Dairy Farmers

In the coming weeks, dairy farmers from each county in the continental U.S. will begin the arduous task of reviewing all mystery and thriller books. Yes, these farmers, cow pokes, and manure-movers will put down their pitchforks, switch off their John Deere tractors, and begin turning pages. Yet, and I think it’s safe to say, most have absolutely no experience as editors or writers. In fact, some of them have probably never read an entire mystery book, like I’ve never read books on farming. Not one. Still, county, city, and state governments have decided that the bovine farmers will have the final say as to whether or not your books will make it, or not.

Actually, a single thumbs-down review by “Mort the Morning Milker” will result in the author’s banishment from writing, confiscation of all computers and pens and paper, and the immediate termination of internet service (no more Facebook or Twitter). It’s the law because elected officials say it’s the law, and they know best, right?

Anyway, you, as a writer, if banished by the milkers, will be immediately ejected from all writing organizations and critique groups. In short, your life’s dream and career will soon be in the hands of people who don’t have a flippin’ clue about your vocation.

Is it fair? Certainly not. But I understand that soon to follow will be landscapers critiquing the landing techniques of jet pilots. Daycare employees are on schedule to begin pointing out flaws in the design of all ballistic missile submarines. Me…well, my first order of business is to have someone round out the corners on Picasso’s The Three Musicians (people don’t have square and rectangular legs, you know).

Absurd, huh? Doggone right it’s absurd. Crazy even.

So I ask you, then, what on earth makes officials in the city of Pasadena, Ca. think the average “Joe and Jane Citizen” are qualified to determine whether or not a police officer is justified in his/her decision to use force? Who knows, but that’s exactly what they’re planning to do (have police review boards made up entirely of average citizens).

Honestly, it’s difficult enough for those of us who’ve worked in the field to come to those conclusions. However, as experts using many years of training and experience as a basis for our determinations, we can generally place ourselves in a position similar to what the officer(s) in question faced at the time of the incident.

A civilian, however, who’s most likely never been in a physical confrontation of any kind, especially one where the use of deadly force is necessary, has no experience or training to draw on as a basis for forming a logical and educated conclusion. Mostly what they have to go on is someone’s testimony or written words, and possibly a video or aftermath photos, and that’s it. And that’s not enough. Not even close.

Perception of threat, escape, harm, etc. at the exact time of an incident is a crucial factor when determining when or if to use force. How an officer (or anyone else for that matter) perceives an immediate (imminent) threat is also crucial when determining what level of force is necessary.

Is this guy going to escape and harm someone else? Is this person going to harm me? Is this person who’s holding what appears to be a weapon…well, is he going to kill me if I don’t stop him?

How long does an officer have to make those determinations? Sometimes a fraction of a second—not even a whole second…think about it—, and it is extremely difficult for a police review board to know what an officer experienced at the exact moment the incident occurred. But police officers usually have some idea because they’ve “been there, done that” even if it was only in a training capacity. It is, however, IMPOSSIBLE for an untrained, inexperienced civilian—a “Mort The Milker”—to sit in a meeting room several weeks after a legitimate use of force incident occurred and make any sort of educated determination based solely on photos, videos, statements, etc.

Nope, these decisions cannot be accurately made by an average civilian any more than the average Mort The Milker should be scrutinizing the latest Dean Koontz novel, hunting for dangling modifiers and the correct usage of lay and lie. I do agree, however, that strong checks and balances be in place. And I agree that they should be utilized whenever needed. Err on the side caution. Review all cases, if necessary. But the reviews should be conducted by people with education and/or experience in the field.

One way civilians can educate themselves is to sign up to shoot FATS (firearms training simulator) or a similar system. And when they do, it’ll take approximately two minutes to make a believer out of them. In fact, ask anyone who’s participated in the FATS training at the Writers’ Police Academy. Lots of doubting writers enter the room as skeptics, but they come out believers in having to experience “the moment” to truly understand.

Use of force is a serious matter, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nor should force be used unnecessarily and/or without justification. Never.

BUT…dairy farmers should stick to what they know best, milking cows. And Joe and Jane Citizen should do the same (stick to what they know), and leave policing to those who know the business. Unless, Joe and Jane want to and are able to take the time to learn about what it is they’re tasked to judge. And they must leave emotions and media opinions at the door, along with their own personal beliefs about police officers. This would not be the time to seek revenge for receiving a traffic ticket. After all, we’re talking about someone’s life, and someone’s dreams, and someone’s career, and someone’s family. And it could all be over with a “thumbs down” verdict by a citizen with a vendetta. But, if the officer was indeed wrong in his actions, then so be it. And the truth will come out without a lot of digging.

I believe the fair way to handle this is to have a panel consisting of both civilians and police officers. But with the mixed panel comes the possibility of a draw, and who gets the job as tie-breaker?

I, for one, know what it’s like to have bullets zinging by your head. I also know what it’s like to use deadly force, and it’s a gut-wrenching experience—both killing someone and then waiting to hear, even though I knew, that the shoot was justified.

Still, I’m comfortable in knowing I did the right thing in that particular situation. No doubt whatsoever.

What I’m not comfortable with, though, is dairy farming, because I know nothing about it, which is why you’ll never hear of me passing judgement on Mort’s milking mannerisms.

Now, Pablo, about that painting…you do know that people don’t have eyes on the side of the head, right? And the nose, it goes between the eyes…geez…

At no time were any cows, writers, or dairy farmers hurt during the writing of this article. Also, any implication that farmers or writers are less than intelligent, well, that’s your conclusion, not mine. Some of my best friends and family members are farmers and they’re far more successful than I could ever hope to be….an theys probly better righters than me too.

