View from the Tower

View From the Tower: Stations

By John Schick, Retired Department of Corrections, California

(This post was originally a comment to Hal and Ed’s post about their police stations. It was so good, I had to post it on John’s own column.–Thonie)

Prison_guard_tower_(2967623823)Ok, so we’re talking about antiquated work buildings. CIM (Ca Institution for Men where I worked)) was opened in 1941. It was the only prison ever built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during WW-II. Originally it was a honor farm work camp: It had no walls. It has four facilities: Reception Center West, Reception Center East, Reception Center Central (RCC), and CIM-Main (minimum custody level 1 inmates.) The entire facility (with additions) held 6,500 inmates. We ALWAYS had more. It was the ONLY Reception Center in southern Calif. until Otay-Mesa (Donovan) was activated in 1987. We used to receive jail buses from the counties of LA, Riverside, San Diego, Orange, and San Bernardino. It made for a busy day every day.

Prior to the installation of electric cell doors EVERYTHING was gang box manual cell control. If you’ve ever toured Alcatraz, you saw manual levers for opening and closing cell doors. Ours was very similar. It took some getting used to. Ofttimes the doors wouldn’t lock, so we had to secure them with handcuffs. Almost every cell block had three tiers. After 8 hours of running up and down stairs you were ready to hit the gate UNLESS you got ordered over due to staff shortages. THEN you got 16 hours of stairs to handle. No overweight people were overweight for long.

On the West yard where I worked most of my career we had one story 150-man dormitories. They were a dilapidated to say the least. Toilets were clogged. The showers quit working. The heaters broke. A/C? Nah! Every Spring the dorms would be overrun by termite queen swarms. They were crawling on the walls. They were flying in your face. They would fill up the overhead light covers. You had to shake out your uniform and belongings to make sure you didn’t take a queen termite home with you. Our maintenance department was ineffective, to say the least.

In the RCC higher security building (erected in 1951) was a concrete dungeon. All it needed was a draw bridge. At night you could count on a visit from either Mr. Cockroach, OR Mr. Mouse, or both. There were THOUSANDS of them. The basement was an adventure. Usually half full of water it was a home to Olympic-sized cockroaches. I measured one at almost three inches in his bare feet! Despite efforts to eliminate their numbers they thrived. It was cool down there. It was moist and smelled like a putrefying bog. Perfect!

dairy cattleI should mention that CIM had a dairy herd of about 200 milking cows on grounds. The flies and smell of manure was in the summer horrific. The ammonia was enough to clear your nostrils! Not only did WE have dairy cows, but the entire end of southern Chino was at one time the largest dairy reserve in the world. So, there was an unending supply of manure aroma to satisfy the most sensitive noses. At night we would get thick fog that would pick up the manure scent and carry it into the dorms.

I heard an inmate complain one particularly stinky night, “Man! That’s 100% bullshit!”

I had to concur.

View from the Tower

View From the Tower: Rodney King Days

By John Schick, Retired California Department of Corrections

In the early nineties, I was working on the Complex Transportation Team. We were responsible for moving inmates from one facility to another inside our prison. We also transported to other local facilities such as county jails (LA, Orange, Feds, etc.), and sometimes upstate if the state bus crews had wheelchair bound inmates their buses

Jim Clinton suit 1980's
Jim Clinton suit from Jim Clinton Men’s Store 1980’s vintage — courtesy

couldn’t accommodate. More importantly for this story, we did transports to federal court downtown for inmates who had pending civil rights lawsuits. We’d slip them into the Jim Clinton suit their attorney provided in an attempt to make them look “civil”, and drive them to court. It was a pain, overall.


One escort in particular was different. We had a black inmate who had filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against Long Beach PD. The year was 1993. No big deal, except the Rodney King jury was in deliberation. No one on our team wanted to go downtown, if you get my drift. Although we were armed, it just wasn’t a desirable place to be. We went anyway.

So, we get to court, and the place was going crazy! Federal, local, and county cops were everywhere! Helicopters were buzzing overhead. I recall seeing TV reporter Henry Alfaro standing there with his minions surrounding him.


We had a time getting a free elevator. FINALLY, we snag one, and as we were going up we came to a stop. Damn! The door swings open and there stands LAPD Officer Lawrence Powell with two other guys. Here we are in street clothes with a black inmate in full restraints between us. I thought to myself, “Ah C’mon!” Powell who was a big guy looked in and said, “I think I have the wrong elevator!” That was damn right!


