Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, to those working and to those at home. Party calls can be very common at times like this and there are several things to keep in mind when you respond to them. The first thing to remember is why you are there and try to accomplish that task without distraction. Most of the time you are there because the noise is too loud. Two officers should go to the initial call, park down the street so your vehicle is not visible from the location. Wait for a couple minutes before you approach so that you can see who is going in and coming out as well as listen for the noise. Walk up to the door, find out who is in charge and give them an advisement to keep the noise down or that they could be arrested for disturbance of the peace. Get their name, date of birth and a telephone number before you leave, both as documentation that you contacted them and in case your dispatcher needs to call them back.

If the party is out of control to the point where it needs to be shut down, bring plenty of help. Officers should wear helmets and face shields and carry batons. Side handle or straight single piece batons are best for this type of work. Police cars should be parked a short distance away and left with at least one officer to guard them. Ejected party goers often like to vandalize the cop cars as they go home. The person who is in charge that you contacted before should be arrested right away for their failure to control their party and disturbing the peace. When possible, have a neighbor complainant sign the citizens arrest form so that an officer is not the victim.

Officers should stay together and watch the crowd. The goal should not be to make many arrests, but rather to disperse the crowd and get people to go home. A few units should station themselves around the perimeter and watch the cars as they drive away. Sometimes you can pick up a few drunk driving arrests out of a large party call. Keep your paramedics handy in case either someone becomes violent and there are injuries, or in case of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Happy times for some are not always that happy for us; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cut to the Fight Scene

Recently I was reading a discussion about carrying an edged weapon as a back up weapon. I think it can be a good idea. Just like any back up weapon there have to be several issues to resolve first. Does your agency prevent you from carrying an edged weapon? Is the edged weapon you carry permitted by law in your state? Have you documented training in the use of the weapon by experts in it's use? Do you continue to practice with the weapon?

These are the same kinds of questions you should be able to answer if you carry a firearm as a back up weapon. I actually carry a handgun as a back up weapon and two knives. In fact, I carry three knives, but one I consider as a utility tool that I use for cutting ropes and such. The other two are weapons, I keep one in a front pocket and one in a back pocket. Remember, many people carry knives these days and they are certain to recognized the tell tale little clasp that holds your knife in the pocket.

I anticipate that I would use it when a firearm is unsafe to use, perhaps in an explosive environment, perhaps the suspect has been dowsed with gasoline. Or if I cannot reach my firearms, or if they are out of ammunition. I have also considered that if someone were to grab my duty gun, cutting their arm would be an effective method of dislodging their grip. If not, there is always jabbing them in the eyes; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 29, 2008


One of the readers of this blog, The Bronze made mention in the comments about a website you should all know about. It is the Officer Down Memorial Page. The website shows all known officers killed in the line of duty. Not just those feloniously killed by the bad guys, but those killed in accidents too. He found the officer who's traffic accident death I remembered yesterday.

Too often we are getting killed accidentally. Accidents account for just about as many deaths as the bad guys. Many times those accidents are our own fault for failing to take reasonable precautions to insure our own safety. Certainly law enforcement is dangerous. Between security guards, police, corrections, park rangers, and other members of our team nearly every day one of them is killed.

We need to be sure to drive a little slower, make sure the red lights are working and on when we are driving fast, make sure to buckle up. It is our duty to protect others but it is also our duty to protect ourselves. The impact of an officer death lasts for years. I remember officers who were killed ten and twenty or even thirty years ago. I did not come up with this saying but it is a good one to remember: Let's be careful out there; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Officer Needs Help Calls

When I was just starting out in law enforcement I read about an officer in the greater Los Angeles area who was responding to an officer needs help call. An officer needs help call will bring an avalanche of officers to your location here in Southern California. It is probably the highest priority call you can get.

A help call means that a trained, armed, sworn officer is unable to handle a situation and is likely in physical danger to the point that he needs as much help as he can get as quickly as he can get it. I called for this once and in less than thirty seconds I could hear sirens of responding officers from more than one direction. In under five minutes I had over thirty-five police cars on scene, with probably fifty police officers from two different agencies.

The young officer responding to the officer needs help call in greater Los Angeles was driving with red lights and sirens, code 3, as fast as he could go on the freeway. He hit the center divider and his car disintegrated into little bits. This was about thirty years ago, and I still remember the news footage of that big steel Chevrolet Impala and the wheel hubs looked to be the largest parts left. Naturally he was killed instantly.

Today I read about another young officer in Richmond, California who died under similar circumstances. He was responding to an officer needs help call, on slippery roads and hit a light pole. He died a few days later after being on life support since the accident. An officer needs help call may be the highest priority call you can get, but if you don't get there you can't help. Drive fast, but drive safe; we should have learned that by now; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

That May Be a Clue

Not long ago we were doing a DUI checkpoint. We had lights and cones and warning signs and nearly thirty officers and probably twenty police vehicles all out in the street with all kinds of blinky lights going. We had about six cars lined up at the checkpoint when we heard the skidding of wheels on pavement. All of us looked up in the direction of the noise and saw a small car skidding and sliding all over the lane; heading directly for the last car in line. I could hear at least two other officers saying, "Oh, no!" as the last car in line, actually pulled into the center lane to escape being hit.

The little car finally stopped, just missing the car that pulled out of line. A huge blue cloud of tire rubber, brake dust and probable cause surrounding the little car. "I think we may have found one" I said half to myself. The little car, hoping no one had noticed them I am sure, backed up and made an illegal u-turn to drive away from the checkpoint. Two of our young officers ran to a waiting police car and a few blocks later made the traffic stop.

Not surprisingly the driver was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, the passenger was arrested for being drunk in public; very, very intoxicated, and their little car was towed away. Between towing fees, attorney fees, fines, court fees, and increased insurance premiums that is going to cost someone between $10,000.00 and $15,000.00. Some days you sit with a line in the water all day and don't catch anything. Some days the fish just jump in the boat; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 26, 2008

You Sent Me

The dispatcher is a critical link in the law enforcement chain. There used to be a game called telephone where you would whisper a sentence into someones ear and then they would repeat the sentence as best as they could to another person and so on until it got to the end of a long line of people. The last person would then say out loud the sentence that was told to them. Typically the sentence would have changed dramatically after only a few repetitions.

Someone sees a crime in progress and they yell to their wife to call the police. The wife phones the police and speaks to an operator who forwards the information to a dispatcher who radios it to a officer in the field. The information may go through many hands before it gets to the responding officer. And it will travel by voice, by telephone, and by radio or even by computer text. Someone broke into the garage; my husband said someone robbed our garage; a woman reported her husband was robbed in the garage; robbery in progress in the garage. It does not take much for a cold report call to mutate into a major crime in progress call.

A few questions can certainly help clarify the nature of the event. A good dispatcher will ask those questions. Where is the robber now? How long ago did this happen? How many robbers are there? Do the robbers have any weapons? Where is your husband now? Is your husband okay or does he need medical treatment? Which way did the robbers go? Were they in a car? What type of car was it? Many questions to ask, to make sure we get the right response; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


"I pay your salary."

"Okay, here's a nickel, I figure that's about your share."

It's okay to think that, but if you find yourself saying that, it is probably time to take some time off. Not everyone we meet on the streets is a bad guy, some are just folks who got a ticket or contacted the police and it turned out a bit negative. Sometimes they can get you down more that the bad guy who swears at you. Most of the time when we respond to a call for service it is seldom happy news for someone. Often, it is bad news for everyone.

The innocent person who has their car stolen, or their home burglarized did nothing wrong, and they often feel violated, hurt and betrayed. They work hard, pay their taxes and then something bad happens. Maybe the worst thing that ever happened to them in their life. Sometimes they are so upset they will say something to us that is not very nice. So we gotta take it and remember they are not really mad at us. They are not even mad at the uniform. They are mad at the situation and in a few hours they will feel bad that they yelled at us. So just put on your plastic smile, nod your head, and say "Okay" a few times until they calm down; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

The polls are open for the Best Police blogs....Please go and vote ....

On this Christmas Eve remember a few things:

Your family and God are more important than the job.
Make time for both of them this Christmas.

Some families you will contact this holiday season will have serious problems that will only get worse during the holidays. Use caution and don't let the holiday cloud your officer safety judgement. Separate those who are arguing. Keep them out of the kitchen, that's where all the knives and other pointy things are. Watch the hands and interview participates separately. Don't fail to take people to jail who need to go, just because it is the holidays; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maybe Next Time

"Commonwealth v. Goewey, 452 Mass. 399 (2008). A police officer engaged in a motor vehicle stop properly ordered a passenger out of the vehicle where the passenger acted nervously, produced a questionably invalid identification, and made obscured reaching movements inside the vehicle."

