Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dog Attacks

Dogs are descended from wolves.  Every Pomeranian, every beagle, every French Poodle has a little wolf deep inside of him.  When you interfere with his pack, you are facing a wolf pack.  It does not matter that those wolves have $200 haircuts and bows in their hair, they are dangerous animals.  The wild wolf often hunts large game, caribou.  They run after these 1,000 pound animals and nip at their Achilles tendons on the back of their legs, by their heels.  Once the animal goes down, the wolf pack goes for the throat. 

To the domestic dog, you look like that 1,000 pound caribou.  When you run, you start up that instinctive urge to hunt in the rottweiler, German shepherd, or Pomeranian.  They feel the primal wolf urge to hunt you down, just like their wolf ancestors. 

Don't run from a dog, they are faster then you are.  Stand your ground and fight them off with a barrier.  A trash can lid, a bicycle, a lawn chair, can all work to keep the dog away from you.  The garden hose can be surprisingly effective against a dog.  Present your baton to the dog, he will bite it, rather than bite you.  Use your pepper spray, OC, not Mace, and spray him in the eyes, nose and mouth.  Order the dog to stop, sit, lay down.  Nothing works on every dog, but most of these techniques work on most dogs.  I know, I have used them all; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Dogs are very possessive.  When you approach a dog, keep in mind they don't know your intentions.  They don't realize you are in their yard to look for burglars, they might think you are there to steal their food, toys or dog bones.

If a dog is eating, he is more dangerous.  If a dog has his toys or bones with him, he is more dangerous, because dogs often try to protect their things.  If a dog has possessions, stay away from them, don't try and take them from the dog.

If you must check a yard with a dog in it, kick the dogs toys out of the way.  Don't step over them or on them.  Certainly, don't bend over to pick up a dog toy or bone.  While you are down low the dog can better attack your neck or face.  Leave the dog's stuff alone, that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dog Attack

In 2006 the City of Costa Mesa, California paid $225,000 for shooting a pit bull dog.  They could have paid for all of their officers to attend four hours of dog bite avoidance training for the next 100 years with that much money.

One thing people often ask about is the use of the Taser or similar device to stun a dog, rather than shoot the dog.  The Taser is an excellent tool, but it has limitations.  Dogs have a body that is long and narrow, unlike humans that have tall and wide bodies.  The Taser is designed to hit humans and so the darts pattern is not ideal for use against dogs.  The Taser is also a one shot weapon, if you miss, you won't get a second shot before an attacking dog would bite you.

The Taser also only works when an electrical charge is being delivered.  After about 5 seconds they stop on their own.  A dog would then recover and could either run away, or continue to attack.  Dogs also are protected by hair and a dog with a lot of heavy hair, like a husky, or standard poodle might be hard to get a lock onto with a Taser unless shot at from the side.  The best tactic to use for a dog attack, is to avoid it in the first place; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dog Shooting

A man came home to find his house had been burglarized.  He called the police who responded.  When the officer came to the house he shot the man's medium sized dog.  The man is considering a lawsuit and the officer was fired.  Read a sample of the comments on this article:

"I think we've all got to learn not to call the cops. They are not gonna help us, they're going to shoot us or our innocent pets or our children."

"This happens far, far too much in the US. Poor dog, and this poor, traumatized man. A cop that is startled by a barking dog needs to find a new line of work, or take some anxiety meds."

"I hope he faces criminal cruelty charges. Or a civil suit.This has been happening more and more across the country, cops shooting family pets. A diminished value for life. Starts with animals, ends with people."

There are many more just like these and worse.  Shooting a dog never ends well unless the dog has physically bitten children!  Shooting a dog should be a response of last resort.  All officers should receive training in how to deal with aggressive dog behavior.  Considering that most agencies have canine officers, it is a mystery to me why officers don't do better around dogs; that's what the SGT Says.

