We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
One night, my partner, Bill and I were bored and happened to be driving through Ferndale Park. Ferndale Park is on the fringe of Hollywood in the foothills below the Hollywood Sign. It is common to see deer, coyotes, raccoons, opossums and owls in the Hollywood Hills. I was driving and Bill suddenly yelled to stop. I slammed on the brakes and put my hand on my gun. We both exited the car, I’m looking for a crime, Bill is getting a pair of work gloves from the trunk of the police car. Next thing I know we’re running through the park in pursuit. Bill is in the lead because I don’t know what we’re chasing.
I soon spot the culprit, it’s a possum. Bill grabs it by the tail and holds it away, careful of its snarling teeth. I’m waiting for the adrenalin to stop rushing through my body. I’m a somewhat educated man, so I ask Bill, “What the hell are you going to do with that?” Bill replies, “Open the trunk.” Bill drops the possum in the trunk and slammed it closed. Bill directs me to the back of a supermarket, where we rummage through cardboard boxes and crates. Bill finds the perfect animal container. I recognize it as a wood crate with wire, used to hold red cabbage for delivery. My previous job was delivering produce. I might need my old job if we get caught. It takes twenty minutes to get the possum out from behind the spare tire and into the crate.
Bill lets me in on to his plan. We have a lieutenant, who is not a building boy. He completes the necessary paperwork, to keep the captain off his back then goes into the field. Street cops love this kind of leadership. We’re going to get a set of keys to the lieutenant’s car and place the crated possum on the front seat. My role was to delay the lieutenant until Bill could get the possum in the car.
I met the lieutenant at the back door and told him I need a day off. He said he had to get out of the station and to see him later. He walked out to his car as Bill was walking in. I think we got away with it.
Bill and I watched as he opened the driver’s door. We could see him looking across the car interior at the crate. By now that possum is a snarling fur ball ready to bite though the crate. The lieutenant tells Bill and me that if we ever want to have a weekend off again, to get that oversized rat out of his car.
Now before you call PETA or the SPCA we took the possum back to Ferndale Park and released him.
P.S. The lieutenant got even about two weeks later. He called us into the station on a rainy night and told us to put on our old uniforms and boots. There’s a major mudslide in the Hollywood Hills and we need to check for survivors. We were half changed when the lieutenant got on the station P.A. system and said “Pay back is a bitch”.
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
From the time you’re born, all of us have fears. Some are afraid of spiders, snakes, heights, claustrophobia and clowns. A lot fear speaking in public. I think we all had those dreams of being naked in public. Hell, I still have those. Stay out of my dreams if you want to sleep. Most of us outgrew those fears and moved on to bigger fears. Is the power out or did I forget to pay the Water and Power bill, when is our anniversary? What’s this string tried around my finger for?
We all have those things that scare us, but let’s talk about what scares cops. Most cops love their job but want to go home every day to their family and loved ones, even if that’s a dog or cat. They think safety and might use the best taught tactics, but there’s one thing that cancels out all your fears. That’s adrenalin. It’s more powerful than any drug sold on a street corner.
Cops will run to the sound of gun fire—not away like most people. I’ve seen cops leave a perfectly safe place, behind good cover as we say, to a danger area, just to stop a threat to others. I was once shot at—in a police parking lot no less! Was I scared—no, I was pissed off. How dare some @##$# shoot at me at my house! I’ve seen cops race to a scene of a “shooting in progress call” to be there first. Did you ever see the video of the North Hollywood Bank shootout? Cops were everywhere trying to stop the bad guys. SWAT officers showed up in their workout clothes.
Burning buildings! Cops will run into burning buildings to save people they don’t know—sometimes when there’s no one to save. Unlike firemen who have fire protective clothing, cops will still enter a burning building in short sleeve blue wool uniforms. Cops have done this all the time. Were they scared? No, they didn’t think about their own safety, just protecting the innocent. I’ve been in a few fires and been treated for smoke inhalation twice. Scared? No, I just didn’t have time to be scared or my intelligence is so low that I don’t know enough to be afraid.
America is fascinated with car chases on TV. With the police helicopter lighting up the bad guy’s vehicle, the news copters can follow and get free footage of a real live police chase. They even have a TV show with nothing but cop car chases. Some of these chases are hair raising and dangerous to not only the cops and the car they’re chasing but to any innocent citizen driving on the streets. After thirty-five years, I’ve been in quite a few pursuits. Was I scared? No, just angry that someone would think they could out run me.
