Juvenile Crime: Before and After the Arrest


Prior to serving as a police officer and detective, I was employed in the prison system as a corrections officer. I spent part of this miserable portion of my life working in a prison that housed a unique group of inmates, those who were absolutely and totally unwanted by the state’s numerous other institutions. It was a place for criminal misfits. They were unmanageable, unruly, and they hated the air and the sky, the water they drank, and they hated themselves. Just plain nasty is what they were.

This particular facility, the place where I spent most of my waking hours in those days, was divided into four separate buildings with each surrounded by a tall fence. One section was for the super mean and out of control, another for just regular mean guys, a third for prisoners with special needs, and the fourth for mentally ill inmates who’s diet consisted largely of handfuls of medications such as Thorazine and Wellbutrin.

The prisoners there enjoyed throwing things at us (feces was a favorite). They liked to fight us. They often attempted to catch one of us alone so they could deliver a beating from hell. Escape attempts were often and killing other inmates was a sport. Didn’t happen too often, but when it did the fellows seemed to derive a bit of pleasure from seeing blood and dead bodies.

The place was a nightmare for officers. As I stated earlier, it was miserable.

In the late 1980’s, Virginia opened the doors to what they called the Youthful Offender Centers. These were prisons designated to house young males between the ages of 18-21 who’d been convicted of various crimes.

It was my understanding, after speaking with a few of the officers who worked there, that they, too, felt pretty darn miserable at the end of the day. You know, same old, same old—the victims of tossed feces and squirts of urine and other body fluids, fights, escape attempts, yada, yada, yada. Most of the officers there also said they felt as if they worked in a facility that trained young inmates to be better older prisoners and the best criminals they could possibly become.

But this is where the young criminals ended up. What about prior to prison and the process that eventually lands those troubled youths behind bars?

Well, in Virginia, for example:

  • Juvenile is any child under the age of eighteen.
  • Delinquent: A juvenile who has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.
  • CHINS – Child in Need of Services: A juvenile whose behavior, conduct or condition presents or results in a serious threat to the juvenile’s well-being and physical safety of another person.
  • Child in Need of Supervision meets one of these criteria:
    1. A juvenile subject to mandatory school attendance, is habitually absent without valid excuse.
    2. A juvenile who remains away from his family or guardian.
    3. A juvenile who escapes or remains away from a residential care facility ordered by the court.
  • Child Abuse and Neglect

    1. A caregiver who creates or inflicts a physical or mental injury upon a child.
    2. A caregiver who creates the child to be at risk of physical or mental injury.
    3. A caregiver who refuses to provide for juvenile’s health and well-being.

    Court Services: 

    1. Intake – Reviews all complaints regarding juvenile crime and determines whether there are enough facts to involve the court. If so, the intake officer may either proceed informally to make practical adjustments without filing a petition (a petition is basically a warrant, akin to an adult arrest warrant) or the intake officer may authorize the filing of a petition (a warrant) to bring the matter before the judge. An intake officer may also order the placement of a juvenile offender in a secure detention facility designated for juveniles whose present offense requires such security prior to a detention hearing by a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge. Note: Intake officers used to be called probation officers.
    2. Investigation – Intake officers conduct background studies, such as examination of a juvenile’s familial, social and educational history. Such studies may be used by the court as a factor in determining the disposition appropriate to the subject and by the probation staff in the formulation of a services and supervision plan.
    3. Probation. Supervises delinquent juveniles and children in need of services released into home probation and supervises adults released on probation in support and other cases involving the defendant’s relation with family members and individuals to whom he has a support duty.

    Residential Care: Supervises juveniles being held in detention, shelter care and post dispositional probation facilities. In most localities, the staff of these facilities are employees of the localities served by the court and work cooperatively with the staff of the respective court service unit.

    Social Services: Welfare and social service agencies are in frequent contact with the court in certain types of cases. They perform the initial investigation in abuse and neglect cases. Juveniles may be committed to such agencies when they are removed from home. Other agencies provide such services as may be ordered by the judge.