I think we've all got to learn not to call the cops. They are not gonna help us, they're going to shoot us or our innocent pets or our children.
I think we've all got to learn not to call the cops. They are not gonna help us, they're going to shoot us or our innocent pets or our children.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dog Shooting

Police arrested a man for interfering with their response to a robbery in progress call that ended with suspects holed up in a house.  The man had a rottweiler dog with him that he put inside his car.  The man failed to roll up his window and when the police arrested him the dog jumped out of the window.

The dog attacked the police, who tried to grab his leash, but were unable to do so, and so one officer shot the dog, four times.  The dog died.  The incident was videotaped by several people and from some views it's not clear the dog was actually trying to bite the officer.  As usual, the video tape does not show the entire incident, so it's unclear from the video why the suspect was arrested.

The police were not trained in how to deal with attacking dogs and so the only thing they knew to do was shoot the dog.  Once again a dog shooting has lead to a lawsuit and bad public relations for an agency.  They even got death threats from people who were sympathetic to the dog.  People love dogs and they hate to see the police shoot them; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dog Shooting

The police responded to a report of a loose dog.  They arrived to find a bulldog tied up.  For some unknown reason, they untied the dog and then tried to use a catchpole to capture it.  One officer eventually shot the dog twice, killing it.

After years of lawsuits, the agency ended up paying $50,000 for the lose of the dog.  $50,000 is a lot of money to pay for one dog.  That does not even count the cost of the investigation for the shooting, the cost of the attorneys, the aggravation and heartache and bad public relations for the agency as "dog killers."

Police almost never get trained in how to deal with dogs.  Some people are just not dog people and don't have any idea how to deal with a dog, particularly a dangerous dog.  Any dog will bit given the provocation, but most dogs can be dealt with safety, if you know how; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


What will you do when you retire?  Do you have plans?  Long term plans?  Many police retire young, often in their fifties.  Many of them plan to retire and do some traveling, maybe do a little fishing or hunting.  But what then?

Too many officers retire and then have nothing to do because all they have done for 25 or 30 years is police work.  They end up going back to work or going into private security.  So they are working again.  A few others can't handle the boredom and end up killing themselves.  Don't be those guys.

You need friends outside of law enforcement.  People at your church, people who share non-police hobbies with you.  People you can confide in.  Too often police become insular and only socialize with other police.  Then they retire and don't have any friends because they are still working.  Get out more; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Police Cars

Some agencies use take home cars.  Generally, I think this is a good idea.  For small and rural agencies it's a great idea.  People who are assigned a specific vehicle are more likely to take good care of that vehicle.

Small agencies that might need everyone on deck at a particular time might find it helpful to have everyone able to run to the emergency, even from home, code 3.  Having extra vehicles on the road can have a preventative effect, by providing extra visibility.

Some officers don't like to have the neighbors know they are police and in the big city I think that is a reasonable concern.  However, in small towns and rural areas most people know who the cops are and having a police car parked in front of your house or in your driveway won't tell anyone anything they don't already know; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vehicle Inspections

One shift my partner and I went through eight patrol cars before we found one that was working.  The radio did not transmit, the siren did not sound, the brakes were gone, the transmission was out, the spotlights did not work, and so on.

It's important to check all these things and to make sure they work.  Something like bad breaks is very dangerous.  Consider the liability if you crash into another vehicle and claim the brakes were bad on your patrol car.

It's unethical to write equipment violations on other peoples cars if you vehicle is also not legally operating on the road.  Tail lights, break lights, headlights are some of the parts that break frequently and need to work on your patrol car.  How will it look if you go to court on a headlight ticket and the defendant counters with your car had no brake lights?  It would get your ticket thrown out; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vehicle Inspections

One of the major expenses in running a patrol operation is the cost of the patrol vehicles.  One way to help minimize costs is with a proper training and inspection program.  It’s surprising to me how few officers actually know how to inspect a patrol vehicle.

Do a general walk around of the vehicle.  Look for new dents, scratches and other obvious damage.  Each vehicle should have a vehicle damage sheet inside with a notation of all damage.  Any new damage should be noted at the start of the shift and initialed by a supervisor.  Then inspect the interior, including the glove box, center console, under the seats, and in the trunk.

