Friday, December 31, 2010

Getting Hired Some More Information

Okay, so you did everything I mentioned, what else can you do to get hired as a cop? Go on a ride along with several local agencies. Don’t get your heart set on being hired by one specific place. Unless your dad is the chief and you have two brothers who work there and your grandfather retired from there, then get hired at the first decent place that will take you. By going on a ride along, you will become familiar with how that agency works, and their officers and equipment. You will learn more about police work and what will be expected of you if you get hired. It will also show that you are more interested in the job then the next guy.

Get a job as a security guard. You will be able to develop many of the skills that will help you and an officer. Get a job at a reputable company that won’t bounce your paychecks or otherwise act in an unethical manner. There are many excellent security firms out there and some really terrible ones too. Don’t work at bars, don’t work in low income housing, don’t work in banks and don’t act like a cop. Usually the duty of the guard is to patrol around and report problems to management or to the police. Shopping mall security is a good place to work. You will interact with the public and most of the work is day or swing shift. You will have to work weekends and every holiday, so don’t even ask to take them off.

As a guard you will wear a uniform, talk on the radio, write reports, deal with the public and respond to emergencies. Much of that is just like police work, but don’t make it out to be more than what it is, especially when talking to police. Most cops have a low opinion of security guards, but if you phrase things right during the interview you can show you have learned many important lessons and are ready to take on more responsibility as a police officer. Strive to be the best guard in the company so when the background investigator comes the company will only say good things about you; that’s what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Still More On Getting a Job

Okay, so I did all that and I still don’t have a police job, what else can I do? Get a job with the police department or the government working with police, but not as a police officer. A police dispatcher is a great stepping stone to becoming a cop. You learn how the department functions, you handle emergencies, you get to know everyone on the department and they see what a great job you do at work. Many of the officers at my agency started as dispatchers.

Get a job as a jailer, records clerk, parking control, Explorer Scout, police cadet, or other non-sworn position with the agency. You learn how the department functions, you get to use the radio, write reports, maybe even write tickets and tow cars and ride along frequently with officers. It is a great way to learn more about police work and an excellent way to weasel into the department. When you interview for these jobs you need to be willing to devote at least a year and perhaps two in order for it to be worthwhile for them to hire you. Working as a parking control officer or dispatcher for two years may not be working as a cop, but it will make your time as a cop much easier because you will already know much about the routine procedures used by your agency.

When you look for these jobs, don’t be too particular about where you work. Most agencies are not that different from each other an each one has certain advantages and disadvantages. Once you are into the police world it is much easier to get hired if you are already working as a cop. Agencies often take lateral hires from other departments so get hired, do a great job and then lateral over to the agency you want in a few years. That may seem like a long time, but you will be working for twenty-five or thirty years so spending two or three years to get two where you want to go is not that long of a time; that’s what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Officer Deaths

Fifty officers were killed inside their cars in traffic collisions and fifty-nine were shot to death this year. We don't need those numbers to increase, it is a huge jump over last years officer deaths and we still have a week and New Years Eve. I challenge every one of you to survive the rest of the year and to encourage all your partners to survive too.

Ask your partner to wear a seat belt, at roll call, mention to your partners to wear it whenever the car is moving. Wear your armor and encourage your partners to wear theirs too. Roll to back your partners on calls so they don't have to handle calls alone. Ask for back up if you get a call. Watch the suspects hands, control the suspect. Do a good search. Don't park in front of the address, stop down the block and walk up to the scene using cover or concealment if possible.

Look for lay off suspects, look outs, and get away drivers as you approach any call. We all know this stuff but sometimes we forget. The average officer killed last year had twelve years on the job. Those officers knew what to do but they may have forgotten or gotten complacent. A gentle reminder to your partners may save their lives; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More Getting Hired

Okay, so you can read and write and your background is clear, what else can you do to get yourself hired? Cut your hair, turn your hat around, pull up your pants and get a job. If you want to be a cop, then look like a cop. If you have long hair, cut it short. Almost every agency requires short hair and so you need to look like you belong with them already, so cut your hair. People like to be around other people who look like they look. Shave off your beard. A neatly trimmed moustache is okay, but it will probably have to go during the academy.

If you have never fired a gun before, or have very little handgun experience, then go take a short firearms training class. Many community colleges offer courses for security guard firearms training and that is a good place to start. What you learn will be similar to what they teach the police but in a much shorter version. It will teach you safe gun handling, cleaning, nomenclature and a little bit of functioning and marksmanship. It will help you get over the fear of guns some people have and it will show you how safe, easy and even fun firearms can be at the range. Most shooting ranges also offer classes too, but you don’t need 200 hours of training. Eight to twenty four hours is more than enough to get you familiarized and get you to a low level of proficiency. You don’t need to buy a gun, most agencies will issue one to you. Most training courses will rent or loan you a gun for the class.

