Saturday, January 31, 2009

Job Application

Eventually you may want to lateral to another agency, or you may want a promotion, or you may be looking to get hired for the first time. One important document you are likely to have to complete is your background investigation paperwork to include you job history. Background investigators like to know how you made your living so they can track how you get your money and make sure you are not living a criminal lifestyle bringing in money you can't account for. They also want to know why you left your previous employment. They want to know you were not fired for cause, sexual harassment, theft, insubordination, drug abuse, and other negative reasons.

Keep a record of every place you ever worked. I always keep a business card from the places I used to work and I keep a copy of my old job application. If you forget information about places you used to work the IRS or Social Security Administration can provide you with some of that information, but it can take weeks even months to locate. You can also look through your old tax information to get information about previous employers. You are only responsible for the information that was current at the time you worked for the previous company.

If an old employer has since gone out of business, moved, changed their phone number or was bought out by another company, that is not your problem. Put down the information as you know it, if it turns out to be outdated, then it is the responsibility of the background investigator to find it. Often it is just lost, most of the companies I worked for since went out of business or were sold and no longer exist at the locations I used to work at years ago. The important thing is to do the best you can to provide the most accurate information you can come up with; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Crime Scene

Man Accused of Dissolving 300 Bodies

A man in Mexico has been accused of helping drug lords by dissolving the bodies of up to three hundred victims of drug violence. How do you deal with such a terrible crime if it happened in your jurisdiction? A similar criminal was discovered years ago in the UK, he murdered people and disposed of the bodies in acid. All that was left was the teeth.

The first thing is to get plenty of help. Call in units that are off duty, on other shifts and even other agencies. Keep the raid secret until the last minute. Make sure you have a perimeter that is large enough to encoumpass the entire crime scene. Insure that everyone involved is fully briefed so that they don't accidentilly destroy evidence. One of the most difficult aspects will be to identify the bodies so that prosecutions can be make and so that relatives can be notified.

After the initial raid, the crime scene will need to be protected. That can be very man power intensive for a large crime scene. No one likes doing guard duty, but in order to gather evidence properly there has to be a proper chain of evidence. Criminals still at large may return to the scene to take evidence before it can be processed or to intimidate the crime scene investigators. Keeping them safe and the scene secure are just as important as the initial raid; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Social Networking

Should Employers Be Able to Monitor Your Social Networking...

NYPD is having recruits show their background investigators their FaceBook pages. The Internet is a wonderful and powerful thing. It is also an open door to the whole world. It is not as secure nor as private as we would like it to be, and so we have to be careful what we publish. Just as I have written about television cameras, you have to assume that everything you write on the Internet may some day become public knowledge.

The Internet social networking tools can be fun and just about everyone under thirty years of age seems to have one. When you post photos, keep in mind you have only limited control over who gets to read them. Many women have sent photos of themselves over the Internet to boyfriends only to have those same photos appear on sites where they did not want them to be displayed after the relationship ended.

On duty officers in Southern California used to drive a patrol car to Las Vegas, take a photo of themselves in front of a well known casino and drive back in one shift. The Polaroid photo would be shown around so the officer could show how cool he was by doing that. He had pretty good control over who would see the photo, but now similar foolishness would be posted on the Internet. Not only others from the agency would see it but people outside the agency too. Embarrassing your agency is a good way to get fired; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lawnmower Man II

The guy on the lawnmower is told by the officer to not start up the lawnmower, but he does so anyway. The officer maintains good distance during most of the contact. The suspect attempts to drive his lawnmower away and the officer pulls out his Tazer and points it at the suspect. The officer warned the suspect prior to firing the Tazer that he was going to us it on him. It is often a good idea, when possible to warn the suspect in a last ditch effort to gain compliance.

I am not sure I would have wanted to be that close to a moving lawnmower, I like all my toes, but it seemed to work out for this officer. The suspect when down and the officer moved in quickly to handcuff the suspect. The effects of the Tazer wear off quickly and so you can't fool around much after you use it on a suspect. Even after the officer got the suspect handcuffed, the suspect continued to fight. Don't assume that even if the suspect is smaller than you and handcuffed that the fight is over.