    Juvenile Delinquency and CHINS Cases; Adult Criminal Cases Detention or Shelter Care

    A juvenile may be taken into custody if one of the following applies:

    1. A judge, clerk at judge’s direction or intake officer issues a detention order requiring the juvenile to be taken into custody.
    2. A juvenile is alleged to be a CHINS and there is clear and substantial danger to the child’s life or health and this is necessary for the child’s appearance before the court.
    3. A juvenile commits a crime that is witnessed by a police officer or would be a felony if committed by an adult (a crime punishable by more than 12 months in jail).
    4. A juvenile commits a misdemeanor offense involving shoplifting, assault and battery, or carrying a weapon on school property.
    5. A juvenile has absconded from lawful incarceration or a court ordered residential home, facility, or placement by a child welfare agency.
    6. A juvenile is believed to be in need of inpatient mental health treatment.

    If not immediately released by the intake officer or magistrate, the juvenile is held in custody (detention) until being brought before the judge for a detention hearing. The juvenile’s detention hearing should be held the next day the court sits within the city or county but no longer than 72 hours after being taken into custody. Prior notice of the detention hearing must be given to the juvenile’s parent or guardian, and to the juvenile if over 12 years of age. A detention hearing is not a trial, but merely a hearing to determine whether the detention of the juvenile should be continued.

    The judge decides whether to hold the juvenile in secure detention or release the juvenile to a parent, guardian or persons having custody of the juvenile, or to shelter care. Shelter care is defined as the temporary care of children in a physically unrestricted environment.

    The judge may set bail and/or certain rules to be followed while the juvenile released awaiting trial. The judge may order the juvenile be held in detention if the judge believes that there is probable cause the juvenile committed the act and:

    1. The juvenile is charged with violation of probation or parole.
    2. The juvenile is charged with a felony or class 1 misdemeanor and: (a) is a threat to self or others or the property of others or (b) has threatened not to come to court or has failed to appear to court within the past 12 months. While the juvenile is in a detention home or shelter placement, parents or guardians wishing to visit may do so only during permitted visiting hours. Parents or guardians should find out in advance of a visit: the hours of visitation, the documentation needed, dress code, the number of visitors allowed at one time and any restrictions concerning who is allowed to visit.

    Certification or Transfer to Circuit Court for Trial as an Adult

    A case involving a juvenile 14 years or older accused of a felony may be certified or transferred to circuit court where the juvenile would be tried as an adult. A hearing to determine whether to transfer the case cannot occur unless the juvenile’s parents or their attorney are notified of the transfer hearing.

    Certification to Circuit Court

    A juvenile 14 years or older at the time of the alleged felony offense(s) may be transferred to the circuit court and tried as an adult. Some felony charges require that a judge make the decision whether to hear the case in juvenile or circuit court. The Commonwealth must provide notice requesting transfer of the juvenile’s felony cases to circuit court. This written notice must be sent to the attorney for the juvenile or to the juvenile and one parent or legal guardian. A judge will hold a hearing to consider whether probable cause exists regarding the offense(s) charged and whether transfer of the case to circuit court is appropriate. Some factors the judge may consider when determining whether the case should be heard in circuit court or in juvenile court are: the juvenile’s previous court contacts, competency, school record information and the child’s age and emotional maturity.

    Transfer to Circuit Court

    If a juvenile was 14 years or older and charged with a violent felony, then the Commonwealth may certify the charge to circuit court for trial. Written notice to the juvenile’s attorney or to the juvenile and one parent or legal guardian, must be provided. In these cases, the judge solely determines probable cause as to whether or not the charged juvenile committed the crime. These charges are: felonious injury by mob, abduction, malicious wounding, malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer, felonious poisoning, adulteration of products, robbery, carjacking, rape, forcible sodomy, or object sexual penetration. OR A list of these violent juvenile felony charges is listed in Virginia Code section 16.1-269.1C. If the judge finds that probable cause exists that the juvenile committed the crime(s) charged then the juvenile’s case will be tried in circuit court.