Strange though it may seem, some people don’t actually have a driver license. Learn how to drive and get a driver license. You will have to have one to be a cop and you will drive, a lot! If you don’t have one, don’t even apply to an agency before you get one. Along with that, buy a car. You need your own reliable transportation to get to the police academy and then to get to work. Don’t depend on your friend, neighbor, mom, wife, sister, public transportation. Cops work weird hours and you can never be sure if you are going to have to work overtime, so you need a car. Go buy one now; that’s what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting Hired

People ask me all the time what they should do to prepare for a career in law enforcement. There is a lot to do, depending on where you start out. First, don’t violate the law. Don’t do drugs, don’t use alcohol to excess, don’t get traffic tickets, don’t hang out with gangsters or wanna be gangsters. None of those activities will enhance your ability to get hired. Don’t have bad credit, if your credit is bad, fix it. Stop buying stuff you don’t have to have and pay down your debts. Don’t be late and don’t fail to pay. Your word is important and if you say you will pay for something and then don’t pay on time, then most agencies won’t want you working for them. Stay in one place, one job and one residence. Moving around just makes you appear unreliable and flakey. If you can’t decide where to live or where to work then how can you make other important decisions?

Learn simple math and how to read and write and put simple sentences together to make a paragraph. If you can’t write a short story telling what you did on your summer vacation, then how can you write about a complex crime, traffic collision or other major incident? While computers are very helpful in teaching use how to spell and even checking our grammar, they can’t do everything. A good solid knowledge of the English language is very helpful when describing a crime scene, or explaining why you shot someone with a Taser. Your reports will be read by your supervisor, his supervisor, your chief, the district attorney, the defense attorney, perhaps members of the press, the jury and any number of other people. If you write poorly you will not seem competent.

Simple math is important too. If the car weights 2,347 pounds and is travelling south bound and leaves skid marks 257 feet three inches long, and the driver is six feet tall, then how far did the suspect have to run to avoid getting hit by the car at 10:13 a.m.? You don’t have to be a mathematical genius but the ability to do simple arithmetic is important for traffic collisions and sometimes other crimes too. Other skills, like learning the law, shooting guns, driving at high speeds can be taught in the police academy; but they won’t teach you to add or to spell; that’s what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jot It

I always carry a notebook and two pens on duty. I also carry several field interview cards on my person. In my gear bag I carry more pens and another note pad. Inside my clipboard, one of those big aluminum ones, I carry another pen. I keep a piece of blank paper on my clipboard and in our cars we usually have a little note pad mounted on the center console. When dispatch puts out an address, location or description, even if it is not my call, I try and write it down. If the neighboring units ask for back up, I want to be able to refer to the notes rather than tie up air time asking for a repeat of the location or description.

When I ask suspects for their names, typically I hand them the paper and pen and tell them to write down their name as it is on their driver license along with their date of birth. This puts the information in their own handwriting and makes it hard to say later that I misunderstood what they told me if it turns out they gave a false name or date of birth. In California our systems like a name and age, but giving an exact date of birth and exact name really helps narrow down the field when you get a hit on a possible wanted person.

Information needs to be recorded quickly and precisely and so having an FI card can really help. I use them to gather data on suspects, victims, traffic collision drivers, passengers and witnesses and just about anyone else I contact. While I may not turn it in as an FI card, it helps me later when I fill out a report form so I have complete data. Most cards dont have it but it can be useful to ask people for their email, web address, even their Facebook or other social networking pages can be helpful in some cases. Jot things down, its much easier and more accurate than trying to remember everything; thats what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What's Up?

People in the wrong place at the wrong time where people don’t ever go need to be investigated. Why is that guy under the bridge? Why is that guy taking photos of the shopping mall? Why is that guy measuring the fence near the power plant? Why is that guy out here in the middle of no where at three o’clock in the morning? People under a bridge could be planting explosives to blow it up. Someone taking photos of a shopping mall could be planning on attacking the shoppers as an active shooter. If you know how high and how thick a fence is then you have a better idea how to penetrate the fence and attack the power plant. People out in the middle of no where may be smuggling illegal aliens, making a drug buy, signaling an aircraft full of weapons, or dumping a dead body.

It is easy to rationalize why someone is doing these odd but not specifically illegal things. The guy under the bridge could be looking for his lost dog, or maybe he is homeless and looking for a place to stay. The guy taking photos of the shopping mall could be preparing a study to remodel the mall or perhaps paint the walls, or rearrange the planters. The guy measuring the fence at the power plant could be the contractor who will install a new higher fence. The guy in the middle of no where could simply have been cooling off after a fight with his girlfriend, got lost and made a wrong turn, or perhaps setting up his telescope to get good views of Mars away from the city lights.