Cops can be exposed to life threatening diseases on a daily basis, such as AIDS and Hepatitis. A simple prick on the finger from a dirty syringe in a hype’s pocket or a fight with a blood-soaked suspect. I was once tested for AIDS after giving CPR to a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) baby. I wasn’t scared but it was worrisome for six weeks until the results came back clear.
Ok, so what does scare a knight in armor? Be prepared to be shocked.
Find out what really scares cops next week, Sunday May 16th for part 2.
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
The following story is true, best to my fading memory. Some of my earlier stories dealt with pursuits. One was about my worst car pursuit and one my worst foot pursuits. Even the bad pursuits are a fond memory of an eventful career. As in life, not everything is bad. I actually had a lot of good moments. I remember my lucky arrests. Ok, this story is about the best and longest car pursuit I was ever in.
If you remember, I said I don’t like car pursuits. They’re dangerous and they seldom seem worth risking your life. Think about hurtling through the streets at breakneck speeds, because someone doesn’t want a ticket, they’re drunk, or they’re driving a stolen car. Even a stolen car will only get them a few months in county jail. A lot of cops die chasing cars. I knew of one cop who loved pursuits. He would hide out on Forrest Lawn Drive, see a speeding car, and let him get a good head start, before turning on the red lights and siren. The speeding car would figure he had enough of a lead to outrun the cops and take off.
Ok, back to my story. I’m working; yep you guessed it, Morning Watch. I’m working with Bill, a good partner. Some partners you just click with. Bill’s driving and I’m keeping the books. Books are police slang for keeping the log and writing all the reports for the night. Bill and I had a great system for running license plates that were going away from you. The driver would look at the first three or four letters/numbers and the passenger would look at the last three letters/numbers. That way we would have the whole license plate to check to see if it was stolen or wanted. If you’re following behind the car, it’s not a big problem because you can read the license as you talk to the dispatcher downtown.
We’re stopped at a red light at Franklin Avenue and Bronson Avenue. A car drives southbound on Bronson past the front of our car. The driver looks at us then quickly looks away. Ok, if you’ve got kids you know that look when you catch them doing something wrong. Bill and I look at each other, without saying anything. We both know he’s dirty. We pull in behind the car, a 70’s Pinto, and run the license plate. The dispatcher tells us the car is stolen, taken in a robbery, the suspect is considered armed and dangerous.
The adrenalin is starting to flow. We request back up and an air unit (helicopter). This is where the action begins. We have a backup police car behind us, a helicopter overhead, and a full tank of gas. That’s important as you will see later. We cinch up our seatbelts and turn on our red lights and siren. The Pinto accelerates to a top speed of 45 mph. To my non-police friends, Bill is responsible for driving the car. I’m responsible for broadcasting streets, direction, and suspect description. Both officers watch for oncoming cars, cross traffic, pedestrians, and Department Brass.
The Pinto drives westbound Hollywoodand northbound Cahuenga. I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble keeping up with this 4 cylinder Pinto. After all were driving a high performance, police equipped V-8 that the city bought from the lowest bidder.
The next 20 miles is pretty boring. The Pinto drives onto the northbound Hollywood Freeway (101). The Pinto is straining to get over the Cahuenga Pass. I’m broadcasting our location as we pass the off ramps. We are now in the San Fernando Valley and as we pass each on ramp we see two police cars waiting to get into the action. The Pinto is now up to 65 mph. We have a sergeant with us who keeps our pursuit from becoming a 30-car procession of police cars.
As we head into the west end of the valley, our radio begins to break up. Another item bought from the lowest bidder. Communications advises us to let the helicopter broadcast the pursuit. Ok, I hang up the microphone, put up my headrest, and tell Bill to wake me if the Pinto exits the Freeway. Ok just kidding, but the Pinto is not going to outrun us or the helicopter.
We leave L.A, County and enter Ventura County. I see Ventura County Sheriffs sitting on the on ramps. We travel through the communities of Agoura, Westlake Village, and Thousand Oaks. The Pinto strains to get up the hill on the Conejo pass. On the down side it reaches speeds that top 70 mph. We are driving into Camarillo when our helicopter advises us that he is low on gas and has to turn back. Ha ha, we filled up at start of watch. I think were in Ventura when the Pinto slows and exits the freeway at Victoria Ave. He’s out of gas. Hum!
