Tuesday, March 31, 2009

International Crime USA

Biker Brawl Australia Airport

American exports include more than airliners, produce and computer technology. We also export crime to other parts of the world too. Many of the worst street gangs in the USA have become international in scope. We read all the time about Mexican or Colombian or Italian crime lords who have connections in the US. We don't read very often about American criminals who operate overseas.

A biker gang sent members to Australia to fight in a turf war. They even murdered someone in the airport. America has a powerful culture and we export that culture. Too often that culture includes street gangs. We need only look at video games that glorify the street gang culture.

As an individual officer there is not too much I can do about international gang traffic. At least I try and keep their influence out of my home. I have always prevented my child from owning gangsta music and from wearing the clothing or other products associated with gang activity. I have even sent letters and emails to otherwise responsible companies that try and spread this virus to warn them of the danger. It's the least we can do; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Do You Stay a Cop?

What do you like about being a cop? This month in California four men were killed while doing their job as police, so we must do this for some reason other than just the money. I am a Reserve Officer and don't get paid, so certainly I do it for more than just the money. Here's a list of a few things:

I get to make a difference in my community. I despise criminals and by being a cop I can make a difference in the crime world. It is a small difference, but I like to put my money where my mouth is and get involved with the things that are important to me.

Police work is interesting and yes, even fun. I like wearing a uniform, driving the police car, going to the range and shooting rifles, pistols and shotguns. If you have to do a job you may as well do something you like. You get to be outdoors and do different things, you never know what will happen next, it is seldom boring. I have been places I would never have gone and seen places I would never had otherwise seen.

The people I care about and respect, care about and respect police, and it is satisfying to be able to portray that image of a strong, brave, honorable police officer. We all play roles in life and I like this better than the role of insurance salesman or accountant.

Sometimes I get to help people and that can be rewarding. I have rendered first aid, evacuated buildings, helped people after shootings, car crashes, house fires, heart attacks, even the death of a loved one from natural causes. It feels good to do good.

The brotherhood of police officers is a great thing. It is not unlike soldiers in the Army. We are together and our very lives depend on our dispatcher, our supervisor, and most of all on each other. We are willing to sacrifice not only our own lives for our partner, but we face danger for any stranger who picks up the phone, calls 911 and says they are in danger and need our help. I am proud to be in that company of brave men and women who respond to that call.

So despite sometimes getting yelled at, despite our brothers who fall in the line of duty, I and tens of thousands of others like me, put on our uniforms and go on patrol, because we're cops, it's what we do; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Traffic Stop Reminders

Last night we worked a special traffic enforcement detail. We fielded extra Reserve Officers to do traffic enforcement. About twice as many people are killed in traffic collisions than are killed by murder. The consistent enforcement of traffic laws can help to reduce the type of poor driving that can result in collisions.

Traffic enforcement also gives you an opportunity to screen the driver of the vehicle for warrants. The two motor officers were here murdered in Oakland last weekend had stopped a man who was a wanted criminal. Simple traffic stops have been the key to many major murder investigations, including the Oklahoma City Bomber.

When conducting traffic stops, always call the stop off to your dispatcher. If you can't get a license plate, give a description of the vehicle. Give the location of the stop. Exit your patrol car rapidly but pause for a moment to observe the vehicle and occupants before you approach. Make sure the trunk is closed and don't take your eyes off the car while you approach. Once you contact the driver and return to your unit, don't turn your back on the suspect vehicle; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Search For Truth or At Least Weapons

A good search of an arrested person is essential. Once you have arrested someone a good, systematic cursory search for weapons is very important. First handcuff the person being searched. If they are under arrest you are going to handcuff them anyway, so get it done right at the beginning . It makes it harder for them to resist or draw a weapon. I try and wear eye protection, usually sunglasses, and rubber gloves.

When you search, control the hands of the suspect. Even when handcuffed, hold onto their hands. Many people are flexible enough to draw a weapon or attack you even when handcuffed. Don't take chances by not controlling the hands. I like to start my search at the top and work my way down. I remove any head wear, go through the hair, big hair can hide weapons. I check the inside of any hats, roll down the headband, check the brim. Check the inside of the mouth for handcuff keys or blades. I quarter the body and do upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left. Check for neck chains and see what may be on them, knives can dangle from a neck chain and so can a handcuff key.