People who exhibit odd behavior that is not illegal need to be checked out. We know what is normal for our beat. We know what people do in our cities and rural areas. If someone is doing something that seems outside the norm, it is our duty to insure they are not doing anything wrong. Most people when approached in a friendly manner will be happy to explain what they are doing. I like to ask, “Can I help you?” or “Are you lost?” or even “Whatcha doin’?” All the while I have my guard up, but I present a helpful and even ignorant manner that will put both good people and suspects at their ease. Suspects will often appear nervous, jumpy, fail to make eye contact and they will want to leave right away. There is nothing wrong with filling out a Field Interview Card on them to document your contact. Perhaps only later will there activity be clear, then you have their information; that’s what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stress at Work

Did something bad happen at work today? Did you get disciplined by your boss? Did you see a terrible crime or the aftermath of a very bad accident? Did someone die? As officers we see the dark underside of life that most people never see or rarely witness. Sometimes we see it every day for weeks at a time. It can be difficult to have to witness innocent people being victimized, and even seeing bad things happen to bad people is not always pleasant. Sometimes we have to do difficult things to bad people. We sometimes have to arrest dad with the kids crying nearby; punch, Taser or even shoot bad people doing bad things is not easy.

There are many reasons for these bad things to happen and nearly all of them are out of our control. For a group of people like police who like being in control, it is very difficult to realize how few things car are really under our control. We need to deal with these feelings and emotions in a positive manner or we will be subjected to stress that can undermine our ability to cope with the job or even our home life. Too many cops get divorced or get fired, or kill themselves because they don’t deal well with the stress of the job.

There are few problems that are not made worse by the addition of alcoholic beverages. One of the few things worse than that is doing illegal or sometimes even prescription drugs. Talk to your friends at work, your supervisor, you chaplain or your agency psychological counselor. They can help you deal with these issues and may times have had to deal with them too. Talk to your wife and share your problems with her; just talking to her can make her understand what you are dealing with at work. You can also get down on your knees and pray to God for guidance and help; that’s what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Segregate and Speed

Segregate your prisoners from one another. Prisoners draw strength from each other. Moral strength, courage, and the ability to plan attacks on you and escape attempts. Even if you place the prisoners a few feet from one another, they should not look at each other or speak to each other. If they are facing in different directions it is harder for them to conspire together. They can also pass off contraband, drugs, or weapons, to one another if they are close to each other.

Speed is important too. Get them away from the scene as quickly as possible. It makes it harder for other gangsters, family or friends to get your prisoners away from your custody if you move them away from the scene in a timely manner.

Speed is important for another reason too, only in a custodial setting can your prisoners be properly and completely searched. Hidden weapons, drugs, or evidence can be discovered only if the prisoners are subjected to a custodial search. You can also verify the identity and criminal history of your prisoners only in a custodial setting. The DUI arrest may turn out to be a wanted murderer; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Secure and Sllent

I watch movies all the time and they make many basic errors that lead to the prisoners making an escape. The bigger problem is that those mistakes are not confined to the movies! Secure your prisoners, silence your prisoners, segregate your prisoners, and move them with great speed to a jail facility.

Handcuff and search everyone you arrest. There is no reasonable way to determine which prisoner will attack you or will try to escape. Many will start off appearing to be harmless and act as if they have given up, but if you have arrested an adult or teenager, they need to be searched and handcuffed for your safety and for theirs.

Silence is golden and so don't let your suspects talk to each other or to bystanders who have not been arrested. You don't know if they are going to plan an escape or if they are going to plan to attack you, or simply coordinate their false stories. This is particularly important if you don't speak their language or understand their slang; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Patrol Rifle

A sheriff's office has ordered 100 AR-15 style weapons and is deploying them to their deputies. This is long overdue. Every police car in the street should have a patrol rifle in addition to the side arm carried by the individual officer. The long gun has many advantages over the pistol. The only real advantage of the pistol is it's small size, light weight and ready availability.

The rifle has a longer range, more ammunition and is more accurate, as well as greater stopping power when compared to a pistol. The greatest asset is the greater accuracy compared to a handgun. Often when at the range, I have my officers fire their handguns and then give them the patrol rifle. Many of them have fired handguns for years, even decades, and when given the rifle they will nearly without exception fire better with the patrol rifle.

Every agency that spends money purchasing patrol rifles, and then training the officers, and maintaining the weapons is spending that money well. The rifles must be deployed in the cars, they have to be available for every officer in the field for them to be useful. The officers must get several days of practice and then continuing practice to stay sharp. Doing so will pay off in greater effectiveness with firearms; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Memphis, Tennessee police are collecting homeless people and dropping them off at homeless shelters. They are also giving out blankets and other things to keep them from freezing to death in the harsh winter climate. Los Angeles Police have the logo "To Protect and Serve" on their cars and many agencies have similar mottos. This winter Memphis is working on the "Serve" part of that motto.
In my opinion, cities should be able to arrest the homeless, like they used to fifty years ago. In California if someone was a "vagarant" they could be arrested for having no visible means of support. We all know the homeless and what they mean to neighborhoods. Most homeless people got that way because they are on drugs, on alcohol, have a mental illness or make consistantly bad life choices. Few high functioning people end up on the streets in modern America.
There should be funding to keep people who have the "disease" of alcoholism, drug addition, or mental illnesses locked up until they are cured or can maintain a normal lifestyle. Homeless people are dangerous and a nuisance. They are also an example of how we treat stray dogs better than humans in this society. As police we need to have our union lobby for real solutions to homelessness, not just arrest them after they commit a burglary, robbery, get raped, or are found dead in the snow; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