In this incident the suspect was driving a lawn mower on a public street while drinking an alcoholic beverage. Such a vehicle is not typically legal to drive on a public street and operating any kind of vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage is generally illegal too. A lawnmower is a rather dangerous vehicle, particularly when used out of context of cutting a lawn. Imagine children coming home from school, walking down this road while a drunken man on a lawnmower comes the other direction. If he were to hit them, children could be maimed or killed. Sure this incident is rather funny to watch, but there are many learning points and a potential tragedy there too; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mexican Collapse - U.S. Military: Mexico Could Collapse Under Drug Violence

A US Military Intelligence report says that due to the high level of drug violence the Mexican government might actually collapse. This could lead to extensive cross border violence and refugees. Is your agency ready to handle this kind of disaster? Do you have the ability to call on reserve officers to rapidly increase your manpower? Do you have enough officers who can speak Spanish to communicate with an influx of Mexican nationals?

About 100 years ago there was constant revolution in Mexico and the government changed hands several times. Some of the regions of the nation were run by warlords and criminal violence ran rampant. The violence became so bad that the US Army actually invaded Mexico and chased revolutionaries around in 1916.

Mexican drug lords have already reached into the United States and using heavily armed paramilitary hit squads have murdered people who fled to the US to escape them. Patrol rifles in the patrol cars are an important response to this problem. Teaching at least rudimentary Spanish to your officers is another good response. Planning on ways to increase your staffing in advance is important too; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lawn Mower Traffic Stop

This video shows a man driving a riding lawn mower while drinking! An officer sees the suspect and makes a traffic stop. Apparently the officer has contacted the subject before, and this is not the first time the suspect has been driving his lawn mower on the street while intoxicated.

The officer calls off the stop to his dispatcher, that's good. There is often a temptation to not call in stops when you know the offender and don't expect trouble. The officer initially tells the suspect to turn off the lawn mower. This is very important because if he were to run over the officer he could cut his foot off, or even kill him. I think I may even have had him turn off the lawnmower before I got out of the car, or at least before I approached him. That's what the PA is for.

He makes the suspect put out his cigarette, a lighted cigarette can be a distraction when flicked in your face and is very dangerous. He then makes the suspect pour out the bottle of alcohol. If I am going to take the suspect to jail, I am not going to have him pour out the bottle; I want to get the glass container away from him. I would have had him put it on the ground. Later I could pour it out or even take it for evidence; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Psalm 55:22

Psalm 55: verse 22 from the New American Standard Bible says:
"Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." Are you the righteous? Are you doing police work in a manner that is ethical and pleasing to the Lord your God? If not, why not?

Many police officers profess to be Christians, yet police work continues to have ethical problems. Officer lie in reports, they misuse their authority, they fail to make good decisions. We as police are held to a high ethical and moral standard. Recently a New York City officer was taking photos of women, on duty, standing in front of his patrol car and posting them on his Facebook account. Oh, and they were topless. Why did that seem like a good idea? If he were a welder, would his employer care? Maybe, maybe not. But as a police officer he is held to a higher moral standard. And as Christians, shouldn't that moral standard be easier for us to meet?

The stress of the job can be great, but if we cast our burden upon the Lord he will strengthen us to allow us to get through the day. Some officers get stressed out and they turn to alcohol, a few turn to drugs, some turn to illicit sexual relations. None of these will make the problems better except for a few hours or a few minutes and all of these "solutions" carry potentially explosive problems of their own. Rather than allow job stress to get you fired, visit your local church, and place your burdens on the Lord, talk you your local pastor, or your department chaplain. Allow God to give you the strength to get though your sometimes difficult work day; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Exclusionary Rule Changes

The Supreme Court of the United States has changed the Exclusionary Rule. They reached a 5-4 decision that said evidence from an illegal search can be used in trial if the police officer made an innocent mistake. Evidence should only be excluded if the officer recklessly or deliberately violated the rights of the accused.