We got to our court’s floor, and as we were walking down the hall, we see the what to me looked like the entire Long Beach Swat Team lined up on both sides of the hall. Obviously, an intimidation move. The looks we got were as if to say, “You’re involved in this, too!”



US Court House Los Angeles

So, we settle in court for what seems like hours. The tension was awful. We just wanted to get the hell out of there before the riot we all expected broke out. Five o’clock rolled around, and we hauled butt outta LA.


Not long the chaos started, and our court escort details came to a halt for safety issues. Our SERT teams had to go into LA to extract Parole Office personnel, and sometimes parolees out of the area.

What a time!


Read Thonie Hevron’s books: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold, and With Malice Aforethought are all available through Amazon. Thonie will be at Copperfield’s Books August 26th, Saturday from 1:30-3:30. Also, she will be at Copperfield’s Santa Rosa Store October 1, 2017, Sunday from 1:30-3:30.


View from the Tower

View From the Tower: Breaking into Prison

Seal_of_the_Calirfornia_Department_of_Corrections_and_RehabilitationToday is the first time John Schick, retired California Corrections Officer, has appeared on Just the Facts, Ma’am. He is now a regular contributor along with Hal Collier, Ed Meckle, and Mike (all retired LAPD).

By John Schick, Retired California Department of Corrections

California Institution for Men, Chino (San Bernardino County)

First watch anywhere is boring! In a prison, it’s usually really boring. Almost every inmate is sound asleep. Employees do their assigned jobs such as nightly fence checks. This was done on foot around our facility. Big place. On foggy nights it’s cold, and sometimes creepy. Coyotes, owls, snakes, skunks—you name it’ we saw it. One night, however, we saw something very different. One of our gun towers radioed they had a man at gun point between our security fences on the south side.
prison guard towerMy partner and I as well as a motorized outside patrol sergeant hurried to the scene. Sure enough, there was a man in street clothes on the ground with his hands out. In fact, two tower officers had this lame in the sights of their mini-14’s. That could get ugly—227 hollow points make an impression—literally! So we entered the fence line, grabbed this guy, cuffed him, and drove him to the admin building. We interviewed this lump in the Watch Lieutenants office. His story was that he paroled out a week ago. He had no money. He had no job. He had no family. He was hungry, tired, cold, and wanted to come home. We called the Chino Police who arrested him for a parole violation, and trespassing, and destruction of state property—he cut a hole in our fence with bolt cutters!

After his parole agent violated him, he did, in fact, come home. We advised him next time just get caught stealing a can of beer. Much safer and easier! Many crazy things happened in there. Just pays to keep your eyes open.

Surprises are not always pleasant.


John started working for CDCR in April 1982. He worked
custody positions for many years to include Search & Escort Officer,
Complex Transportation Officer (Bus & Van Crew), Perimeter Towers,
Administrative Segregation Unit, and various other assignments. In
2000, he promoted to Correctional Counselor, and took a desk job. In that
capacity he got involved in the classification, gang investigation,
court pre-sentence report referral, and numerous other related
activities. He interacted with many other agencies, and met some VERY
unusual and interesting people. No regrets. He retired intact 2007.


More Street Stories

Video: Injured K-9 Officer Bruno eats on his own; receives blood from K-9 colleague

Police captain: ‘He’s a tough dog who did his job well yesterday. He’s a hero’

After being shot in the face, Anaheim police K-9 officer Bruno returned to his handler, whimpered once and wanted to return to the action.

Photo by Capt. Mark Cyprien


Even as his handler raced him to the hospital, Bruno’s ears were up and he didn’t want to lie down, police officials said.

“He saved at least one life yesterday,” said Police Capt. Ben Hittesdorf Friday morning during a briefing of the Chief’s Advisory Board.

Police identified the man who shot the dog as Robert Andrew Moreno, 21, an Orange gang member who was released from prison 10 days ago.

His rap sheet includes auto theft, narcotics violations and assault on a custodial officer, officials said.

He was killed Thursday when officers returned fire.

The action began to unfold about 2 p.m. near the intersection of La Palma Avenue and Citron Street when two probation officers approached three men.

Two fled.

At least one of them fired at the probation officer who chased him – and then the other who had detained the suspect who didn’t flee, police said.

Deputy Chief Julian Harvey said the probation officers were shaken up but otherwise okay.

As one of the suspects fled, he confronted a woman who was unloading groceries with her children, ages eight and 10.

The suspect brandished the gun at the children and threatened to kill them if they called police, Hittesdorf said.