A recipe for PTSD

Ever wonder what it’s like to kill someone? Well, I don’t have that worry. You know the saying…been there, done that. And I’ve lived with the dead guy’s soul scrabbling around inside my head ever since.

I never thought about this sort of thing until it happened to me. And it didn’t take long to realize that once I’d pulled the trigger, sending bullets on their way, that was it. I couldn’t call them back. Nope, no “all e all ye in come free’s.” Not that I would’ve called them back, mind you. Not even one of them. It’s just that I sometimes wonder how life would be today if I’d never squeezed the trigger on my SIG P228.

Okay, enough what-if’s. Let’s get right to it. Here’s how I came about killing a guy on a blistering hot August day back in 1995.

The morning started off with me sitting in my office thumbing through a stack of offense reports from the previous night. Nothing special, a few drunks, some minor drug activity, a couple of break-ins, and the usual domestic he said-she saids.

Then it happened. The 911 call and silent alarm, both coming in at the same time. A young man—22-years-old—walked into a bank and pointed a long-barrel revolver at one of the tellers. He grabbed all the money he could carry in a white, wrinkled, plastic grocery bag, and then turned and calmly walked out the front door. The entire robbery took place in less than ten minutes.  The teller was left a trembling and tearful mess. An extremely traumatic experience for her. Victim number one.

The robber fled the scene and, unfortunately for him, he wrecked his car trying to escape. Five of us cornered the guy in a culvert beside his car—three patrol officers, one special agent from one of those “three-letter-agencies,” and me. I was dressed for court, wearing a coat and tie, which is not exactly the perfect outfit for exchanging gunfire with a bad guy on one of the hottest days of the year.

The robber had no intention of surrendering, and decided to shoot it out with us. Big mistake for him.

Four officers took cover at the top of a highway exit ramp, just above and out of the robber’s line of sight. I was closest to the gunman—twenty-five yards away to his left. My only cover was a small maple tree—a very, very small maple tree. At the time it seemed like a toothpick with only a few leaves.

The robber crouched down near the rear bumper of his car, where I watched him load his weapon—an old revolver. I yelled, begging him to drop the gun and come to us with his hands up. He ignored my orders and fired a shot toward my fellow officers on the hilltop.

The sound of his gunshot activated my brain’s slow-motion function. Time was crawling to a stop.

Somehow, and I still can’t explain it, I actually had time to look around before reacting to the gunshot. I saw my partners yelling, their mouths slowly opening and closing. Lazy puffs of blue-black smoke drifted upward from their gun barrels. I saw a dog barking to my right—its head rose and fell with each silent yap, moving slower than dial-up internet. Droplets of spittle hung in the air around its face.

I turned back to the robber, thinking “center mass,” and took aim, firing a single shot through the rear, side glass of the car and into the side of his head (that’s the only part of the body I could see at the time). He fell over onto his right side. I thought it was all over. Instead, the robber popped back up, smiling like a crazed zombie-like psycho. He fired four more times, pausing a few seconds between shots. This time I had a better view of him and answered each of his shots with one of my own, all directly into his chest. He fell each time a round hit, but only stayed down for a second.

car.jpg

Bullet hole in the rear glass from my shot. The large hole in the side of the car is from a slug fired from an officer’s shotgun.

After the fifth bullet hit him, he hit the ground and didn’t move.

Silence.

I called to everyone on my portable radio, letting them know it was over.

Suddenly, the robber jumped up and ran toward the officers on the hill. I ran after him. He stumbled, and I and a sheriff’s captain who’d just arrived on the scene, tackled him. We rolled the struggling robber over trying to gain control of his hands so we could apply handcuffs to his wrists. That’s when we saw that he still clutched the revolver in his right hand. He was squeezing the trigger repeatedly, but the gun was empty.

To this day, I can still hear the click, click, click of the hammer each time it fell.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered…suppose there had been one more round in that gun? Just one more round. What if…?

Yep, one more round in that revolver and I probably wouldn’t be here typing these words.

robber.jpg

Paramedics with wounded bank robber.

The bank robber died a few moments later. I’d killed him. And that’s when my troubles started. You see, our chief didn’t believe in counseling and de-briefing. No post-shooting administrative leave. So I was left to fend for myself. Tough cops were supposed to handle whatever came their way. My chief actually told me that a real cop would just suck it up. In fact, his way to help me avoid “mental issues” as he called it, was to send me to the morgue to photograph the robber’s body and to remove the handcuffs from his wrists. I wasn’t even given the rest of the day off.

The robber died that August morning, and his soul left for wherever it is that troubled souls go. But a part of my emotions were tethered to him, and it was several years before they returned.

A couple of weeks after the shooting, my partner and I met with the medical examiner (this was the same medical examiner’s office where Patricia Cornwell based her Kay Scarpetta series). Even though I watched each of my bullets travel through the air until they hit the robber’s flesh (those who shoot a lot sometimes have this ability), it still hit like a ton of bricks when she told me that all five of the rounds that hit the man’s body were indeed fired by me.

The famous pathologist spared no details when she described the damage caused by each bullet, telling me which rounds inflicted the life-stopping wounds. Actually, either of the last four rounds I’d fired would have killed him. The first…the round that entered the side of the robber’s head and exited near the jawline, well, surprisingly, that one wasn’t fatal. Sure, it made two nice little holes and knocked out a few teeth and ripped through tongue and other meat and tissue, but he’d have lived if only he hadn’t continued to shoot at us.

All he had to do was stay down. Toss the gun away. Give up. Just STOP SHOOTING and he would’ve lived. I would not have been forced to squeeze my trigger those last four times.

