The Soldier: A Story of Survival

Standing ankle deep in black, slimy swamp muck, Sgt. William “Billy” Franks paused to catch his breath and to look over his shoulder, for the umpteenth time.

Nothing moving, not even a leaf. Good.

The humid jungle was also silent. Even better.

They were still a ways behind him, he hoped. But they were coming. He knew so because every hair on the back of his neck was standing at attention, and the neck-hair test had never been wrong before. Not ever.

Unfortunately, he was confident it wouldn’t be wrong this time, either.

Sgt. Franks was parched. His lips and throat as dry as desert sand, a reminder of the last time he’d been in a serious battle, fighting to survive. Hard to believe that conflict beneath a blazing Iraqi sun had been only a week ago.

He just couldn’t seem to steer clear of trouble no matter how hard he tried.

No time to think about it, though.

Not now.

The setting sun had already begun to paint the surrounding landscape in various shades of gray and black. Giant shadows crept slowly across the forest floor, feeding on splotches of light along the way.

Night was coming as fast as they were.

Finding clean water to drink would have to wait.

It was time to move on.

He’d fought the enemy—the entire outfit—all afternoon, before finally escaping into the jungle where he’d been running for hours.

The sergeant’s hair was caked with mud and his camouflaged BDU’s were wet and filthy. His rifle, thankfully, was dry. He was exhausted and unsure how much longer he could continue.

They were relentless in their pursuit, and he was sure they were closing in.

He had to find the strength to keep moving.

Suddenly he heard a voice from beyond the vines and thick, lush plants to his left. He dove for cover behind a moss-covered log. Something large and long slithered away through the undergrowth covering the forest floor.

He heard it again. This time the voice seemed closer.

The sergeant, knowing his options were now few, took a quick peek over the rotting tree. He saw someone standing in a clearing just beyond the treeline.

They called out again.

“Billy, it’s time to wash up for dinner!”

Sgt. Billy Franks, knowing it would not be in his best interest to dilly-dally, stood and used his hands to brush the dirt from his knees. Then he stepped from the small patch of woods into his backyard where his mother stood waiting. He whispered to himself, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll be a cowboy.”

Glancing back over his shoulder he saw a tall Native American man standing in the shadows—his face painted for battle.

The warrior locked eyes with Billy for a second and then faded into the forest. A drumbeat began to thump from a place deep in the woods.

“Tomorrow, Chief, right after I’ve had my Fruit Loops and orange juice, it’s you and me. Because those woods aren’t big enough for both of us.”

Shouldering the stick he used as a pretend rifle, Billy marched toward his mother, wishing he were five again because being six was really hard work.

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INTERPOL: Federated Searches

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INTERPOL was established in the very early 1900s. The organization’s vision was to connect police from around the world, to help them work together to make the world a safer place.

What is INTERPOL?

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) is the world’s largest police organization (190 member-countries). The mission: Preventing and fighting crime through enhanced cooperation and innovation on police and security matters.

How does INTERPOL make all this happen?

  • INTERPOL provides training
  • analyzes information and investigative support
  • conducts operations
  • maintains and provides data and secure communications channels

Of course, there’s more to it than the list above, but it is one point from the list that we’ll address in this article—data and communications and how they relate to the title of this piece, “INTERPOL: Federated Searches.”

Before we dig in, though, first imagine that you’re a deputy sheriff who’s working alone in an area of the county far away from the nearest town. Your closest backup is on a call and thirty minutes away, and that’s if she could drop what she was doing to immediately rush to your aid.

You see a car driven erratically (all over the road, from lane to lane and sometimes from shoulder to shoulder). So you activate your emergency equipment (that’s lights and siren, in case you didn’t know) to initiate a traffic stop.

Once you approach the driver’s window you notice three small children in the rear seat area. After a bit of investigation you learn that neither child is of the same ethnic background and neither are of the same race as the quite nervous driver, a man who’s forged license identifies him as a man named Tommy P. Terrorism. (You later learned the P. stands for Pedophile).

Fortunately, forward-thinking leaders in the deputy’s state decided to join the list of federated states, locations that have instant access, through INTERPOL, to a worldwide database of known, dangerous criminals. A quick check, much like the standard NCIC check conducted by officers across the U.S. (a check for wants and warrants, etc.), and our deputy discovers the driver of the car is wanted in a member country for the murder of 87 police officers. A “hit” from another country indicates the driver is also wanted for the abduction of small children. And, the guy is a known terrorist who’s wanted for the bombing of a school in his home country.