The barricade is a useful bit of equipment at the range. We have two of them and they are about seven feet tall, four feet wide and are on small wooden bases. As such I can move them easily and quickly into any position. They can form a doorway, or can stand alone for left or right side shooting. They can be on either side of the range or in the middle. They can act as both cover from suspect fire or act as concealment, behind which might be the suspect. I can make long or short walls by combining them or not and even place them at right angles and make a nice corner.

When shooting from the barricade the natural inclination is to hug close to the wall. The natural instinct being that by being close to the cover we are safer. This is not the case at all, as long as the cover is between us and the suspect we are protected by it. In fact, being too close to the cover can actually act as a disadvantage. If there is spalling, that is the suspects bullets hit the wall and knock pieces off the back at you, you could be severely injured.

When shooting from around the barricade, don’t allow your gun, hands or arms to protrude in front of the barrier. A suspect could fire at you, miss and hit the barricade. The resulting ricochet or other bits of the wall could injure you are disable your gun. I generally do not support the use of the barricade as a prop to help hold the gun steady. I prefer the shooter continue to use his natural shooting stance, rather than adopt a stance specifically for use on the barricade. Most of those techniques in my opinion lessen the grip on the pistol and do not significantly improve the shooters accuracy; that’s what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Range With A Friend

A friend of mine went to the range with me yesterday. We had about an hour together and I went through a few courses of fire with him. He is a former Marine, served in Iraq and now works as an armed security guard. That gave me a reasonable assurance that he had at least some basic skills in firearms handling and safety. Taking nothing for granted, however, we started off with a short safety briefing and a few explanations about my expectations. I run a hot range and not only do we treat all guns as loaded, the rangemaster does not tell the shooters to reload, they won’t have any reminders in a firefight.

I had him fire a few short courses of fire with his .40 caliber handgun just to get him warmed up, and so I could asses his basic marksmanship, reloading and general gun handling skills. He shoots reasonably well, was very safe and attentive, so I went on to some more advanced techniques. With only an hour we had to move fast, so he got little more than an overview of each technique and a bit of practice for each one. I first showed him how to scan prior to reholstering his gun. Most cops killed by suspects’ gunfire are killed due to the presence of multiple suspects. By scanning left, right, and rear he can avoid surprise by a second or third suspect and be prepared to shoot if the need arises. Next, I had him take a short step to the right or to the left as he draws his weapon. Part of the way to gain the advantage over the suspect is to make the suspect react to your moves, so by stepping while simultaneous drawing and firing of the duty gun the suspect is forced to reassess the position of his target and then change his point of aim. Hopefully by moving a bit the officer can avoid getting shot while shooting the suspect.

Since we seldom get to choose the location of a gun battle, I offered him the chance to shoot from several different types of cover. Standing and firing from both the left and right barricade. Kneeling and firing from both the left and right barricade. Kneeling and firing both over and around a short barricade, such as a car fender or low wall. Then placing a bit of cardboard target backing on the floor, bending one end up and telling him it was a curb and then making him use the curb as cover. In the field we don’t always get much cover to protect us and a curb is better than no cover; that’s what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 17, 2010


What is your plan if you run out of ammo for your duty weapon? Go to your back up gun? Use your back up gun? Having a secondary gun is a good idea in the event you run out of ammo in your duty weapon. It is a notice to slow down and use your back up gun to cover your retreat to your vehicle or to your partner’s position.

Once back at your car you can deploy your patrol rifle or patrol shotgun to bet back into the fight. I keep both extra magazines and extra ammo in my gear bag. I have at least two loaded magazines for both handguns and an extra box of duty ammo and a sleeve of shotgun shells in my car. Spare ammo should be rotated annually. In normal conditions so it will last much longer than a year, but better to rotate it and know it is fresh, than have it go bad because you forgot to change it out.