Yes, I recall firing each of the five rounds. Still can, just like it was yesterday. I smell the smells. Hear the sounds. Feel the heat. It’s with me every day of my life.

In the beginning, the dead guy only visited me during my sleep. Soon, he grew restless and figured if he couldn’t sleep, then neither would I. He visited me while I was at work. And he showed up during my off time. He walked with me while I mowed the grass, and he accompanied me to the store. His voice taunted me. His spirit tickled the hairs on the back of my neck just to let me know he was in the backseat as I drove my unmarked police car.

This was no downward spiral. No time for something that easy. This was a freefall straight to hell. Fortunately, just before I hit bottom I sought help on my own. And it took a few years to climb and crawl out of that dark pit, but I made it back and I actually think I’m a stronger person because of the experience. If nothing else, I have a real-life horror story to share.

Sixty-eight rounds of ammunition were fired during this shootout. The robber was hit five times, all five rounds were fired by me.  One police car was destroyed by gunfire. No police officers were injured by gunfire. However, soon after that day, one officer suffered a heart attack and died. He was 44. Two officers quit. Another died before he turned 55. An officer that showed up during the firefight died a few years later. None of us had received any de-briefing or counseling. None of us are in police work today.

Five more victims. Three dead. Three to go…

me-at-car.jpg

Police car destroyed by gunfire. That’s me with the cop/porn-star mustache. This photo was taken by a newspaper photographer just minutes after the robber succumbed to his wounds.

*This is a repeat post, but I’m currently traveling with no time spare time to write. I will, however, be checking in throughout the day. I’ll be back on Wednesday.

*     *     *

Hurry! Registration for the 2012 WPA will soon be closing.

Writers’ Police Academy

Viper the drug dog dies

The past twelve months have been the warmest ever. Well, they’re the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1895. And, the first half of 2012 (January – June) has been the steamiest first six months of any year on record. Again, since 1895.

All those hot days in the baking sun cause my little pea-size brain to churn a little more than usual, making me wonder if the heat has any real effect on the crime rate and types of crime committed. For example, the past couple of weeks have certainly been scorchers. I see a few heads nodding out there so it must be hot where you are too. Actually, the only place in the continental U.S. where the mercury hasn’t been bumping against the top of the tube is in Washington state, but weird crime is already the norm up there in the top left of the country.

But down here in the real meat of the U.S., things are a little crazy—a man lost his genitals in a freaky fireworks explosion, a woman was shot while dancing with an off-duty cop, a woman high on bath salts attacked a nurse and a police officer, a man beat a two-year-old with a wire coat hanger, a man was found guilty of raping his own mother on Mother’s Day, and a man was sentenced to 11 years for a drug case where a police dog named Viper bit into a package containing cocaine. Sadly, the dog died from ingesting a fatal amount of the drug.

Sure, the dog accidentally bit the package, and I’ll discuss this in a moment, but the part of the story that grabbed my attention lies within the comments made by people regarding the dog’s death, and the fact that 200 people attended the canine’s funeral.

I wonder if it is because of the extreme heat that everyone seems to be so angry about, well, everything. Here, we have a dog doing what he was trained to do…yet, people attack the story as if…well, you be the judge.

The comments below were posted on the Huffington Post regarding the story of the narcotics dog that died from cocaine ingestion:

– The dog was not trained properly

– I NEVER call a cop when I need help. If your lucky, cops leave the situation as they found it. Usually, they make the situation worse.

– The cop is guilty of reckless endangerment for putting the dog in that position.

– I am sorry but this is so over reactionary it is ridiculous. Its a dog.

– I’m kind of surprised that there was this much public support/outcry for the death of a police dog.

– people do not realize this = police dogs are given coke as puppies to get them addicted=thats why they can sniff out the yummy coke

– drug dogs are junkies by the age of 1month=very sad

– Poorly trained dog… good thing it wasn’t explosives…. BOOM !!!

– These gutless cops send dogs in when they are afraid of a situation, then mourn the death like it’s a human. And don’t get me started on cop funerals. Just another excuse to travel on the taxpayer’s buck……

– I think the dog might of had some addiction to cocaine already, I am serious…

– Clearly an improperly trained dog and handler…that’s what we get for hiring “people” with the IQ of a doorknob to police our cities.

– All on duty cops get double time for funerals in most areas. Ensures a big turn out.

– The handler taught the dog to be violent and thats what happens.

– THIS THE QUESTION FOR ALL STUPID COP LOVERS………..READ CAREFULLY AND THEN REPLY…………………………WHEN YOUR DRIVING AND LOOK IN YOUR REAR VIEW MIRROR AND SEE A COP CAR….DO YOU FEEL SAFE? OR ARE YOU SCARED OF THE MEN IN BLUE?

– I HAVE NEVER BEEN HELPED BY A COP. I DON’T KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN HELPED. I DO KNOW MANY PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN HURT BY COPS AS THEY HAVE THERE OWN RULES…..

– What ??!!?? The cop ordered some cocaine, which is against the law, and then induced the guy to deliver it to him! Then the criminal cop’s stupid dog ate the cocaine and the GUY goes to jail for 11 years? The cop should be jailed for animal cruelty! It’s time to put these cops in their place. Cut their wages, no more health care from the taxpayers, and no more pension benefits. Some of these cops get $100,000 a year!

And I agree with a commenter’s characterization of the crowd at the dog’s funeral: the clueless 200! GET A LIFE! People compalin about high taxes, then we have to put up with clown behavior like this!

– heres another dead animal because some lameass with a gun and badge was too lazy. anyone who hides behind a dog to do their job is a coward! if you cant do the job yourself, you shouldnt be working at all!