    The crimes of murder or aggravated malicious wounding are automatically certified to the circuit court if the juvenile is 14 years or older at the time of the offense and the court has found probable cause that the juvenile has committed the offense(s) charged. No Commonwealth request is needed.

    Statements made by the juvenile during the transfer hearing may not be used as evidence of the offense at a later court hearing but may be used if the juvenile testifies during trial.

    Both the Commonwealth and juvenile may appeal a transfer decision within 10 days of the transfer hearing. Any juvenile convicted in circuit court will be treated as an adult in all future criminal cases.

    *Much of the information in this article is from The Commonwealth of Virginia, The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. I suppose to copy and paste is lazy, cheating, and plagiarizing. All I can say is “Guilty!” But I’m in a time crunch today. Still, the information is important and I’m really hoping the text, since it’s a government agency, is in the public domain. Fingers crossed. In the meantime … wish me luck, and I hope you find the material useful. By the way, as far as I know the little guy in the top photo is not a juvenile delinquent. 



Read more
Help! My Name is Lee and I Have a Problem

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 11.59.29 AM

Hi, my name is Lee and I have a problem.

I admit it, I’m addicted to nostalgia.

I like old music, and I like to see and touch and experience things from long ago, especially old books, and I have a lot of them.


In fact, I have many things that once belonged to relatives who’re no longer with us, especially items that belonged to my beloved grandfather. Having those items nearby often conjures up fond memories of seeing him hold or use them. It’s a warm feeling sort of like that first cup of coffee in the morning, or snuggling deep beneath the covers on a cold winter night.

It’s a happiness that fills the insides. It’s hot chocolate and pumpkin spice.


My grandfather’s old bottle opener he kept on his fishing boat. The other item is what he referred to as his “juice harp.” 

My mind often takes me back to the days when radio was king and TV was a treat.

When Elvis was thought to be a novelty and computers and cellphones were, well, they weren’t.

Screen Shot 2016-10-10 at 11.58.06 AM

Yep, those were the good old days.

Nowadays I like to sift through age-yellowed family photographs.

Seeing family members doing what family members did when times were bad but good.

However, sometimes those photographic, historical journeys back in time occasionally reveal unexpected things.

Like the discovery that a family member’s home was used by Harriet Tubman as part of her Underground Railroad network. Cool, I know.

But, sometimes the things in the shoeboxes of old photos and newspaper clippings reveal things you wish you hadn’t seen.

Perhaps you’re related to the evil guy who once stole an apple from Pete Johnson’s Corner Grocery? Or the kid who skipped school and was caught fishing in old man Kelsey’s creek.

Or, is it actually possible that you’re related to the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln? Or it was your relative who married into the Booth family.

Suppose you stumble across an old newspaper article that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

Could it be true? After all, someone in the family thought it important enough to save.

Well, after the passing of my parents I wound up with a few boxes of photos, books, photo albums, a family Bible, and lots of old items such as those pictured above.

It was one item, though, that really caught my attention and sent my curious mind into a spin. I found it while leafing through the antique Bible. It was an article that had been clipped from a local paper and then placed and preserved between the fragile pages.

Here, have a look. I’ll wait while you read.


All done? Okay. So why had this article, the wedding announcement of Victory Bateman (niece to Edwin and John Wilkes Booth) to Harry Tweed Mestayer, been kept by a member of my family and then passed down to my grandparents and then to my mother and now to my hands? Why cut the article from the paper if there wasn’t some sort of exceptional significance?

I’d like to think that the piece was kept due to a possible historical aspect; however, there was not another article relating to any historical event to be found. Not one. Besides, the fleeting mention of an assassin is not all that noteworthy, unless … that assassin is either related to you or your dear relative is marrying into his family.

So, is it possible that I, someone who has read and owns numerous books about the life and death of Lincoln, am actually related to his killer? After all, I’ve been fascinated by Lincoln since I was old enough to study history in school, and that was long before I discovered this article. Coincidence?

I’ve not had any luck finding information that would either confirm or deny, but what I did learn was that Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth, was an accomplished actor who toured by Europe and America performing Shakespearean plays. He opened Booth’s Theater in New York and he’s often considered as the greatest Hamlet of the 19th century. And he’s still, to this day, considered as one of the great actors. Oh yeah, he’s also the brother of the man who killed Lincoln.