About 3:15 p.m., Bruno joined SWAT officers in searching for the suspect. His handler had him on a roughly 20-foot leash when he gave the signal that the suspect was either inside or behind a black trashcan with a lid.

The suspect opened fire.

Anaheim PD K-9 with handler Officer Young
Anaheim PD K-9 with handler Officer Young

Following the unrest of 2012, the police department instituted a policy where it would visit family members following an officer-involved shooting to answer any questions they can and provide them with information about the process that follows, including the District Attorney’s Office investigation.

Early Friday morning, police a counselor, a District Attorney’s Office investigator and a Coroner’s official met with Moreno’s mother and aunt for about an hour.

Police say they plan to have counselors in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred – and also at two schools that were on lockdown Thursday.

At Yorba Linda Regional Animal Hospital, where Bruno was in surgery for three hours, surgeons removed a good part of his lung and worked to reconstruct his shattered jaw, said Capt. Bob Conklin. The round missed his aorta by less than an inch, he said.

A six-year veteran, Bruno is Anaheim’s most senior K-9 officer.

“His vital signs were stable,” Conklin said. “The next 18 hours are crucial. The hospital did an amazing job.”

Police K-9 handlers from Riverside, Los Angeles and elsewhere joined police officials and even community members who visited the hospital to show support for Bruno.

His handler was joined by his wife and young child at the hospital. Police officials said Bruno is a beloved member of the family.

Capt. Mark Cyprien said another K9 officer put on scrubs, was by Bruno’s side during the surgery and gave regular reports to his colleague and his family.

“He’s a tough dog who did his job well yesterday,” Cyprien said. “He’s a hero.”

For more info on Bruno, click the link below:


Video: Injured K-9 Officer Bruno eats on his own; receives blood from K-9 colleague.

More Street Stories Writer's Notes

The State of Affairs

State Law Enforcement Agencies

A few months ago, the novel Low Country Bribe by C. Hope Clark was published on Amazon. I found the book fascinating mostly because the main character was a civil servant who coordinated federal loans for farmers in coastal low-country of South Carolina. Wow. I figure if an author could make a handsome pig farmer bribery story interesting (and it was), there is a lot of fertile territory out there. And in the State of California, our bureaucracy is undeniable.

With this premise in mind as the next installment l to the Jurisdiction blog I have been reporting on, I decided to do a little investigating of my own.

California has dozens of agencies regulating this, enforcing that and licensing much more. It took me two days to trawl through many websites to come up with some provocative organization. Here also, you see the umbrella that local and county law enforcement call upon in times of need.  


Bureau of Firearms–Under the auspices of the Attorney General’s Office, provides enforcement actions regarding the manufacture, sales, ownership, safety training, and transfer of firearms. Bureau of Firearms staff will be leaders in providing firearms expertise and information to law enforcement, legislators, and the general public.

Bureau of Forensic Services–The Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) is the scientific arm of the Attorney General’s Office whose mission is to assist the criminal justice system. Forensic scientists collect, analyze, and compare physical evidence from crime scenes or persons. They also provide criminalistics, blood alcohol, and related forensic science information services to state and local law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, and the courts. There is no enforcement duty.



Bureau of Gambling Control Special Agents and Field Representatives monitor the 91 cardroom gambling establishments and 60 tribal casinos in California by:

  • Implementing routine inspections of gambling operations;
  • Targeting non-compliant gambling establishments;
  • Investigating suspected violations of the Gambling Control Act and other gambling laws;
  • Safeguarding against embezzlement of gambling establishment’s profits and money laundering;
  • Investigating complaints lodged against licensees or other persons;
  • Coordinating multi-jurisdictional criminal investigations involving gambling establishments with local, state, and federal agencies; and
  • Examining the integrity and legality of gaming devices and equipment.

CES conducts gaming related investigations involving bookmaking, loan sharking, burglary, robbery, counterfeiting, extortion, cheating scams, illegal gaming, embezzlement, narcotic distribution, and prostitution, to name a few. CES works with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as local, state, and federal prosecutors

Bureau of Investigation & Intelligence

The creation of the Bureau of Investigation (BI) began on February 17, 2012. They include the following programs. As this bureau bears most of the burden of enforcement, I’ve spent more time on their line up.