We have lived with the exclusionary rule since 1961, and I for one am glad to see at least some of it go away. It never made sense to me that if a police officer does something wrong a robber, rapist, child molester, or murderer should benefit from that officers incorrect or illegal action.

If the officer made a simple mistake, then the accused should not benefit and the officer should be re-trained. If the officer was acting with malice and deliberately violating the rights of the accused, then perhaps the officer should be fired, perhaps even prosecuted, but the offender should not go free. A good decision by the Supreme Court; two wrongs don't make a right; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oral Interview

So you want to be a police officer, tell us why? An important question that nearly every oral interview will ask a prospective officer. There are many reasons to become a cop. Helping people, fighting crime, give something back to the community are all good reasons, but they are also the stock answers everyone gives. What else? You are not applying to be Mother Teresa.

The ability to work different shifts, the unusual nature of the work, the interesting people you meet, the stability of the job, and good pay and benefits are also good reasons. There are many things about police work that can be appealing and so it is a good idea to mention some of them besides just your humanitarian ideals.

Having had relatives who worked as police so you can carry on the family tradition, having friends who speak well of the profession are also good reasons. The important thing is to think about why you want to be a cop and then to be able to articulate those reasons in a couple short sentences. Then the hard part is to remember those reasons ten years after you been on the job; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

DUI Stop

Officers from a local town stop people after midnight for exceeding the speed limit by only five miles per hour. They are looking for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While I doubt I would bother writing a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by only 5 mph, it is good probable cause for a stop.

Traffic enforcement is one of the most important things officers do. Murder takes 20,000 lives in the United States every year but traffic collisions involving alcoholic beverages take over twice that many. That does not include the many tens of thousands of people who are injured and the massive property damage that results from the irresponsible use of alcohol.

Traffic stops can be made for nearly any observed suspected violation of the law. In California there are many reasons to stop a car that are easy to spot and give the officer a chance to talk to the driver and determine if they are driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages. Little things dangling down from the rear view mirror, bald tires, expired registration, failure to drive within the speed limit are all good reasons to stop the car; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Terror Attack Soon?

Several pundits have said that President Obama will be challenged by Islamic terrorists soon after taking office. What that really means, is if they challenge him here, it will be we in law enforcement who will face the challenge. Do you know what to look for in a possible terrorist attack? The terrorists seldom use the same methods. The World Trade Center was attacked by aircraft the second time, but remember that same complex was attacked by a truck bomb prior to that, but the attack failed to bring down the buildings.

Terrorists do reconnaissance prior to any attack. Be aware of people in places where they don't belong. Taking photos of infrastructure; bridges, skyscrapers, oil refineries, stadiums. The terrorists want to do damage that will not just kill a lot of people, they want to kill people and do economic and political damage to the United States. The World Trade Center was chosen in part because it was an economic center.

Now that the nation is having hard economic times, it would be even more effective to hit an economic target. Federal Reserve Banks, stock exchanges, corporate headquarters and important import / export centers would all be good targets. Keep your eyes pealed for possible terrorists, you could save thousands; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Compean and Ramos

President Bush commuted the sentences of former Border Patrol Agents Compean and Ramos. I had urged a pardon for them but I am satisfied with the commutation of sentence. These two were involved in an officer involved shooting, firing at a suspected drug smuggler and hitting him in the rear.

They were sentenced to ten years in Federal prison for several crimes resulting from their attempt to cover up the incident. Since they were not fully honest about the nature of the contact with the suspect perhaps a full pardon was not warranted.

Officers nearly always do the right thing in the field but sometimes they make a mistake. We need to remember a mistake is just a mistake and we should not cover it up. When we cover it up, a mistake often becomes a criminal act; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cell Phone Stun Gun

Blast Knuckles Stun Gun - The BudK Catalog

There is a new set of products out there that officers need to be aware exists. It is a pair of knuckles that include a stun gun. The maker says it is a handy weapon for joggers and others who may be out alone in areas where they could be attacked. More disturbing is a version of the device that looks like a cellular telephone.