Edwin Booth

Of course, we all know that John Wilkes Booth was an actor who fired that fatal round in Ford’s Theater.


John Wilkes Booth

I did manage to discover that Victory Bateman, relative to me or not, was a woman determined to remain married to a Booth, even if doing so meant marrying her own cousin, Willfid Clarke, who was the nephew to Edwin Booth.

Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 8.06.56 PM

From The Daily Tribune, Terre Haute, Indiana – December 12, 1902

For now, I’ll leave the thoughts of Victory Bateman and the Booths behind and return the article to its spot in the family Bible.

I prefer to remember the good old days, back when Elvis was king and the night my mother got me out of bed to watch The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. She thought their performance would be one of historical importance. Well, she was correct. Of course she was. Mom’s know these things, right?

It was also a bit of history watching the Sullivan show on the first TV we ever owned.

By the way, for those of you too young to remember, we had to get up from our chairs, or the floor in my case, and walk over to the set to switch the channel. No remote. No cable. No color. And only 13 stations on the dial. We could receive only three or four, though. And we were able pick up that many only when the weather was clear.


Volume knob on the left and knob for switching channels on the right

My mother was addicted to Elvis and, of course, I have many of her treasured keepsakes. Things I’ve added to my own collection.


There’s a stack of old records, collectables, postage stamps, autographed items, and much, much more. A lot of Elvis stuff. A lot.

Oh yeah, Kennedy was president back in those days, and he was followed by LBJ. At least we didn’t have scandals and other such nefarious details surrounding politicians back in the “good old days.”


Yes, my name is Lee, and I’m addicted to nostalgia. But after writing this article, well, I’m not so sure I’m the one with the problem.


Read more
Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen



Officer Blake Snyder, 33

St. Louis County Missouri Police Department

October 6, 2016 – Officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed while responding to a disturbance call. When he and another officer arrived on scene gunfire immediately erupted. The suspect likely ambushed the officers.

Officer Snyder is survived by his wife and two-year-old son.


Sergeant Steve Owen, 53

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office

October 5, 2016 – Sergeant Steve Owen was shot and killed while responding to a burglary call.

L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the gunman executed Sergeant Owen by first wounding him and then standing over him to fire four additional rounds into his body before an unsuccessful try to steal the sergeant’s weapon with the intention to use it to kill another deputy. The suspect then attempted to steal a patrol car, ramming it into a second patrol vehicle before fleeing on foot. He was captured a short distance away.

Sergeant Owen is survived by his wife and two children.


Agent Victor Rosada-Rosa, 55

Puerto Rico Police Department

October 5, 2016 – Agent Victor Rosada-Rosa was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a vehicle after a pursuit of a fleeing larceny suspect. It was at the traffic stop when a vehicle struck the agent’s motorcycle from the rear.

Agent Rosada-Rosa is survived by his wife and two sons.


Jailer Robert E. Ransom, 62

Gregg County Texas Sheriff’s Office

September 30, 2016 – Jailer Robert E. Ransom, a 36-year veteran, suffered a fatal cardiac event while assisting an inmate who had suffered a medical emergency. Jailer Ransom was rushing to retrieve a defibrillator to revive the prisoner when he collapsed.

Read more
You and I … What Happened?


We grew up together, you and I.

I attended kindergarten with you and your friends.

I played football and freeze tag and hide and seek with you and your cousins.

We were like family.

We hung out together at the drug store, reading comic books and eating ice cream cones.

I was at your sixteenth birthday party and you were at mine.

You and I and our friends had a blast at the prom.

I remember when your brother joined the military and went off to war.

I was there when the news came that he wouldn’t be returning home.

I sat with you on the front porch, listening as you remembered the good old days.

You cried and I never told anyone that you did.

We went away to college and remained friends, even though we were many miles apart.

You and I both married our childhood sweethearts.

You went to work for a big company.

You mom died and I traveled a long ways to be by your side.

Because that’s what we did, you and I.