Normally in a traffic stop the person under investigation is the driver. But sometimes the passengers are in need of some police intervention. In the case cited above the officer acted properly in getting the passenger out of the vehicle to continue his investigation. It is always important to remember your safety vs the value of the investigation. You may lose in court but you have to be alive to testify against the bad guys. When in doubt, you may not want to continue and just let the bad guys go on their way. If you have a license plate, or other good ID they can be contacted again, if necessary.

Often we become so focused on making an arrest or writing a ticket we sometimes forget our officer safety or may not remember the technicalities of the law. It is imperative that we remember both of them at all times. Being a bad guy is a lifestyle and if we don't catch this crook today, we can get him tomorrow; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lots of Bombs

State police: Bomb explodes at an Oregon bank (

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms there have been thousands of bomb related incidents in the US every year.

2006 3445 explosives incidents 135 injuries 14 fatalities
2005 3722 explosives incidents 148 injuries 18 fatalities
2004 3790 explosives incidents 263 injuries 36 fatalities

We read about bomb threats all the time and that is because real bombs explode frequently all over the world, even in the United States, an average of ten per day!!! What do we do about threats or concerns about a possible bomb? First of all, don't use radio communication our cellular phones in the area of the bomb. Clear people out of the potential blast area if the threat is credible. A blast area can be very large and it is better to clear out too much than not enough. When evacuating an area, be sure to block off traffic on adjoining streets and gather the evacuees together so they can be accounted for, it is a hard thing to have to return to the scene of a bomb and look for missing employees who may have been evacuated already.

In responding to a credible bomb attack, there are many people and agencies who need to be alerted. Other than law enforcement, you need a bomb squad, Federal BATF, local fire department, paramedics, local trauma centers, local news organizations, TV and radio. The utilities need to know, gas, water, electrical so they can cut off service to the building and restore service if there is widespread damage. Red Cross can provide services and you may need local schools or other government buildings for evacuees or as staging areas.

Bombs can be as small as an envelope or as big as a tanker truck or train car. Bombs can be planted for terrorism, insurance scams, to murder specific persons, or for political, animal rights, or religious reasons or revenge. Bombs are sometimes detonated by radio frequency on command, by timer, or by motion. They can also go off by mistake. Sometimes the bomber will accidentally blow himself up while trying to build or emplace the bomb. Sometimes the bomber will be a suicide bomber trying to take others with him when he blows up. Don't be that other person; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More DUI Checkpoint

When performing the driver contact on an DUI checkpoint, treat it similar to a typical traffic stop. The difference is that the driver you contact at a DUI checkpoint will usually not be doing anything illegal. So try and be nice and extra polite to them while you look for a reason to take them to jail. First thing to do is introduce yourself, your agency and tell them what you are doing; conducting a DUI checkpoint.

I like to have two officers approach the stopped vehicle. One on each side. The officer on the driver side will try and determine if the driver it too intoxicated to legally drive the vehicle. The officer on the passenger side will be the cover officer. The contact officer should inspect the eyes of the driver. Watery, red eyes, a smell of an alcoholic beverage, are two very important factors to look for to find DUI drivers. I like to ask the driver if they have had anything to drink, often they will say they have if they have been drinking. The drivers who have been drinking who have any significant symptoms should be checked further. Direct them to the side of the road and have them perform the usual field coordination tests.

The cover officer on the passenger side should be watching the drivers hands, watch the other passengers for possible threats. Sometimes you can find drugs, guns, and open alcohol containers inside the car if you just look. Have your flashlight out in your non-gun hand so that you can inspect the vehicle interior carefully. Keep your gun hand free so that you can use your gun if you need it, that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

DUI Checkpoint

Last night I worked a DUI checkpoint. We set up on a major street and stopped cars driving into town looking for persons driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As the cars approach they are greeted by a sign that says "Sobriety Checkpoint Ahead." The sign is placed at a location where they have one opportunity to turn at a traffic light and avoid the hassle of stopping for a checkpoint. Then they are funneled into a single lane of traffic where a gauntlet of police are standing on each side of the lane and finally they come to a stop sign and stop light.

We try and keep the traffic moving so the delay is minimal for motorists going about their business. We had ten officers working the line so when the first vehicle was stopped, five officers could contact the drivers in the first five vehicles. We also had five officers on the passenger side of those cars so they could act as the cover officer and watch the driver and passenger. It was cold so usually the windows were rolled up on the cars. I worked the passenger side most of the evening. From about 9:00 p.m. to just after 2:00 a.m. we made about ten arrests for DUI and one for driving without a drivers license.

We had temporary lighting set up in the streets so we could see inside the stopped cars. There were dozens of traffic cones channeling the cars into one lane with police cars parked in the center of the street and on the curbside. The center cars could be used as chase cars in the event someone were to try and run the checkpoint. At curbside we had a command center with computers to run drivers license information and print it out as well as lighting and space to conduct field coordination tests. A motorcycle and two other units were tasked as chase cars to stop vehicles that tried to avoid the checkpoint or who otherwise needed to be stopped. It was a good set up, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Armored Car Robbery

Darrell Rene Cooper is wanted by the FBI for an attempted armored car robbery. There was a gang of seven criminals who participated in this robbery. They shot one of the guards and attempted to shoot the other one. The injured guard managed to get back into the armored car and they drove away and escaped. The suspect is armed and dangerous.

Armored car robberies are often very violent. Since the guards always carry guns and generally are not afraid to use them, the robbers often shoot right away. Unlike your average liquor store that may have $50 in the till, an armored car may have hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars inside. Armored car robberies often happen very quickly, typically two or three robbers, will shoot the guard and take the money. Many armored car companies train the vehicle driver to drive away at the first sign of trouble and leave the messenger behind.

When responding to an armored car robbery, keep in mind the suspects will not only almost certainly be armed but they will be very confrontational. They will be very likely to shoot it out if given the chance. On the way to the scene be alert for vehicles going in the other direction at a high rate of speed, particularly those going towards the freeway or out of town. When arriving at the location, take a good position of advantage with good cover if possible. This is a good time to deploy the patrol rifle or shotgun; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Sometimes officers will have an unintended discharge of their weapon. Most typical are those when the shotgun or patrol rifle are being inspected at the begining of the shift. Some agencies try and get around the need for this inspection by marking or tagging the weapon with tape or other marker. The weapon is made ready for patrol use and taped closed until the officer employs the weapon in the field.

The problem with this technique is that the officer who has to trust his life to the weapon, must trust his life also to the person who prepares the weapon before it is taped and he has to trust all those who handle the weapon after that and before he uses it. That can be dozens, even hundreds of people before the officer gets his turn. I have seen drinking straws, and cigar butts and other inappropriate items dropped down the barrel of the taped shotgun. This is not a good system.

Officers should inspect the weapons they are going to carry on duty and not have to rely on someone elses inspection. They must inspect them and prepare them in a safe and proper manner. Above all else they must keep their muzzle discipline and keep the weapon pointed in the right direction. This is the final safeguard, if there is an unintended discharge of the firearm, then the round will hit a target that is safe to shoot. Never point a weapon at something you are not willing to shoot; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family & God

What is it that helps officers survive deadly encounters? Those who have been cornered or those who have been hit and kept fighting or who recovered after massive injuries. Many of them cite family and religion. How are you going with those two?

How is your family life? Do you spend enough time with your wife or husband? Are you like many in law enforcement who neglect their spouses and end up divorced, sometimes over and over again? Why don't the police academies train us how to get along better with our spouses? Why does the field training ignore the home life? Our jobs place unique pressure on the spouses and they should do more to support them and train them. Some agencies reach out to the spouses so that we can share what we do with them.

How about your religious life? Did you go to church this weekend? If not on Sunday, find a service that is mid-week. Many times our Saturday and Sunday is Tuesday and Wednesday. That's okay, there is a church somewhere that will have a mid-week service you can attend. If a belief in God will help you through a traumatic event, then maybe it is good officer safety to get right with Him before you next go on patrol; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best Blog

This blog was nominated on this site as a best blog. Thanks to those who nominated this blog, thanks to those who comment on it and to those who read it. Check out the link, there are some other very good blogs out there.