Without access to this database, the officer would need to detain the driver for a very long time, probably more than is constitutionally permitted, to investigate his suspicions. And that’s if anything at all could be learned without access to the international database. More often than not, officers have absolutely no way of knowing if the person they’ve encountered is wanted in another country. This database is VITAL to protecting the officers on the street, us, and our loved ones.

To help separate the various levels of danger and/or severity of crime and other information, INTERPOL maintains a color-coded system of alerts, a series of “wanted posters.” This is the information that’s distributed worldwide.

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Keep in mind, these notices (red, for example) are not a formal authorization to apprehend someone. In the U.S., we need a formal arrest document and even then it must be vetted by the Department of Justice prior to the arrest.

This database also includes the records of stolen vehicles and equipment (over 7 million), stolen and lost passports, proof of identity documents, visa, etc. (nearly 60 million), and even information about firearms used in commission of crimes.

Now we see how important federated searches can be. A quick call on the radio to is all it takes. The dispatcher will then send the request for information to one of the sharing systems, such as the NCB (see below).

One quick call could save the life of those little kids in the backseat of Tommy Terrorism’s car. And, that same radio call could be the one thing that saves the deputy’s life out there on that dark and deserted country road.

Now lets take a look at the member states. All 50 were eager to join this extremely important service, right?

Not even close.

The actual number is somewhere south of 15 U.S. states having federated status (Nebraska joined in January, 2017). Ironically, federated states report a far greater number of suspects they’ve implicated in major terror plots.

Again, the process is simple. Officers run a check on a person and the nearly instant results show either the person is wanted for something, or not. This is the same type of result that officers see each time they run a check on someone using U.S. databases. No secrets. Nothing nefarious or ominous.

A few states (less than 10) already have the necessary preparations in place, but still have not signed on. The remaining states (over half) have made no move toward becoming a federated state.

This is NOT part of the immigration controversy. Has nothing to do with it. NOTHING. Federated searches are strictly and totally about international criminals, and it’s been in place for a very long time.

Actually, the first INTERPOL “database,” was established is 1927. Introduced a year earlier, the National Central Bureau (NCB) stated that each country should form its own main point of contact for international inquiries. In the U.S., that point of contact is located in Washington D.C. (INTERPOL Washington, the United States National Central Bureau). The Washington Bureau is jointly managed by Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

Divisions of the Washington Bureau include, Drug Crimes, Economic Crimes, Fugitive and Alien, Counterterrorism, Human Trafficking, Violent Crimes, and more.

INTERPOL Facts

  • INTERPOL does not employ law enforcement officers.
  • INTERPOL uses four official languages to communicate with member countries—English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
  • INTERPOL does NOT contact private citizens. Any contact will be made via local law enforcement. If you are contacted by someone who says they’re an INTERPOL officer, well, that statement would be false. Call your local police to let them know.

 

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The Challenges of Policing in the Rain

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Before we dive into the meat of this article … a poem (sort of ).

Rain and Mud

Rain.

Mud.

Delightful, are the two.

Until it’s you, who,

Must roll and fight.

In the rain and mud,

To handcuff a thief.

Rain.

Mud.

Water,

Dripping from your nose,

Onto your clothes.

And handcuffs.

And gun.

Rain.

Mud.

Wet.

Slimy.

Cold.

Yucky.

Goo.

But,

The job is done.

Arrested.

Cuffed.

Stuffed.

And booked.

The bad guy,

Who stole a bun.

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Yes, the “poem” was cheesy and horrible, but it’s purpose is to begin the discussion about cops and rain. After all, it’s not always sunny and dry between book covers, right?

Hey, I’ll bet that chances are pretty good that you’ve not really given much thought to what it’s like to work in the rain as a police officer. Well, doing so presents its own unique challenges, such as:

  • Keeping your weapon and ammunition dry.
  • Preventing water from finding its way into your portable radio.
  • Struggling to apply handcuffs to the wet and slimy wrists of a soaking wet and muddy suspect.
  • Having to thoroughly clean mud from the locking mechanism of your handcuffs
  • Pursuits on wet roadways.
  • Blue light glare reflecting from raindrops and wet things (pavement, buildings, etc.).
  • Flashing lights, windshield wipers, blowing debris, radio chatter, suspect in back yelling, screaming, kicking, and spitting—all major distractions while driving.
  • Struggling with a suspect while wearing a long, bright yellow raincoat—nearly impossible.
  • Locating the rain cover for your hat. It’s not never in the spot where you normally keep it.
  • Trying to run after a suspect, through wet grass, puddles, mud, while wearing a police uniform and slick-bottom shoes—nearly impossible.
  • Hard rain makes it difficult to see … anything. Such as the guy with the gun who ran into the cemetery … at night.
  • Never fails. There will be a car crash during each and every rain storm. Directing traffic in the pouring rain is a horrible experience. And cold.
  • Protecting crime scene evidence from the elements without compromising or contaminating it.
  • When the shooting starts, having to instantly locate the pass- through pocket/gun slit in the long, bright yellow raincoat. Not the best time to figure out how this is done.
  • Catching an outdoor call the first few minutes of the shift and then wearing wet, cold clothing for the next ten hours. Believe me, the feel of icy-cool Kevlar and wet polyester against your body is no picnic.
  • K-9 officers have a set of their very own challenges—muddy paws and wet fur, for example. The stinky odor alone is enough to send our senses into rehab, and thats just the handlers. Wet dogs inside police cars also smell bad.