When people approach us in various situations with items in their hands we need to be very aware that it can be a gun, a knife, or just a cellphone. Or a stun gun that looks like a cell phone. There are many ways that suspects can disguise weapons and particularly in times of low light it can be very difficult to tell what they have in their hands.

There are several ways to deal with your officer safety concerns, each may be appropriate depending on the nature of the contact and the level of threat. Since cell phones have become almost ubiquitous it seems nearly everyone has one in their hands, all the time. You can have people just drop everything. You can tell people to put things on the hood or trunk lid of your car. You can even tell them to just put the item back in their pocket, not really a good idea if you think it is a weapon; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


A New York City Police Officer was convicted of accessing an FBI database without authorization for personal use. As law enforcement officers we have access to all kinds of personal and private information. Part of what we do is safeguard that information. Back in the old days, officers used to use official information for personal use all the time. They would see a nice looking girl, get her license plate and then obtain her address and phone number using official databases.

These days we have access to even more information and it is important that we keep what we see and hear and have access to, confidential. With the Internet, information can be spread much faster than in previous times. There are websites that want information all the time and any significant events get videoed and spread around the world in minutes.

Keep your agency passwords protected so you don't allow your dry cleaners or your kids get hold of them. Don't give you passwords to other members of the agency, because if you do, the assumption is you did their work. So if they use your password to do something bad, it will be on your head. Shred old notes, old reports, bad printouts, and other documents with personal information on them that you know should not be made public. Keeping people safe also means keeping their information safe; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Job Burnout

How can you protect yourself from job burnout? One way is to try and do different things, not just the same job day in and day out. Work a different shift for a while. Different kinds of crime are more common at different times of day. On day shift you get more reports of auto theft and auto burglary as the owners go out to their vehicle in the morning and find it gone or broken into. On nights you get more domestic violence calls as people are home from work and school. Or keep the same shift but work different days of the week. Traffic patterns and calls are different on different days of the week. Transfer to another assignment, detectives or school resources or SWAT or other special detail.

Take some extra training, learn more about traffic accident investigation or drug interdiction. Perhaps you can write reports you did not write before or you can discover crimes you previously overlooked. If you are more skilled your job may be easier or more interesting. If you are weak in an area, take a class and improve your skills in that subject, perhaps you won't dread doing it if you are good at it.

Even if you just stay on patrol, vary your work pattern a bit. Some nights I like to just park the car along a busy street and watch the cars go by and wait for one to do something stupid; it usually does not take too long. Perhaps stop every car that does a violation, even the minor ones you might otherwise let go. Just to break up the monotony. It helps to keep things fresh and keep you mentally alert; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Invisible Crooks?

Science closing in on cloak of invisibility

A group of scientists are working on making things invisible. I have also heard they are working on it in Japan too, maybe other countries as well. What happens when there is the big breakthrough and they can make a car or a person invisible? Maybe at first they only make a car invisible to radar. No more radar tickets for that guy.

What happens if they make cars invisible to cameras? People who drive through toll booths without paying won't have to worry. Red light cameras at intersections with invisible cars racing through the streets! How about robbers and kidnappers and burglars with invisible cars? Or even invisible men conducting criminal acts?

These problems are probably years away, maybe decades away, they may never even happen; they depend on development of a technology that may never be practical or maybe too expensive to use. The time to start thinking about how technologies may be put to use by criminals is as soon as they start to be developed. We don't have too many horse thieves any longer but there are a lot of people stealing identities on the Internet; crimes change; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oakland Riots

Oakland Seethes Over Police Shooting

A Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer shot a suspect in response to a fight call. The suspect was later determined to be unarmed. The Officer resigned and has been charged with murder. In the meantime, people are taking to the street to riot and destroy personal property.

The big brass in charge of the department have a beat to work the same as us on the street working patrol. They need to do the things we can't do, just like we can't do some of the tasks they have to perform. The Chief of Police and his management and supervision team should meet with community leaders on a regular basis to hear their complains, complements and concerns. Too often after a riot gets started, the big bosses want to reach out to community leaders and ask for their help. The time to ask for their help, is today; before there is a problem.

