More Street Stories

Santa Rosa Police Department-The Dish on Dispatch


by Greg and Janel

The Dispatch Blog Team

Welcome to the first blog of the communication center for the Santa Rosa Police Department, aka dispatch. We hope to give you a little insight into the way our dispatch center operates and would love to answer any questions you might have about what we do.

Dispatchers are the link between the community and police officers. As dispatchers, we understand the importance of taking care of our community and officers at a moment’s notice. We are always available to our citizens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

During a normal 24-hour period, dispatchers enter approximately 375 calls for service. Calls for service include reports of criminal or suspicious activity, traffic accidents, stolen property, parking violations, request for an officer’s assistance, or other quality of life issues. When you call the Santa Rosa Police Department you will be greeted with “911 what’s your emergency” or “Santa Rosa Police Department”, depending on if you call 911 or the non-emergency number. At any given time there are anywhere from three to seven of us working on the phones and radio, helping out the community and our officers.

Each of our 18 dispatchers answer an average of 12,000 calls per year. That’s over 200,000 calls every year to our department in the dispatch center alone. The calls come in on 911 lines, non-emergency lines and inter department lines. Each line has its own special ring so we don’t even have to look at the phone screen to know what line is ringing. Some of us have been working for Santa Rosa for 27 years others just 3 months. We all have gone through or are going through a year of on the job training as well as keeping our skillset up with mandatory state trainings. One thing we all have in common is, we love helping others.

Our workstations include 6 different computer screens, 3 different keyboards, phone keypad, and 4 different mice. It might sound like a lot, but while we are talking to you we could be using almost every piece of that equipment to get you the help you need.

As we develop our blog, we hope you will feel more involved with what is going on with your local law enforcement dispatch center. We are excited to share with you some information about who we are and what we do. We look forward answering all your questions and hope you enjoy the ride.

~ Greg and Janel
(Your SRPD dispatch blog team)

Santa Rosa Police Department's photo.
Santa Rosa Police Department's photo.
Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, Characters, Stinky Steve

By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us. 

The following stories are true.  The character unfortunately is also true. Stinky Steve

This is a tale of the malodorous smells that cops have to endure. I suggest not eating within an hour before or after reading this Ramblings. Trust me! There isn’t a cop alive who wore a badge that can deny that familiar smell of a decomposed human body. There are also a lot of cops who thought a live human smelled the same. Walk down skid row sometime, it smells like death.

There are a few calls that cops hate to get. The first is the call, “Go to the Watch Commander.” Nothing puts fear in a cop’s heart as fast as that detail. Your mind starts racing, “What did I do now? Who did I piss off? Was it that last guy I gave a ticket to or the dirt bag I told to do something anatomically impossible?” You and your partner start getting your story straight as you take the long way to the station. That means making up a lie that you both will stick to. If you’re working with a Forrest Gump type, you start thinking of job opportunities outside of police work. Maybe UPS; they wear shorts in the summer. I used to have the legs for shorts.

When I was a watch commander, sometimes I would broadcast for a certain car to, “Go to the Watch Commanders Office,” when I suspected they were not giving the city a full day’s work. It was nothing more than transporting paperwork downtown, but I wanted them to sweat a little. See? I could be mean when I wanted to. I could also broadcast, “Send any unit to the Watch Commanders Office,” meaning no one was in trouble. See post from May 1th, 2015 for more on “See the Watch Commander.”

Another call is possible DB (dead body). Notice I underlined possible. That’s means someone hasn’t seen a loved one or neighbor in days and suspects that the person may have passed away. Sometimes the days are actually weeks or even months. Cops hated a call that said the neighbor hasn’t been seen in weeks and there’s a smell coming from the apartment. Uh oh, it’s been hot for weeks. This can’t be good. I won’t go into third generation maggots, or flies on the windows. Bet you won’t see any of that on those CSI shows on TV.

Ok, my story. I’m working morning watch and after working all night the sun is just starting to rise in the east. I’m hungry and ask to eat (note: officers have to be cleared to take a meal break by dispatch who knows how many calls are backed up in the officers beat—or area of responsibility). Communications has different ideas. They give me the call from hell,  ”Possible Dead Body, see the manager. Resident hasn’t been seen in over a month, strange smell coming from apartment.” I reply, “Thanks,” instead of “Roger.”

I park in front of the apartment building and get two cigars from my duty bag. Most cops know that smoking a cigar will help with the smell of a decomposing body. I’ve watched many a female probationer smoke their first cigar at dead body calls. Burning coffee grounds on a stove is also another method used to kill the smell. The coroner has a spray that cuts down on the smell but it’s not in the police budget.