The end of a pursuit is usually a dangerous, tension-filled occurrence. Cops are mad because of the danger this dirt bag has put them through, the adrenalin is flowing and after a close call, revenge is on most cops minds. These are the times when police officers lose control of their emotions and end up on You Tube and in court unemployed. This was different. After this slow, long pursuit, the adrenalin has left us. We order the driver out of his car and he complies, unlike Rodney King. He lays down on the street and I handcuff him. I put him in our car and we begin the long drive back to Hollywood. Our Sergeant has to stop and get gas, to get back to Hollywood. The pursuit was 56 miles in 53 minutes.
We’re on our way back and I ask the suspect, “Why did you run?” He said, “I was in West Hollywood and I saw the Sheriffs kick a guy’s ass for flicking a cigarette. I’m driving a stolen car, I was just putting off an ass kicking. You guys didn’t even hit me”. I told Bill, “Stop the car. Let’s kick this guy’s ass.” The guy’s eyes got big and Bill and I both laughed.
The robbery involved a gay man who picked up our suspect for a date. Our suspect took his wallet and car. Not the kind of Armed and Dangerous you see on TV. The pursuit lasted longer than it took me to write the arrest report.
I think my sergeant is still trying to cash a check in Ventura to buy gas so he can get back to Hollywood.
This will be part 4 of a planned trilogy. I have been accused of being verbose (wordy) or loquacious (talkative). I had to look up both words. I started writing my Ramblings for cops, then found out that they were being forwarded to non-cops, which was fine with me. I learned to stop using cop vernacular and abbreviations that only a cop might know. I also got e-mails from former partners, ‘Hey Hal what about this or that?’, and occasionally I get, ‘Do you remember the time you drove over my foot?’ Come on, I only did that twice! Each of these brings an additional paragraph or two. This is the last Ramblings on driving, I think!
Pursuit driving is whole new ball game. You don’t get to pick the streets, the speed, or the chances you take. It’s a little like riding in the last car of a roller coaster—you’re just along for the ride. You can terminate a pursuit anytime you want. That decision is usually based on your experience and your will to see your kids move out of the house and get married.
I’ve been in a lot of pursuits and as I stated before, I hate them. Some were easy; some made me want to be an electrician like my dad. The risks you take are seldom worth the punishment the culprit will receive from a judge. Most cops’ biggest problem during a pursuit is tunnel vision and your ego. Ego first. The longer you’re a cop the smaller your ego gets! Ego kicks in when some dirt bag challenges your authority by failing to stop at your command. A young cop will chase this guy for as long as it takes, no matter how big the risks! Tunnel vision can be just as dangerous. All you see is the bad guy in front of you, you don’t know how fast you’re going, or how many close calls you just had. A few close calls wised up some of us, others ended up on the Los Angeles Police Memorial Wall!
On the LAPD, we deployed 2 man cars. This made driving easier. The passenger officer could handle the computer and the radio. He was also in charge of checking cross traffic at intersections and in some cases telling you to stop chasing this nut. One man cars were required to relinquish the pursuit when a two man car joined in. It was a challenge to drive, broadcast, and watch for that little old man who didn’t hear your siren—often he will turn right in front of you.
Other driving incidents that most people never think of, including some cops, is police vehicle vs suspect on foot? The LAPD often conducted what they called “Buy-Bust Operations.” It not what your think, It has nothing to do with paying a prostitute or a part of the female anatomy. “Buy Bust” was cop talk for arresting street narcotic dealers. A U/C (undercover cop) would make a buy from a street dealer. The U/C would then radio the dealer’s description and the chase cars would swoop in and arrest him. I was a chase car more times than I care to talk about.
Some days being the chase car was easy, the U/C made a buy and you were sitting in your B/W (black and white) a few blocks away. You got the go signal and drove a block and arrested the culprit. He was then taken to the station for booking. Arresting drug dealers in Hollywood was like fishing with dynamite. Once in a while a dealer objected to being arrested, duh! He would run when he saw the chase car approach—crap.