Okay, you get the idea. These comments went on, page after page after page. And it’s quite obvious that none of these people have a clue how narcotics dogs are trained to find drugs.

First of all, the dogs are never given drugs of any kind to ingest. Actually, the dogs are trained to find a toy, which is later used as a reward for finding drugs. Yes, it’s all a game to these hyper-energetic canines. To them, life is all about the toy. Nothing else matters, with the exception of their handler, and he/she fits in merely because he’s the keeper of the toy. Toy, Toy, Toy!. It’s all about the toy!

During the times when these dogs are not finding drugs, they’re with their handlers, who, by the way, are required to exercise and play with their dogs many times each day, seven days a week. They bath them, feed them, provide water, and clean their kennels. And they train every single day. In the end, after all that…it’s still all about the toy and the game…Play, Play, Play!

When I was in the Virginia State Police Academy, we trained our canines to find a rolled white towel. That was the dog’s toy, and they would climb the highest mountain to find it, and they did so because finding it always resulted in a cool game of tug with the handler.

Eventually, the towels were scented with the odor of a particular drug (we trained our dogs to locate four different drugs—marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth). Never were the dogs allowed to come anywhere near the real thing. And, by the way, the scents were pseudo-scents.

So, the dog finds the drug and now he’s extremely excited because he gets to play as a reward for doing a good job. And, without fail, the handler tosses out the towel (or whatever toy is used) and the games begin until the handler is out of breath (the dogs never tire).

Drug dogs are not taught to bite, chew, or even touch a drug. Some dogs, however, are trained to bark and scratch at the area where the drugs are found. Others are trained to sit the second they find a drug.

I believe what probably happened in Viper’s case, was that the animal was so excited and worked up, knowing he was about to play his favorite game, that he bit the package thinking it was his toy. I’m also sure it all happened in a split second, before the handler had a chance to pull his dog away from the danger.

I don’t believe this was a case of negligence, poor training, etc. Actually, I think the dog was doing exactly as it had been trained to do.

Unfortunately, the accident happened and Viper lost his life merely because he wanted to play his favorite game with his favorite person in the entire world.

Still, why all the anger and hatred in the comments? Is it just me, or is this the growing trend, to spew words of hate and anger in every direction without care of the consequences?

Personally, I think everyone should learn a lesson from drug dogs…life is short, so play with your toys and love your handlers, before it’s too late to enjoy them.

Presidents Battle

The fight over medical marijuana is a battle with several fronts. Many states and local governments have chosen to legalize the drug’s use to help alleviate pain associated with disease, and as treatment for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and other conditions. The federal government, however, has classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, Ecstacy, and Methaqualone (Quaaludes)—drugs having no medical value—and, as a result, do not recognize local authority to legalize pot use and sale.

To say the local governments and the feds have butt heads over the issue would be putting it mildly. Instead, the two are basically at war, with local officials giving their stamp of approval on medical marijuana stores, only to find the feds (the three-letter law enforcement agencies) kicking in the doors of those very same businesses.

Well, those three-letter agencies, backed by the U.S. Attorney General, have armed themselves with a very subtle “bomb.” Now, in addition to “door-kicking” raids, the feds are targeting the landlords who own the buildings where medical marijuana businesses are housed.

Federal law enforcement officials are putting the squeeze on those property owners to evict their pot-selling tenants or face losing their real estate through a civil asset-forfeiture program. As recently as this month (June, 2012) federal prosecutors have filed to seize three such buildings in Santa Fe Springs, California. Which three businesses is not clear since the selection there is many. For example, a quick online search turned up these medical marijuana dispensaries in the Santa Fe Springs area.

420 Go Green Dispensary

• 12145 Slauson Ave # B

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 696-6500

AP Natural Solutions

9841 Alburtis Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 991-9393

Tri-City Patients Association

13844 Rosecrans Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 921-8300

Deeply Rooted

8807 Pioneer Boulevard

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 699-6800

Humboldt Wholesale

12513 Shoemaker Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 946-7744

Santa Fe Compasionate Health Center

13128 Telegraph Road

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 941-1111

California Alternative Healing Center

10802 Norwalk Boulevard

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 237-7638

Whittier Hop Collective

8116 Byron Road

Whittier

(562) 945-2420

Federal prosecutors have also sent out hundreds of letters to other property owners giving them the option of booting their tenants or face losing their property in civil proceedings (civil-forfeiture statute allows the government to seize any property used to commit or facilitate drug trafficking).

This method of enforcing federal law (mailing property-seizure notices) is far less expensive than sending a raid team over to each location to kick in their doors, bag and tag all evidence, haul it away, store it, and then have officers and agents, prosecutors, judges, jurors, clerks, bailiffs, and defendants in court for weeks at a time. So far, over 200 landlords have complied with the notices by evicting their pot-selling tenants.

Another tactic used by the feds is to scare banks into not doing business with medical marijuana outfits. By threatening those institutions with civil actions, many marijuana companies have been forced to operate on a “cash-only” basis, much like street dealers.

And all this comes just a few short years after presidential candidate Obama promised he would respect state laws regarding medical marijuana. Well, not only is he targeting medical marijuana dispensaries and the people who own the property, his administration has:

– denied a petition to re-classify/reschedule marijuana despite evidence that the drug does indeed have medical value.
– issued a statement that says medical marijuana patients may not purchase firearms.
– the IRS is going after pot providers based on obscure drug trafficking laws.
– prosecutors have threatened to arrest state employees for enforcing state laws regarding medical marijuana.
– threatened to target newspapers that run ads for medical marijuana businesses.