My father passed away and you were there for me.

After college you returned and went to work for a big company.

I became a cop.

Then you hated me.


Was it because of my uniform?

My gun?

That my job was to enforce the law?

I don’t make the rules.

Heck, I don’t even like some of them.

But it’s my job.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t like several of your company’s products and rules and policies.

But when one of your coworkers tells me to not touch something or that I may not go “out” the “in” door, I listen and do as asked.

But, even when I don’t agree with your company’s rules I don’t throw rocks at you and your fellow employees.

I don’t run to social media and post despicable things about you and your family.

I don’t write that you and your wife and kids should all die.

I don’t encourage the world to attack you.

I don’t go to your parking lot and overturn and set fire to your cars.

I don’t shoot at you, or punch and kick or spit on you.

I don’t kill your friends simply because of the suits they wear, or because one of their office mates did something wrong.

The vast majority of the laws of our country were in place long before I first pinned a badge to my shirt.

I didn’t make the rules. Not a single one of them.

I’m just a guy doing a job, a job I happen to love.

And I’m still the same guy you hung out with in high school.

I’m still the same guy who drove you home from the party after you’d had one too many drinks.

I’m still the same guy who played catch with you in my front yard for hours on Saturday afternoons.

I’m still the same guy in the park who made you laugh with my Daffy Duck imitations.

I’m still the guy who stood beside you the day you married the love of your life.

Why did “you and I” become “you against me?”

What happened?

And why?

Because I’m still the same guy.

I just happen to wear a uniform when I go to work.

I’m a cop and I love my job and I still help people, even when they hate me.

I still help people while dodging those rocks, bottles, bullets, and insults.

I still think about the days when we were close.

And I’ll still come if you call.

Even though you hate me,

Merely because I’m a cop.

We’re still the same guys.

Who wear a different set of clothes.

Inside, though,

It’s us …

Guys who were once best friends,

You and I.

Read more
My First Day at Work and I Came Out Swinging … Literally


Think back to your first day at work.

Time clock. Punch in. Maybe a brief orientation. Introductions to the staff. Settle in to your office. A first meeting.

You know the drill. And it’s a aways a bit intimidating, not knowing the ropes or even the location of the restrooms.

But you get through it and at the end of the day you think all went well, considering you never did find the copier and the supervisor kept referring to you by the name of the person who formerly held your position. Later you discovered she was the office favorite who mysteriously disappeared while on a special assignment. Who knew she’d led a double life as a secret agent/rock star/champion of world peace/winner of mommy of the year award ten years running.

Well, my first day as a police officer, a deputy sheriff, actually, was a bit out in left field. And it went like this …

Keep in mind, things were slightly different back when I first got into law enforcement (yes, all dinosaurs were extinct by then, Noah had retired from shipbuilding, and Michelangelo had indeed finished cleaning and putting away his brushes).

Political correctness and safe spaces had not yet come onto the scene. Cellphones and computers were not around, at least not as we know them to be today. Heck, the first cellphone issued to me by a police agency came in a bag the size of a small backpack and was large enough to fill its bulky container.

Police officers carried revolvers in those days, not semi-auto pistols, and newly-hired officers, especially deputy sheriffs were given one year after the start of work to attend a police academy and complete the mandatory certification courses. This meant we could work, totally untrained and without certification of any type for a full 365 days. That’s NO training other than the on-the-job training we received until we finally made it to the academy.

And this is where this tale begins, my first night on the job—Thanksgiving night. I had not yet been issued uniforms, gun, car … not even a name tag.

I showed up early for my shift, expecting to be outfitted with the necessary equipment and perhaps some sort of orientation. But no, I was instructed to tag along with the captain, the chief deputy who was next in command directly under the sheriff himself. This guy was the boss of everyone other than the high sheriff, and he was a salty, crusty, gruff experienced cop with many years of dealing with the worst of the worst. He was well-respected by both police officers and the general public. He was fair, but firm. He was as tough as old shoe leather. And he was one of the nicest men I’ve met to this day.