In the SLA shootout thirty years ago or more, the Los Angeles Police fired five thousand rounds at the suspects. That’s a lot of ammunition. Between primary gun, back up gun, shotgun, and patrol rifle I have close to 200 rounds on my person, in my guns or in my gear bag when I go out on patrol. That seems like a lot but when you compare that to the ammo expended in a major incident, it’s not all that much. How long does it take to fire off 200 rounds? At one round every four or five seconds that’s only about 15 minutes of sustained fire; and that means changing guns every 50 rounds or so. Does not seem like so much when you place it in that context does it? Better load up now while you can; that’s what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stop Driver

Time for holiday event planning. Is you agency going to protect a parade, football game, Christmas party, dance, or other major event? Our Muslim extremist enemies are specifically targeting such events, so we have to be ready too. Already they tried to blow people up at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and in Sweden they blew up a shopping mall parking area. Only the incompetence and the grace of God prevented these would be murderers from killing dozens of peaceful people going about their lawful business. They have put out several bulletins urging their fellows to attack the United States, using bombs, suicide bombs, guns and even ramming large trucks into crowded streets to mow people down. Are you ready?

How can you stop a moving vehicle? You best bet is to block all vehicle access to the area where large numbers of people will be walking where vehicles could run them down. K-rails or permanent barriers are best. Some K-rails are made of plastic and can be filled with water once they are in place, this means you don’t need a major forklift to move them into position. Large concrete planters can be placed to block roads, alleys and even wide pedestrian walkways. If you can get your police car there, then the suicide car bomber can get his vehicle there too.

If the vehicle gets through the barriers, shooting the driver is one of the best ways to stop a vehicle. What does your agency say about shooting a driver who is trying to run people down? What if it is an old person who is just pressing the wrong pedal and has no criminal intent, are you still going to shoot them? If not, why not? If you do shoot a vehicle, don’t stand in front of it as you shoot, it won’t stop right away, even if your first shot kills the driver. Shooting tires is often ineffective; bullets often bounce off of steel belted radials. Shooting engines often does not stop the engine right away either, unless you are using a rifle. Hitting the radiator will eventually cause the engine to overheat and seize up, but that can take a very long time. Time you don’t have if someone is running people over. If a driver is using his vehicle as a deadly weapon, then shoot him to save lives; that’s what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Say it 100 Times a Day

Officers continue to die needless and uselessly. There are art two simple devices we can employ to save at least half of the officers who are killed in the line of duty every year. One is free and the other cost less than your duty gun. The seat belt and soft body armor.

Wear your seat belt every time you get into the car.

Wear your body armor every time you get into uniform.

Repeat these instructions a hundred times every day. That’s the number of officers who die in a year from gunfire and auto accidents. While not every one of them would have been saved by wearing a seat belt or body armor, indeed some of them were not, many of them would have survived. You owe it to your agency, your family and yourself; that’s what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


When working with a partner, either in the same car or simply handling a car together, you are partly responsible for their safety. In 20 years of service as a reserve officer I have never had a partner get injured. Watching out for each other increases your safety and your effectiveness. Watch the suspects hands, if you can’t see the hands, then move to a position where you can see them or instruct the suspect to put his hands were they are visible to you. When talking to your partner, it is more important to look at the suspect rather than at your partner. When my partner is writing a ticket, I watch the suspect, not the ticket writing process.

We practice contact and cover. One of does all the work and the other does the security function. On a traffic stop usually my partner will contact and talk to the driver, collect their license, run their information with dispatch and write the ticket. I normally ride as the passenger and work the radio in the car. That leaves them free to watch the road and leave two hands on the wheel with I take notes. As we make the stop, I put the passenger side spotlight on the center rear view mirror and I am out of the car, often before he has it in park. My goal is to be up on the suspect vehicle before they have a chance to realize I am there.

I approach from the passenger side, observe the truck to insure it is closed, and then check the back seat of the car as I continue my approach. When I get to the passenger side front door, I stay back behind the door jamb, as if I was on the drivers’ side. Most drivers will be looking in their rear view mirror watching my partner exit the patrol car. I will usually tap on the window or speak to get their attention off of him. My right hand is usually on my duty pistol, but still snapped in the holster. Depending on the nature of the occupants, I may have them put their hands on the dashboard and front seatbacks. By approaching in this fashion, I am normally able to observe them before they realize I am there and then I can distract them while my partner approaches. Keeping the vehicle occupants unsure of where we are and what we are doing helps to keep us safe, that’s what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gun Retention

Every time you go someplace there will be at least one gun there. I know that’s true because you will bring it with you. Keeping that gun under your control is an important part of your job. In years past officers were not very aware of this skill and many were killed and wounded with their own guns. In recent years I have become concerned that some officers may have forgotten those hard taught lessons.

The most basic skill is knowing where you gun is at all times. Make a habit of placing your arm against the butt of your gun so that you always can feel it in your holster. This will alert you if someone from behind you tries to take your gun away. It will also make it harder for someone to grasp your gun because your arm will be partially blocking the gun. Don’t use your gun hand for anything if your other hand will do the job just as well. By keeping your gun hand free you can grab the gun if someone tries to take it away and you can draw faster if you don’t have to let go of something else first.