We meet the manager and he tells us that some of the neighbors have been complaining of a foul order coming from this apartment. They haven’t seen the resident, an elderly man in weeks. I’m wondering, can’t you call back in 2 hours, when I’m home in bed? If this guy’s dead he not going anywhere. Suddenly I’m not hungry anymore.

We walk up to the third floor with the manager. He hands us the keys and walks to the other end of the hall. I unlock the apartment door and crack it open just an inch. I take a very small sniff.  Experienced cops know never take a big whiff because the smell will stay in your nose for weeks. I smell nothing that resembles a dead body. I open the door a foot and take another small whiff of air. Anybody want my job with all the great benefits now? It smells like a trash dumpster but not a dead body. You know, I’m an expert on smells.

I turn to my probationer because he’s going in first. Rank has it privilege. Maybe not, he’s greener than a fresh Christmas tree. I open the door all the way. It’s a studio apartment with a bathroom and a kitchenette. From the hallway I can see the room is filled with trash, newspapers, magazines stacked to the ceiling. The bed is covered in trash and the kitchen sink has old food stacked two feet high. I spend ten minutes inside before I’m convinced that no one is in the apartment. It smells bad but not as bad as I was expecting.

We walk back out and tell the manager that his tenant is a pack rat but he’s not inside. I suggest that he evict the tenant. I saved two cigars and my probationers color is coming back. We get the ok to eat. I have a hearty breakfast. My probationer’s color is coming back but he only orders tea. He’ll learn, I hope.

Hollywood Characters: Stinky Steve

I booked Stinky Steve once and still carry the scars. Steve came from one of those Eastern European countries and I can’t remember his last name. I nicknamed him Stinky Steve, for obvious reasons. Steve did speak a word of English.

Every morning some apartment building tenant would wake up and leave for work. They would open their apartment door and be overcome with an odor that would make a coroner eyes water. Steve might have been wearing the same clothes that he came to America in. Steve had a scent that made some dead bodies smell like a bed of roses. It might have been a defense mechanism, somewhat like a skunk.

Stinky Steve would somehow make his way into a multi-story apartment building west of La Brea. He would curl up on the floor in the hallway and go to sleep. Every morning the first Hollywood police car to clear for radio calls got to evict Stinky Steve from the apartment building. Steve never argued, but then again he might never have understood the cops telling him to never come back.

After months of evicting Steve before my morning coffee, I determined that Steve need to go to jail. I finally convinced one tenant to make a citizen arrest of Steve for trespassing. This is where I pissed off the Hollywood Judicial System. My partner and I handcuff Steve, hold our breath in the elevator and put Steve in our police car. We roll down all the windows and race to the station with unauthorized red lights and siren. We clear out a holding tank, place Steve inside and get some incense to light outside his tank. Bet my non-police friends never thought the brutal LAPD used incense.

The Hollywood Jailer is not pleased but he owes me a favor and books Steve. Steve gets a cell all by himself. Steve refused a shower, go figure. I call the Hollywood Court Liaison, Kurt Rizzi and tell him that I don’t want Steve released for time served, as was the usual procedure. Otherwise I’ll be kicking Steve out of apartment buildings into the next century.

The next morning, I’m in the parking lot cooling off from my run. The jail bus is loading the prisoners to take to court. I pause as Stinky Steve boards the bus. The other jail birds on the bus won’t let Steve sit near them. I’m watching from up-wind.

The next day I hear from the Hollywood Court Liaison that the court sheriff’s hate me for sending Stinky Steve to their house. The Judge complies with my wish and prohibits Stinky Steve from being west of La Brea after midnight.

I didn’t have much dealing with Steve after that but I removed my name tag whenever I walked into Hollywood Court.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Dorothy, the Button Lady, Characters 10

By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

The following story is true and the “Character” is real.  The character might still be out there, but I doubt it—Dorothy, the Button Lady

These stories involve naked women. Nothing can get a policemen hurt quicker than a radio call of a naked women. The radio code is “311 woman.” Male officers will race all the way across a division to see a naked women. I’ve handled a lot of naked men calls but none of them bring back any memories. Must be a guy thing. Female officers are smarter.

My thirty-five years’ experience taught me that most “311 women calls” were not worth the effort or risk. After reading two of the three examples of incidents I’m going to describe, you’ll probably agree.

Its early Day Watch and rush hour traffic has the streets of Hollywood clogged. Most of the cars contain business men and women on their way to a low paying, boring desk job. This story is old, before everyone was on their cell phone. The only entertainment was the car radio and what they saw on the way to work.