It is important that as professionals in the field of law enforcement that we continually strive to maintain our professional knowledge, keep current with the crime trends, and share our knowledge with others.

In my career I have been fortnante to have been able to attend many training classes, work with some great people and experience some interesting events. I just try to pass some of that on in a way that may help some other officers do a good job; That's what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Complacency Kills

Sure, complacency kills, but you can't rely on it to kill every time. That's the problem with complacency, it often is no big deal, until it's not. Then it is sometimes too late.

Did you park in front of the address to the burglary alarm today?
That's complacency.
Did you park in front of the address to the robber alarm today?
You got it really bad.
Did you park in front of the address to the shooting in progress today?
You can get hurt doing those things!

Nothing ever happens does not mean nothing every will happen. It means you have another opportunity to hone your skills and get better, so on the day something happens, you will be ready for it. If you were a burglar, would you hit the location that has never had a burglary alarm activation or the one where the alarm goes off all the time? The one that goes off all the time has a slow response time by the alarm company and the officers. It will be dispo'd as a false alarm even before the officers arrive. Sometimes they may not even bother to show up! People see what they expect to see and if the responding officers expect to see nothing wrong they won't see the burglar hiding in the bushes, the pry marks on the window and the damage to the front door. Treat every call like it could be the one you have trained for in your whole career; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No Auto Burglary

A few items to remember for this Christmas season to avoid auto theft and auto burglary.

Lock your car, take your keys with you when you leave.
Place shopping bags in your trunk. If you don't have a trunk, cover them with a blanket. I like to put items on the floor of the back seat, it is hard to see things there.

Don't leave your original registration in your car, leave a copy in the car and keep the original at home.

When you go to a valet, only give him the car key, not the trunk key and not the house keys.

Use The Club or similar steering wheel locking device.

Use a car alarm whenever you leave the vehicle.

Never leave children alone in the car, not even for a moment.
Park in a well lit area.

Use a car cover.
Use a steering wheel lock device.

Let people know to do these things when you talk to them at shopping centers, or if they have been victimized. A few tips to make sure your car comes home with you; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Can You Respond? - U.S. Cities Brace for Mumbai-Style Attack

Can your agency sustain multiple attacks like happened in Mumbai, India? The terrorists used rifles, pistols and grenades to attack hotels, and similar venues. How many hotels in your area use armed guards? I suspect, probaby none. What good will unarmed guards be against heavily armed attackers, probably no good at all. They may be able to notify police, absorb some of the initial gunfire hits, and help exacuate guests to safety, but in general they will be powerless to stop attacks in progress.

How many large upscale hotels are in your jurisdiction? What is their layout? How do you enter, not only the front entrances, but the rear, service entrances? Is there a heliport on the roof? How is the building from a tactical perspective? Can you make an unseen approach? Are their nearby buildings that would allow observation and firepower to be directed onto the hotel?

If your city sustains multiple attacks at the same time, do you have enough officers to respond? The North Hollywood Shootout in Los Angeles only had two active shooters. At the time they suspected their might be five or six suspects and responded over 600 officers from many agencies. How many officers can your agency call on for a major event? Will it be enough? How will they communicate? All these are things to think about before the bad thing happens, because some day it will; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tactical Distance

There are many reasons to keep your gun in the holster as much as you can. Unless you are actually shooting, threatening to shoot someone, or preparing to shoot or threaten to shoot someone, you really don't need it. While it is true that most law enforcement shootouts take place in three or four seconds, officers rarely lose the shootout because they did not draw their weapon. They may lose without having a chance to draw their weapon, but that is different.

If you are sitting in your car at a red light and get shot by a sniper, there is not much you can do about that. Most of the time when officers get a chance to draw their weapons it is because either they were in a situation where deadly force was not likely, like sitting at a red light or walking into a crime in progress. Or they were not paying attention to danger cues or failed to react properly to those danger cues, and by the time they were under attack, it was too late for them to react.

Watch your surroundings, watch the suspects and subjects hands. Take control of every situation. People stand where you want them to stand and do what you want them to do, otherwise you are ignoring potential danger cues. It is also okay to back off and call for more help. Not every call can be safely handled by one officer. Keep a reasonable distance between yourself and others. Don't let people surround you. Don't let people get too close to you. I seldom shake hands with people because I don't want them to grab me. Use objects like the hood of your car, your car door, tables, chairs or planters to keep people away from you. I like to have people stand in the gutter with their heels at the curb; so I can easily push them down if I need to knock them down. Take every tactical advantage, that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Watch The Hands

What makes a bad guy? How do you tell that you need to pull your gun on someone and not on someone else? The first thing to do is to analyze the circumstances of your contact with someone. Stopping someone in a vehicle for a minor traffic violation will typically not result in an unprovoked attack against the officer. Not to say that it does not happen, but it is atypical. People who commit serious crimes will often commit more minor crimes too. So a vehicle that exhibits many equipment, registration, and moving violations may be driven by a more serious criminal, so that should be a danger cue.

When people are stopped by the police, most drivers will sit in the car and wait for the officer to approach. Those who jump out of the vehicle are atypical and this is a danger cue. When someone jumps out of a car on a traffic stop, immediately direct them back into the car or to the curbside. If they fail to obey, again take that as a danger cue. The hands are the most dangerous part of a suspects body, if you can't see their hands, again that is a danger cue. Multiple suspects are more dangerous than a single person. An officer working alone is in more danger than an officer with backup. Nighttime is more dangerous than daytime. Some neighborhoods are more crime prone than others. The size, age and physical strength of the suspect compared to that of the officer can also increase the potential danger to the officer.

If at nighttime an officer stops a vehicle for a minor traffic violation in a relatively safe neighborhood, and their appears to be only one occupant and the driver stays in their car, then generally there should be no reason for the officer to draw his weapon. Approach the vehicle with caution, check the car trunk to insure it is latched, suspects have been known to hide in trunks, check the back seat so no one can hide on the floor. Watch the drivers hands. When the driver goes for his drivers license, proof of car insurance and vehicle registration watch his hands and inspect the center console, glove box or where ever else the papers may be stored. You may see weapons or drugs. If you see any offensive weapon, then it would be proper to draw your weapon, step back to cover, and give verbal commands for the driver to not touch the items; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Subject: Tribute to 4 Philadelphia Officers killed this year LOD

The City of Philadelphia has lost four police officers killed in the line of duty. Any officer killed in the line of duty will sent shock waves through an entire agency. I used to work for a private security firm with as many as 3,000 employees. Twice we had employees killed in traffic related incidents. One was intentionally run over and killed, the other about ten years later was killed in a traffic collision when an SUV hit his patrol car and cut it and him in half.

I can hardly imagine the sadness that an agency must experience after having four officers ruthlessly murdered in the line of duty in less than a year. The pressure to quit the force must be great as wives and mothers and husbands try to keep their loved ones safe. Officers on duty will be jumpy and worry and may overreact.

In times like this officers should take advantage of additional tactical training to insure their skills are up to speed. They should also be willing to seek agency or private counseling to insure they are keeping their stress under control and their marriages stay intact. It is a difficult thing to have partners die in the line of duty. Please keep these brave heroes in your prayers; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence calls can be one of the most dangerous types of calls that we have to respond to and handle. These are crimes of violence. The first thing that you need to do is respond to these incidents as you would any crime of violence. If you had a call of two people engaged in a fight at a shopping center, how many officers would you send? If you get a call of two people engaged in a domestic violence incident, I suspect you probably would only send one or two officers.

These crimes of violence are dangerous not only to the potential victims but to the responding officers as well. There are several factors to continue. First, your approach needs to be cautious. Just as you would approach any other violent crime in progress location. When you make contact with the participants, treat them like any other suspects in a violent crime. You may need to do a cursory search for weapons. Home are full of weapons, guns, kitchen knives, hunting knives, fireplace pokers, hammers, screwdrivers and many other pointy, sharp, dangerous things.

Separate the participants and turn them so that they can't see each other but that you and your partner can see each other. The two people involved should be positioned so that they can't hear each other. Any third parties, children, in-laws, next door neighbors need to be moved to a safe place and watched by additional officers. Just because two people live together does not mean they can't be dangerous not only to each other, but also to you; that's what the SGT Says.

Give us the statistics that go beyond how many officers are killed dealing with domestics. Tell us at what points in the event that lethality risk is greatest. Talk to us about civil standbys and restraining orders. Make liberal use of case studies of actual events. Give us the psychology of the victim and offender and methods to counter the threats. Provide the incentives to deal effectively with each encounter, explaining that our routines and responses are being measured by the offenders and used against us. Explain how one officer’s mismanagement of a domestic violence case can endanger the next officer who responds.