  • Special Investigations Team (SIT) Program–SIT units, eCrimes teams, and the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force teams.
  • Special Operations Unit (SOU)–The SOU provides statewide enforcement for combating intrastate drug trafficking and violent career criminals and gangs.
  • Task Force Program–This program continues partnering the Department to with local jurisdictions to coordinate and concentrate efforts against drug traffickers and major crimes, consisting of 27 task forces.
  • Recycle Fraud Program (Recycle Fraud)–The Recycle Fraud program’s primary objective is to detect and stop existing fraud by organized criminal groups against the recycling fund and to deter future fraud through the successful prosecution of criminal activity. (Does this include the homeless guy who rifles through neighborhood garbage? No? But think of the plot possibilities!!)
  • Foreign Prosecutions and Law Enforcement Unit (FPLEU)–The FPLEU assists state and local law enforcement agencies in the location and prosecution of suspects who are Mexican nationals accused of committing violent crimes in California and flee to Mexico to avoid arrest and prosecution in California.
  • Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP)–The CAMP program along with our local, state, and federal partner agencies continues to eradicate the large scale illegal marijuana cultivations from public and private lands that cause deforestation, damage to wildlife habitats, pose danger to our citizens, and hazardous-chemical pollutions.
  • Anti-Terrorism Program–The program works with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of detecting, investigating, prosecuting, dismantling, preventing and responding to domestic and international terrorist activities in a unified and coordinated manner.
  • Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance (Alliance)–This group’s purpose is to enhance and better coordinate investigations and prosecutions of money laundering in the Southwest Border Area which includes the area within 200 miles of the United States/Mexico border on either side of the border and all of Arizona.
  • Los Angeles Clearing House (LACLEAR)–Supports this unified effort and helps provide strategic investigative research and analysis, tactical case and special operations support, electronic surveillance services as well as real-time “officer safety” related operational intelligence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Western States Information Network (WSIN)–WSIN is one of six Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) projects funded by Congress through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.
  • California Border Alliance Group (CBAG)/San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center (LECC)–The San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center SD-LECC, the CBAG’s intelligence center, provides responsive event de-confliction, case/subject de-confliction via pointer index, case support, intelligence fusion, and predictive analyses, Law Enforcement Coordination Center intelligence subsystems, and member agency intelligence units. (I gotta ask, “de-confliction”? )
  • Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU)–This program’s mission is to provide leadership and promote professionalism in the criminal intelligence community in order to protect public safety and constitutional rights.
  • Clandestine Laboratory Coordination Program (Clan Labs)–The Clan Lab Coordination program is a national strategy, intelligence sharing and training initiative addressing methamphetamine and pharmaceutical drug crimes in the United States.
  • Controlled Chemical Substance Program (CCSP)–This program monitors the use of meth-making products such as reagents, solvents, laboratory glass flasks and precursor chemicals that are needed for clan lab operations.

CA Alcoholic Beverage Control Purpose is administrate, licensing and compliance of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. ABC Agents are peace officers under Section 830.2 of the California Penal Code and are empowered to investigate and make arrests for violations of the Business and Professions Code that occur on or about licensed premises. Agents are further empowered to enforce any penal provisions of the law any place in the State. Licensees who violate State laws or local ordinances are subject to disciplinary action and may have their licenses suspended or revoked. Sonoma County agencies routinely worked with ABC agents.

CA Assembly Sergeant at Arms The chief law enforcement officer of State Assembly. He appears to be a solo act.

CA California Highway Patrol See post from 9/16/2012

CA California Exposition and State Fair Police Department police for the State Fair in Sacramento.
CA California Horse Racing Board has investigators. What a fun job that would be!

CA Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services monitor alarm company operators and employees, locksmiths, PI, Private Security, Repossessors, Training Facilities/Instructors.
CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Prison guards (how many stories there?)

San Quentin Prison

CA Department of Developmental Services now Department of State Hospitals Law Enforcement Task Force (LETF) investigates but facilities have their own statewide Hospital Police. As of January 1, 2014, they will be permitted to carry firearms. Sheesh, what took so long?

CA Department of Employment Development Under LETF, has an investigative branch

CA Department of Fish and Game We used to call them fish cops.

CA Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) arson investigators

CA Department of Insurance, Fraud-Enforcement Branch Overview:


The Enforcement Branch of the Department of Insurance is the investigative body for the department. This branch consists of the Fraud Division and the Investigation Division. Leading the nation in consumer protection continues to be the motivating force in providing all investigative and support services necessary for the fight against insurance fraud. The Enforcement Branch maintains its lead through the collaboration of other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout the state.