A call comes out of a 311 woman at Franklin and Beachwood. Let see, I’ve had my coffee, I’ve got nothing else to do, why not go see a naked women? I fight traffic and drive East on Franklin. I see a police car ahead. Traffic westbound is stopped dead. I get out of my car walk up to the other police car. Standing in front of a convalescent home is a 60+ yr.-old naked woman. She’s dancing around and flopping her shriveled up boobs at traffic. I look over my shoulder at the backed up traffic. There’s nothing but smiles or a bewildered look on their faces. In today’s cell phone world it would have been videotaped and on You-Tube before I got my second cup of coffee.

The officer in charge, Wendi Berndt, is ordering the female to turn around and put her hands behind her back. This lady could be from the convalescent home or high on drugs, it’s never easy to tell and both can be dangerous. Wendi again tells the lady to turn around. The naked lady complies, then shocks everyone within eye sight. She bends over and spreads her ample butt cheeks and moons everyone. If I’d had that second cup of coffee, I’d have peed in a clean uniform. Yea, she was from the home and refused to take her medication. I would have loved to hear some of the conversations in the office that morning. “You’ll never guess what I saw on my way to work this morning.”

The second incident also involved rush hour traffic. Radio call, “311 woman at Santa Monica and Highland; school kids in area.”  It’s my call so I respond. Yep, there she is, a 70 year old homeless women standing behind the bus bench. Her pants are around her ankles and she has relieved herself on the sidewalk. The traffic is stopped and everyone is watching us. I tell the lady to pull up her pants. She tells me to do something that is anatomically impossible. I tell her I’ll arrest her and she says, “Go ahead, I’ll crap in your car.”

Just then, I get a brilliant idea—something new to me. I tell her she will go to jail and I’ll throw away everything in her shopping cart. She says, “Officer, don’t do that.” She immediately pulls up her pants. I tell her to walk westbound on Santa Monica Boulevard to West Hollywood. I follow her into the county’s jurisdiction. Let the sheriffs deal with her.

This last one is the exception to the “311 woman” curse. I’m working Morning watch and it’s about 3 A.M. We finish handling a radio call and drive slowly down the street as my partner is writing in his log.

The only car on the street stops us and asks, “Are you looking for the naked lady?”

Huh? “What naked lady?”

The driver says there’s a naked lady running around on the next street.  OK, my interest is piqued and my partner has put down his log. We turn the corner and see something duck down behind a parked car.

I drive up next to the car and get out.  This twenty-something, drop-dead glorious young lady stands up. She’s not even wearing shoes or earrings. I’m a trained observer.

I ask her, “Why are you running around naked in the middle of the night?”

She says her parents don’t want her to sleep in the nude and she wants to feel free. She asks me my opinion as she stands in front of me, unashamed.

I just swallowed my gum.

I beginning to understand this young lady has some mental issues.  We put her in the back seat of our police car and drive around the corner to her house. We wake up mom who brings out a blanket and takes her daughter inside. Those are just a few of the incidents of naked women I’ve run across in Hollywood.

Character:  Dorothy, the Button lady

I became aware of Dorothy in the 80/90’s.  She got her name from the numerous buttons and pins she had on her coat.  I would see Dorothy walking westbound on Hollywood Boulevard early in the morning. She would sit on a bus bench in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and wait for the first tour bus to arrive. When the tourists saw Dorothy they wanted to take a picture with her. She would oblige for a small donation. Dorothy preceded the costumed super hero’s that now clog Hollywood Boulevard.

For the most part Dorothy was not a problem, but if anyone tried to encroach on Dorothy’s territory, she would call the police. One morning, I’m a Field Sergeant and a radio call is broadcast. “ADW (assault with a deadly weapon) suspect in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Suspect is attempting to hit tourists with a chain.”  I drive up and Dorothy points to a male who is skipping rope. He’s a boxer and is doing the fancy rope skipping.

The tourists are taking his picture and not Dorothy’s. Dorothy wants him to leave. I tell Dorothy that he has every right to be there and I leave. I drive to the station and I’m in the Watch Commanders office when Communications Division calls and says that there’s a lady on the phone who wants to make a complaint. It’s Dorothy and she says that she called the police and the police (meaning me) didn’t do anything. I adjudicated my own complaint in five minutes.

Under Chief Parks it would have been a four week investigation.


More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

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
Writer's Notes

Officer Safety — Yes, I Take It Personally

By Melissa Kositzin

July 9, 2013

I am proud to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher. I think I was meant to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher all along; I just had to take the circuitous route getting here.