Monday, December 8, 2008

High Risk Car Stop

I almost never approach a car with my gun out. I only draw my gun if I think the person I am investigating is particularly dangerous, so there would normally be no reason to have it out. If I think the occupants of a vehicle are very dangerous, I won't approach the car. I will stop them, with back up if possible, and then have them turn off the engine and put their hands out of the windows. I have the driver toss the keys onto the roof of the car. Some people have the driver just toss the keys out, but I don't want them to get lost, or to step on them later.

I then have the occupants get out one at a time. The driver gets out first as he could have a way to start the car and drive away, and I want to prevent that. He opens the car door from the outside handle and pushes the door open with his feet. He gets out, puts his hands up high with this elbows locked. I have him turn all they way around so I can visually inspect his waistband, the most likely place for him to keep a gun. I then have him take a couple side steps to get him away from the car. I then tell him to walk backwards towards me and once he is behind my headlights I have him kneel or prone out and he is handcuffed and searched. This procedure is repeated for the other people in the car.

If I am still waiting for back up, then the occupants can either wait in the car, or I can prone them out in the street or along the sidewalk while we wait. If I think the bad guys may have a gun, I don't want them moving around too much, and would probably leave them in their car, hands out the window. They are at a great tactical disadvantage that way. The main thing I am looking for is maintaining control of the suspects hands and a tactical advantage for myself; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Car Crash

In 2007 41,059 people were killed in traffic collisions in the United States. This is down about one percent from 2006. One percent is not very much, but it is improvement. One of the reasons cited for the improvement is increased traffic law enforcement. In 2007 16,929 people were murdered and the number is about one percent less than the previous year.

Law enforcement spends tremendous efforts to investigate murders, and rightfully so. We utilize all these resources to investigate 16,929 people and yet traffic collisions kill more than twice that many people. Traffic collisions also generally kill innocent people, where many murder victims are life long criminals who were engaged in gang and criminal activity at the time of their deaths. Naturally, these are only generalizations, and many good, innocent people are murdered too.

Law enforcement needs to explore new techniques to enforce traffic laws and new ways to reduce accidents. There is an intersection near my home that has a large number of often very bad accidents; yet the local agency rarely seems to work traffic enforcement there. I suspect it is in part due to the nature of the intersection itself, there are no easy places for a patrol car to sit and watch cars run the red light or speed into town. Perhaps even the design of our streets and highways would be improved if they were done with the input from law enforcement; that's the view from the Hysterical Right Wing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Freezing Out There

It gets cold at night. And so we need to try and keep warm on patrol. There are several techniques that work well. Being indoors in a heated building is nice, but it is not always an option. Wear your body armor. The excuse that it is too hot does not work well in winter. It will really help keep your body warm. Wear a tee shirt under it because layers help keep you warm and make armor more comfortable.

Wear long sleeve uniform shirts. Many don't wear them because their agency requires a tie with long sleeves. I think this is a backwards policy and officers should not be required to wear a tie with the long sleeve shirt. It really helps layer the arms when the long sleeve uniform shirt is worn with a jacket. Wear a jacket, that is rather obvious, but wear a warm jacket. Many uniform jackets are pretty crappy and cold winter nights really show that to be true. Make sure whatever outer wear you have on is properly marked, patched on the shoulders, name plate and badge. I like a badge patch on my jacket, then I don't have to fool with taking it on and off my jacket two or three times per shift.

Make sure your jacket will allow you to draw your gun and other gear easily, nothing worse than needing your gun and having it get tangled up in your jacket. Don't wear a scarf. Long flowing items of clothing can be grabbed by suspects or get hung up in doors and things. If you really have to wear one, tuck it inside the shirt or jacket so the ends are not dangling. Wear quality footwear, and good thick socks, even two pairs of socks if needed. Cold feet mean a miserable officer. You may need a special pair of insulated boots for winter use, living here in Southern California it does not snow so I don't need that type of gear, but I know how useful it can be if you do have snow to deal with.

A good pair of gloves or mittens can be important too, but you must be able to write and shoot and reload with them on. If you wear them, take them to the range with you and shoot with them on before you wear them and at least once a month when it is cold. You have to be able to function your equipment if it is cold. Some mittens are made for shooters and have separate index, trigger fingers. Those are probably best if you need mittens, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sheriff questioned on restrictive concealed weapons policy hutchens, carona, concealed, gun, county - News -

Does your agency issue permits to carry concealed weapons? Everywhere in the nation where citizens are permitted to carry weapons crime goes down. Criminals carry guns if they want them. Criminals are always able to get guns, even in the UK or Japan they can get guns if they want them. It is the decent citizens who need guns to protect themselves.

Think about a typical residential burglary with a confrontational burglar, perhaps a rapist, or even a murderer. When will the homeowner be aware of the incident? When the dog barks, when the bad guy breaks the window or kicks open the door? Perhaps when the bad guy is seen in the hallway? The homeowner picks up the phone and calls 911. What happens then? How long until help arrives. What should the homeowner do until the police arrive?

Think about the size of the area you patrol. From the time you receive a call how long does it take for you to respond and take action? The average police shooting takes about three seconds. Does it take you longer than three seconds to respond to calls for service? Of course it does. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In The Car, Out Of The Car

Sometimes when we make a car stop we get people out of the car. Sometimes we leave them in the car. Sometimes they get out on their own and we put them back in. Sometimes they get out of the car and we leave them out. How do you determine what to do?

If I have stopped a car for a minor traffic offense then my usual preference is to do my business with the driver and passengers inside the car. I will approach the vehicle, get their drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, then return to the passenger side front door of my car. From there I will inspect the documents, verify them with my dispatcher, write the ticket and then return to the violators vehicle. I will then explain the ticket, have then sign it and send them on their way.

Only if I want to do something more than that, will I get the driver out of the vehicle. If the documents are not in order then I may have them come out of the car so that I can talk with them about the paperwork. Often, if they have a warrant, invalid drivers license or other problem, I am going to need them out of the car so that I can arrest them. Sometimes I get the driver out so I can talk to them without the others in the car hearing. I also get people out of the car if I intend to search the car or the people. In or out, officer safety is the number on priority; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Danger Cues

Danger cues are those actions that suspects do that give us information that can keep us safe. At all times when on duty, watch for these cues to help keep yourself and your partners safe. One of the most important things to watch for in inappropriate actions. On a traffic stop, most people stay in the car and wait for you. Someone who jumps out of the car and yells at you could be a distraction for the others in the car to attack, escape, or hide the guns and dope.

Take control of such people right away. Watch their hands, control their movements, get them to the curb right away. If you can, pat them down for weapons. If your policy allows, search the vehicle and the occupants. Always ask for permission to search, even if you don't legally need it, a permissive search leads to fewer legal challenges.

Watch for suspects touching themselves in places where they may hide a gun. They often want to subconsciously touch it. Watch for people wearing the wrong clothing for the environment, long coats in warm weather, shirt tail untucked in a more formal environment, baggy clothing that can conceal a gun at the waistband. Anything that is out of place, should get extra attention, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ask and Find Out

I think one of the reasons officers often experience post traumatic stress disorder is because they have not realistically analyzed the nature of law enforcement. Sometime we have to do unpleasant things to achieve a good outcome. Sometimes we have to hit people with sticks. Sometimes we have to punch people with our fists. Sometimes we have to spray people with chemicals or pepper spray, or shoot them with a Tazer or zap them with a stun gun. Sometimes we even have to shoot and kill people.

No good cop ever signs onto the force because he wants to shoot people. But every good cop should realize it is a very real part of the job. Most of use go our whole lives and never fire a single shot. I never have. I have come very close on several occasions. I have even been shot at on a few occasions, but by the time we realized what happened the suspect had fled and there was no one to return fire to.

Now is the time to discuss these issues with your supervisor, you coworkers, you lawyer, your mom and dad, your kids, your priest; before the incident happens. You need to know what your options are so that you don't have to think about it if they time comes and you need to shoot. You need to know those people will be there for you if you have to shoot someone. Preparation makes the post incident time go much easier; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Navy closes for Christmas, families first in new year - National -

In Austrailia their navy is closing down for Christmas and New Years so sailors can be with their families. All ships not on deployment are to close down and send all the sailors home for Christmas and New years. That's because they are so short handed they don't have the crews they need. They are so short handed they can't afford to have people quit the Navy because they can't take off for holiday, like regular jobs.