Fraud Division
The core mission of the Fraud Division is to protect the public and prevent economic loss through the detection, investigation, and arrest of insurance fraud offenders.  The Fraud Division acts as the primary law enforcement agency in the State of California for investigating different types of suspected insurance fraud.

Types of Crimes Investigated Include:

Automobile Collision

Automobile Property



Workers’ Compensation






Investigation Division
The mission of the Investigation Division is to protect California consumers by investigating suspected violations of laws and regulations pertaining to the business of insurance and seeking appropriate enforcement action against violators.

The Insurance Commissioner has established a case handling priority system for the Investigation Division which helps to categorize major cases and prioritize the Division’s resources.

Types of Violations Investigated Include:

Premium Theft

Life & Health Senior Citizen Abuse

Insurance Company Deceptive Fraudulent Acts

Bogus/Unauthorized Insurance Companies

Public Adjuster Violations

Title Company Rebate Activity

Bail Industry Misconduct

The Office of the Attorney General

Kamala Harris Official Attorney General Photo

The Attorney General represents the people of California in civil and criminal matters before trial courts, appellate courts and the supreme courts of California and the United States. The Attorney General also serves as legal counsel to state officers and, with few exceptions, to state agencies, boards and commissions. Exceptions to the centralized legal work done on behalf of the state are listed in Section 11041 of the Government Code.

The Attorney General also assists district attorneys, local law enforcement, and federal and international criminal justice agencies in the administration of justice. To support California’s law enforcement community, the AG coordinates statewide narcotics enforcement efforts, participates in criminal investigations and provides forensic science services, identification and information services and telecommunication support.

In addition, the Attorney General establishes and operates projects and programs to protect Californians from fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities that victimize consumers or threaten public safety. The Attorney General also enforces laws that safeguard the environment and natural resources.
CA Department of Motor Vehicles investigative division–The DMV Investigations Division protects the programs and interests of the department and public through active fraud/counterfeit detection, investigation, audit and enforcement services. The Investigations Division diligently enforces laws, rules, and regulations that apply to new and used vehicle dealers, brokers, dismantlers, registrations services, vehicle verifiers, driving schools or traffic violator schools, and other vehicle-related businesses.

CA Department of Parks and Recreation Park rangers and lifeguards. There are several mystery novels featuring park rangers. Think about it: a law enforcement officer solo in his/her beat-a remote area of a state park. Rescue calls? Drunk campers, there’s lots more here.
CA Department of Social Services: varied depending on type of incident-if, Social Security fraud goes to Federal Office of Inspector General; Medical fraud is state and the Department of Health Services Audits and Investigation — Since 1999 a tremendous amount of resources have been put forth to combat Medi-Cal fraud. Fraud is a key issue to the State of California and a special group has been formed, the Governor’s Medi-Cal Fraud Task Force, which is chaired by the Director of Department of Health Care Services, to improve communication and cooperation among agencies that investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of Medi-Cal fraud. The group includes the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), the State Department of Justice (DOJ), the State Controller’s Office (SCO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Employment Development Department (EDD), Department of Consumer Affairs Medical Board, Health Authority Law Enforcement Team (HALT) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Talk about a frickin’ bureaucracy!

CA Department of Toxic Substances ControlOffice of Criminal Investigations
The mission of the Office of Criminal Investigations is to prevent and investigate violations of California’s Hazardous Waste Control Laws for the safety of the public and protection of the environment.

 CA Franchise Tax Board–FTB’s audit program identifies and refers cases to the department’s criminal investigation program. FTB attacks the use of abusive tax shelters which cost California hundreds of millions in lost revenue. FTB’s criminal investigation program identifies and investigates cases of tax evasion and tax fraud to encourage compliance with California income tax laws and maintain the public trust.
CA Secretary of State Office of Investigation— Many Californians are aware of the Secretary of State’s role in overseeing our elections, managing the filing of important business documents and preserving the state’s archives, but the office also administers several other important functions.

The Secretary of State’s Office also manages the “Safe at Home” confidential address program for victims of Domestic Violence, the publication of the California Roster, the Registry of Domestic Partners, and the Advance Health Care Directive Registry. Who knew? I surely didn’t!
This is not a comprehensive list of agencies within the state, merely a selection that has enforcement powers of some type. Cops at all levels use the next higher step to build a case if needed. Any of the above could be used in partnership with your patrolman, detective or whoever your hero is.

Most of this info is culled from the internet. If you see or know of an error, please let me know. My goal is authenticity in fictional cop stories.

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