Civil groups, Rotary Club, Lions Club, veterans groups, church's, children's groups should all be visited by a ranking member of the police department every year. They should form at least a minimal working relationship with the members of these groups so that when something bad happens the police have contacts in place they can go speak with to appeal for calm. It is easier to hate the police, it you don't know who they are; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two Guns

Two guns, one on each hip, just like in the wild west. I have seen cops in some cities wearing two guns, exposed in holsters on each hip. This is an interesting technique but I am not sure about the value of it. At first, I thought it might be a firearm and a Tazer, but I have read that some officers are wearing two handguns.

Gun retention is an important skill and sometimes it takes both hands to guard one gun. Can you adequately guard two guns? I think that perhaps the obvious answer to that is to draw the other gun and shoot the bad guy. My biggest concern with two guns exposed is that you may not be able to watch both sides of your body at the same time.

I am all about carrying a back up gun, having two guns is a good idea. In the days of the Wild West cowboy gunslingers carried two guns because it was faster to draw a second gun than to reload. Even today that is true, but with a high capacity magazine, I am not sure that need is still as great. Still, there is no substitute for a firearm when you need one; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Handcuff Case of Back Pain

Handcuff case in front? Sure looks goofy. I have seen officers in other parts of the country carrying their handcuff case in the front and I must admit it sure is not what I am used to seeing. We all get used to doing things in a certain way and it can be difficult to change.

An LT I used to know in the academy had injured his back in a training exercise. He was knocked backwards, fell over and hit his spine on the double handcuff case he kept in the center of his back. As a result he medically retired and had several surgeries on his back. So there are reasons to avoid the handcuffs in the rear. When you sit in a patrol car, or in a chair all shift, if you have the handcuff case in the center over your spine you are putting a lot of pressure on your backbone. Even to the side you are putting a lot of pressure on your internal organs. One of those technological advances we need is a police car seat that will allow us to sit with all this gear on our belt.

I have taken to wearing all my gear on the front or on the side. I don't wear anything on the back anymore, so I am not sitting directly on my gear. I still wear the handcuffs in the back, but I actually wear them on my gun side. I figure I won't be both holding a gun on someone and try and handcuff them at the same time, so my gun hand will be free if I am handcuffing. My back feels much better now; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Survival Rate

"Over a long enough time span, the survival rate of everything drops to zero." I saw that sentence on the Internet the other day and when you think about it, it is true. What we do in law enforcement is inherently dangerous. There are things we can do to reduce the risk. Stay in shape, wear your body armor, wear your seat belt, conduct complete searches of suspects, handcuff suspects in the rear and much, much more.

The nature of what we do is that some of us will get hurt. Some of us will even die on the job. It is something we will never change. Some of us will die in accidents. We will be training and inadvertently shoot our partner, our helicopter will crash and we will be burned to death. Sometimes we will do something that will get us killed, we run into burning buildings (I hate that, and I have done it many times), we will fall off a cliff or a tall building while searching for a missing child. Sometimes we will simply have a heart attack and die on duty.

Other times officers will be killed by others. Drunk drivers crash into our car while we are on a traffic stop and kill us, a meth lab will explode and blow us up. And finally worst of all, someone will intentionally kill us because we are law enforcement and just trying to do our job. At night, in an alley, alone, in the rain... And then next shift will go to work at night, in alleys, sometimes alone, sometimes in the rain, because it's what we do, it's who we are; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shotgun Skills

The shotgun is an excellent police weapon at close range. It is very accurate and very deadly in ranges we might be expected to use our handgun. The shotgun can be intimidating to some due to it's heavy recoil. There are several ways to reduce that, using low recoil shell, and a good thick recoil pad.

When deploying the shotgun take care when removing it from the mount inside the car. It is too common that officers have an unintended discharge of the weapon when removing it from the unit. Vehicles often are poorly designed for shotgun deployment and there is often little clearance. You should practice removing an unloaded shotgun until you can deploy the weapon without banging it on the doors, floor or other parts of the car.