Check the belt buckle, under the belt, check the crotch, some jeans actually have a little pocket in the crotch to hide weapons or drugs. I like to pull down the jacket or shirt over the shoulders to help restrain the suspect and it makes checking other layers. I check up under the underarms, and pull up the pants legs to check the ankles. I typically make them take off their shoes and I inspect them too. An elastic band on the upper arm, or ankle can easily hide a gun. The sole of a shoe can be hollowed out and conceal a gun or other small weapon.

I don't let the suspect keep anything that can be used as a weapon or an escape device. A paperclip can be used to open a pair of handcuffs, a pen or pencil can be used to stab someone, a comb can even be used to slip a pair of handcuffs. I don't allow suspects to keep anything that is rigid, sharp, pointy, plastic or metal. A good search helps keep us all safe, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oakland Police Shooting Continues

Oakland Police Shooting

The effects of the Oakland Police Shooting continue to reverberate. The fourth officer to die had donated his organs for transplant. They say that as many as four other lives have been saved as a result of this tragic incident. Even as the families grieve they can take some comfort in the fact that even in death, the officers are saving lives.

Despite the evil, thoughtless and cruel people that were taunting the officers who responded to the scene of the traffic stop, there has been good news from the community. The initial reports of the shooting came from a civilian on the police radio who was calling for help for the wounded police officers. When responding officers arrived, they found members of the community rendering first aid. It is easy to forget that their are a few good people in even the worst neighborhoods, but it is important to remember that.

After the church services there will be a reception at the Coliseum for the four officers. They anticipate tens of thousands will turn out to show their respects to these officers. Have you had a conversation with your family, and friends about what could happen to you at work? Do you have enough insurance and funeral preparations? Does your family know what to do if you are on life support? Have you spoken to your priest? This is a chance to prepare for the worse; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Writing About Report Writing

When I am involved in a complex incident, I like to do a little work before I write a report. First and foremost is good note taking. Talk to all the witnesses and find out all they have to tell you. Once I talk to them I like to go over what they tell to me and even physically walk through the event sometimes to both refresh their memories and to make it clearer to me.

I like to review the law, actually break out a copy of the penal code and read those sections that apply to the complex incident. That way when I write my report I can insure I get all the details in that explain the elements of the crime. Sometimes an element can be so obvious that officers don't state it, because they don't want to state the obvious. In police reports stating the obvious is a good idea.

The other document to review is the agency that covers the event. This is particularly good in use of force events. It can serve as a good reminder to include distance, perception, lighting and other key elements that may otherwise be left out. It can also help to use the police as a guide to organize the facts of the events. Naturally, in all reports the most important thing is to tell the truth; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oakland PD

I got this message from an employee of AlliedBarton. They are the largest American owned private security company.

"AlliedBarton was saddened by the death of the four Oakland, CA, Police Officers killed in the line of duty this past weekend. In recognition of the close relationships we share with local law enforcement agencies around the country, AlliedBarton’s Northern California region will make a donation to the Oakland Police Officer’s Association Memorial Account in the officers’ honor.

The fallen officers include Sergeant Mark Dunakin, age 40, tour of duty 17 years; Sergeant Daniel Sakai, age 35, tour of duty 8 years; Sergeant Ervin Romans, age 43, tour of duty 13 years; and Police Officer John Hege, age 41, tour of duty 10 years. The officers were fatally shot during a traffic stop and subsequent suspect pursuit.
Detailed information about the officers who gave their lives to protect the public are available at www.odmp.org.

Any AlliedBarton employee who would like to make a personal donation may do so by sending a check or money order made payable to the OPOA Memorial Account (Federal Tax ID 94-3222109) to Kelly Murcray, Northern California Region VP of Operations. All donations will be hand delivered to the OPOA.

