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.

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