How is your agency working over the holidays? Will they have a full deployment of officers? Will they over staff officers because of the extra traffic and need for drunk driving enforcement? The nature of what we do requires working odd shifts, weekends, and holidays. Just like the military, we have to be ready when evil strikes. That means making a sacrific and working when others are off.

In these festive times, don't neglect your family. Remember that they miss you and want to be with you. If you have to work those odd shifts and holidays, do some time shifting. Open Christmas gifts early. Go to church on the day before or after Christmas Day if you can't make it there on Christmas Day. What we do requires sacrifices from more than just us, so remember your loved ones this year; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shoot Now!

Would you feel bad if you had to kill someone? I mean, the guy who robs the bank, then shoots the bank teller for no reason, and comes out of the bank with guns blazing? The guy who would kill you or your partner in a heartbeat if he could get you in his sights? Think about that for a while.

Our job may require us to kill someone some day. Few jobs have that as a job duty, shoot and kill someone. Telephone operators don't, truck drivers don't, human resources managers don't but law enforcement officers sometimes have to shoot and kill someone as part of their job. In fact, if they don't they may themselves be shot and killed.

If you are not willing to unhesitatingly shoot someone, knowing that your doing so will very likely kill them; then perhaps you are in the wrong business. Not everyone can be talked out of killing another innocent person. Not everyone will give you the opportunity to negotiate with them. Some people will only be stopped in their murderous rampage, if they too are killed by someone else. That someone else may be you; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thank You All For Reading This

Did you take time for turkey? This is Thanksgiving Day weekend and if you have not taken a moment to give thanks, there is still time. Thank the folks who hired you, who trained you, who helped you pass probation, who helped you get promoted. Thank the folks who responded when you put out an officer needs help call, the other agency that stopped when you had that car load of gangsters, that supervisor who wrote you a good review.

Thank the citizens who pay your salary, your union who got you out of trouble, the chief who stood behind you, that partner who went out on a limb for you. The rangemaster or defensive tactics instructor who gave you skills to survive, the woman working for Dupont who invented Kevlar so we could have soft body armor. The people who maintain your radio system, your dispatcher who always checks up on you when you stay out on that call too long without checking back in, the officers who back you up because they hear something in your voice that makes them worry about you.

Thank your wife, your mother, your kids for all the praying and worrying they do about you every time you put on a uniform and go to work. And thank God for the opportunity to be a peace officer, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dynamic Response

In the olden times when confronted like an event such as a mall shooting, Columbine school shooting or the hostage taking and shooting in Mumbai, police would set up a perimeter and wait for SWAT to arrive. We would contain the area, keep other people out and treat everyone who exited like a criminal until we could prove they were a good guy.

In these days of the active shooter who intends to commit suicide at the end of his killing spree, or the political or religiously motivated Islamic terrorist who expects to get killed, we can no longer sit and wait. The longer the event continues, the more people will die. An active shooter will often walk through the venue, calmly shooting anyone who crosses his path. Often they have targeted either specific individuals, but will shoot anyone else who does not instantly cooperate or they target particular classes of people, like all adults.

When responding to an active shooter event, time is critical. A group of officers need to get together and form an immediate response team. If you have two or three shooters, a group of five or six officers should immediately make entry, track down the shooters and stop them. To stop them you will almost certainly have to shoot them and probably kill them, but our goal is to stop, not to kill. If they give up, then take them into custody. This team will have to bypass injured or wounded civilians and even leave a wounded colleague to continue to press the attacker(s) to surrender. It is a very dangerous situation and will require dynamic action from those who first respond; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mall Shooting

Gunfire at Wash. shopping mall kills 1, wounds 1 (

Bad guy goes into a mall and shoots a couple people, now the death toll is up to two. It does not matter so much at the time what the motive may be the result is the same, death comes to the mall. Do you have a mall in your jurisdiction? Do they have guards? Do the guards carry guns?

In most malls in the USA there are security guards, but almost none of them carry guns. How can we expect unarmed guards to respond to armed suspects? Why must we fear the lawsuits that may come from guards who might shoot someone accidentally, or unnecessarily, when we are faced with continuing attacks on shopping malls? I suspect one reason malls are doing so poorly is the fear of crime. I know the Internet makes shopping easy and quick and the products come right to your front door in a few days. One way to avoid the danger of the mall.

If you have malls in your areas, have you coordinated responses with their security in the event of a major incident. Bomb threat, who determines when to evacuate the mall? Fire, who can turn off the sprinklers? Shooting, who will respond and where will they go? Do know the emergency and back entrances so you can get in and out quickly? Do you know where the security office is located and how many guards are on duty? Can you even communicate with them? If you can't answer these questions, maybe you have some homework to do; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai Today, Home Town USA Tomorrow

78 Die in Mumbai Shootings, Officials Say

Muslim terrorists invade hotels in Mumbai India and murder 78 people, mostly Americans and British citizens; using automatic weapons and grenades. Over two hundred people have been wounded and after eight hours of fighting between police and terrorists there are still hostages being held and people being killed.

This is the new face of crime in the world. Can your agency stand up to criminals with machine guns and grenades? Can your agency respond to a coordinated terrorist attack against multiple hotels in your jurisdiction? We are used to criminals who take hostages to allow them to negotiate for money or safe conduct to get away from the failed bank robbery. What do you do about criminals who take hostages so you will free political prisoners or who intend to get as much publicity as they can and then shoot them all to death? We think of Muslim terrorists as religiously motivated, but they do unspeakable things in the name of their religion, including rape and torture and murder. Read about the Muslim attacks on the Russian school children in Breslin.

Can you as a first responder deal with suspects that are that heavily armed? Can you call for help from other agencies in the area? You also have to deal with the traffic control, lookie loos, and news media that will flock to the location. Does you agency use patrol rifles, and are they in each car or locked in an armory back at the station? Can your EMS deal with hundreds of wounded from gunshots, explosions that an incident like this would create? If not, it's time to start thinking about it before it happens here; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


How is your jewelery? What do you wear on duty? Have you considered the tactical implications of your adornments? I wear a wedding ring on the fourth finger of my left hand, and a lion's head ring on the fourth finger of my right hand. I also wear a gold chain with a Celtic cross on it, tucked under my tee shirt. I wear a rather conservative watch with a metal band, nothing flashy or expensive.

How will your jewelery perform when you have to go over a fence? Are you going to scratch it, will you get a fence wire caught on your ring and pull your finger off when you go over? Will your neck chain get caught and pull your head as you jump over? How does your jewelery perform in a fight? Are you wearing visible piercings that can be ripped from you skin, like earrings? Or, God forbid, a nose ring or eyebrow ring that could be grabbed and tear your flesh?

Ideally, we probably should not be wearing any jewelery on duty from a strictly safety standpoint. If you do wear jewels, there are several points to consider. Don't wear anything too flashy, too big, too gaudy, it looks unprofessional, and makes it seem like you are on the take. Don't wear anything that can be ripped out of your flesh. I have permitted my female officers to wear a small discrete stud earring, but not more than one per ear and nothing dangling. Don't wear more than one neck chain and it should be under your clothing, not visible in uniform. Bracelets, toe rings, and other non-uniform jewelery are best avoided; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The 12 gauge pump action shot gun has been in police work for probably a hundred years or more. It is an excellent and versatile weapon. At short range the firepower and lethality of 00 buck shot is unparalleled. Too often in shootouts with law enforcement, this excellent weapon has to wait in the car. It is far too often underutilized when it could save lives and even deter an armed attacker.

Most criminals know the distinctive sound of the slide of a round being racked into the chamber of a 12 gauge shotgun. That sound tells them that the responding officers are well armed and serious. An officer does not take the shotgun out of the car unless he is not just expecting trouble but prepared to take action to stop it.

Officers often complain about using the shotgun but with proper training those complaints can be overcome. The recoil is too hard; use low recoil shotshells and a rubber stock pad. The weapon is hard to sight; use rifle sights or even an Aimpoint. The weapon has too short a range; use sabot slugs. The weapon is slow to cycle a second shot; training and practice. At my agency we have bean bag rounds, so those shotguns have an orange plastic stock so they don't get confused with the regular shotguns with real ammo, and 00 buck shot. The pump action shotgun is an excellent police weapon, that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Are you aiming the gun, even if you are not using the sights? Yes, you are. A pistol can be drawn from the holster and the gun aimed at the target without using the sights. And you don't have to use the sights to aim a weapon. As long as you are intentionally pointing your weapon at a particular target, you are aiming the weapon.