Send donations to:
Kelly Murcray
Vice President, Operations
AlliedBarton Security Services
360 22nd Street, Suite 800
Oakland, CA 94612

As security professionals, our relationship with law enforcement is critically important. We value the dedication of these and all of our Police Officers and would like to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Randy Dorn
Division President"

Some police look down on security guards, but they fill an important role in the protection of life and property. They do many jobs that police would otherwise have to do and they prevent many crimes every day. Guards take many of the same risks that police do with less training and lower pay. Thanks AlliedBarton for your concern for our fallen brothers in Oaklan; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Alarm Response

I read once that 99% of all burglary alarms are false alarms. That means if you have to respond to one burglary alarm a week, you get one real one every two years. Some kinds of calls are harder to keep your guard up when you have to respond to them all the time without finding a criminal offense.

One way to help you keep our guard up it to remember that today's burglar alarms function very well. They don't just go off for no reason. Try to determine what set the alarm off, it may not be a criminal, but it could still be a threat to the home or business. If the wind blows a door or window open, it allows access to animals, or casual criminals who may notice it opened on it's own. Even just having a door or window open can allow wind or rain or snow to damage the interior of the premises.

The other reason to try an focus on the alarm response is that on average they will be real burglaries every two years. Most burglars are scared off by the sound of the alarm but not all. Some burglars stay in the house for a long time. Don't let routine become complacency which can become an unexpected assault; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Smile for the Camera


Taser has announced a new product that they claim will revolutionize law enforcement. It is a miniature camera system that clips onto your head. They camera lens is right in front of your ear so that it will see most of what the officer will see and from just about the same angle and field of view. It is interesting to see video of what police are doing but wonder if they can see things that the camera does not capture.

Cameras are everywhere, and it was just a matter of time before cops had to wear them. For years I have told every officer in discussions about cameras, just assume that there is a camera watching everything you do all the time whenever you are in uniform. Between vigilantes, activists, security cameras, car cameras, ATM machines, traffic cameras, and cell phone cameras there are photos being taking of officers all the time.

The camera both aids and hinders police work. It is good for the public to see just how dangerous, stupid, and evil other people can be in the world. Too often police stories seemed unbelievable the cruel and dumb things people did that only cops would see. Cameras only capture part of the picture. They don't get scared or get tunnel vision. They don't see in depth and they don't worry about liability, but cops do. Cameras will show what was presented to the cops, but they won't show what he perceived; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

God Bless Oakland Police Department

Oakland Police Shooting

Four Oakland police officers have been murdered by a violent career criminal who never should have been out on the streets. On parole for assault with a deadly weapon, and wanted for violation of that parole, two Oakland officers stopped this criminal who exited the car and started shooting his handgun. Later during an extensive manhunt, two SWAT team members were killed by the same criminal using an "assault rifle." All this according to breaking news accounts.

Make no mistake, this incident is not about a lack of gun control. In California we have very strict gun control, most "assault rifles" are illegal or registered or highly regulated. Convicted felons are not permitted firearms at all. This is about an overcrowded prison system that releases prisoners who should be locked up, and a court system that does not require dangerous criminals to stay in prison. California prisons are very crowded and courts have recently required releases to relieve overcrowding. Our State Legislature has spent too few dollars on new prison construction and prison expansion.

No traffic stop is routine. Call in every traffic stop. If there are two officers, one should approach the car while the other acts as a cover officer. Once the car is clear, the second officer should approach. Treat every traffic stop as if it is a potential shootout, because some of then are; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Patrol Rifle Deployment

The patrol rifle is an excellent weapon in the right circumstances. There are many reasons to deploy the rifle versus relying only on the duty handgun. The patrol rifle is very accurate at long range, and it will usually penetrate body armor. The patrol rifle can also be a valuable weapon for use against animals, particularly big ones.

I deploy the patrol rifle at every opportunity. When I respond to a robbery alarm or when conducting a high risk vehicle stop I bring the rifle. The patrol rifle has a certain psychological advantage, so anytime a potentially armed suspect is likely to be encountered or if there are multiple suspects the patrol rifle should be employed. If I am working on the perimeter of an incident in progress, I like having the rifle so I can take a good shot from cover.