I remember once Dale Hickerson and I were sitting two blocks east of Hollywood and Western. We got the go word. I drove east on Hollywood Boulevard. I see our suspect running toward us in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. He’s done this before and when he sees us he turns down a side street. He’s running down the sidewalk and I’m driving—see I’m not so dumb. I look ahead and see a driveway where I can cut him off. I zip into the driveway and cut him off. He dodges around the back of our police car. He might have bumped into the rear fender. Dale jumps out and starts to chase him on foot. Now Dale and I have over 20 years on the job and are too old to be chasing some small time drug dealer. Dale yells, ‘Stop or I’ll shoot you!’ Well damn, our suspect stops. He might have seen that Expert Marksman badge on Dale’s uniform. We didn’t even think he spoke English.
Another time our Sergeant wants to ride with us during a buy bust operation. We put him in the back seat where we place our suspects. We get the go to arrest another dealer. I’m trying to turn left into a parking lot. I stop and wait for traffic to yield. My sergeant jumps out, traffic clears and I move forward. Yep, I ran over my sergeant’s foot. Funny, he never wanted to ride with me again.
One last driving story. This didn’t happen to me but I had to laugh when I heard about it. Delongpre Park was only two blocks from the police station, but they still sold drugs in the park. We often did buy bust operations in the park. The U/C would give the go sign and officers would race into the park to arrest the culprit. The city even installed wheel chair ramps so the cops didn’t have to get out of their car to get into the park. We drive up the ramps into the park and arrest the drug dealer. Experienced officers learned to stay off the grass!!!! Have you ever watched a NASCAR race when a driver spins out onto the grass, the brakes are worthless? Well many a rookie learned that lesson in Delongpre Park. They would dive into the park, turn onto the grass and then brake. They would slide right into a park bench. A few officers paid to have those benches replaced with days off with no pay!
Being retired and driving the LA freeways you drive 70 in a 65 MPH zone everyone else flies by me and shows me that at least one finger is manicured. I’ve still got my driver’s license and I’m just not ready for a golf cart yet. Hal
I’ll bet that all the non-police that read this Ramblings never gave much thought to what it takes to drive a police car. Trust me, it’s more than leaving the police station and driving to the local donut shop. Most cops can relate to what I’m about to say. Let’s talk about checking out your police car before starting your shift. I’ve found a half-eaten chilidog under the front seat; it would have made a great junior high science project after being there for three days. I once found a WWII hand grenade on my front seat, left by officers of the previous shift. You have to make sure that any dented fenders were reported or you get the blame and maybe days off without pay.
Ok, you hit the streets. You’re looking for trouble. Take for example a simple traffic ticket. Say the driver is late for work and trying to make up a few minutes. He runs that red light by just by a second or two. The cop who sees the driver run that red light will commit three traffic violations just to catch him and give him a ticket. Even worse, he gets the lecture on how dangerous your driving was. Hint: don’t use that as an excuse in traffic court. Judges will still find you guilty! By the way, did you thank that cop for risking his life to give you that ticket? I didn’t think so and his parents probably are married.
Here’s an oxymoron for you. An officer gives you a ticket for talking or texting on your cell phone while driving. Look in his car and you’ll see a computer sitting next to the driver’s seat. I learned to drive, type and read messages all while driving on Hollywood streets. Quite a few officers have run into parked cars while driving and typing. By the way, some cops get days off, without pay, for traffic accidents that were their fault.
Another hazard is patrol! Yea, you’re driving around and looking for that arrest that will make your captain forget you missed court last month. You see an individual you think is wanted. You turn to look at him and don’t see that traffic in front of you has stopped. I had two of those in my career! At least I wasn’t looking at some underdressed woman when I rear-ended a car, honest.
Ok, let’s get down to real police driving-getting there in a hurry. I’m talking, the adrenaline pumping, heart in your throat; did I bring another pair of underwear? It’s not always a high-speed pursuit as depicted on TV.
One night I was driving a 1969 Plymouth—the finest police car ever made. My longtime friend Jim Moody was the passenger. A “shots fired” call came out on the very east end of the division. I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard—ok, I was speeding. We wanted to be first on scene. A car pulls out from a side street in front of me. No problem, I’ll turn the steering wheel to the right and tap the brakes, just as I was taught in driving school. Next thing I know the ass end of my police car is in front of my engine. Our police cruiser stops with the rear bumper ten feet from a closed bar. I look at Moody; his knuckles are white as he grips the dash. Our car has stalled, I think the car is amazed that we didn’t hit anything. I finally get it started and arrive last at the call. No shots fired. I learned a lesson that night.