Not aiming would be pointing a weapon not at a specific target but just holding it out and shooting. That is not something that would need to be done in a law enforcement context. Hand and eye coordination is an important skill to develop. Close your eyes. Think about something in the room and then bring your shooting hand up to eye level and point at the item. Open you eyes and you should be pointing at the item. Practice this skill until you can do it well. Once you get good at it you can start doing it with a Red Gun in your hand. When you get very good at it you can practice it on the range with your real gun; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Off Line Forever

Teen Commits Suicide Live on Web

Apparently a young man took pills and died in his sleep as a result of the overdose, all while on a webcam and all with people watching and making comments about the event. How sad that a troubled young man can kill himself and so few people would be able to take action to stop him.

Does your agency have a web presence? If someone told your dispatcher that there was someone online who was trying to kill themselves would your dispatch know how to bring up the website and check on the information? Does you dispatch center even have Internet access?

These days, everything happens on the web. It is incumbent that agencies have the ability and the knowledge to track cyber crimes, and communicate on line with victims, suspects and witnesses. Probably every fourteen year old kid in your jurisdiction is using the Internet everyday to communicate, does your agency? If not, they should be, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guns Out

When you take your handgun out of the holster, what do you do with it? Do you point it up in the air near your face like they do on TV? Or do you point it at the ground near your leg? Or do you point it ahead of your at a 45 degree angle in a low ready position? Or do you point it at someone?

I would suggest a couple of things about taking the gun out of the holster. If you don't train to do what you do, then stop doing it until you train that way. So if you don't train to hold the gun up next to your face, don't hold the gun that way. Why do cops on TV always hold the gun up near their head? So the director can get a closeup of the actors face and the gun in the same frame. There is no good tactical reason to hold the gun up next to your face. It the gun goes off unintentionally in that location you risk shooting yourself in the head, blinding yourself with powder burns, or at least having a bullet fly into the sky to land who knows where?

Holding the gun down next to your leg is another technique that has very limited application. If you need to point it at a bad guy, it is slower than actually drawing it from an unsnapped holster, because you have so far to bring the weapon up to a shooting position. If the gun goes off in that position you risk shooting yourself or someone standing next to you, like your partner, in the leg. This seems to happen just about every year. No one will want to work with you if you shoot your partner in the leg by accident.

Generally, I have always thought that if you have your gun out you should be pointing it at someone that you expect you may have to shoot. Otherwise, why do you need to clutter up your hand with a tool you don't intend to use? If you are searching a building looking for suspects, then perhaps having the gun out at a 45 degree angle or higher and pointed away from you in the direction you are searching has some justification. But there are points to consider as well. If you are searching a home, with an open door, with no forced entry, who are you likely to find? The home owner or an authorized person; perhaps even a child and it is not good PR to point guns at them.

A gun in the unsnapped holster with your hand on the gun is very fast up on target if you train that way. This has several advantages, you have both hands free to fight, you have your hands free if you stumble and fall, you have a moment of lag time to avoid shooting an innocent person. I check buildings both with my gun out and with it in my holster, depending on what I perceive the risk factor to be. Getting shot is not a good outcome, but shooting the homeowner is not a good outcome either; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


How can the administration show that they are in touch with the troops? The people that run law enforcement organizations often don't have the confidence of the people they supervise. How can they get that confidence? What is it the troops want from their supervisors and managers and chiefs? Law enforcement is a very close fraternity and those who manage them are often not seen as a part of that group.

First thing, if you are a police chief be qualified to be a police officer. In California to be a police officer you have to go to the police academy and pass several tests. If you have worked as a cop outside the state, you can come here and pass the tests and get your certification. Los Angeles Police at one time had an out of state chief who could not pass the test. That really gave the rank an file heartburn. They had to pass the test, why didn't he? If I were in his position, I would have worked every minute that I was not at work to pass that testing.

Next, wear a uniform at least once a week, with a gun, and a radio and a baton and all the gear that the officers have to wear, including body armor. If you are leading a uniformed organization, wear their uniform, wear it correctly and proudly. Go on patrol. Walk the beat, ride on patrol, handle some calls, ride with regular officers chosen at random. Don't ride with the supervisor or drive around with your bodyguard. Just go out on swing shift and graveyard and ride patrol and handle some calls. Just to keep your hand in, just to show you know the streets they way they are today, not just as they were 20 years ago, that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Burn Out

Job burn out is an important aspect of law enforcement. After a while it can seem like we are shovelling against the tide and can't seem to get anywhere in the war on crime. It is hard to put into perspective the fact that every day we go out into the field and risk our lives and yet crime continues, the same people often commit the same crimes over and over. Judges let criminals go, our supervisors don't give us a break and the administration does not understand that we can't do our jobs with one hand tied behind our backs.

You can fight job burn out. Think about how you got into law enforcement. To help people, to serve your community. Put into context your efforts to combat crime. The criminal element has always been with us, three thousand years ago or more we were told "thou shalt not steal," "thou shall do no murder." Yet despite this, people still get murdered and people still steal. We work to keep the criminals to a level that makes our communities reasonably safe and to give some measure of justice to the victims.

There are plenty of good people out there who appreciate what we do, they don't often get a chance to say it and sometimes they say it in ways we don't recognize. The most precious possession most people have is their children, and what do they teach their kids? When you get lost, go find a police officer. When you are in trouble, call 911 and the police will come and help you. They trust us with their children, people who don't know us as individuals, but they know us as a profession; and they have confidence in us; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Elevated or Yellow

United States government's national threat level is Elevated, or Yellow. That means there is a significant risk of terrorist attacks. Significant risk seems like a lot of risk to me. If you heard there was a significant risk of an earthquake or tornado or blizzard in your jurisdiction, what would you do? I suspect your patrol work would be different than normal. We have grown complacent because we have been very successful at defeating terrorist attacks in the United States. We need to remember that significant risk of a terrorist attack is a dangerous time.

Have you identified potential terror targets in your area? How about potential terror targets near your area? Oil facilities, financial centers, areas where large crowds gather, schools and shopping centers, government buildings, and high rise buildings. The Islamic terrorists that hit the World Trade Centers because they were financial centers. Wall Street, stock exchanges, government mints, Federal Reserve Banks, are all potential terror targets.

Some terrorist targets are transitory. A large sporting event, or political event or holiday event that brings a large number of people together can be a potential target. Not only do we need to be concerned about the Islamic terrorists, but domestic terrorists too. There have been domestic terrorists who have attacked Federal buildings, abortion providers, shopping centers, and schools. We need to be aware of those potential targets too, that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's In Your Wallet?

What do you carry in your pockets? I seem to carry more and more stuff. My left breast pocket has my badge above it and two click pens with black ink sticking out of that little slot. I also carry my eye glasses in that pocket. I can't see close up well enough to read, so I need them when I read anything. Stuff that is more than two feet away I can see just fine, so I don't wear my glasses all the time. My left breast pocket flap has may name tag on it, and inside I carry my little note pad, a few Field Interview Cards, and when I can get them some junior officer stick on badges to give to kids, and my department manual. We have this little pocket size manual that has a list of municipal ordinances, radio codes and directions on how to get to some local places.

My front pants pockets don't have anything in them. I leave my personal keys in my locker at the station. If I buy anything, I may put the change in the pants, but I don't like keeping coins in my pockets at work, it makes noise that may give up my tactical advantage. My right hip pocket holds my flashlight. I use a small one and it fits there okay. I used to have a leather carrier for my previous flashlight and I liked that too.

My left rear pocket has my wallet with my money, drivers license and police ID card. I try not to carry too much money with me, no more than about $60, I think it often looks suspicious when an officer carries a few hundred dollars on him; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Cop Car

This company has been advertising that they are going to make the first ever police car, built from the ground up as a police car. They are looking to make it as a diesel engined vehicle that will have a top speed of 155 mph. That's pretty fast. I have driven 110 mph, with the gas pedal on the floor and still had the suspect vehicle leave me behind in the dust. So certainly 155 is a good top speed.