The job comes with thrills and chaos and boredom and personality conflicts. It’s not for just anyone; you really must come with a pretty thick skin or be deft at compartmentalization. I definitely sit in the latter category, not the former. I’ll own it: My skin’s pretty sensitive and I am not made of Teflon. I am, however, a professional and prefer to be treated and respected as a professional.

The job also comes with its own built-in challenge: the great divide between cops and their dispatchers; between the sworn and the civilian. I like to think of that great divide as an urban myth that can be destroyed with a little one-on-one communication from time to time, thus avoiding this scenario:

I just pissed off dispatch
I just pissed off dispatch

 (Click on the pic and you’ll see the joke better.) The great untold truth is: We (dispatchers) don’t really do that. We don’t wage a war of shitty-ass calls in response to a shitty-ass attitude. It’s tempting, I’m sure; but we don’t. At least, I don’t and I don’t work with anyone who does.

Yet, I’m pretty sure there are officers out there who truly believe we do. I’m so sorry you live in that world with that belief and were treated in such a fashion to make you believe that. 

In our small town, we dispatch officers based on their beat (their assigned geographical area). If a call is in their beat and that officer is available, it’s their call. Doesn’t matter if it’s a barking dog, a landlord-tenant dispute with no crime to speak of, a rape or an assault. It’s their beat; they gotta take the call. We don’t make up calls in their beat just to spite them for a perceived earlier insult or lack of patience. We don’t send them from one end of town to the other just because we can. I’m not gonna lie; sending an officer from one end of town to the other and back again happens, but not because we are being vindictive.

In the past — over my nine years of working here — whenever I’ve had a miscommunication with an officer, I’ve addressed that officer directly. Usually that resolves it. The officer shares their perspective, I share mine, and we each (I hope) walk away from the conversation with an understanding and common ground. Rarely have I had to go to a sergeant or supervisor with a problem.

However… lately, I’ve been a little frustrated. More and more often, we’re getting a rash of what I call “second-guessing” from units enroute to a call. Have we done this, have we done that, what is the suspect’s description, what does the vehicle look like, which way are they going? Guess what, guys? WE’RE WORKING ON IT. We have the SAME checklist you do. We know what information you’re looking for and we’re working our butt off to get it to you as quickly as we can, given the challenges of slow computers and even slower callers who don’t answer the question you ask but the question they want to answer… which is another story for another day.

In attempting to address this through dispatch meetings and supervisor/sergeant meetings the word has come back: Deal with it. We (the officers) are just working the checklists in our own minds. Don’t take it personally.

Well, okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that from time to time something gets missed, or unasked, or undone, but not on every single call. When I am being second-guessed on what feels like every single dispatch, then yes I start feeling like I’m not being trusted to do my job. That hurts, because in the core of my being I am doing everything I can to get that officer the information they want in a timely manner SO THAT THEY GO HOME ALIVE AT THE END OF THEIR SHIFT. Believe me, that is my sole concern: that everyone gets out alive and unhurt.

Along those same lines, another aspect of our job includes knowing where our officers are at all times. We are accountable for their status and location. So, if they’re taking too long to get somewhere, we’re suppose to check on them; make sure they haven’t been in an accident or jumped on their way from point A to point B. Does it make us seem like “Big Brother/Sister” to our officers? Probably, but again it’s all about officer safety and I don’t want to be the dispatcher that loses an officer because I wasn’t paying attention.

So, after several meetings and discussions, including some one-on-one conversations, I still have this unresolved dilemma of I just “have to deal with it” — the being second-guessed and not trusted because it’s not personal it’s just the new way of doing things I guess (because the more veteran team does not do this nearly as often, I’ll just go ahead and put that out there). So, I’m sitting with that, and trying to just roll with it and not take it personally because it’s not just me, they’re doing it with all of us and you know whatever it’s fine as long as everyone gets home safely.

Then this past weekend, while I am working dispatch (as opposed to call-taking), I status check an officer who hasn’t advised that he has arrived on scene of an in-progress call, and another officer has advised that the scene is “code four” — everything is okay. Even though the scene is code 4, I still need to know if this not-on-scene officer is actually on scene and hasn’t told me, or if he got in an accident along the way and needs help. So, I call him on the air. Once. Twice. Three times. I’m just about to ask another officer on scene if they can see him — otherwise I’m going to be sending some “code 3 cover” to check his route and find him, when he finally answers me… and he’s got all kinds of attitude about it in his voice. Like, WTF am I doing calling him three times?!

Okay, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt; maybe he was tussling with a suspect — in which case the other officer shouldn’t have advised the scene was code 4. Maybe he was in the middle of a conversation. I’m not on scene, I can’t see what’s happening, which is why my imagination runs to worst-case-scenario, precisely because I don’t know what’s going on out there. There are a thousand reasons why he couldn’t answer me the first or second time. NONE of them are a reason to have an f-off attitude in his voice when he finally does answer me.