Another time I was racing to a call on La Cienega. I was driving south from Sunset, traffic was light, and I’m sailing along. La Ciengega crosses Santa Monica—big deal, right? La Cienega is a very steep hill and levels off as it crosses Santa Monica then drops down again. That’s right my police car becomes airborne. If the tires are off the ground, the steering wheel and brakes are worthless. Again, I learned a valuable lesson—slow down and live to see retirement.
Next I’ll talk about pursuit driving, code 3 driving, and driving during buy/bust operations? Hal
With apologies to my Wednesday post readers-I’m a little late. Here is your Wednesday post in all its glory!
It started with COP. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel of Britain succeeded in reforming the criminal laws and established the London police force, whose members came to be called Peelers or Bobbies. In time, another title: “Constable on Patrol” was shortened to cop.
For the same reason radio codes are used, cops have come to use acronyms as shorthand. Whether a pursuit at 90 miles per hour or sneaking around a fence line searching for a prowler, an officer cannot always afford the time to use proper English. Codes help but don’t always do the trick. To avoid confusion, shorthand acronyms are used.
Some are universal, some unique to the agency that uses it. For instance, when I worked for Petaluma PD, we used the letter “W” to designate the station. No one knew its origin but it was used until I left in 1991. Anyone know if they still use it?
There are many terms for the same thing. In Southern California, law enforcement uses “BO” to indicate something (usually equipment) is broken. In Northern Cali, if I said BO on the radio, everyone would think I was calling something stinky. Here we use “down”. An example: My patrol unit is down.
Also while in Petaluma, I worked with a Wonder Dispatcher who had a low tolerance for fools—in or out of uniform. Before computers, magnets were used for unit identifiers. A BTW: For example—Gerry Goldshine was 1Tom36: 1 (1 is city designator for Petaluma, 10 for the Sheriff’s Office) Tom (the alpha that stands for a traffic unit) 36 was his patrol number. When I was a Community Service Officer (acronym: CSO, predictably) I was 1Charles 65-Charles was the CSO alpha.
Somehow, Wonder Dispatcher got a magnet made with NARS on it. It stood for “Not a Rocket Scientist”. Every day she worked, she would place the little sign over the officer’s activity card. Whoever made a fool of himself (or herself) that shift, got the dubious honor. This was awarded for general or specific stupidity and Wonder Dispatcher was the Queen who bestowed it.
Sometimes members of the general public were given their own acronyms. A particularly used set of initials were not condoned by the department, but used regularly as needed: PVP, NHI. Needs were based on judgments about the type of call or the behavior of the involved parties. “Low-lifes” occupy a lot of police time. Many are regulars—or frequent fliers—who don’t have the common sense to solve their problems, thus they become a problem for others. The letters stand for “puke versus puke, no humans involved”.
Most of the other acronyms I can readily think of aren’t nearly so interesting. Here are a few.
DEA-Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI and all the other agencies…
GOA-gone on arrival
OIS-officer involved shooting
ETA-estimated time of arrival
X-stands for female i.e. 10-15X is a female arrestee
IFO-in front of; JSO-just south (change the letter for the different direction) of…
HBD-has been drinking or ETOH-borrowed from our paramedic co-workers, it pertains to someone who has been drinking
HUA-when I quizzed acronyms on Facebook, this one got volunteered a lot from friends who know the job. It’s a catch all that hopefully won’t see much radio time: head up ass
BOL or BOLO-Be on the Lookout; similar to APB-all points bulletin
WMA and variations: white male adult (race, gender, age given in same order), WFJ is a white female juvenile, BFA is a black female adult, Latins are generally known as Mexican or Hispanic (is currently correct), Asian are O probably to avoid confusion with Adult…and so on.
DOA-dead on arrival
PC and VC-penal code and vehicle code; the two Bibles for California law enforcement. Additionally there are other code books we must know: WIC-Welfare and Institutions Code (particularly in child welfare incidents) H&S-Health and Safety is used in drug incidents, including cultivation, use, sale, and possession of all types of narcotics and other drugs.