The other skill to practice it reloading the shotgun while keeping on target. Hold the weapon in your right hand (assuming you are right handed) and point it at the target. Remove your extra ammo from your side saddle, pocket or sling loops, using only your left hand. Keeping the shotgun level and pointed at the target, insert one round at a time into the magazine until it has been refilled. You should be able to do this without going off target, without looking at the gun, and without taking your trigger hand off the ready position. It's an important skill to have; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No More Chases?


Perhaps an end to police pursuit is near. OnStar which is a service of General Motors now offers a service that will help police recover a stolen car. If the car is reported stolen and the police contact OnStar and then OnStar that will slowly bring the vehicle to a halt. Sounds like a great way to stop police pursuits so that the bad guy won't crash and won't hurt other people.

My question is that if a car has been reported stolen, why doesn't OnStar simply prevent the car from starting or turn off the engine, no matter where it is located? In my opinion, automobiles are far too easy to steal, far too easy to strip for parts and much too unsafe. Any other consumer product involved in the involuntary death of 40,000 Americans every year would be pulled off the market the next day.

We have many concerns about law enforcement that require a technological solution. One of them concerns police pursuit of criminals in automobiles. The ability to stop a car with a remote device is a good idea but only works if you can communicate the information to OnStar so they can locate the car and only works if the car has OnStar. We still need a device to allow police to "kill" a car, without killing the occupants; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, January 9, 2009

20 Minutes

"Commonwealth v. Pierre, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 580 (2008). The search of a bag carried by the defendant at the time of his arrest was an invalid search incident to an arrest where the police search the bag about an hour after the defendant's arrest and not at the scene of the arrest but at the police station."

Seems to me if your are taking the suspect to the station and then waiting an hour from the time of the arrest you probably are not searching incident to the arrest. At that point I think you are doing a search as part of the booking inventory. If the search did not happen during a booking procedure then justify the search for officer safety purposes. The suspect has a bag that could contain a weapon and so you are looking for weapons. Of course, this would depend on the nature of the bag and what they claimed they found in the bag.

Searching incident to an arrest should generally happen where the handcuffs get put onto the person being arrested. If there is a legitimate police reason not to search immediately, like an unruly crowd, a big fire or some other danger, you may have to move for safety reasons, but again the search should be done in a timely manner, not an hour later. I would think the best thing to do in those cases is move the suspect to a safe place, perhaps down the street, or a few blocks away and get them back out of the car and search them there, certainly within a few minutes of the actual arrest.

I generally try and do most things that have some sort of time limit within about twenty minutes. So if I want to search incident to an arrest and I can't do it right away, which would be unusual, I try and get it done within twenty minutes. About as long as a traffic stop might take if your run the driver and write a ticket. Twenty minutes is not very long; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't Tazer Me Bro', OK, Bang!

Recently an officer shot a suspect and his attorney claims the officer thought he had his Tazer in his hand. Okay, several problems with that. First of all, I understand how in the excitement and fear of a violent encounter you could get confused and mistake your Tazer for your handgun and vice versa. So there are steps you need to take to minimize that from happening.

If there are several officers together, designate who will use Tazer and who will use handgun. Then it reduces the likelihood of shooting with the wrong weapon. In some cases, it may even be advisable to have the Tazer officer only carry the Tazer and not carry a handgun. This would be in a very limited circumstance, but it is an option to keep in mind if you were concerned the Tazor officer either may get his gun taken away or he may get confused about which weapon to employ.

I am right handed and so carry my duty pistol on my right hip and my Tazer on my left leg on a drop holster. I have to use two hands to draw the Tazer, one to unclip the flap and one to draw. I have even considered that perhaps I could only use the Tazer left handed so that I could still draw my firearm. Just more options to try and use the correct amount of force; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Door Shank


A new product has hit the market called "Door Shanks." It is a tool designed to allow people to break into their own car. It is sort of like a drill bit and you slam it into the car door then use a wrench to twist out the lock. It is a small tool and easy to overlook.