After driving through various areas of the county, stopping to talk to business owners and the like, and checking on a few of the deputies, the captain pulled his car in front of a personal residence. The driveway, yard, and shoulder of the road were packed with cars. The house was well lit and it was obvious that there was a gathering of some sort taking place. I expected to be told to wait in the car while the captain went inside for whatever reason, but he told me to follow him. I was a bit taken aback to learn that we’d stepped into the midst a family Thanksgiving dinner and the family was that of my new boss.

We’d been there for only a few minutes when the captain received a message via radio and I knew it was something serious because he hopped up from his seat, motioned for me to follow, and then he practically ran to his car with me tagging along in his wake.

The call, he said, was about a man who’d shot his mother and then barricaded himself inside her house and was now taking potshots at passersby and the deputies and police who’d responded to emergency calls from neighbors.

When we arrived, after a heart-thumping ride with full lights and sirens blasting and blinking, I saw a side of the place I’d lived for many years, a dark something I’d never seen before. Police cars were everywhere. Officers were crouching down and hiding behind whatever cover they could find. Fire trucks and ambulances were positioned a few blocks away. News crews were already there and photographers were vying for the best spot to record the action as it unfolded.

The captain parked his car down the street a bit away from the chaos, and then opened his trunk. He reached inside a wooden box and pulled out a revolver and handed it to me. Next he grabbed a shotgun-like teargas gun from its case and loaded it.

“Come on,” he said. And I did, with my heart beating a very solid offbeat rhythm against my ribs. And why not, since bullets were zinging toward us from the house where the shooter had broken out a front window so he could pull back the curtain, fire a couple of rounds, and then duck back inside.

It’s safe to say that I was slightly (a huge understatement) nervous, but adrenaline pushed me forward.

The captain met with the officer in charge of the scene and then it quickly became clear that command had instantly changed hands. It also became quite clear that the confidence level of the officers on scene had risen to new heights. The boss was there and he’d know how to deal with the crazed shooter inside the house.

Okay, long story shortened a bit …

The captain fired three rounds of tear gas through the window. He used the PA system on one of the nearby patrol cars to call out to the man inside, telling him to come outside. We waited. Nothing. Not a peep. No signs of movement, and the shooting stopped.

We waited some more.


By that time, the local chief of police and our county sheriff had arrived. They’d been notified and had left their own family gatherings to come out (news cameras were there so of course the politicians slithered in).

The tear gas rounds had started a small fire in the room nearest us, and we could see the faint hint of flames below the window sill. So someone had to act quickly to save the man, any hostages, the man’s mother, if she was still alive, and the house.

So the chief ordered three of his officers to put on gas masks and other protective gear and then go inside to search for the shooter and, if possible, extinguish the small fire before it got out of hand. His thinking was that the suspect either killed himself with one of the last rounds we’d heard sound off, or that one of the tear gas rounds had struck him. Either way, we’d waited as long as we could.

So everyone stood ready while the three officers breached a rear door and went inside. By the way, I was ordered to stand guard at another rear door of the house, and the order included, “Do NOT let anyone past you.”

A few minutes later the three who’d gone inside came out and said the guy was not inside the house. One of the officers carried out the body of the elderly woman and delivered her to EMS personnel down the street. She was deceased.

Everyone’s first reaction—the guy had escaped through the door I guarded. After all, I was the new guy and three highly experienced officers had searched and found nothing.

New plans were underway—search the woods, side roads and streets, neighbors houses, etc.

The captain came over to me and motioned for me to follow him in side the house.

“Hold your breath for as long as you can. The place is still full of gas,” he said to me. “Let’s take one last look. I think he’s still in there somewhere and they missed him.”

So we went inside. Why not, I already had a whole four hours experience under my belt. I was carrying a gun I’d not fired. I had no handcuffs and if if I did I wouldn’t have known how to use them. And I didn’t know what to say to the guy if I did run into him. “Freeze sucka”’ came to mind but I somehow thought those words might not be appropriate.

The captain indicated to me that he was going one way to search and motioned for me to go another. He pointed to a closet door and I took the movement to mean I should look inside all closets. So he went his way and I went mine, with tears streaming down my cheeks and my eyes pits of smoldering coals. Tear gas is no joke, even tear gas that had started to dissipate.