I’m not saying that I’m for or against the legalization of marijuana. What I am asking, is…why not? Why the big push against something that over half the citizens in this country want to see legalized, especially for medical use when it can help a dying cancer patient live pain free during his last days on this earth.

What are your thoughts? Legalize pot use, or not?

*DEA photos. Information source – HuffPo/Scott Morgan – Obama Must Explain His Broken Promise on Medical Marijuana, and Soon…and, of course, my brain and experience, for what that’s worth.

Rodney King: The Irony

In 1991, law enforcement in the United States would forever be changed thanks to two unsuspecting people, a 25-year-old black man named Rodney King, and a bystander with a video camera.

King, intoxicated to a point over twice the legal limit, was driving home from a friend’s house when police officers attempted to pull him over for traffic violations. Already on probation for a previous DUI and a robbery conviction, King did as many do who fear repeated incarceration…he tried to outrun the police. The pursuit involving several marked police cars and a helicopter, wound through Los Angeles neighborhoods until King finally decided to call it quits. He pulled over.

Two passengers in King’s car were arrested without incident. King, as we all know, was not. An incident definitely ensued. Officers attempted to arrest and handcuff Mr. King, who refused. The next tactic was to deploy a Taser. It was somewhere around this time when a witness to the increasing commotion, George Holliday, decided to switch on his video recorder, and the scene he captured would soon rock the nation.

Five officers, Sgt. Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano, used their batons to strike King at least 56 times. And if that wasn’t enough, sometime during the brutal beating, King also received six kicks to his body.

According to a subsequent lawsuit, King’s injuries amounted to nearly a dozen skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney damage, and severe emotional trauma. King almost died as a result of his injuries.

The incident (and acquittal of the fives officers) prompted the L.A. riots where fifty-five people were killed and over 2,000 more were injured.

At some point during the riot King spoke via a news conference, stating his now famous words, “Can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?” The rioting stopped.

King sued the city of L.A. and won a 3.8 million-dollar settlement, most of which King said he lost in bad investments.

During the years after the 1991 incident, King seemed to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and continued to have run-in’s with police (11 arrests for domestic violence, threatening to kill his daughter and his daughter’s mother, DUI, reckless driving, and drug offenses). In 2007, he was shot in the face and torso.

After all he had endured (most of it of his own accord), King, an extremely troubled man, still seemed to find a light at the end of every tunnel. He had this to say in an interview earlier this year, “America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all. This part of my life is the easy part now.”

It remains to be seen if substance abuse contributed to the events of this week, when Mr. King was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool in his back yard.

Cynthia Kelly, King’s girlfriend, who was also a jury member in “the trial” that awarded the 3.8 million-dollars to King, called police after hearing what she said sounded like a fall (a table, or something) and a splash. Kelly told police that she ran outside and saw Rodney King at the bottom of the pool, so she threw a shovel in the water to hopefully wake him. Kelly cannot swim.

Kelly made a point to tell the police dispatcher that it was Rodney King, the man who police had beaten, therefore the responding officers knew exactly what to expect when they arrived. They knew it was Rodney King, THE Rodney King, at the bottom of the pool.

Still, the first officers on the scene did what all officers are supposed to do…whatever it takes to save a life. They dove into the pool, in uniform, and pulled out the lifeless body of the man whose unfortunate interaction with police in 1991 sparked the worst riot in L.A. history. They knew the man at the bottom of that pool was the man who, for over two decades, has sat alone at the dividing line between black citizens and white police officers.

Then those officers did the unthinkable…the unexpected as many would like to believe. They performed CPR on King, giving their all to revive THE Rodney King, the black man who many thought was hated by nearly all law-enforcement officers.

Yes, those police officers, the first responders, attempted to save Rodney King’s life.

Yes, this week, the ragged ends of a tragic circle finally met, when officers wearing the same uniforms as the men who so badly beat that 25-year-old black man back in 1991, did their best to save THE Rodney King. But it was too late. There was no saving King. Not this time. At 47, he died, leaving a world that’s probably not in any better shape than it was the night he decided to lead police on a high-speed pursuit through dimly-lit back streets of L.A.

Unfortunately, history tells us there will be other “Rodney Kings” in the news…Trayvon Martin is possibly the latest, and the country is currently waiting to see and hear if there’s indeed a message mired somewhere in that convoluted tragedy.

And, unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see the day when Rodney King’s hope that we all get along will ever come to fruition. But wouldn’t it be nice if someday there was peace throughout the world?

Wouldn’t it?

Well, fortunately, there are no officer deaths to report this week, and that’s the good news among all the other—Jerry Sandusky, another naked cannibal/zombie, butcher dismembers drug dealer using work knives, freeway beatings, man shoots at lawyer, woman starves teen daughter to death, strangled baby found in freezer, and mother injects daughter with heroin over 200 times.

Seriously, what’s wrong with people?

Why can’t we all get along?

*Justin Hoch photo – file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Police officers: More than meets the eye

Sure, you break a law and you’ll soon find out what it is that cops do best. But, the men and women who patrol your streets do more than arrest bad guys. For starters (and this list is FAR from being complete):

1. Cops Helping Kids – police officers host an annual fishing tournament to raise money for the Garth House, a children’s advocacy center that provides a safe have for children who’ve been subjected to severe physical or mental abuse.

2. Cops For Kids With Cancer – officers from several departments don ice skates for a tournament and raffle to help kids suffering from cancer.

3. Shop With a Cop – Local cops raise money to buy Christmas presents for kids who otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts. The officers actually take the kids shopping to pick out the items they’d most enjoy.

4. Cops Helping Unique Kids (C.H.U.K.) – Officers host a day of fun and games followed by a 5K run. Proceeds benefit children with cerebral palsy.