Suspects who are doing armed robberies are by the nature of their crime, very confrontational and very dangerous. They even sometimes wear body armor and sometimes carry rifles themselves. These are excellent conditions to deploy the patrol rifle; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Range Training

I am going to the range tonight. When was the last time you shot your duty gun? How about your shotgun or patrol rifle? My agency shoots every month and we do shotgun and patrol rifle several times a year.

Shooting is a perishable skill, you get rusty over time. Baseball players go to spring training to get back into shape for the game. Shooting every month is a great idea, it is important to stay in practice. If you can't shoot that often or if you want to stay extra sharp there are other things you can do when you are not on the range.

Move your shooting arm and hand in a pantomime motion as if you were drawing your weapon and shooting at a target. Do this over and over. The muscle memory is important and will help you to draw and aim faster. You don't even need your gun to do this training. Range training without a range and without a gun can help your shooting; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

God Bless Officer James Vincent

*Fund Established For Officer James Vincent After Paralyzed In Police Chase Fugitive Watch

A young officer was in pursuit of a dangerous felon when he was involved in a single vehicle traffic collision. He is paralyzed due to extensive back injuries. Sending our fellow officers a few bucks at a time like this is a good idea. It not only helps them out with the extra expenses that come in a time of crisis, but it also lets the officer and his family know that there are people out there who pray for them and care about them.

I write frequently about the need to drive safely, use care in pursuits and wear your seat belt. I don't know any of the specifics about this incident and certainly don't mean to criticize him in his time of tragic injury; but this is a good reminder for all of us.

Donations may be made out to Officer James Vincent, in care of the Antioch Police Officers Association, at the Antioch Community Federal Credit Union at 301 G St., Antioch, CA 94509.
Phone 925-757-1320 Drive safely; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


What do you carry in your pockets on duty? How much personal stuff do you carry? I carry my "work keys" but I don't carry any personal keys. The keys to my personal car, my house and all that are in my locker, locked up in the locker room. There is no need to carry them, I won't be using them while on duty and it is just one more thing to make noise while I walk around. A wad of keys is also another thing to hurt me if I fall down or get in a fight or car crash.

Jump up and down in uniform. What do you sound like? You should be quiet, just the light tapping of your shoes on the floor. I don't carry any coins to jingle in my pocket. I don't carry a cell phone. If I need my personal cell phone, it stays in the police car with the gear. Sometimes it is nice to have a cell phone, but I don't want to be sneaking up on a couple burglars only to have my location revealed by a telemarketer with a good deal on insurance.

Your gear should not bounce around when you jump. Your flashlight and gun and handheld radio should remain in place on your belt. I am a big guy and I carry a lot of gear, but I am very quiet when I jump up and down and all my stuff stays in it's place. I can sneak around very silently too. I find it hard to turn off the stealth mode and often notice myself sneaking up on people unintentionally. Being able to move quietly is an important part of the job; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Look Nice

How does your uniform look? Are your shoes shined? Is your shirt pressed? Is your gig line straight? How about your hair, is it cut short and your facial hair shaved? One of the easiest things we do in our workday is to attire ourselves in our uniform. We can take as much time as we want to, we can inspect our appearance before we go to work.

The last thing I do before I walk out of the locker room every shift is to visually inspect my uniform. Shirt tucked in, badge, name tag, loaded duty pistol, shoes shined, pen & paper in my pocket and all my gear straight and ready to go to work.

If you can't do the easiest part of the job, how can you do the difficult tasks? Many criminals will look at an officer and try and determine if they can successfully attack the officer. An officer who looks bad in uniform give the impression that he lacks skills, does not care about his job and may be a better target for attack. Look sharp, stay sharp, and stay safe; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Drugs Are Bad

My friend Randy was telling me about a TV show where a police K9 alerted on a car and when the officers searched it they found a marijuana seed in the car. A single seed. Wow. That is good. It was a rental car. Is there a single rental car that has been in service longer than a few months in any major US city that a drug dog would not alert on? Sometimes it seem like the drug war is lost. Sometimes it seems like it would be better to just make all the drugs legal and all the drug related problems would go away.