This product is advertised as a product you can use to get into your car if you get locked out. Of course, that's what OnStar or the Auto Club are for, not some collection of tools that you are not likely to carry around all the time. In my opinion, it is simply a tool marketed to auto burglars to help them do their job.

To help you do your job, you need to be aware of in order to see these devices for what they are when you encounter them in the field. If you find one of these in someones hand at three o'clock in the morning, in a parking lot, with no real reason to be there, you have found an auto burglar; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Subjects who you contact in the field should not be allowed to smoke cigarettes in your presence. Cigarettes are a good source of a distraction should they desire to attack you or your partner. All it takes is for the subject to flick the cigarette into your face and that will give them a momentary advantage over you. The surprise of the incident and the fact that the cigarette is on fire will typically cause you to jerk back or even turn away.

When I contact people I always ask them to put out their cigarette. If I have an arrestable offense, I insist on it. In any case, it is a good idea to maintain a good distance from the subjects you contact. I like to stay at least my arms reach from the subject. I also like to keep something between us, a car door, a bus bench, or other obstacle.

Sudden, violent attack is always a potential incident that can happen when you contact suspects in the field. They gain the advantage by a momentary distraction. Distance and an obstacle are you two friends that can help you in these situations; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Animal calls can be a real problem for the average street cop. While many of us may own a pet dog or cat, we are used to dealing with people out on the street and not critters. Typically the animal calls we get in the city are dogs running loose, neglected or dogs and cats that have been run over by a car. Most of the time a dog running loose will run home if it is not hopelessly lost, and more than once I have simply gotten out of the patrol car and chased them a short distance and they have run into a nearby open gate. I closed the gate behind them and I was the instant hero for saving the neighborhood hero.

Dogs and cats that have been run over are not really a problem if they are actually dead. It's when they are still alive but hurt they are a problem. If it looks dead, I usually observe if from a distance, then yell at it, then poke it with my baton to insure it is really dead. If it is really dead, then I put on some rubber gloves and drag it to the curb, and radio dispatch for animal control to come and get it later. Sometimes in residential neighborhoods I have marked it with a rubber traffic cone just so no one parks on top of it. Ewww.

The worst are the not actually dead, but almost ones with a crowd of well meaning useless civilians standing around watching. We are allowed to shoot an injured animal but we only seem to do that about once every ten years or so. Don't want a ricochet to hit someone else. I try and get the adults to take any kids inside the house because that poke with the baton will have a little extra velocity upside their head. I had to dispatch a possum that way once. Our animal control does not respond quickly after hours so sometimes you gotta do their job too; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Retirement Survival

What is your retirement plan? Not just how much money are you going to have coming in every month, but what are you going to do with yourself? Too often an officer retires and then kills himself within a few years. That's not much of a retirement plan.

What are you doing now to fill your spare time? Playing with the kids, hanging out with the wife are all fine, but kids grow up and move away. Too often officers get divorced and find themselves retired with kids they don't talk to and no spouse. No wonder so many officers don't last long when they retire.

Now is time to pick up some other interests. Watch the news and find out what is happening outside your jurisdiction. Go buy a book about something unrelated to law enforcement and read it. Buy some army men and paint them. Learn to ride horses or sail boats. Get some kind of non-law enforcement hobby; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Whole Truth

"Commonwealth v. Ramos, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 773 (2008). Following a Franks hearing (challenging the veracity of statements in a search warrant affidavit), a judge properly allowed a motion to suppress where the affiant police officer falsely stated a drug sniffing canine's favorable credentials and omitted the canine's unfavorable previous search results."

Our job is to prevent, and investigate criminal activity. It is not our duty to tell only one side of the story and omit the other side. We are supposed to provide all of the information even that which is exculpatory. A drug dog that does well some times and not so good other times is not unusual, humans and dog's are not perfect and when asked about the credentials of the dog, tell the full storey. The judge will judge if the dog is good enough to warrant a search warrant based on his record.