POS-refers to a vehicle, residence or sometimes even a person that is a “piece of shit”
Most of these won’t find their way to official police transcripts or on the radio. Some are just used to get a point across to another officer.
The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed. One of my last stories dealt with foot pursuits. This story will deal with car pursuits.
Yea, car pursuits, that’s “Breaking News” in most big city TV markets. TV channels will cover a car pursuit for hours, often describing how dangerous it is for the public as some jerk hurtles through the streets of Anytown USA. Suspects running red lights, driving on sidewalks, mothers with children running for their lives–hell, they even have TV shows that only show car pursuits. I guess that’s entertainment for those who work in a sterile workplace where the day’s excitement is the boss and his/her secretary taking a two hour lunch at some hotel.
My take on car pursuits is that they are dangerous, not only to my health but to the public’s. If I was going to die doing my job I wanted it to be for something important. My experience has shown that the driver is avoiding a prison sentence or a ticket that will increase his car insurance rates. My first car pursuit might have made a big impact on my opinion. Some cops loved car pursuits, probably due to the adrenaline rush. The same reason people like roller coasters and those other fast rides at amusement parks. Ok, my story involves my first car pursuit.
I was a few weeks away from getting off probation. I was working with a hard charging officer, Larry, who I liked. Every night we would go out and find and book a drunk driver and write a few tickets. After 2 A.M. we would turn our attention away from traffic related offenses and focus on crime. We had one of the highest recaps on the watch. I was learning a lot, but at times, Larry scared the hell out of me with his driving. Near end of watch (7:A.M.) we would chase speeders down Barham, sometimes at 70 mph +. He was a good driver but he took chances that put both our lives in jeopardy. One morning he almost put our police car in the famous Smoke House in Burbank.
We are working A.M. watch, it’s after 2 A.M. and were looking for bad guys. We stopped a young adult and found marijuana. In 1971, marijuana possession was a felony. We had to book this drug abuser downtown. In 1971, the police cars didn’t have the cages, so the junior officer, that’s me, had to ride in the back seat with the suspect.
Larry is driving, I’m sitting behind him in the back seat and the handcuffed suspect is sitting in the right rear. We head down the Hollywood freeway. A radio broadcast comes out: “All units, 6A39 is in pursuit, southbound Glendale Boulevard from Rowena Avenue.” I look up from the back seat and the next off ramp is Glendale Boulevard. 6A39 is a Hollywood patrol unit. Larry exits the freeway at Glendale Boulevard. I ask Larry, “What are you doing?” Larry replies, “I just want to watch them go by.”
Department policy was very strict about who could join in a pursuit. Even though I had less than a year’s experience, I knew that a police car with a felony suspect in the back seat was not allowed to join a pursuit. Ok, the pursuit is headed in our direction, I can see the heads lights of the bad guy’s car and the red lights of the police car right behind. Larry turns and heads right at them. I yell, “What are you doing?” When I said right at them I mean head on toward the bad guy’s car. At the last second Larry swerves to the left and the suspect flies past us.
Larry makes a U-turn and falls in behind the pursuing police car. My heart is in my throat, I squeak out, “What are you doing?” Ok, do you see a pattern? My vocabulary has deteriorated to the same few words. We’re racing down Glendale Boulevard at about seventy miles per hour. I’m guessing the speed because I’m in the back seat.
Larry mumbles something about the police car in front of us not trying to catch them and passes the pursuing police car. My voice is back and I yell again, “What are you doing?” We are now behind a square back VW that has been reported stolen. I can see two adults in the car and something else moving around I can’t identify. I look over at our suspect and he has that scared look. I recognize it because I have the same look.
Somewhere, Glendale Boulevard turns into Second Street. Larry pulls up on the right of the suspect’s car. No kidding, were paralleling the car we were chasing. Guess what I yell at Larry? I look over at the suspect’s car, two adults and a dog with a scarf around his neck. The dog is jumping around in the back seat. I think the dog and Larry are the only ones enjoying this. I glance over at my suspect, he’s sliding down in the seat. He thinks we’re going to exchange gunfire.
OK, here we are, side by side on Second Street. Second Street goes under the Harbor Freeway–that’s right, a tunnel two lanes until you exit. With parked cars in our lane, Larry hits the breaks and swerves to a stop behind the VW by inches. Now I’m screaming like one of those women in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, “What are you doing?”