Those drugs were made illegal for a reason, they are just too dangerous for people to use for recreational purposes. Some people claim that making drugs legal, would make them no different than alcohol. So how's that working out? 40,000 highway deaths each year and half are alcohol related. How many murders and domestic violence cases are alcohol related? How many of the homeless have alcohol problems? When was the last time you saw alcohol improve someones life?

Even if drugs were legal they would still have to be regulated, or would we simply allow 13 year olds to shoot up heroin? Marijuana is a gateway drug, no one uses cocaine, heroin, or other hard drugs without first using marijuana. How much of the population does not use drugs now simply because they are illegal? Do you want your dispatcher, auto mechanic, armorer, supervisor smoking crack on their day off? It's legal, how do you prevent it? Drug legalization is not a good idea, it creates far more problems that it solves; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jail the Police


"Prince George's County (Maryland) Police Officer Stephanie Mohr is serving 10 years in jail because her police dog chased a fleeing suspect and bit him... Officer Stephanie Mohr, along with two other policemen, on civil rights violations and conspiracy charges. The Takoma Park Police Department, under investigation by federal authorities, suddenly brought up this incident almost five years after it occurred."

This police officer was convicted of federal civil rights violations for violating the rights of an illegal alien. She was responding to a call for service and did her job, yet someone in the federal government, five years later, determined that there was a problem with that she did that shift. I don't have the full details on the specifics of this incident. What I do know about it concerns me. The officer was tried twice, they could not get a conviction the first time, so they tried her a second time. It seems to me that she should not have to wait five years for a federal prosecutor to file charges and they should not have tried her twice.

Officers should not use excessive force, they should face discipline, termination, and in only rare cases should they be prosecuted. Police work is difficult and one of the hardest parts about it is trying to make decisions based on incomplete and often inaccurate information while under great stress. Then if you make the wrong choice, you may end up killed, getting fired, getting sued or even prosecuted. The states all have state police, I don't know that we need the federal government to get involved in so many of these cases. The standard for police may simply become too high for good police work to happen, and that would be a tragedy for society; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Toy Guns


Year ago some crazy person with a realistic toy gun took a bunch of people hostage. Naturally, the California legislature had to do something about this terrible situation of people being victimized by toy guns. Now all toy guns in California must have a red tip on the end of the barrel.

The media have told us that assault weapons are evil black rifles. Today with the new powder finishes and other types of painting and coloration rifles and pistols can be any color. Criminals naturally started to paint little red tips on the ends of their guns. That gives them the chance to introduce a bit of lag time into an armed confrontation. Look for the hole in the barrel, toys often have a plugged barrel. Look for working controls, toys don't often have that. Real guns have intricate details like sights in front and rear.

Anyone who points a gun at you, red tip or not, needs to be treated like they have a real gun. If someone acts like they have a real gun you need to treat them like they have a real gun. Naturally, the totality of the circumstances must be taken into account. Move to cover, give verbal commands, blind them with your flashlight, draw your weapon. Just don't relay solely on the color of the gun as a guide to it being a real gun or a toy. You really should not shoot at someone unless your are certain they are a deadly threat to you or some other innocent person; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No Sap Pockets


I got an email from a guy who is making a new flashlight. I checked out his website and it seems like a nice flashlight.

"I am Neoseikan, the producer of Neofab Legion II, the brightest single LED flashlight. It has 742~748 real torch lumens. Would you like to write an article about these kind of strong light LED flashlights?"

The value of a good strong flashlight cannot be underestimated. I have never used his flashlight and so I can only refer you to his website. I use a Streamlight Stinger and a Pelican 7060. They are both small, lightweight LED lights issued by my department. In a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, the Reserve organization gave us all a Stinger one year for Christmas. A few months later the Department issued us all the Pelican 7060. My previous flashlight that I purchased myself was an older model Stinger and the battery died just in time for the new one to arrive.