Their claim to fame, is that they will have all the police gear as part of the vehicle. The light bar, take down lights, prisoner cage, shotgun rack, all that gear will be built into the car and so it will be safer, cheaper and work better. One of the problems with police cars now is the interior is so filled with computers, shotguns and other gear and in a traffic collision the occupants will be bounced around against these often sharp and always hard equipment items. This results in injuries to officers that would not happen if the car were designed from the beginning as a police car. I have not been involved in a significant crash, but I have bumped my arms and knees entering and exiting the car and while bouncing around inside on rough terrain or while driving quickly.

Their intention is to provide a unique vehicle to law enforcement with a full life cycle program. They will buy back the vehicle when you don't want it anymore to keep the vehicles out of the civilian fleet. They will then refurbish the car and resell it or part it out and recycle the rest. They seem to be at least four years away from their first vehicle going on patrol, but it sure seems like a good idea to me; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Watch the Crowd

I work a lot of event security and one thing I have learned is to watch the crowd. Step back from the bleachers and look at the crowd from a distance. They will mostly be watching the event, ball game, dancers, whatever. A few will be chatting with each other or eating. Some will be walking to and from the rest room or exits. It's those others you have to watch.

From a distance you can detect that behavior which is not consistant with what everyone else is doing. Some people will be loitering near the rest rooms or near the exits. Some will be up at the top of the stands, often as far away from the event as they can get, and often as far away from other people as they can go. These are the people you need to watch. These people may be waiting to follow someone outside the venue so they can victimize them. They may be the lookout while something bad happens in the rest room. It may be as simple as smoking in the restrooms in a no smoking location. It may be a mugging, sex crime, or even a murder. They may be planning on disruption of the event by throwing objects down on other spectators, or they may be isolated so they can use drugs or drink alcohol. Any of those groups deserve additional observation.

One of the best tactics to deal with them is to observe them for a moment while alerting other officers to their presence and activity. Get the other officers to see them for a distance before they move in if possible. Direct them in to their postion and update them if the person moves, it can often be easier to see people in a crowd from a distance than from up close. Once your partners move in they can try and determine if any criminal or dangerous activity is happening and make the arrest, or at the very least, make contact to let the subjects know they are being watched to prevent any crime. High visibility often will stop this subjects from doing anything they should not be doing, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Check the Car

When searching a car, the first thing to do is to insure your safety. Don't search a car with people inside the car. Don't search a car if the occupants have been removed but not placed where they are safe and where you or another officer can observe them. If I am alone, I like to have them seated on the curb, 20 feet in front of the car. That allows the cars headlights to illuminate them, or lights from my vehicle. It allows me to glance up and make sure they are still seated, and gives me enough reaction time if they get up. If they jump up and run away, that's a new problem.

First, check those places where the driver can get to weapons or drugs. Under the seat, in the center console, in the door pockets, on the dash, and inside the ash tray. Lift up the floor mats, and inspect the dashboard and door panels for loose screws and possible hidden compartments. Get out of the car and look up under the dashboard with your flashlight and check for contraband and buttons and switches that may open hidden compartments.

Inspect the headliner, the visors, and inside the glove compartment. You may even be able to take out the back seat. Check down between the seats and the seat cushions. Use your flashlight to too look for items between the seat and cushions in case there is something sharp hidden there. I like to move the seats all the way forward and all the way back and recline them all the way. Don't hurry, wear gloves and once you are finished, have someone else look inside the car. You can't be too careful; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Juvenile Crime

Juveniles, under 18 years of age, commit an average of ten murders a day. That's people a young as ten years old killing other people, sometimes more than one. Everyday ten of them killing someone. When dealing with kids it is important to remember those statistics. Children in America are killing each other and killing adults. In law enforcement we often don't consider children as dangerous until they get to be at least 15 or 16 years old. That is no longer a safe assumption.

Street gangs often enlist younger kids because they are not suspected by the police. They also will typically get shorter sentences if convicted of crimes. When you approach a group of teenagers, don't assume that they youngest ones are just someones younger brother and not actual gang members. They may be just as involved in the gang as the older ones.

Other younger kids play first person shooter games ten hours a day and become desensitized to the violence. Recently there was even a game that involved shooting students at a school. These are sometimes the kids who bring guns to school and kill their classmates. Use caution when dealing with kids, they can be killers; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pardon Compean & Ramos

Former Border Patrol Agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos were sentenced to over 10 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso Texas. They were attempting to capture an illegal alien drug smuggler. The only hope these men have of getting out of prison early is with a presidential pardon. President George Bush should pardon these two former Agents before he leaves office.

I don't have all the details and I know these two agents were not perfect and did not do their jobs exactly correct. They were convicted of crimes while trying to do their jobs, however imperfectly. While they may have deserved censure by their agencies or perhaps even termination they certainly did not deserve to go to federal prison.

Please petition President Bush for a full pardon for Agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos; that's what the SGT Says.

++ Contact President Bush Now!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scan and Reholster

Range training should include more than just shooting. When the shooter is done firing, he should check to his left to look for additional threats. He should pivot his upper body, moving the weapon and his head to the left, ready to engage any new threats to the left. He should return to center to insure the "dead" guy is still "dead." Often suspects get shot, and run away, fall down and lay still, or give up. As you turn away, they sometimes reappear, or get back up, or draw a second weapon and become a threat again. That is why while scanning for additional threats it is important to check the initial target again. Finally, the officer should point the weapon to the ground and turn his upper body around so that he can see behind him. A lay off suspect or get away car driver may come from behind to attack.

The shooter should then check to the right, check back to the center and then re-holster their weapon. When re-holstering, the shooter should not look at his holster and should be able to re-holster with one hand. This is important because the shooter may need to use his other hand to gesture to others, use his radio or even provide direct pressure to his own wounds. When I reholster my Glock, I put my thumb on the end of the slide so that I don't push the slide back as I push the handgun into my holster.

In a real shooting, officers should not be in a hurry to return their weapon to the holster. In shootings where officers are killed or wounded there are often multiple suspects and so scanning for more suspects is very important. They way we train is often the way we behave in the field, so training for all aspects of the shooting is important; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Range Training

Range training should try and reflect real life shootings as much as is reasonably possible. Several techniques that I try and incorporate into much of my range training to make it safer and more realistic. Since most shootouts happen in only a few seconds, often with little or no warning the officer should be encouraged to start with the weapon in the holster in the same mode as it is when he is on patrol. Snapped in with his hand off the weapon. The rangemaster should initialize the shooting by using a command to fire the duty weapon by saying a word such as "gun" or "threat" something that the officer may likely hear in the field.

The officer should be encouraged to draw his weapon and get his first aimed shot off in a timely manner, ideally in two seconds or less from the "threat" command. The officer should keep track of his own ammunition and should reload as necessary, and not have to wait for a range command to reload his weapon. The officer should clear any malfunctions of his weapon and continue to qualify, just as he would in a real shootout.

The officer should aim for the center of mass of the target presented in most cases. I like to shoot at targets that look like people, so we often used printed photographs of people pointing guns in their hands. Officers should be encouraged to use verbal commands while shooting, "Drop the gun," "Police, don't move" are excellent commands. Officers should be encouraged to draw and return their weapons to the holster without looking at the holster, their eyes should be on the target and any potential additional targets; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Car Jacking

Car jacking is when criminals force a driver out of their vehicles and steal the car. This is a very violent and dangerous crime. One way to reduce this type of crime is to patrol those areas that are good choices for car jacking. Persons loitering in these areas are good people to stop, find out why they are there and conduct field interview cards on them.

Intersections where cars frequently stop at traffic signals or stop signs. Garages and parking lots, particularly where the cars can get in and out easily. Self-service gas stations and self-service car washes, the driver is distracted by the task at had and not watching for criminals. The bad guys are looking for places where the car is stopped, the driver is distracted and the bad guys can get away quickly.

Cruise these locations and look for individuals or groups. Suspects may stand on opposite sides of the street and approach the victim from multiple directions. Since this is a car jacking suspect, they very likely could be armed. Those suspect who do car jacking are very confrontational and extremely dangerous. Use caution when investigating these crimes; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Drive Around

One of the most dangerous things officers do nearly every day is drive. Drive at work or at least drive to work, and home. There are many tactics we can use to reduce the number of officer involved traffic collisions. Two of the most important factors in most accidents are the driver was not paying attention, or the driver was going too fast for conditions. If you are talking on the radio, driving 100 miles and hour, drinking coffee, and taking notes, while checking your map, you may be distracted. When driving at high speed think about anything you say on the radio before you say it, and if you don't need to talk, don't talk. One less distraction. Keep your hands on the wheel and you eyes on the road.