After a few more turns in downtown were driving behind PAB, that’s Parker Administration Building, police headquarters. I look up and can see people looking out the windows. I hope the chief isn’t one of them. At San Pedro and Temple the suspect’s car spins out and stalls. Larry is going so fast that he sails right past the VW.
The suspect is trying to restart the car, Larry exits the car and runs to the driver’s door. I run to the passenger door. It’s locked. Larry breaks out the driver’s window with the barrel of his revolver. I’ll never forget this the driver calmly looked up at Larry and said, “I’m John Fitzgerald Kennedy”. JFK was yanked from the car and handcuffed. The passenger was bent over the center console. He was holding the break lever. Apparently he wasn’t fond of the pursuit either. The passenger and the dog were hitch-hikers.
I suddenly remember I have a suspect in the back seat of my car. I look at my police car and can see the suspect’s eyes just above the back seat just like Kilroy, he wants to watch but not get shot.
We broke about every rule in the pursuit manual and an investigation was conducted. Larry and I were interviewed. There was no doubt that Larry was going to take some days off without pay. They also wanted to give me days off for not stopping Larry. At the start of my interview, the Sergeant, Thomas, (his real name) tells me how the interview was going to go. Thomas said “I’m going to ask you a question, then I’m going to give you the answer”. I didn’t ask “What are you doing?” Larry got 5 days off without pay, I was given a couple extra days of station security but I got off probation.
I was involved in many car pursuits during my career but none as bad at that one. As far as pursuits go, there necessary, but I’d rather cars would just pull over.
My next Ramblings will be about a calmer but longer car pursuit. Hal
Hal’s next Ramblings will be on December 26th. We are taking Christmas Day off to enjoy family and friends. We hope you do, too!
Sharing a chuckle that comes from regularly working with someone under often trying conditions, I could feel some of my accumulated stress bleed off. Then Officer Andy and K-9 Rocky came up behind Sgt Dave. Petaluma Police had recently reinstated their Canine program; Rocky, a German Shepherd, was still relatively new and had yet been faced with the necessity to bring someone down outside of training.
Before we could strategize any further, the “Yutz” upped the ante on us by getting out of his car and standing next to it. Nothing quite irritates the hell out of a bunch of adrenaline fueled cops more than someone who just doesn’t want to go along with the program in a high risk situation. If the sound of multiple officers yelling at him in both Spanish and English didn’t catch his attention, one would have thought the distinctive sounds of multiple shot-gun actions being worked and the frenzied barking of Rocky would have. It didn’t.
Sgt. Dave told Officer Andy that he and Rocky now had the helm. Officer Andy shouted out that if the suspect didn’t comply with our instructions, he was going to release Rocky or words to that effect. By then, Rocky was very well caught up in the spirit of things and barking in what should have been an menacing manner to any sensible person, sober or not. An officer, who spoke Spanish, repeated Officer Andy’s commands.
No doubt more than one or two of us went slack-jawed when the suspect at last responded by dancing some type of jig in the street next to his car. This alone would have been the height of absurdity had not the suspect finished his little boogie by extending the middle fingers of both hands and held them defiantly aloft for all of us to see.
Succumbing perhaps to the influence of the Simpson’s C. Montgomery Burns, Sergeant Dave simply told Officer Andy, “Release the hound…” Well, at least that’s how I recall it.
Rocky, was off like Rin Tin Tin, eager like any other police rookie to finally put all his hard training to use for the first time. Before our would-be M. C. Hammer could rescind his crude digital display, Rocky leapt and grabbed Twinkle Toes’ right forearm in his jaws. The dog’s forward momentum carried him and the suspect to the ground. Half of us rushed the driver while the others took a most cooperative but rather inebriated passenger into custody. Just like that, the incident was over; it was almost textbook perfect in set-up and execution. The only injury was the bite from Rocky.
Sergeant Dave assigned someone from the Graveyard shift to take the suspect, who was quite clearly drunk, to the local hospital for treatment and a blood alcohol test. The passenger, equally smashed, was arrested and charged with public intoxication.
As everyone started leaving the scene, I saw amongst the assemblage, several units from the California Highway Patrol, a unit from the Sonoma County Sheriff and coming south on Stony Point Road, from his blocking position a half mile ahead of me was a unit from Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. Quite the team effort. I looked at my watch and shook my head in dismay as I began filling out the CHP Form 180 to have the suspect’s car towed from the scene. It was well after end of watch and I had several hours of report writing ahead of me. “Go get him”, indeed!