Having used both of them for a while now, they seem to be six of one and half a dozen of another. The Pelican is shorter, lighter, the Streamlight is smoother and seems easier for me to turn on and off. They both seem perfectly fine flashlights for law enforcement. I actually carry both, since they are much lighter than the massive Kel Lite and Mag Lites of olden times. I wear the Pelican on my belt and stick the Streamlight in my sap pocket. Oh, flashlight pocket, we don't carry saps anymore; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seat Belts

Do you wear your seat belt? Do you wear it all the time? I try to wear mine all the time. I am a big guy, six feet two inches tall and 250 pounds. Add on the body armor, boots, jacket, Tazer, Glock, ammo, knives, flashlight and that takes up a lot of additional space and weighs a lot too. Getting into and out of a Dodge Charger is difficult.

There is the spotlight in the way, a computer, a shotgun, a patrol rifle, a prisoner cage, a posse box, a ticket book, radio, lighting controls, camera and all that stuff takes up a lot of room inside that little passenger compartment. The seat is mushed down and is very low and difficult to get out of, particularly in a hurry.

The other day I rode patrol with a partner who likes to do traffic. We even patrolled in the car labelled "traffic enforcement." In eight hours we stopped at least one car per hour, and handled at least one call per hour. I sometimes had to try and get that little buckle to go into that slot as many as six times. Too much junk on the utility belt and too much stuff in the car to give me any space to easily put the seat belt on. But it's worth it if you crash; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cell Phones and Hands

Recently I have gotten several messages about weapons that don't look like weapons. A cellular phone that is actually a .22 caliber handgun. A reminder that cellular phones can be dangerous. I don't let people talk on the phone when I have them detained. I have seen too many catalogs and photos of cell phones with different kinds of weapons, knives, and guns disguised as cell phones.

When conducting an investigation, control the actions of those you are investigating. Watch their hands. Monitor what they touch and control what they use. I don't want people to smoke cigarettes, talk on the phone or rummage around in their purse or backpack.

Any hard object in someones hand can be a weapon, the traditional murder weapon, the blunt object. Another reason to keep cell phones and other things out of people's hands. The hands are what kill, keeping them visible is one of the most important things you can do in the field, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cop Life

Police should be paid a decent wage. Police should not do the job for the money. Police who do the job for the money are mercenaries and will do just enough to get by and will do anything to advance their careers. Police who do the job for the money cheapen the profession and make poor cops. How much do I have to pay you to run into a burning building, or to get shot at or to see the bad things cops have to see? You can't pay enough money to get decent people to do this job. They have to do it because they love it.

Police work is something you do because it is in your blood. It is a compulsion. It is who you are as well as what you do. It is how everyone will see you, on duty and off duty. Your life will never be the same afterwards when you have been a cop.

Police are always on a low level of alert. Police always have a little extra power of observation going watching where people are, what's in their hands, asking questions, looking for answers. Police complain about some of the foolish things they see on the street, then risk their lives for total strangers, just because they were dispatched to a call. They complain about their boss or their co-worker and then risk their life for them on the street. It's a strange life, but I would not have any other kind; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Training the Family

When you are off duty you may have to take some enforcement action. Or you may just want to be a good witness. You should determine which course of action is best based on your weapons, skills, tactics and training. You should not have to worry about your family. They need to be trained what to do in the event of an emergency. Chances are they may not even be aware the 7-Eleven is being robbed or those men are stealing a car, but they need to be ready to take your commands without questions.

Telling the wife to shut up and dial 911 should not result in her responding, "Don't tell me to shut up." "Don't tell me what to do." Your family should not question your commands to assist in an emergency. They also should not expose your status to others. When gangsters enter the 7-Eleven store, your five year old should not say "My daddy's a cop and you are under arrest." You need the lag time that some level of anonymity provides, even if it is just seconds.

Have a plan for serious events. Make sure the family knows how to call 911 and that they know to identify you as an off duty officer. You family should generally separate themselves from you, you are covering their retreat. They should not attempt to get involved in any enforcement action because it will only distract you as you try to protect them, unless you specifically ask for their help. Train your family now, before there is trouble; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Car Approach

Last night Mrs SGT Says and I were watching television. A patrol officer saw a speeding car and pulled it over. He called in the traffic stop to his dispatcher. He offset his patrol car, compared to the suspect vehicle. The offset allows a safe walkway between the door of the police car and the door of the suspect vehicle.

