By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
It was a clear day and my shift was going well. I was a field sergeant, but I was asked to sit in as the Watch Commander (W/C) while the W/C and assistant W/C attended a meeting. I settled into the W/C’s seat and noted that I was in command of the entire Hollywood Patrol Division. If something big happened in Hollywood, it was soon to be world news. It was nearing the end of my 12-hour shift. What could possibly go wrong? I had a very competent officer sitting to my left who often helped me handle the numerous calls meant for the Watch Commander. I bought myself a diet Coke for that late afternoon caffeine pick me up and settled into a game of FreeCell on the computer. I have to stay mentally sharp in case I’m asked to make a decision. Little chance, right?
I suddenly remembered that I last peed before roll call about 9 hours ago. Cops develop bladders the size of a basketball. Imagine being on a stake out or perimeter search and holding up a finger asking for a potty break.
So, I’m losing this game of FreeCell and make my last good command decision of the day.
I went pee. I casually walked back into the W/C office thinking the world would continue to spin. The young officer calmly said, “Hey sarge, you should see this message that came through the ACC (a computer in W/C’s office).”
I told him print it out.
I sat down take a sip of my still cold diet Coke. Now an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) is so important that the department basically mobilizes. Everyone wants to be notified and half of those respond to the scene. No kidding. It was rumored that an OIS was better investigated than a homicide. An OIS doesn’t have to include shooting at another human being. An OIS might be an “aw shit” in the locker room where you accidently pull the trigger and put a hole through the next three lockers. It also might be during a foot pursuit when you trip, and your handgun goes off. No matter who or why you have an OIS everyone above the rank of rookie wants to be notified. I read the printout and an officer has fired his Berretta 9mm at a dog. Ok, not as important as shooting at a human being but still pretty serious.
My brain shifted into high gear. Notifications need to be made! I send my loyal officer to the roll call room with a print out of the OIS. He passes the notice to the Assistant W/C. The AW/C comes down to the W/C office and confirms the information on the print out. Yes, we have an OIS! The AW/C goes back to the roll call room and advises the Watch Commander who interrupts the Captain with the news. The meeting is immediately cancelled. See? An OIS is a big deal.
In the meantime, I scrambled to make notifications. I called a Use of Force Investigation—the detectives who investigate all use of force’s.
The officer who answered the phone asked, “What do you have?”
I reply, “I have an OIS!” He told me to stand by while he got the OIS form.
The next 5 minutes I answered questions. I move on to the next notification.
The Chief of Police, same scenario: “Wait a minute. I have to get the OIS form.”
Another 5 minutes pass but I’m used to the formalities that everyone wants to be in the loop.
My next notification was West Bureau. LAPD is divided into four bureaus and Hollywood in in West Bureau. Guess what? “Hold on a minute while I get the OIS form.” After 20 minutes of answering the same questions, I felt I’d done a pretty good job of making notifications. I can now return to my Diet Coke and game of Free Cell.
Two days later I’m the real Watch Commander when I got called into the Captain’s office. I suddenly get a chill when the captain closes the door.
I spent the next 20 minutes listening to my captain chew my ass out because West Bureau was notified 20 minutes late of the OIS. When it was finally my turn to talk, I went through my notification scenario, telling him the delay was possibly due to me taking a pee brake on city time.
The OIS was two officers responded to a Radio Call. When they walked to the house a large dog charged at the officers and they retreated to their car. The dog outran the officers and one officer fired one shot at the dog. The dog was last seen running west bound through the houses. Unknown if the dog was hit. PETA was not notified.
I was not written up for my lack of only being able to talk to one person at a time. I left the Captain’s office and started a new FreeCell game.