As luck would have it I’d brought along a Maglight that I’d purchased with my own money. It came in handy. Really handy.

With light in one hand and gun in the other, I turned the handle on the closet door (using the hand holding the light).


Inside was a waist-high pile of clothes. For some reason I poked the pile with the flashlight, and without warning up popped the shooter, wild-eyed and with gun in hand. A really big gun.

Well, let me tell you, he scared the pure, teetotal crap out of me, and my reaction was to firmly plant that flashlight directly between the suspect’s eyes. He went down. Out cold.

So we collected his gun and carried him outside to waiting EMTs.

The standoff was over and so was my first night at work.

The sheriff and chief both came over to congratulate me for a job well done.

The sheriff held out his hand for shaking and said, “I could use a good man like you. If you’re ever looking for a job let me know.”

I guess he didn’t remember hiring me.

Of course, he also didn’t remember my name when he attended my academy graduation a year later.

So yeah, that was my first day on the job. How was yours?


Read more
Black Shades, White Gloves: The Night ZZ Top Was My Backup


Saturday 2345 hours – It was not at all unusual for the sheriff to schedule us to work the graveyard shift alone, covering the entire county with our nearest backup—a state trooper or a police officer from a nearby city—sometimes 30-45 minutes away, or more.

At first, the thought of covering such a vast amount of real estate was a bit daunting. But we did it without complaint. After all, to question the high sheriff was practically a death sentence. Or, at the very least, a guaranteed trip to the unemployment line.

So this particular Saturday night I did the usual routine of walking to my driveway where I took a seat behind the wheel of my milk-chocolate-brown patrol car. I checked the light bar and wig-wag headlights to be sure they were working properly, and then I used the radio to let dispatch know I was officially at work and ready to begin receiving calls (in our neck of the woods, 10-41 was the 10-code for “on-duty”). A couple of minutes later I heard the deputies working the previous shift begin signing 10-42, out of service. Once the last one signed off-duty, a sense of “me against the world” set in in. But, we were all used to it, so I pulled the shift down to “drive” and aimed my car toward whatever waited for me.

A few minutes later I was deep in the county, making the rounds to the various businesses—hotels, restaurants, bars, convenience stores, nightclubs, etc.—to let the night shift employees and partiers see a police car cruising through the parking lots. I also drove through the lots of businesses that had closed hours earlier, shining my spotlight through storefront windows and into alleyways, getting out to check doors, and calling in the license plates and VIN numbers of cars that shouldn’t be parked where they were (sometimes a quick check revealed a stolen car or one that was used while committing a crime).

0115 hours – A little over an hour into the shift and I’d already covered a lot of ground. Nothing major had occurred. I’d checked a vehicle I spotted a hundred yards down a dirt path (a couple of half-dressed teens who’d steamed up the windows in dear old dad’s station wagon), stopped a car that suddenly veered from one side of the road to the other—the guy said he’d dropped a Twinkee onto the floorboard and was trying to retrieve it, an act that caused him to jerk the steering wheel, and I’d answered a handful of he-said, she-said domestic calls and one report of a creepy guy flashing women at a rest area out on I-95.

I arrested Creepy Guy without incident, booked him, and was heading to the north side of the county to make my rounds there when dispatch called to report a disturbance at a south-side hotel just off the interstate. She said she’d heard yelling in the background and then what could’ve been gunshots. I was at least 20 minutes away.

Well, I made the trip in 15 minutes, driving like a bat out of hell with my foot jamming the accelerator to the floor. On the way, my alternating headlights, the rotating overhead lights, and the strobes in the back window, were all winking and flashing, and twirling at once, but were totally out of sync with one another. To add to the confusion, Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog spewed from the car speakers. John Bonham’s drumming was already sort of out of time with the guitar licks (but wasn’t that one of the things that made him so spectacular as a drummer, especially on this song?).