With winter coming up, think about road conditions. It may be okay to take that corner at 100 miles an hour, in the summer when it is dry, but perhaps 50 or even 15 is needed when it is wet or covered with black ice. Remember, when you go around that corner you need traction to turn and can go into a skid, and slip sideways. We have all seen cars that slipped sideways and wrapped around a pole or tree. Brake going into turns, and accelerate going out of turns. In wet weather, break early.

Watch out for animals. As the seasons change, animals sometime migrate and they may migrate right into your patrol area. Even in cities, wild animals sometimes come down out of the hills and into town to eat the cat food, or even the cat! If you have a large animal in the street, wait for it to move, before you try and pass. If there is one animal, there are often several, so watch out for their moose friends before you try and go around them. Should you have to break for an animal, you may not want to swerve around it, animals will often surprise you and jump at the last second. If you do try and drive around them, drive around the back end if possible, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, November 7, 2008


What do you know about identity theft? Millions of people fall victim to identity theft every year. If you respond to a report of identity theft there are several things to remember. Take a crime report and collect all the data you can from the victim about who they think my have done the crime and how their data was taken. Sometimes they know the suspect, an ex-boyfriend or roommate or similar person.

Have them report the identity theft to the three major credit bureaus, that can help reduce their liability. Have them report back to your detectives if there are changes in their credit reports as a result of the identity theft. Have them notify all their banks, credit cards, Social Security Office and any other agencies or business that they may do business with. They should close credit accounts that they know have been compromised. They should contact their homeowners insurance and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The three main credit bureaus are:


To prevent identity theft people should minimize their use of identifying information on the Internet. Shred important documents before throwing them away, including anything with you name or account numbers on them. Watch merchants handle your credit cards so they don't swap cards or run multiple slips on the credit card machine. Inspect bills carefully so that unauthorized charges may be caught quickly and removed. The Federal Trade Commission can provide additional information. Identity theft is a major dollar value crime and should be investigated carefully; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Range Training

Range training should be more than just standing on a line banging away with your Roscoe. Deadly force situations are dynamic and training should reflect that reality. Range training should take place in full light, in low light and darkness. Even officers who work in the daytime sometimes have to work overtime into the night, or go into an attic or basement where it is dark.

Officers should train wearing the same outfits they wear in the field. The same pants, shirt, body armor, Sam Browne and other gear, even baton. All these items can interfere with a smooth draw or good shooting posture. Many officers, particularly women, can have difficulty achieving an Isosceles shooting position, particularly when wearing armor. It is important to practice with the armor on so that it becomes automatic to move to a comfortable position to shoot from.

The weapon should be snapped into the holster, just at it would be on duty, even for undercover or plainclothes officers. Officers should practice their draw so that they don't get tangled up in jackets, shirts, body armor or a poorly selected holster. Officers should be encouraged to take a step to the left or right as they draw their weapon. Many officers are only a few feet away from cover when they are in gunfights in the field and so stepping can move them to cover in time to avoid getting shot; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

James J. Bulger

The FBI Homepage is a great portal to all kinds of information. While I was there, I realized that as law enforcement professionals we of all people should know who the bad guys are, but I could not tell you anyone who is on the FBI Ten Most Wanted List, apart from OBL. So I thought that today I would list one of the criminals on that list. This guy is considered armed and dangerous and is implicated in many murders. Don't try and make an arrest at a person like this without plenty of back up.

James J. Bulger

Date of Birth: September 3, 1929
Hair: White/Silver
Place of Birth: Boston, Massachusetts
Eyes: Blue
Height: 5'7" to 5'9"
Complexion: Light
Weight: 150 to 160 pounds
Sex: Male
Build: Medium
Race: White
Occupation: Unknown
Nationality: American
Scars and Marks: None known
Remarks: Bulger is an avid reader with an interest in history. He is known to frequent libraries and historic sites. Bulger may be taking heart medication. He maintains his physical fitness by walking on beaches and in parks with his female companion, Catherine Elizabeth Greig. Bulger and Greig love animals. Bulger has been known to alter his appearance through the use of disguises. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and Mexico.
The FBI is offering a $2,000,000 reward for information leading directly to the arrest of James J. Bulger.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Range Training

Firearms training should provide training that is representative of the type of work that you do in the field. I work for a municipal police department in an urban environment. Much of our time is spend in patrol cars and in places where there are a lot of people around. We use targets that are life size photographs of people with guns in their hands. We have little photos that we can tape over the guns in the photos so the bad guys can hold knives, a microphone, police badge, empty hand or even a beer.

When shooting at low light we have to use a flashlight to identify the person who is the deadly threat by actually seeing what the "person" is holding in their hand. We shoot at low light and even in full darkness, with flashlights. We have night sights on our handguns and we get to use them a couple times per year. When it is very dark the shooter has to use their flashlight, either one mounted on their gun or as a separate light.

We shoot from various positions, standing, moving, kneeling and even prone. Look at photos of actual incidents that take more than a couple minutes to resolve and you will see very few officers standing up taking shots at the bad guys. Often they kneel behind cars, fire hydrants, telephone poles and your training needs to reflect that reality; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Are you voting tomorrow? We are public servants, but we are also citizens. It is our duty to vote and to make sure that the candidates we support are pro-law enforcement. Is your candidate pro-law enforcement? Or does he support the trial lawyers who get rich getting criminals off from the crimes they committed?

In states with the death penalty, does your candidate support the death penalty? Some criminals commit acts that are just so terrible, no one should have to guard them for the rest of their natural lives. They need to be put to death. Genesis 9:6 "Whoever takes a man's life, by man will his life be taken; because God made man in his image."

Does your candidate support the right of free people to self defense? Without the ability to keep and bear arms, common citizens cannot properly defend themselves against armed attackers. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. I am voting for McCain and Palin because their values reflect my values; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Domestic Dispute

Estranged Couple's Home Cut in Half

Don't you hate those calls, you arrive at the scene of a family dispute and the house has been cut in half? I never had that problem, but more than once I have driven up to a home and found clothing, TV sets, golf clubs and lots of other guy stuff laying on the lawn. A man standing in the yard and a woman screaming out the window. Take a deep breath and observe a moment before you go any further.

I try and call the man over to me and talk to him first. The woman obviously needs a little more time to vent. Visually inspect the man to insure he has no weapons. Ask a few officer safety questions, are you hurt, is she hurt, is anybody hitting anyone today, are there any guns in the house? Ask him How are we going to solve this problem today? My goal on this type of call, if there is no domestic violence, is keeping the peace, making things quiet again.

I always ask him if there is someplace he can go and spend the night. After a minute or two with him, I go talk to the woman. I try to get her to come outside near the front door. That way I can talk to her and keep and eye on him. I want her out of the kitchen and away from the knives. I ask her the same officer safety questions, and ask her if he hit her or if there has been any physical violence today. In California, it's easy, if anyone was physically injured, bruised, cut, by the other on, they go to jail. The state will prosecute for domestic violence so the victim does not have to. If there is no violence, I ask her the same basic question, and ask her how she wants it to end for today. I don't intent to change ten years of domestic problems in five minutes at three o'clock in the morning, I just want everyone to be quiet and go back to sleep; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Game Day

I worked a high school football game last night, the home team lost 14 to 40, as usual. We always assign at least two and often four officers to every home game. Our high school is pretty tame crime wise and we generally don't have any problems with the thousand or so people who show up. There are several things we do to help minimize problems. One of the first things I do when I arrive is notify school officials that we are there so they can call us if there is a problem.

The event is on a school grounds, so there is no alcohol, and no smoking permitted on the grounds. The stadium has restricted access, you must pay to get in and there is no reentry without paying again. This prevents people from going out to their car and getting guns, alcohol, drugs and then returning. The minimal entrance fee is enough to prevent that. When money is collected and ready to go to the bank, an officer will escort the person carrying the money to their vehicle so that they can do a night drop at the bank.

We generally have the officers loiter about in the area of the entrances. This allows everyone who attends the event to be aware that there are police officer at the location, a subtle warning to behave themselves. I try and walk all the parking areas near the start of the event to discourage crowds from forming and to prevent drinking and drug use outside the stadium. I also walk all the areas under the bleachers, near the vendors and trash areas to prevent people from finding those dark areas where crime may be committed. The rest of the time I like to stay visible to the crowd. Most minor problems I refer to school officials to handle, they know the kids and can contact them on the next school day if necessary. A little patrolling around makes a big difference at these events, that's what the SGT Says.