5. Philadelphia Police Athletic League Cop Helping Kids – The PPAL supervises 26 kid centers across the city. Each of the centers is directly supervised by an officer (on their own time). Programs feature sports, cultural, and educational opportunities. 100’s of volunteers make this a unique and wonderful experience for the youth of Philadelphia.

6. Cops Helping Kids Succeed – The National Police Athletic League is recognized as the largest juvenile crime prevention program in the nation. PAL provides safe, healthy alternatives for children from high risk neighborhoods.

7. Vouchers – Cops in Kitsap, Washington pass out vouchers to families with kids in need. The vouchers are redeemable at local businesses for items such as clothes, food and school supplies.

8. PAL NYC – is New York City’s largest independent youth development not-for-profit organization that operates head start/day care, after-school, evening teen, summer day camp, youth employment, truancy prevention, juvenile justice and re-entry, city-wide sports, play streets and part-time centers, food service, and adventure learning programs for pre-school kids, children and adolescents ages 3 to 19. It’s in its 95th year of service (excerpt from the PAL NYC site).

9. Badges For Baseball – Cal Ripkin, Sr. and the Justice Department partnered to form this organization that pairs police and kids together by playing softball and baseball, building a bond between the youth and the officers.

10. Cops Helping Kids Block Party – Sponsored by police, this all day block party features food, music, and fun. Proceeds benefit children in need.

11. California Police Youth Charities – Focusing on “at risk” kids between the ages of 6 and 18 years of age, the CPYU offers fun activities run by positive role models (uniformed police officers and professional athletes from various California pro teams). The CPYU stresses education and respect for others.

12. Law Enforcement Torch Run – the Torch Run is a running event in which officers and athletes carry the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions. In 2011, the Torch Run raised more than $42 million for the Special Olympics.

More than 85,000 police officers participate in the Torch Run.

* These twelve causes I’ve listed are a mere drop in the bucket to the multitude of good deeds performed by law enforcement officers all across the country, on their own time, without pay. And I haven’t mentioned all the instances where officers performed CPR on strangers, risked their lives to pull victims from burning buildings and cars, step in the way of danger to save others, rush into gunfire while others are running away, and listen to verbal abuse from people who simply just don’t get it.

* Top photo is of Capt. Ted Carter, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), handing off the Special Olympics Torch to Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Cotton.

Zombie Alerts

Thanks to video games, movies, TV, and some books, I’ve had to spend a fair amount of time over the past few years convincing my grandson that zombies aren’t real. My words, although not always totally satisfying, seemed to at least put the issue at bay…until the next TV show or video game featuring the living dead. Finally, as he got older, zombie fear died away (no pun intended).

Well, my grandson’s zombie alert system sounded the alarm again on May 26, 2012. It came without warning, too. No advance notice. And no chance to prepare. Besides, the little fellow is too young to possess explosives and machetes (for head-lopping). He doesn’t drive (everyone knows that running over a zombie will “kill” it). His mother won’t allow him to play with matches. And, at 10, he’s not quite strong enough to bludgeon the walking dead to its second death.

So, desperate to implement the ultimate protection against the latest wave of zombie attacks, my grandson’s first choice was to call me. Sure, good ‘ol grandpa would know what to do. And to show you just how smooth and all-knowing I am, here’s how the call went.

“I thought you said zombies aren’t real.”

“They’re not.”

“Yes they are.”

“No they’re not.”

“Uh, huh.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Well, the man on the news just said there’s a naked man eating another man’s face.”

“He was probably kidding.”

“He wasn’t kidding. They showed it on the news. A man is eating the guy’s face. And he growled at the cop who tried to stop him, and the cop shot him, but he kept eating, and the cop shot him again, and he still kept eating, and the cop kept shooting.” The excited boy took a deep breath… “And you know why the guy kept eating after the cop shot him?”

Having not seen the daily news and expecting a punch line, I asked, “No, why?”

“CAUSE HE”S A ZOMBIE!”

So, it was time to start the “no-such-thing-as-zombies” speech all over again. This time, however, I had a few major hurdles to overcome. Yes, a totally nude man (Rudy Eugene) had indeed chowed-down on another man’s face. And he’d growled like a starving beast when the officer approached. Hmm…

You know, it did take six shots to stop the feeding frenzy. Suddenly, I was beginning to wonder…had my grandson been right all along? Were zombies real after all?

Then, more zombie-esque stories began to pop up.

– Alexander Kinyua, a 21-year-old Morgan State University student, killed his roommate and then ate his heart and part of his brains.

– A Swedish medical university employee became suspicious that his wife was having an affair so he cut off her lips and ate them.

– Luka Rocco Magnotta packaged dismembered body parts and then mailed them to various people.

And then, to top it all off, Mao Sugiyama, a self-described “asexual” chef from Tokyo, had surgery to remove his genitals, and then cooked and served them to five PAYING dinner guests (refined zombies who prefer a piping hot meal that includes button mushrooms?).

Oh, we mustn’t forget the New Jersey man who, just last week, stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines and flesh at police.

Well, until the internet and cellphone cameras, the general public rarely saw the side of society that’s now and always has been fairly commonplace—murder and real-life macabre. Police officers, though, see those things as part of their everyday, run-of-the-mill, work day. People kill. They dismember. They bite of ears, fingers, toes, and even penises. And cops see it all, including cannibalism. That’s right, cannibalism is nothing new to humans (have you forgotten about Dahmer and Albert Fish?).

But growling at police officers while consuming the face of a still-living human being? Or restaurant patrons settling down to a plate of fresh chef parts?