The officer approached carefully and noticed there were two occupants in the vehicle. He approached slowly and had his hand on the butt of his duty weapon. He walked up to the drivers side door and stood in front of the door and looked in the driver's side window. I said to my wife, "He's in a poor position, you never stand in front of the driver's side window."

Just as I spoke, the driver whipped up his handgun and shot the officer in the chest. The approach to a vehicle is one of the most dangerous times in police work. Most of them time a criminal attack happens very soon after initial contact. Approach the car from the passenger side. Don't rush up to the car, give the suspect time to get nervous while you observe. The approach requires great care, that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

License & Traffic Stops

VA driver's licenses going black-and-white to thwart counterfeiters - Autoblog

The state of Virginia has started issuing new driver licenses that will have a black and white picture that is engraved by a laser beam. This is one of several anti-counterfeit measures they are taking with the new license. When an officer stops a car, one of the first items of business is to get the driver license from the person behind the wheel. I always get the license before I continue the conversation. I look at the face of the driver and compare it to the photo, and the general height and weight too.

Once I have the license, I always run the information to insure the person has provided me with a valid driver license. Our dispatch center is typically on the ball and so whenever we do a car stop they always run the license number and then get back to us on the status of the vehicle. It takes only seconds to determine if the license number matches a stolen car or a wanted vehicle. It is really embarrassing to hand a car thief a ticket for expired registration and then let them drive the car away.

It is not unusual for a driver to have a license that is expired, altered, counterfeit, revoked or suspended. All of those require more police action than the initial ticket. Typically a suspended, expired, or revoked license will get a misdemeanor citation and the car will be towed away. Altered or counterfeit licenses will usually mean the driver is going to jail; if for no other reason so they can be positively identified by photograph and fingerprints. The other reason I have the dispatcher run the license is I am looking for people who have warrants for their arrest. It is an easy way to get bad guys off the street; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Chase Them Down

A vehicle pursuit is one of the most dangerous activities police offices are involved in. There are many factors to consider when going in pursuit and you have very little time to ponder them. What is the nature of the offense? A car with expired registration is not a bit threat to life and public safety. A car that was used in an armed bank robber where the guard was killed probably needs to be chased.

Give as much information to the dispatcher as possible. Vehicle license plate, make, model and color are just the start. Nature of offense that caused you to chase them, number of people in the car, any weapons the occupants may have, anything distinctive about the vehicle are all important. Direction and speed of travel, give 100 blocks or cross streets whenever you can. Ask for an air unit if possible, their value cannot be overestimated. Ask for back up in proper numbers, four armed bank robbers warrant a lot of police when the car stops. A old lady with expired registration probably only needs a couple officers to deal with her.

The second unit in the pursuit should call the pursuit on the radio. That leaves the first unit to concentrate on driving. Stay back a safe distance from the suspect vehicle, if he crashes you don't want to plow into the back of his car. You need to be close enough that he can't evade you but far enough away that you are safe. If he is shooting, you need to be very far back!

Pursuits are very important, if we don't chase, then everyone will run and no one will ever get caught. We also lose many officers and civilians every year to pursuit so we must do them carefully; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

SGT Says Blog

SGT Says contains information about what I think about public and private law enforcement. I have over 50 and have spent nearly my entire adult life in the military, private security and police work. Be sure that anything you read here conforms to your local laws and agency regulations before you implement any of my recommendations.

This blog is designed not just to air my opinions on how law enforcement agencies should run, but also to provide training for individual officers. Many of these articles can be used for roll call training, as additional training for new officers, on going training for veterans, and initial training for those seeking law enforcement careers.

Please pass on this blog site to other Dispatchers, Police Officers, Security Guards who may be interested in learning more about what it going on in the world of law enforcement. Please leave comments, and participate in the discussion. We all learn more when we work together.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dispatch Problems

Dispatch has low pay, high turnover, no experience, no training, poor performance, officer complaints, and poor attitudes. How does this happen?

Low pay leads to high turnover.

High turnover leads to no experience.