Keep people, especially suspects, at least an arms distance away from your gun as much as practicable. Keep your gun hand alongside the car or a wall, it makes it harder for people to walk up on you and grab the gun from that side. Keep you gun side back, away from other people, it makes them have to reach farther if they try to grab your gun and places them in a disadvantageous position. I practice this with nearly everyone I contact, even victims. If someone does try and grab your gun, you are facing a deadly force situation and so you need to react as if they were trying to draw a gun to kill you. Only rarely will a criminal take away an officers gun and not shoot the officer. Keep your gun, save your own life, that’s what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

T - Stop Danger Cues

You are on patrol and you see a car that has an expired registration sticker on their license plate. Look inside the passenger compartment and see how many people are inside the car, what are they doing and how old do they appear? Most cars will have one or two adults in them; perhaps a child or two in the back. Four adults in a car, particularly four young males, could be a danger cue. Assess the rest of the vehicle. Is it in good condition, doe is appear to have working break lights, tail lights, head lights, proper rear view mirrors and other required equipment? If the vehicle displays several other violations that could be a danger cue. How is the driver operating the vehicle? Is he speeding, driving too slow, weaving in and out of the lane, making turns or lane changes without signaling, did he suddenly turn when you showed interest in his vehicle? If he is doing these things, they could be danger cues.

Run the license plate, does the vehicle come back expired but nothing else? Is the vehicle registered and simply does not display the correct sticker? Is the vehicle local or from out of town, if it is from far out of town, it could be a danger cue. The vehicle may be stolen, recently sold and not re-registered or in California they may be having trouble getting the smog certificate; particularly if it is an older car. Look for a good place to make the stop, flat, level terrain, open space way from bars, schools, gang hang outs and were there is room to safely approach the car. Notify dispatch of the stop and activate your lights. If they don’t pull over right away, or if there is suddenly a lot of movement and activity inside the vehicle, that could be a danger cue. If the vehicle does not stop where you want it to stop, use your public address system to ask them to move to another spot more to your liking.

When they do stop, is there still activity inside the car? Is everyone looking at you as you approach, especially if they turn around in the seat; that could be a danger cue? Does anyone exit the car, do they yell or walk back towards your unit? If they do, that’s a danger cue. Direct them to move to the curb and order them to be quiet and keep their hands were you can see them. Take control quickly, because defiance of this type can be very dangerous and distracting. Remember on a car stop you are making a detention while you conduct an investigation because you have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, even if it is only a traffic offense. Take control and run the scene to your advantage; that’s what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Officer Deaths

Today I wore a black band on my badge. I went to a memorial service for a fellow officer. He had been my FTO and later a sergeant with my agency. He started with the department as a parking control officer, then became a reserve officer and finally a sergeant. He was a great police officer and very much interested in the safety of his fellow officers. He was constantly training us in arrest control techniques, defensive tactics, shooting and officer safety in general. He never stopped looking for a new tool or technique to make the job safer, more effective or easier.

As a result of a back injury he was medically retired and then died only a few years later, he was not even 55 years old yet. They say that police officers get divorced more frequently than the general public, and he was divorced. They say that police officers often retire and die only a few years later, he did that too. They say that officers are more likely to have alcohol or even drug problems and suicide as a result of the stress of the job. I don’t know if that’s true but I have certainly seen some offices over the years demonstrate those kinds of problems.

Perhaps the Force Science Institute, Calibre Press, the FBI or the National Institute of Justice or even California P.O.S.T. needs to do some studies on police. Rather than use having “heard” that cops get divorced frequently, commit suicide, take drugs or drink and die soon after retirement, perhaps it would be a good idea to perform a long term study on a few small, medium and large size police agencies to see if any of these rumors are true or not. Once we have hard information about these problems then we can begin to solve then or put the rumors to rest; that’s what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Fraudulent identification is something we have to look for every time we accept identification from someone. When I do a traffic stop and someone opens their wallet to get there drivers license I always ask them to take the identification out of the wallet. I don’t want to be holding their wallet when they attack me or give them an opportunity to say I removed something of value. I watch them and look for more copies of their driver license. I have found people in possession of more than one driver license. I always ask them to give me the additional licenses. I then check both of them to insure they have the same picture, the same date of birth and the same name and license number. I don’t want someone to give me a fraudulent identification while the real one sits in their wallet.

Once I get the license I always compare the description and photo with the person. Often the photo can be many years out of date, women change their hair color, men cut long hair short, or grow or shave beards and people gain or lose weight. One way to check is look at the eye color, and even quiz them on their address and their date of birth. Everyone knows when they were born and they should be able to tell it to you right away no matter how nervous they are that they have been stopped by the police. As the person to get out of the car so you can better assess height and weight. Height is hard to change, and people using their older brother’s identification may be much smaller than the real owner of the identification card.