Not only are you looking for damage, you are looking for contraband and making sure you have all your equipment.  You need crime scene tape, charged fire extinguisher, first aid kit, jack, spare tire and other gear.  Go over your electronics.  Check your lights, the standard vehicle equipment, headlights, tail lights, but also your emergency lights and equipment.  Get out of the vehicle and make sure they are all working.  Check the horn, turn signals, brake lights, and siren too as well as your spotlights.  Working gear prevents injuries, keeps down costs and even saves lives; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Civilian CCW

In California the county sheriff where you live or the chief of police where you live can either issue you a CCW.  They lost a lawsuit over issuing concealed weapons permits.  The plaintifs complained that it was essentially impossible for anyone to get a concealed weapons permit and carrying a firearm openly was also illegal.  The courts agreed that since the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, it seems people have some mechanism that allowed them to carry a gun.

Most agencies seem to have adopted a wait and see attitude after the loss.  I don't know of any, other than San Diego where the casemlaw originated that are actually making much effort to issue CCWs.  Just as LAPD ignored the court 20 years ago on the CCW issue, I suspect most agencies will do the same now, until there are more lawsuits.

Part of the problem is that there is often a fee, as another method to discourage people, non-refundable, and often a few hundred dollars.  There is also often lots of paperwork, again, to discourage people.  They also want references too.  Those can be hard to get as well.  I suspect this victory is only the first step needed to make this into a shall issue state, that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Suicide Prevention

During holidays people sometimes get depressed.  Police officers often have to work over the holidays and that can lead to further depression.  Officers who get so depressed that they talk about suicide need to get help right away so they don't kill themselves.

If someone really wants to end their life, they will just do it, if they are talking about it they are reaching out for help.  You need to help them, especially if it is another officer.  Too often we ignore warning signs and officers kill themselves.

When an officer talks of suicide we often don't want to get involved in their business.  We don't what to ruin their police career.  We are uncomfortable "snitching" on them.  It is better to act and save their lives rather than not act and have them dead.  Many agencies have psychologists, mental health professionals on call who can help.  Many agencies have chaplains who can provide counseling and advice.  If you partner asked for help with a fight in progress you would risk your life to aid him.  If he asks for help to avoid suicide, how much will you risk to save him?  Suicide prevention is part of your job, even if it is your partner; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cop Mentality

A cute girl who dies of a drug overdose, some pimp got her hooked on drugs so she would sell herself to get high.   A partner hurt by some gangster who does not show any remorse.  We see alot of bad things in 20 or 30 years on the job.

Just like soldiers who have been in battle and seen a lot, sometimes too much, police work does take a psychological toll on officers.  Many become alcoholics, get divorced or kill themselves.  Suicide is especially common after they retire because they don't have the job anymore to keep them going.  Cops often become isolated and don't have many friends outside the department.  People often don't understand how dangerous police work is and so they see a video or news report and complain about how the cops did not have to shoot that guy or beat that guy.  The cops become bitter because their friends don't understand the cops did what they were trained to do, shooting the gun out of someone's hand is Hollywood, not real life.

So yes there is often a "police mentality" and it comes after years of frustration and pain.  It's a form of PSTD but is generally unrecognized, just like the military cops are too proud, too manly to admit a problem.  I am lucky I only do it part time in a city that is not too busy, and I have always had a good wife who supports me and a faith in God that everything works out in the end.  They often adopt an us vs them mentality.  Just like old soldiers they are the best friends to have and often the worst enemies to make.  ER doctors and nurses often get that way too.  They see too much bad.  They used to call it job burnout; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cop Mentality

A friend of mine asked me if there is such a thing as a police mentality.  I responded to him with some of my observations. 
It's a couple things. First, for the last 40 years or so most agencies do a psychological test.  So if you don't fit a certain personality type, you don't get hired.  Now mostly they are looking to weed out the wackos, but also they want people who are willing to be assertive when needed in order to enforce the law.  Each agency selects their own criteria, but they are all similar.