Well, they do …

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Writing Small Town Cops: Do You Have Barney-Fife-itis?

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What is Barney-Fife-itis, you ask? Well, lots of writers suffer from it, and it’s a horrible disease. Nasty, in fact.

The best way to describe it is to take you to a small town somewhere deep inside your imaginations, where this stuff lives and breeds like the black mold that hides beneath your bathroom vanity.

So lets go there, to that spot in your mind where …

Yes, it’s a small red-brick building nestled between Betty Lou’s Cut ‘n Curl and Smilin’ Bob’s Hardware and Pawn Shop. The lone parking space in front is reserved. A sign reads “Chief’s Parking Only.”

Inside, the hallway to the right takes you to the water department and the office of the building inspector. There, you can also purchase dog tags and yard sale permits.

A left turn leads to the town’s police department, a force comprised of five dedicated, hardworking police officers—one chief, one sergeant, two full-time officers, and one part-time guy who’s also the mayor of the next town over.

Complaints can be filed with the dispatcher at the window, or by dialing the local number. Calling 911 in Small Town works the same as calling 911 in New York City. Hmm … there is a tiny difference, though. When you call 911 in Small Town somebody always shows up to see what’s wrong. Not always so in Big City.

Small Town dispatchers also work the computer terminals and NCIC. They know CPR and they know everyone in town and the quickest routes to their houses.

Officers in Small Town attend the police academy and they receive the same training and certifications as the officers over in Big City. No, Small Town PD doesn’t have all the latest fancy equipment with the shiny, spinning dials and winking, blinking lights. They don’t have special detectives who only work homicides or white collar crime. And they don’t have divisions dedicated for traffic, vice, narcotics, and internal affairs. Budgets simply don’t allow it.

Officers in Small Town are cross-trained. They each know how to run radar, direct traffic, dust for fingerprints, interview suspects and witnesses, and they know how to investigate a murder. They work burglaries and assaults. They also arrest drunk drivers, drug dealers, people who abuse their spouses, rapists, pedophiles, and robbers. They break up fights, help kids cross the street safely, and they locate lost pets. And, if one of their officers  steps out of line they’ll straighten his butt out, too.

Of course, Small Town is totally fictional, but there are many actual small towns with small police departments. And those small departments work the same type cases as the departments in larger cities. No, not all departments are large enough to have officers who serve as detectives. But they all employ police officers who are fully capable of investigating any type of crime. And they do, from traffic offenses to murder. Sure, they perform the same work as a detective, but they do it while wearing a uniform instead of some fancy-smancy suit.

Yep, most small departments operate the same way as the large ones, just on a smaller scale.

For example:

The Yellow Springs, Ohio Police Department serves a village of slightly less than 4,000 residents. Therefore, the department is small. However, there’s a college in town and the village is located near Dayton and Springfield, which translates into the potential for a higher crime rate than would normally be found in a town that size. And, the potential for more crime means more proactive police work for the small number of officers.

The YSPD doesn’t have plainclothes detectives to investigate major crimes. Instead, as is the case with many small departments, uniformed officers investigate all crimes. Therefore, when an officer receives a call from the dispatcher they see it all the way through, from the 911 call through court, including evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, etc.

If the officers need additional help, or resources, they call on the sheriff’s office.

Remember, not all departments operate in the same manner. Some smaller departments DO have detectives, and those investigators may or may not wear a uniform. They could dress in a coat and tie, and they could have the title of detective, or investigator. If they’re a detective who wears a uniform their rank would normally remain the same. There is no standard rule. It’s entirely up to the individual department.

One other thing to remember—a police department and a sheriff’s office are not the same. Deputy sheriffs work for sheriffs, not police chiefs. But that’s a topic for another day.

Since the topic today is “small town departments” and the officers who work there … well, hold on to your hats because I’m about to make an earth shattering announcement! Ready?