Me? Well, I’ll pass on the lip linguine and the genital stir-fry. But you can bet your last dollar that I’m stocking up on matches and machetes. And my car is full of gas in case I need to make speed bumps out of a couple of brain-hungry, mindless “gotta’ eat flesh” zombies.

I think my grandson may have been right after all. So I’m now on high “Zombie Alert.” I’m watching everyone closely for that “telltale look.” Who knows, they could be anywhere…the bank teller, the guy in the hardware store, or the grocery store clerk.

I think I’ll make a nice sturdy hat to protect my brain.

Now where did I put that aluminum foil?

 

Cops: They did...What?

Good or bad, sometimes the stories are almost unbelievable. Such as…

Dorset police save words of blind author who wrote 26 pages after pen ran out. Police officers used forensic techniques to recover the words. The process took a whopping five months to complete, and all during their lunch hours.

Richlands, N.C. – The chief of the Richlands police department has lost his police certification because he failed the required annual firearms qualification. Now, the police chief can no longer carry a gun, nor is he allowed to wear a badge. And what’s a cop without a badge and gun? Normally, we call them…unemployed. City officials have urged the bad shooter to try again.

Suffolk, Va. – Thanks to a certain firefighter, motorists in and around Suffolk better start asking for ID when they’re stopped for traffic violations. Yep, one of the local fire marshal inspectors decided a woman wasn’t driving well enough to suit him, so he conducted a traffic stop using the emergency lights on his fire-department-issued Chevy Impala. He was, however, kind enough to let the woman go after giving her a stern warning for the erratic driving and for not wearing her seat belt. After all, what else could he do, he had no traffic tickets to issue, no badge, no gun, no…anything. Well, that’s not quite correct. He did have his young son riding with him at the time. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that it was also the firefighter’s day off.

Philadelphia – Police arrested a man for possession of marijuana. No big news there, right? Well…not so fast. The arresting officer, who, like all cops, was quite observant and noticed an unusually large bulge in the front of the suspect’s pants. Although flattered, I’m sure, the officer was a bit suspicious and had the man remove his pants at the police station. Seems the flattery was misplaced. The bulge turned out to be 89 bags of drugs that had been tied to the man’s_____ (you fill in the blank). An inventory of the drugs tallied 26 bags of suspected cocaine, 41 bags of suspected heroin, and 22 other assorted baggies in various colors. Now that’s a hefty package.

Portage, Wi. – Local police received a thumbs up from a 62-year-old woman. Normally, a hearty thumbs up would have been greatly appreciated, especially during these trying times for officers. However, this woman was driving drunk, heading the wrong way on a one-way highway, and each time she passed an approaching police car she offered a very energetic “thumbs up.” The intoxicated woman later told officers that she was tired of living. It was her 5th arrest for drunk diving.

Delaware, Ohio – Remember the kissing cop, the female officer whose image was captured on the police in-car during a few intimate acts with her married boss, the police chief? Well, she’s back in the headlines again, this time with her new boss, the county sheriff. The two were “coincidentally” attending training at the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va. Reports suggest the also-married sheriff may have been spending a bit of county money to entertain Deputy Janine Senanayake (formerly Janine England). At least Deputy Senanayake is ambitious. She starts at the top. What she does after that is…well, heck, some of it is on camera (click the link to see the in-car video).

Los Angeles – Actress Amanda Bynes is a big hit with local sheriff’s deputies, especially the deputy whose car she sideswiped while driving under the influence at 3 a.m. Bynes was promptly arrested and held on a $5,000 bond.

Hoodies: Intimate or intimidating

Hoodies—today’s word for a sweatshirt with a hood. They’re comfortable. They’re warm. They keep the rain off your head. And the hood keeps your ears from freezing into tiny blocks of ice. Hoodies have also become a fashion of the times, like bell bottom pants of the 60’s, mini skirts, etc. They’re cool. They’re stylish. And they’re a must-have these days. You know, if you want to “be someone.” And I’m all for kids being kids. I know I was my father’s personal nightmare, with that “hippie” long hair and rock and roll bands I played in. I get it, believe me. Ya’ gotta be cool!

Okay, I admit it. I’m a hoodie fan. An addict. They’re my jackets of choice, and I own and wear several. But I don’t wear them to be cool. Instead, I wear them because they’re comfortable and they keep my head warm without leaving behind the dreaded “hat hair.” Besides, they have those fantastic and easily accessible “glove-pockets” in front. Yes, I love my hoodies.

Unfortunately, those pull-tight hoods are also great for helping bad guys conceal their identities. And they’re absolutely fantastic for covering immediately recognizable characteristics, such as hair style, length, and color. Hoodies are the perfect accessory for hiding scars, marks, and tattoos. They’re also worn to intimidate others. I once dealt with a particular group of juvenile gang members who, when they were about to “beat down” a rival, immediately pulled their hoods up over their heads. It was a sign to other gangs that trouble was brewing. When the leader of the gang covered his head with the hood, well, it was game on—a sign to his followers that it was time to go to war.

Before I go any further I feel I must address the Treyvon Martin situation. Yes, I’ve received hundreds of messages asking my opinion, and until now I’ve remained silent on the issue. And there’s a good reason for my silence…I simply cannot offer a reasonable opinion about a situation I know nothing about. I wasn’t there. I haven’t seen the actual evidence. I haven’t spoken to witnesses. And I absolutely refuse to jump to any conclusions based on media reports and family statements. You see, family members in nearly all criminal cases defend their loved ones, and the media is always trying to sell something. So those are two opinionated sources to avoid like the plague when searching for solid evidence that can be used in a court of law. And isn’t that where we’re supposed to try cases…in court? Not on TV or in the street.