Zep definitely added a Twilight-Zonish back-beat to a constantly revolving, blinking, and kaleidoscoping light show that should have been quite distracting. I, however, paid it no mind. Tunnel vision is normally a cop’s nemesis. This time, however, it kept my focus on the roadway and not the optical circus that was going on in and outside of my patrol car.

As I approached the chain hotel’s parking lot I turned off my lights and the car radio (Zeppelin had long since finished their time on the turntable and the Beatles were then deep underwater in their yellow submarine). I keyed the mic and signed 10-23 (arrived at scene).

The lot was packed with cars of all types. I decided to drive around the hotel to hopefully get a feel for what was going on before speaking with the night manager (it’s not unusual to learn that a caller had exaggerated a situation). When I rounded the first corner I quickly realized that this was no overstatement. Not by any means. There must have 200 people outside, with at least 75 engaged in a massive fight. There were another 15 or 20 going at it on the upper walkways.

I needed backup and plenty of it, and I requested it. As in “Send me some assistance, ASAP.”

The dispatcher must’ve sensed the urgency in my voice because I heard her calling for troopers and any other available help from the nearest city. Shoot, they could’ve sent every cop on the payroll and that still wouldn’t have been enough to suit me. I am not a fan of bleeding or hearing my bones snapping in two. Nor do I enjoy having bullets zip by my head or the feel of sharp things piercing my flesh.

I checked my arsenal of weapons, a cache that suddenly seemed woefully inadequate. I had my Beretta 9mm, a PR-24 (side handle baton), a riot-size can of pepperspray, two pairs of handcuffs, and a shotgun. I looked back to the crowd. Then back to my little 9mm and tiny PR-24. Both seemed to be shrinking in size as the seconds passed. The odds were not in my favor.

I sounded a blast from my siren, hoping the masses would realize that the police were on the scene and ready to start kicking butt and taking prisoners. Nothing. No reaction whatsoever. Time for a quickly improvised plan B, to sit in my car and wait for the cavalry, meanwhile, hoping the crowd wouldn’t turn my car over on its roof with me inside.

But, as safe and bleeding-free that sitting in the car sounded, doing nothing was just not in my nature. Instead, and sort of foolishly, I stepped out with my trusty pepper spray in my left hand and the other on my still-holstered gun. Somebody, and I didn’t care who, was going to jail.

Luckily, the troops began to arrive just as I hitched up my pants and waded into the pile, spraying a fiery-hot mist as I went. The other officers entered the fracas at different points and we began to separate the instigators from those who really didn’t want to fight but were because everyone else was doing it. Still, this was an all out brawl, the kind where police defensive tactics are often abandoned in favor of the ever popular “do-watcha-gotta-do” tactics. In fact, I remember seeing one officer using a baseball bat to prevent a group of men from attacking him. Where he got the bat, I haven’t a clue.

Eventually, the group’s size diminished and we were able to gain control with very few bruises, scrapes, and torn uniforms. Each of us arrested as many people as we had handcuffs and other restraints, and we had them packed in police cars like sardines. I’d arrived there alone, but left leading a long caravan of assorted police cars from several jurisdictions, all filled to the brim with angry brawlers, gang members, and a few overdressed people from a wedding party, including the best man who wore a pair of white gloves and black sunglasses (cheap?) who’d somehow become involved in the fight.

Once each of the little darlin’s had been booked and tucked in for the night, I thanked the assisting officers for their help and watched as they all drove away. It was nearly 0500 when I headed back to the county for a final pass of the night.

0520 hours – Dispatch called to report a fight at yet another south-side hotel. Yes, she’d said, there were weapons involved and shots had been fired. Ironically, ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man was playing on the radio at the time I received the call. I looked down at the spot where my badge used to be attached to my shirt. My shoes were scuffed and my pants had streaks of ground-in asphalt across the knees and along the side of one leg. The knuckles on my gun hand hurt and my lower lip was swollen.

I switched on my emergency lights and siren and mashed the gas pedal to the floor. Then I turned up the volume on the radio and I and ZZ Top headed south like a bat out of hell.

“Clean shirt, new shoes, and I don’t know where I am goin’ to…”


Read more