m from…or was…or something.”

“Coincidentally, sir, the Petaluma Police Department is participating in an officer exchange program with the Reno Police Department.” I replied, trying desperately to retain my official demeanor.

Against all odds, he seemed to accept that explanation and staggered his way back to a holding cell, where he promptly fell asleep. The following afternoon, right after briefing, a Dayshift officer came up to me in the hallway.

“Hey Goldshine, I just released your “deuce” from last night. Boy, that guy must really have been plowed because he kept asking me for bus fare back to Petaluma. He thought he was in Reno. Can you believe that shit?”

Yup, I sure could.

More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Congratulations and You’re Holding Over!

Petaluma, CA, Petaluma Blvd
Petaluma, CA, Petaluma Blvd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Gerry Goldshine

The brass ring for pretty much any rookie officer is that final day or night in their department’s field-training program. They’ve gone through the hiring process, completed the academy and are now at the end of twelve to fourteen weeks of having their FTO painstakingly scrutinize every citizen interaction, every arrest, every citation and every report. As a Petaluma officer, I finally grabbed my brass ring on a Saturday night in December of 1980. At that time, the Petaluma Police Department’s field-training program was about 12 week long, broken down into three, four-week phases. The last week of the program was known as “Plain Clothes Week”. During this phase, your training officer wore street clothes and was along only to evaluate you; they were not to assist you in any way though you could ask other officers for help. In essence, this was the police department’s final exam to determine your abilities to solo as a police officer.

Officer Dave Long had been my training officer for my final phase, working the Swing Shift, which ran from 1630 hours (4:30 PM) to 0230 hours (2:30 AM). On this memorable Saturday night, the swing shift sergeant had called off sick. Since Dave was the senior officer working that night, he had to fill-in as the acting Watch Commander. Dave asked Officer Tom Swearingen, another FTO, to take his place as my training officer. Dave then assigned us the busy downtown beat just to make sure I had an “active” final night of training.

As I recall, it was definitely very busy that night but one incident in particular still stands out in my memory; the party on Elm Street (no, not that Elm Street). Somewhere close to 0200 hours -2:00 AM- I was beginning to let myself think about finally reaching the finish line when I heard dispatch sending units to investigate several anonymous reports of a loud, disruptive party in the beat next to mine. A few of the people calling, complained that there were more than a hundred attendees and that some of them were tossing beer bottles and cans into the yards of neighboring houses. Other callers said that there were minors consuming beer and hard liquor. I knew officers, an hour or so earlier, had already warned the people throwing the party to quiet things or we would have to order it shut down.

A few minutes later, Officer Long requested all available westside units to respond to the Elm Street situation and meet up with him. The first clue I had this was not going to be a simple operation, was the legions of parked cars lining both sides of the street and throngs of people making their way down the sidewalks to the party, several blocks before I got even close. I pulled in behind a line of double-parked police cars, in time to see other officers putting on their riot helmets. I wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired before I got there, but I had a hunch that the first requests to shut the party down had been met with less than enthusiastic compliance.

There were about a half dozen of us standing out in the street, waiting for Officer Long to tell us the plan of action when a car drove up and parked in the driveway of the party house. Now you would think a bunch of police officers wearing riot helmets, in front of that same house, might be a clue that something was amiss. Apparently not to the occupants of this car, because the passenger, later identified as ““Stu Pidteen”, got out of the car holding a glass containing some type of beverage. Given the circumstances, Officer DJ Phimister, who was nearby, suspected the beverage might contain liquor and asked the young man to wait a moment. Ignoring DJ, ““Stu”” continued walking towards the front door, which, under the circumstances, seemed to be a rather impolitic course of action. DJ then ordered the teen to stop and in response, “Stu” sent the glass he had been holding, hurtling at DJ’s head, before running inside the house. Happily, it missed Officer Phimister, who took exception at coming close to testing the efficacy of his riot helmet. Naturally, he ran after “Stu” and since I was close by, I followed behind.

Just before making entry, I distinctly remember looking back at Officer Swearingen; he was, after all, my training officer that night. He had one hand raised, as if he were about to offer some sage FTO advice but then realized it was too late. Following DJ down a hallway towards the backyard, I couldn’t help from noticing the scores of people crammed inside that house; in fact, it was standing room only. I remember thinking that more than a few of the young men I ran past appeared to be on the very large and athletic side – as it turned out they were members of the Petaluma High varsity football team.

DJ managed to lay hands upon “Stu” just as he was about to scale the back fence. No sooner had DJ put the “habeas grabus” on him than one of the nearby partygoers decided he wanted a “piggyback” ride…on DJ’s back. Not prepared to play horsey, DJ reflexively let go of “Stu”, who attempted to make a beeline back to the inside of the house. I was close enough to grab “Piggyback Rider”, pull him off DJ and throw him to the ground. He lunged back up at me and I drilled him in the solar plexus with my baton, ordering him to stay down on the ground.

DJ was less than amused and “Piggyback Rider” suddenly found himself the focus of his attentions. As DJ was handcuffing “Rider”, I watched his back to prevent a replay because there were now about twenty very unhappy belligerent people moving to surround us; not a particularly good sign. While this was happening, some other officers managed to snag “Stu” just before he made it inside and he was quickly hustled out to the front yard.

So much was happening; I began to feel as though I were in a three-ring circus especially when I caught sight of another officer turning in a circle, spraying mace at about six or so people who had him surrounded.  As if that weren’t enough, I saw another officer holding his 36-inch long riot baton in such a way to keep another portion of the crowd from moving past him to prevent DJ from arresting “Piggyback Rider”. At the same time, he was trying to keep an avenue of escape open to us. From out in front of the house, Officer Long asked over the radio what our status was in the backyard.

It was then that this officer holding back the crowd with his riot baton immortalized himself as a master of understatement. He calmly replied over all the noise and tumult, “It’s building!”

Finally, someone made the wise decision that was time for us all to “get the heck out of Dodge City” and make our way back out front. Officer Phimister somehow maintained custody of “Piggyback Rider” as we made our way back through the house. I think we were fortunate there were so many people crowded inside that house because none of them realized what had just taken place in the backyard.

A cacophony of noise greeted us when we got out front again. Sirens filled the night air, as units from the California Highway Patrol and Sonoma County Sheriff arrived to help us shut down the party. Up and down this section of Elm Street, you could hear the clipped voices of dispatchers and officers blaring from the various portable and car radios. Adding to the hubbub was the loud animated voices of the partygoers themselves, as they poured out of the house and into the surrounding neighborhood. In the resulting confusion, “Stu Pidteen” got into a scuffle with yet another officer and made his escape into the night, though he was thoroughly sprayed with Mace for his efforts.

In the midst of all this, I heard Officer Long calling me on the radio.

“Lincoln 36…Congratulations…You’ve successfully completed training…Now I need you to hold over for two hours.”

I quickly looked down at my watch and saw that it was 0240 hours; Swing Shift had officially ended! I was at last, exactly where I wanted to be. I wisely resisted the temptation to respond with a loud, ‘Yahoo”!

Epilogue: Since several officers knew “Stu Pidteen’s” identity from prior encounters, the District Attorney filed an assortment of charges and the Court issued a warrant for his arrest. In a town of just slightly over 30,000 people, it didn’t take long for us to find him and serve the warrant. With the passage of time, “Stu Pidteen” eventually became a far wiser adult.

As for the phrase “It’s building!”, for several years after, it became almost obligatory to describe any situation, large or small, that seemed to be spiraling out of control.

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