Second, cops are trained in a similar manner and that further weeds out those that don't fit in.  Both of these are similar to the military with pre-induction testing and then boot camp.

Finally, most cops see a lot of bad things in their careers.  Most of those bad things are the result of stupid people doing stupid things and often the ones who get injured are innocent.  A guy gets drunk and drives his car and crashes into a van with a mom and kids.  Mom and kids are at best scared and at worst killed and mangled.  That's hard to deal with and it makes people angry.  Child abuse, some three year old beaten with an electrical cord, or child neglect a three year old left alone at home while mom goes dancing; or a baby left alone in a car on a hot day.  Cop mentality, it does not have to be a bad thing; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Safe Training

When training use of force options using simulated weapons, it is imperative that the officers don't have real weapons on them.  At first officers should be instructed to remove all weapons and put them in a safe place, locker, car truck or other secure location.

Officers should be reminded of all weapons, pepper spray, baton, duty handgun, back up weapons, knives and any other weapons they have.  Officers often forget about knives and even back up weapons.

When officers return from lunch the entire process needs to be repeated.  Even individuals who leave the clean area for any reason need to be rechecked.  It's also a good practice to do a cursory search for weapons as well.  Every year, it seems we kill one of our own in a training exercise, and that's just wrong; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

War on Drugs

Dangerous drugs from marijuana to heroin were all legal in every state in the union at one time.  A hundred years ago many drugs, now illegal, were contained in mass market products sold to the general public.

Eventually, the effects of these drugs were realized and they were made illegal.  They were made illegal because of the many devastating effects these drugs had on society and on individuals.  Addiction is a terrible thing and these drugs are generally physically and or psychologically addictive.

Today, many people, even some police, are saying we should legalize, regulate and tax various drugs, especially marijuana.  None of the problems caused by these drugs being illegal will be solved by making them legal.  The money raised in taxes will not make up for the increased domestic violence, workplace accidents, and traffic collisions that will happen as a result of legalization.  We are losing the war on drugs, to the detriment of society; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Long Can You Work?

They say that fatigue can be as dangerous to drivers as being under the influence of alcohol.  Do you drive when you are fatigued?  Does your agency work a ten or twelve hour shift?  Do you get up after a refreshing eight hours sleep and then go directly to work, or are you awake five or six hours or more before you even start your shift?

If your shift runs into overtime because of a late call or report writing or prisoner transportation, you have been awake for twelve or fourteen or sixteen hours or more?  What happens if someone calls off for the night and you have to work a shift and a half?  Are you safe to drive home after working eighteen hours?

How about court the next day?  Work an eighteen hour shift, then drive home, sleep a couple hours, then drive back to work, get a patrol car, go to court for four  hours then back to a twelve hour shift?  Are you alert?  Can you shoot?  Can you drive?  How many hours can you be expected to work and still be effective?  As a supervisor you need to consider how long your officers work.  An officer might be able to work one eighteen hour shift, but can they work two or three in a row?  Officer fatigue is an important issue that is often overlooked; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


“Handcuffing a suspect during an investigative detention does not automatically make it custodial interrogation for purposes of Miranda.” People v. Davidson, supra, at 972.

Sometimes in the field we have to handcuff people, even though they are not under arrest.  Sometimes we don't have enough evidence to make an arrest, but we suspect there may have been a crime or that the person we have contacted may be involved in something illegal.

Detaining a person when there are circumstances that merit investigation is not an arrest.  If we find out everything is fine or at least that no arrest is needed, that person can be un-handcuffed and sent on their way.  There may be no record of the contact and the person was never arrested.