I know there’s another side to this story (like Mercury being in retrograde), but I would like to think that any officer would prefer to have a dispatcher who cares, who takes it personally if they get hurt, who is professional enough to have conversation after conversation trying to work this stuff out, rather than a dispatcher who just goes into robot mode and stops thinking about what they’re doing. I think that’s what I want from an officer, too: Don’t be a robot checking the boxes on your list. Know us well enough to know when you have to ask and when you don’t have to ask because you know we’re working on it.

I’m not supposed to take it personally. Guess what? I refuse to be a robot. I’m gonna take it personally. Deal with it.


Re-posted with permission from Melissa Kositzin. Check out her blog at

Wandering Voiceless

Exploring spirituality, relationships, family; with occasional side trips into managing chaos, dealing with stupid people, and cooking with Tastefully Simple
Tales from the Barking Muse

And We’re Off And Running

And We’re Off And Running

(part 1 of 3)

By Gerry Goldshine


To coin the venerable Sergeant Joe Friday, “It was Saturday night. I was working the Swing Swift out of Traffic Division. My boss was Sgt. Dave. It was approximately 0145 hours, near the end of watch. It had been a quiet night.” Okay, enough of the homage but that’s what happens when it’s been an unusually boring watch and you can see the finish line; you get a little loopy. Sgt. Dave had just gone out with a possibly intoxicated male subject in the parking lot of a business on the fringe of the main downtown area. I was nearby and responded for backup, knowing the unpredictable nature of drunks, especially at that hour. As it turned out, he was an amicable inebriant who had a much soberer friend willing to take him home. Standing there talking, we all suddenly heard the sound of tires squealing and unmistakable roar of an engine under heavy acceleration. We no sooner turned in the direction of where the sound was coming when a tan car went flying by us, doing 45-50 miles per hour – in a 25 mile per hour zone. Sgt. Dave gave me a wry grin and simply said, “Go get him, Ger!”

I climbed into my patrol car, rather unenthused about the prospects of ever being able to catch the tan car, never mind the fact my brain had so recently shifted into the “I want to go home on time” mode. I pulled out onto Petaluma Boulevard North and traffic was very light which made it easy to spot the ne’er-do-well. My doubts were confirmed; they had well over a half mile lead on me which was increasing by the second. My foot pushed the accelerator to the floor and the sound of the big Ford V-8 police package engine roaring to life got my predatory juices flowing. Just as the rational part of my brain was starting to tell me that I was embarking on a futile quest, I looked on in astonishment up ahead as the tan car suddenly braked hard for a red light.

Burning rubber
Burning rubber

Now, by “braking hard”, I mean his brakes locked the wheels up so that his vehicle, with its back end shimmying side to side, was quickly shrouded in churning blue clouds of burnt rubber. My internal “DWI” detector immediately went off; from my training and experience, I knew that anyone operating a car in the reckless manner that this yutz had, was more than likely under the influence of some intoxicant. No longer was this just about a speeding ticket. Stopping this person from driving as soon as I could, before they crashed and possibly caused injury to themselves or others, was now a priority. Fortune favored the bold that night for the traffic light stayed red long enough for me to catch up to and pull in right behind my target vehicle.

I notified dispatch that I was going to be making a traffic stop on a tan Toyota Whatyacallit. I hadn’t yet turned on my emergency lights when the driver finally noticed me in his rear view mirror. I watched as he shifted position, sitting straighter in his seat; all his attention was now intently focused on my reflected visage. At the same time, his passenger turned in his seat to look intently at me. The driver apparently said something to his rider, who violently shook his head. Then the signal turned green but the tan car didn’t move an inch. As Princess Leia said to Han Solo, I had a bad feeling about this. I didn’t need to be a Jedi Knight to know what was going to happen next. I snugged up my seatbelt, closed my windows and turned up the radio, mentally cursing Sgt. Dave’s “Go get him, Ger”.

A second later, I shook my head in resignation as the car ahead abruptly took off, its back tires squealing as they sought the proper coefficient of friction against the asphalt roadway throwing up a blue haze of burnt rubber while the back end fish-tailed crazily. The driver rapidly accelerated through the intersection. A surge of adrenaline shot through me and I flipped on all the emergency lights along with the siren; we were off and running. As we sped past the police station, I notified dispatch that I was northbound, now in pursuit of a possible DWI.

So much for me going home on time.

Check out part 2 tomorrow right here!

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