Generally, I run everyone through dispatch so I can verify their identification is correct. I also will ask, “What is your present address?” or “Where do you stay now?” on the assumption that their address has changed since their drivers license was issued. Don’t just assume it is correct by asking them “Is this your correct address?” because everyone will answer “Yes.” If the name on the license is different from the name on the vehicle registration, then inquire further. “Whose car is this?” “Does the owner know you are driving your car?” If you are not certain of a suspect’s identification and you are taking some enforcement action, take them back to the station for photographs and fingerprinting and proper booking. You need to know who is really getting the ticket and if they have questionable paperwork then you need to document who they are in a positive manner. Know who you are dealing with, that’s what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Deputy Killed

A deputy sheriff has been killed in a shootout with a criminal. The officer stopped for a truck that was sitting in the middle of the road, apparently unoccupied. The officer and the suspect apparently shot and killed each other.

The officer was doing his job. He was investigating something suspicious and ended up dying as a result. One of the best attributes of a good officer is curiosity. It is easy to dismiss almost anything as normal or routine if you are not curious enough to investigate.

Unusual circumstances are out there and it is part of our jobs to investigate them. Strange lights, odd noises unusual, weird smells, out of place people and things can all lead us to crime or people in trouble. I have smelled car fires before I could see the smoke. I have heard gunshots that could have been a backfire. I have seen suspect with flashlights in closed buildings. Check it out; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Terrorists At Home

Portland, Oregon and a radical Muslim has tried to kill dozens of men, women and children at a the lighting of a Christmas tree. San Diego, California and they have arrested a man who is working with international Muslim extremist terrorists. Neither of these areas are what most of us would consider hotbeds of terrorist activity.

The War Against Radical Islamic Terrorists has come home. The enemies of the West have learned to recruit both naturalized American citizens and native born Americans into their midst. They know that only people who have lived here a long time will be able to easily move about the nation to perform their illegals terrorist activities.

The 9/11 hijackers were stopped several times by local law enforcement. They committed minor traffic offenses as they were going about their business. You never know who is in any vehicle you approach. Be alert not only for attack by common criminals, but be alert for signs of terrorist activity. Prevention and early detection of terrorist conspiracies is the best defense against them; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Movie Crime

A hotel caught fire and the police were called when a bloody room was found during the fire fighting. The police investigated for hours before they realized the scene was a fake movie set. Naturally the media tries to make it seem as if the police were stupid for investigating the scene.

When you are not sure what is going on you have to investigate. Police need to gather information to determine the facts of what happened and they have to gather that information in a manner that is carefully documented so that it will hold up in court. Often the documentation includes photographs, drawings and other non-invasive information gathering that is done by experts. Then more intensive and sometimes destructive evidence gathering is done, again often by experts.

Often, patrol officers have to wait for detectives to arrive, then they wait for crime scene investigators and photographers and other experts when it is a major crime scene. A preserved movie set could look very much like a real crime scene, that's why it looks so real in the movie. Criminals do all sorts of odd things, even videotape their crimes. Don't be afraid to look foolish on the job; it's your duty to investigate when public safety is involved; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

As a reserve officer I work a lot of events. That means I sometimes have to clear the streets of parked cars. When we have a parade or other special event that is going to require no parking areas on city streets we get the no parking signs up at least three days in advance. That gives the residents and workers plenty of time to come up with a new place to park on the big day. The signs indicate the date, time, day of the week and specific hours when there will be no parking. You can’t put up too many signs on a given block. One on every tree, light pole and permanent sign is very helpful. If there are few signs then get some saw horses or temporary poles up and place them at the beginning, end and middle of every block; more frequently is often needed if the blocks are long. Be sure to have parking stopped at least three or four hours before the event to give time to remove cars that don’t comply with the order.

If someone fails to move there cars there is a lengthy procedure that I follow to get rid of the car. First of all, drive the route of the parade or event and see how many cars are in place at least an hour before the event is to happen. If the event route is long you will need several units to do this or start very early. Using a marked police unit, park behind the car, and a little off set like you were doing a traffic stop. You are investigating an illegal activity after all even if it is only parking. Car thieves don’t care much about parking tickets they get on cars they have dumped. Then activate all your overhead lights. Often, especially at night, the driver will show up to find out what you are doing to his car.

Run the license plate and find the address of the registered owner. Usually it will be right where the car is parked. If it is, then go knock on the door. Ring the doorbell politely and if that does not get a response pretty quick, then lean on the button. Then if you are still waiting, knock, loudly, bang on the door with your open hand, it makes a very loud noise. When the apparent owner appears, ask them if they own that car. If they do, then tell them they have to move it immediately to avoid a citation or even getting towed. They will almost always move the car right away. If the car is not registered to a address in your area, then honk the air horn a couple three times. Most people will look out the window to see what the noise is and often the owner will come out. If the owner still does not appear, then drive around the block, often people will try to avoid a confrontation with the police and wait until you leave in order to check out what you were doing to their car. By the time you get back, the car will often be gone. Unless it’s upside down, you seldom make friends by towing someone’s car; so I try to avoid it if I can and still get the job done; that’s what the SGT Says.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Work, Work, Work

If you want to be a good officer, first be a good employee. There are many tasks and standards that are the same for almost any job. Show up to work. Half of everything is just showing up. Be at work on every day you are scheduled. Just because you can take a sick day does not mean you should take a sick day. It means if you are physically able to come to work, you should be at work. Unless you can’t leave the toilet for more than a few minutes, then you need to be at work. That even includes don’t ask for special time off or even vacation for the first year. They hired you to work, not to say home.