Occasionally we may need to ask a question or two in order to find out even if a crime has been committed.  If the person is not in custody, then Miranda will usually not apply.  I always make it a point to say, I am handcuffing your for my safety while I conduct an investigation, you are not under arrest, only detained.  This way the suspect knows they are not arrested.  I don't put them in the patrol car or move them around anymore than reasonably necessary.  Handcuffing is not always an arrest, especially if you don't intend it to be and you explain; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Major Incident

A truck driver ran over and seriously injured a little boy who darted into the street.  It is the nature of little boys to dart into the street.  It is in the nature of vehicles to sometimes hit them.  The initial traffic collision may have been the fault of the child or of the truck driver or some combination of the two, that remains to be investigated.

The driver stopped and rather than render aid, he was attacked and beaten by a crowd.  I can understand that people might be upset by a truck driver running over a child.  I can understand that people might need to use force to stop a driver from trying to flee the scene, but that was not the case here in this incident.

When responding to such an incident it can be difficult to sort out what is happening when you first arrive.  Certainly rendering aid to the child is a critical priority, but stopping the assault should happen first.  This type of incident requires a large number of officers to interview witnesses, arrest assailants, process the accident and crime scene, and contain the location.  It's best to divide up the tasks and assign officers to each major event with an overall commander.  Don't try and do everything alone, use your resources; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stick Time

An officer went to a gas station to check on a report that a woman with warrants was there.  When he contacted her this other guy got involved and confronted the officer.  The officer used pepper spray against the suspect but to little effect.

My first question is, where is the officers baton?  I surmise that it's in the car because who needs a baton to take on a woman with a warrant?  Answer, the officer who has to deal with her boyfriend.  As a result the officer ends up in a boxing match and later the emergency room.

I have carried at least five different kinds of batons in my career as an officer.  All of them had advantages and disadvantages.  All of them were useless in the patrol car.  Carry your baton on any call on any field contact; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Local Control

Some people express concern about the "militarization" of police.  I too am concerned about that.  Police are there to "protect and serve" the public, not as instruments of oppression.  The police are there to maintain order and to enforce the law.

Part of the problem is that local and state politicians are giving up more and more local control of law enforcement.  They are taking state and federal money to pay for officers, equipment, and activities that used to be paid for out of state and local taxes.  I am opposed to federal money being used by local law enforcement.  Certainly the transfer of surplus federal government equipments, vehicles, armored cars, desks, chairs or any other physical property is fine, but there should be no strings attached.

Too often these items and money come with strings.  They require certain hiring requirements.  They want certain procedures to be followed or special enforcement to be done with the money. The federal government should not be dictating how local law enforcement works.  Law enforcement should represent their local government, under local control.  If you don't like what your local police do, then you should be able to go to a city council meeting and complain.  You should not have  to write a letter to Washington.  It's another bulwark of too much government power and overreach; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Police Armored Vehicles

Many people have expressed concern that police agencies are buying or obtaining armored vehicles.  Police agencies have had armored cars since at least the early 1930's. We are seeing more now only because the US Army has declared many of their wheeled armored cars as surplus after the Iraq war and agencies get them for free or low cost. 

The M113 tracked armored vehicle is also Army surplus, the Bradley series has replaced these. There are good reasons for police to have them. If you need them you can't wait three hours for them to show up from three counties away. 

 They are great for dealing with snipers, active shooters, people holed up in a house shooting. Those type of incidents happen frequently and so a small agency having one or a large agency having three or four is not a big deal.  There is nothing sinister in police having armored vehicles; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gear Bag

Do you keep a go bag in your patrol car?  If an incident happens, do you keep everything you need in your car to deal with the problem?  Do you carry a back up gun?  How about extra ammo for your patrol rifle, your shotgun, and duty handgun?  Do you carry a knife? 

Apart from weapons, what else do you carry?  Do you carry QuikClot?  How about a tourniquet?  Do you carry bandages or other first aid supplies?  What about hand sanitizer?  Do you carry an extra flashlight, and batteries?  How about gloves and a CPR shield?

Carry some parachute cord, some food and water and a carabineer.  Do you carry binoculars?  Do you carry small hand tools?  Screwdriver, Phillips head screwdriver, wire cutters and pliers.  There are many items that can be helpful and some can be essential; that’s what the SGT Says.