Gerry is a regular contributor to Just the Facts, Ma’am. Check in weekly or so to see his newest posts.
My Motorola radio crackled loudly, only just audible over the siren and engine noise, “Tom-36, be advised, I have no units 10-8 (in service) to assist and no one in the area of the north end of town. We’ll notify CHP and SCSO. Also, we’ve had reports of patches of heavy fog in that area.”
Swell, Murphy – of “Murphy’s Law” infamy – was now definitely riding shotgun with me. Moreover, Petaluma Boulevard North, as it led out of town, was a divided roadway, with two lanes in each direction. It was not especially well lit and was lined with large oak trees that regularly claimed errant drunk drivers. I let dispatch know that the tan Toyota’s speed reached about seventy-five miles per hour and was weaving from one lane to the other. That was until we came upon the first patch of what is fondly known as “Tule Fog” – or by its more proper nomenclature, “Radiation Fog”. This bundle of condensation was about a hundred feet or so across and my lead-footed prey braked hard once more, quickly dumping off his speed like a fighter jet from Top Gun pulling up in a dog fight, only to increase velocity once out of the fog. Continuing on towards the north end of town, we encountered at least two more of the fog banks and each time, my fleeing driver would dutifully reduce his speed, albeit locking his brakes again on several occasions.
For those unfamiliar with Petaluma, at the far north end of town, Petaluma Boulevard turns to the east where it crosses over US Highway 101 and eventually becomes Old Redwood Highway. Just before the Boulevard crosses Hwy 101, it is intersected by another northbound street, Stony Point Road. In this area, Stony Point was an even more poorly lit, as well as a poorly paved, “country” road surrounded by large fields and very few residences. Why this is important, is that upon reaching this intersection, the suspect ran the red light and turned left onto Stony Point Road to continue heading north. We encountered several more patches of thick dense fog spilling out of the fields, crossing the roadway before closing on a long driveway that led up to an old farmhouse on the west side of the road. As we approached, the suspect turned on his left signal and began slowing as if they were going to turn into the driveway.
Still without any backup, I’ll admit to imagining all sorts of nightmare scenarios, each of which had me being lured into some type of ambush but almost the same time, I began formulating response strategies just in case. Reflecting back on my training, I knew about the best thing I could do was to gain more distance from them. Tactically, more distance means more time to react to any danger. Fortunately, all my threat assessments were for naught because they passed by that driveway and several others, continuing to signal for a left turn. Then, perhaps a mile or two ahead, I saw a set of flashing red and blue emergency lights speeding towards us. The suspect apparently saw the same thing and abruptly stopped his car right in the middle of the single northbound lane. About a half mile from us, the oncoming police unit stopped and proceeded to close off the southbound lane to any traffic. It was with palpable sense of relief that I finally heard, still off in the distance but converging on my position, the welcome sounds of multiple sirens meaning the cavalry was nearly there.
Unlike what is frequently depicted on the news, officers in my department did not rush up to the driver at the conclusion of a pursuit, screw a gun in his ear and/or yank him through a window. If doing so didn’t get you killed, it would probably get you fired and rightly so. Consequently, I had positioned my car a good five to seven car lengths from the tan Toyota, angled in such a way so that the engine would act as cover should they open fire on me. I got down low, behind the driver’s side front window frame, with my pistol pointed at the driver.
Using my patrol car’s public address system, I ordered the suspect driver to first turn off his car, then both occupants to put their hands on top of their heads and finally not to move. Naturally, neither of them complied and both made what is not so fondly referred to as “furtive movements”. Even after I repeated the commands two more times, they acted as if having a police officer point a loaded gun at them was all a perfectly natural happenstance.
As the sounds of the responding backup units grew closer, I tried repeating the commands in Spanish but to no avail. So, I turned my attention to directing the arriving units into what I felt were the best tactical positions. When at last I was joined by Sgt. Dave, down behind the door of my car, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Nice job.”
I shook my head, looked at him and replied, “Go get him, Ger? Seriously? Go get him?”
Read the final installment of Gerry’s pursuit tomorrow, May 9th, 2013
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.
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.