Here goes.

Sure you’re ready? Are you sitting down? Have your nervous medicine in hand? Your doctor on speed dial?

Yes to all of the above? Okay, then. Here it is, and I’m holding nothing back. Not this time.

(One second. I’m taking a deep breath)

Okay, here’s the news …

Small town cops are the same as cops in big cities!

Yes, they are. I’ve said it and the secret is OUT!

They receive the same training. They do the same jobs. They go through similar hiring procedures. They enforce the same or similar laws. They use the same or similar equipment. And, well … to write them all as inferior, stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc. is not only absolutely and unequivocally wrong, it’s extremely offensive.

I’ve often wondered why some people assume that people who have little are to be considered inferior, or less intelligent when compared to those who have a lot. This is also true when considering law enforcement agencies. Those with the shiniest and best equipment are often seen as employing officers who are smarter than their peers who work for small town departments with meager budgets. Of course, this unfair stereotyping occurs throughout most walks of life.

Try breaking it down in this way:

  • Small Town, a town of 4,000 residents, employs five police officers. Those five officers provide police protection and coverage for those 4,000 citizens.
  • Big City, a city of 100,000 employs 125 officers.
  • Break down the number from Big City into three shifts (day, night, and rotating for the off hours of the other shifts) and you wind up with just over 40 officers per shift.
  • Now, since Big City covers a much larger land area than Small Town, officials divided Big City into 8 precincts.
  • Each of the eight precincts covers a land area the size of Small Town.
  • Each precinct employs … wait for it … FIVE officers.
  • Some of those precincts have 4,000 residents, or more, including the extremely high-crime areas. Therefore, these precincts of 4,000 residents are covered by five police officers, which is the same scenario that plays out in every small town and city across the country.
  • Many small town police officers attend the same police academies as their peers in larger cities. In fact, they’re often classmates in the same academy. And, their instructors are the same, their desks are the same, and the equipment used is identical.

Anyway, budget, land area, and location are the major differences. Not intelligence or training.

*The above scenario is fictional. I merely used it to illustrate the point. It is, however, a loosely accurate portrayal.

Let’s continue to explore our small town department.

YSPD dispatcher.

NCIC and other equipment.

Above – Felony traffic stop in a small town. The procedure is the same in both large and small departments.

Issuing a traffic summons in a small town is no different, other than surroundings, than the same situation in a larger jurisdiction.

An arrest is the same no matter where it takes place. Tactics and techniques are identical. So is training.

Small departments may not have the latest, modern equipment, such as LiveScan fingerprint terminals. Instead, they still use the old ink and ten-print cards. Both produce the same results.

Ten-print fingerprinting station.

Small departments collect and preserve evidence using the same methods and materials as do larger departments.

Evidence storage is the same, but is on a smaller scale in smaller departments.

YSPD evidence room office/processing area.

Evidence safe in a small department (for narcotics, etc.).

YSPD officer’s workstation/office.

Small departments follow the same procedures as any other department. The job is identical to that of a big city officer, just in a different location.

Interior of a YSPD patrol car. Some cars feature mobile data terminals (computers), and some don’t.

~

As always, please check with experts in the area where your story takes place. Those are the people who can best help with your research. Not someone who once read a book about how cops work in small towns. Obviously, to read incorrect information and then pass it along is, well, it doesn’t make the details any more accurate. Wrong is wrong.

To do so would be no different than me reading a book on brain surgery and then telling you about so you can then operate on your readers and fans. Reading a book about something does not make someone a crackerjack on that particular subject. However, actual experience and training does indeed produce experts.

Otherwise, we still see “Guess-perts” (the folks with no real experience or training) telling authors to write small town cops as “Barney Fifes,” when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know, there are “Barneys” in many departments (other professions as well), but they’re not exclusive to small towns. It’s just that they’re far more obvious when they’re one of only five officers citizens see every single day.

So, if you’re going for accuracy, the best advice for you, my writer friends, is to …

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen

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Officer Houston James Largo, 27

Navajo Tribal Police – Public Safety Division

March 12, 2017 – Officer Houston James Largo was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call.

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Trooper Brian S. Falb

New York State Police

March 13, 2017 – Trooper Brian Falb died as a result of cancer he developed after his extensive involvement in the search and rescue efforts at the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Trooper Falb is survived by his wife and four children.

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Officer Michael Hance, 44

New York City Police Department

March 12, 2017 – Officer Michael Hance died as a result of cancer he developed after his extensive involvement in the search and rescue efforts at the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Officer Hance is survived by his two daughters.

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