No experience leads to no training.

No training leads to poor performance.

Poor performance leads to officer complaints.

Officer complaints leads to poor attitudes.

The Dispatch Center is often a place where money is last to be spent. When they do spend money they buy new equipment but do little or no training on that equipment. Telecommunications and computers change constantly and yet dispatch is seldom updated. Dispatch is often not included in the same union as the police and often does not get comparable wages. While Dispatch is not a dangerous job, it is a very responsible job and many depend on the Dispatcher. A good Dispatcher is a valuable asset; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Dispatching is a very important aspect of law enforcement. Frequently, the dispatcher is the first contact the victim or witness will have with law enforcement. Often the reporting party does not know exactly what is happening and so the dispatcher will be trying to obtain information and then relay that to the units in the field.

I worked patrol a couple days ago and was dispatched to a "public assist." Often this is some kind of call where we help someone with a non-criminal incident. The most frequent is a car stalled in traffic and we use the push bumpers on the patrol car to move the stalled vehicle out of traffic. When we arrived at the business, it turned out to be a check forgery suspect had just left the location and the employees were following him on foot. It took us a couple minutes in person to sort out if there had actually been a crime or not. I am sure it would have been even more difficult on the phone. The suspect was long gone by the time we got there and figured things out.

A more accurate dispatch would have enabled us to send more units, and we would have gotten a suspect description and probably caught the guy. Dispatchers need to know the law, they need to know customer service, they need to be able to separate the need for urgent police action or just a report. Some of the best dispatcher I have known had some field experience. They were former cops who could no longer work the field, they were married to cops or they had extensive ride along experience. I strongly encourage agencies to include having the dispatchers ride along as some of the first part of their training, so they see what things are like in the field. They should also ride along periodically during their tenure as dispatchers. Dispatching is a difficult job to do well; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Famine? Rioting?


Here in California we are having an economic crisis that rivals that of the Federal Government. The difference is that we don't have the credit to spend zillons of dollars to "stimulate" the economy. As a result, our Legislature was four months behind on getting us a budget, they raised income taxes, sales taxes and only nibbled at making cuts in State projects. The revenue is down for sales taxes because sales are low and property taxes are down because homes are selling for so much less.

Several cities have been forced to cut services, including hiring freezes for police and even laying off police officers. Some counties have had to do that same and a number of them are considering succeeding from California and forming a new state. Today the stock market was at it's lowest point in the last ten years.

All this economic and political disruption has been handled rather smoothly so far. While there have been many foreclosures on homes, the percentages of homeowners remains high. Most who have been foreclosed on have found new places to live without much difficulty. The problem comes when these "crisis" situations actually become urgent. In the Great Depression as many as a third of the workforce was unemployed, now unemployment is far below that level. Is your agency able to cope with hundreds, even thousands of homeless families? Can you cope with food riots? Can you cope with 10% fewer officers and no raises in the next few years?

I hope none of this happens, and I don't predict it to happen. But as emergency service workers it is imperative that we look at the worst case scenarios and try and be ready when they happen. It is too late to plan for rioting when the city is already ablaze; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gun For You

Do you carry a gun off duty? If you are legally permitted to carry off duty, I suggest that you do so all the time. The same criminals that you deal with on duty are still out there when you are off duty. Being a crook does not have an off duty time. On duty I have a shotgun, patrol rifle and duty handgun. I carry them for the department. I carry those weapons for my agency, I carry my backup gun and off duty gun for myself.

When standing in line at the 7-Eleven store off duty and the robber shows up, it is not time for enforcement action. It is time to be a good witness. If the robber shoots the clerk or starts to herd the employees and customers into the freezer, it is time to make a move. Not for your agency, but for yourself. The back up gun and off duty gun is for you to stay alive.

If you respond to a call at 3:00 o'clock in the morning and take your gun out of the holster, and drop it into the dense ground cover, you can't take your flashlight out and look for a gun. You need to get your back up gun and retreat to the patrol car to get your shotgun or patrol rifle. The back up gun is for yourself, not for your agency. It is for you to use to survive when the duty weapons are not enough; that's what the SGT Says.