Judges are supposed to judge things, that's what they do; it is our job to provide them with all the information so they can make a judgement based on the facts. It is our moral duty to include all the facts, not just the facts that tend to lead towards a conviction of the suspected criminal. While I am often highly critical of judges, we have to do our job also and provide them with all the facts; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Missing Woman

"Commonwealth v. Lindsey, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 485 (2008). The police properly entered a dwelling without a warrant to search for an elderly ailing woman who was reported missing and last seen outside her house trembling and asking for help, i.e., the faced a potentially real medical emergency requiring them to act immediately to protect the woman's health and safety. Therefore, unlawfully possessed firearms observed in the home during the protective sweep were properly seized."

How often do we get called to check the welfare of someone inside a home? The neighbors have not seen the person in days and the mail is piling up. The reasonable assumption for an old person living alone is that they have fallen and can't get up or that they have died. One of my officers once noticed a few newspapers laying in the driveway of a home. He took them on onto the porch and then noticed the mail was piling up too. He called in that he would be checking the property and when he got to the back door he heard an old woman calling for help. He was very elderly and had fallen three days earlier and broken her hip. She was unable to get up or get to a phone.

He called for paramedics and broke into the house. The paramedics responded and took her to the hospital. While she did die a few days later, at least she died in the hospital, surrounded by her family and loved ones, and not alone on the kitchen floor. If you are lawfully someplace performing your lawful duties, contraband that is illegal to posses can be lawfully seized. There is never a right to have heroin, or hand grenades or various other drugs or weapons. The important thing is you were there not to search for drugs or weapons, but rather found them incident to other lawful activity. Keep your eyes open, that's what the SGT Says.

Oral Interviews

There will be times in your law enforcement career when you will have to participate in an oral interview. You will have to interview when you first try and get hired, if you try and lateral to another agency, or if you want a promotion. The first part of preparation is simple, get a good nights sleep, eat a light meal, and wear a nice, conservative suit and shinny shoes with a fresh haircut. Arrive early for the interview in case they are running ahead of time. Know where you are going, even a test run to see how long it takes to get there, parking, and where in the building the interview will take place.

Most positions will have a published job position description. Get a copy of that, on line or from the agency or their human resources department. Read about the job qualifications. Be able to explain why you meet or exceed those qualifications. Your education, your job experience, hobbies or training you have that makes you a good candidate for the position. Even indirect experience can be helpful if you phrase it well. I worked at a pet shop has no relevance to a police position. I worked at a pet shop and interacted with the general public, handling their inquires and complaints is much better because it shows a police oriented skill.

Check out the agency and their higher organization. If you want to work for a city department, you should know something about the city, if it is a county sheriff, then know about the county. If you have never been there, go there and drive around, get a ride along if you can, check the city out on Google Earth to at least take a look at the place. Most cities have websites, read about the city and know a bit about the size, demographics and history of the city. Knowing the name of the mayor and chief of police are good things to know too; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Buckle Up

Police officers need a four point vehicle restraint system, like race car drivers wear, a Nomex fireproof uniform and the seat belt must be easier to wear and to put on and take off. That day is not here and it is not close. Until then, at least wear your old fashioned seat belt all the time when on duty in the car.

Tens of thousands of people per year are killed in traffic collisions; and hundreds of thousands suffer injuries in traffic collisions. Many of them would have been saved if they had their seat belts on. I hear excuses from officers all the time about why they don't. It is hard to get it buckled on. This is true. I am a big boy and with all the gear I am positively huge, but I wear the seat belt anyway. It delays me from getting out of the car. This is true, I usually unbuckle a few hundred feet before we stop the car so that I am ready to leap out.

The seat belt is uncomfortable, this is true. Sitting in a police car is uncomfortable, that's why we don't use them for easy chairs at home. So is whacking your head on the windshield or smacking your teeth on the steering wheel. We could drive off the road into water and be unable to unbuckle the seat belt and drown. In Southern California? The rivers are concrete. Without a seat belt the fall will kill you. In other places you need to be conscious to open the door and swim out so the seat belt will hold you in place. We get in and out of the car frequently and it is too much trouble to buckle and unbuckle the seat belt. It is harder to get in and out of a wheelchair; that's what the SGT Says.