Show up to work on time. That means in uniform, ready to go. Shoes shined. Uniform cleaned and pressed. Equipment is ready. It does not mean that you need to go back to your locker to pick something up. It does not mean that you walk into line up snapping your belt keepers. It means you have car keys, a radio with fresh radio battery, and all your gear with you so you can roll straight from roll call with all your gear. At my agency they assign cars at roll call so we have to get our gear into the car, and shotgun and patrol rifle after line up. That still means you have all your stuff by the back door ready to run out if something happens at the beginning of shift.

Work the whole shift. If the shift ends at noon then write tickets at 11:45. Don’t be in a hurry to return to the station to fill up the car with gas and unload the junk in your trunk. Bad guys are out there 24/7 and they don’t take time off for shift change. Do the work in the time allotted. When you get a call, write the report before moving on to the next adventure. You never know when you will get tied up with some big mess and you don’t want to have to go into overtime unless there is a good reason. Writing some simple auto burglary report for a call from six hours ago is not a good reason. Cops make decent money and you don’t need to milk the overtime cow. Show up to work on time, in uniform ready to go and work the whole shift without unnecessary overtime. Your supervisor and co-workers will recognize and appreciate that you are a good worker. Being a good employee is part of being a good cop; that’s what the SGT Says.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cold Patrol

With the cold wet weather comes more traffic collisions. That brings more injury accidents too. When someone has been in an accident they may go into shock, even if they have no other visible injuries. Keep those people who have been involved in a cold weather accident calm and warm. Seat them inside your car, or walk over to an open business to take the report.

Your patrol car should have a clean warm blanket in the trunk. Maybe even a couple blankets if you work alone. Small heat packs can be helpful too to keep shock or cold victims warm.

Frost bite can happen to people left too long outside in the cold. It can also happen to those stranded in their cars after a crash or heavy snow. To treat frost bite remove wet clothing from the victim. Make them warm by soaking the frostbitten part in warm water. Don't rub the body part or put snow on the injured parts. Give them warm drinks but don't let them consume alcohol; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


What are you wearing? Now that it is cold we have to transition to warmer clothing. There is also the issue of dealing with rain and snow. Here is southern California it seldom rains and never snows, but it does get below freezing at night.

When you change into cold weather gear, take several factors into consideration. Are you wearing gloves or mittens? Can you unsnap, draw, fire and reload your handgun, shotgun and patrol rifle with mittens or gloves on your hands? Your winter range training should include shooting with whatever hand wear you use. Shootings happen too suddenly for ou to take your gloves off before you shoot.

Warm and comfy in the patrol car with the heater on it is easy to under dress for the cold weather. It’s one thing to be out of the car for ten minutes to write a ticket, it is another to be stuck on a perimeter for six hours, waiting while other units search a warehouse. I keep extra clothing in the car, so if I am going to be on scene for a perimeter or traffic accident for an extended period of time I am able to bundle up. Don’t just plan on staying warn when it is cold plan on working and staying warm; that’s what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shoot A Knife Attacker

What are the factors to consider when facing a man with a knife? How do you know when to shoot or not to shoot? The first thing to consider is how close is the suspect to you and how clear is the distance between you? If the suspect is closer than about twenty feet, with nothing between you and the suspect, he is probably close enough to stab you. How skilled is the suspect with the knife? An obviously intoxicated suspect is very dangerous, but often not very coordinated. It can be difficult for him to get to you quickly and skillfully.

How big is the knife? While small knives can be deadly, the larger the knife the more dangerous it is to you. A small knife may not deliver a deadly stab but a sword, machete or very large knife can cut off an arm or your head. A highly skilled opponent, with no obstacles to overcome to get to you, wielding a large knife is extremely deadly and is probably worth shooting right way, once he displays deadly intent.

Using several officers at once against a man with a knife is a good idea. If one or two are using pepper spray, or batons, or even a Taser, a third officer can be prepared to deliver deadly force if the other less lethal weapons are ineffective. A suspect with a knife who is cornered can be distracted by a bean bag projectile, or have a dog attack him. He can have a fire hose directed on him, or he can be shot with rubber bullets. Again, deadly force should be at the ready if the suspect makes a break for it and attacks; that's what the SGT Says.