Also, the police and attorneys have jobs to do. So I choose to allow them to do those jobs. If they fail, which I have not seen because I’m not involved in their investigation, and neither is anyone else on the outside, then it would be time to complain. But not now. Investigations take time, often lots of time. I sort of believe in the theory “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Sometimes blowing a lot of hot air around that smoke doesn’t allow it to drift into the right place at the right time. Instead, stand back, let the investigators investigate, and soon the source of the fire comes plainly into view. Remember, an arrest that occurs before its time often ends in  a not-guilty verdict (Casey Anthony, anyone?). No one wants a bad guy to go free, right?

Sure, my heart goes out to the parents of Treyvon. He was their son. Their child. They loved him. And they would love him no matter what.

Same thing with George Zimmerman. His family loves him and will continue to do so no matter what.

But my blog isn’t about the person inside that particular hoodie. Nor is it about the man who shot the wearer of that hoodie.

No, this piece is about THE hoodie. Sure, everyone has a right to wear one, or any other article of clothing, without being judged, profiled, or stereotyped. But it happens, and it happens sometimes, unfortunately, for good reason. And that reason is…lots and lots of bad guys wear hoodies too, and they wear them for a specific purpose. They’re either trying to send a message—to intimidate someone, or they’re wearing one to conceal their identity. I assure you, their motives for wearing hoodies have nothing to do with fashion.

For example:

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor

Boston

Illinois

Jacksonville

Kansas City

London Rioter

Seattle

Virginia (notice the date)

Vermont

The Unabomber

See what I mean? These for-real bad guys, and woman, all wore hoodies as part of their disguise to commit robberies, murder, or in the case of the protester, destruction of property. Hoodies are indeed associated with bad guys. There’s no way around that statement either. It is what is it is. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve responded to reports of hoodie-wearing prowlers, burglars, robbers, rapists, attackers, carjackers, home invaders, etc.

Even I’ve been approached by the police because I was wearing a hoodie. Last winter while staying at our home in N.C. during the Christmas holidays, I went outside at midnight, in a snowstorm, to brush heavy snow off the branches of some newly planted trees. I had the hood of my sweatshirt (I know, I’m old-fashioned), pulled tight to keep out the bitterly cold air, and, well, a neighbor saw me out there with a flashlight and called the police. Two deputies responded and said they’d received a report of a large hoodie-wearing man prowling around our yard.

I’m telling you, it’s the hoodie, people! There’s definitely a perception that they’re associated with crime!

Even the next two images give two starkly different impressions.

Sure goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, huh? But some people do give us reason to judge, like the robbers in the photos above. Well, except for Taylor Swift. The only thing she’s guilty of stealing is hearts…

Life after the crown vic

It’s official. I’m getting old, and I’m positive this is happening because everything I know and love is rapidly disappearing right before my eyes. The aging process alone is distressing enough as it is. But add to it receiving that first letter from AARP, new-fangled gadgets such as the “I” everything’s (I-Phone, I-Pad, I-Pod), weird music that really doesn’t resemble music, and the “F” word spewing from the mouths of nearly every kid in the 4th grade, well, it’s beyond distressing. Downright anxiety-inducing, if you ask me.

Yes, I know aging is a natural process, and with it comes (or goes) a lot of things we’ve held dear for our entire lives—hair, a trim waistline, memory, eyesight, strong backs, good knees, finger dexterity, speedy reaction time, soft skin, and well, you get the idea.

And getting older shoves all the good things aside, replacing them with odd little ugly things, such as:

– that once wavy mane of 80’s rock-band hair morphs into a peculiar-shaped hairless orb

– eyeglasses with super-thick lenses replace $200 super-cool sunglasses

– sports cars replaced by minivans

– comfortable tennis shoes replace dress shoes, even when going out

– going out is a trip to the grocery store, or a visit to the proctologist

– a quiet evening at home means turning down the volume on your hearing aids, not an intimate dinner party of six

– rolling a joint means to massage the pain from your knees, fingers, and feet

– listening to music no longer means turning on the radio to hear people sing beautiful melodies. Instead, we now turn on the radio to hear some guy using bad grammar to rapidly recite nonsensical, profanity-laced rhymes to the beat of a computerized, artificial bass guitar and drums (at least by listening to this crap on the radio we’re spared seeing the constant crotch-grabbing and dance-partner-humping).

– singers don’t sing. Singers don’t even have to be able to sing. Instead, a “gadget” harnesses their out-of-tune lyrics and mechanically brings the screeching tones into pitch. Anyone can become a singer these days. I won’t name names, but anyone, anyone, anyone ~ subliminal message here…Taylor Swift, Black Eyes Peas ~ can have a top-selling record.

– awards presented to actors and musicians used to mean something. Not anymore. Nowadays there’s at least one for everybody, sometimes more. And yes, even the fast-talking rhyming folks get them for “singing.”

– even the people who can’t sing but use the auto-tuners to dupe us into thinking they can sing win awards for “singing.”

What ever happened to folks who had real singing talent? Folks like Frank, Bing, Dean, Robert Plant, Aretha, Dionne, Barbara, and Paul McCartney?

Speaking of Paul McCartney, did you see the Twitter boards light up in response to Sir Paul’s performance on the recent “award” show? Most of the trending tweets were something like, “Who the hell is this Paul McCartney dude?” “Who’s the old white guy?”

Yes, it’s definitely a sign that times are changing when people don’t have a clue about Paul McCartney and his contribution to music and to the world as a musician.

I know. These are all signs that I’m getting old.

But the Geritol really hit the spoon when I learned of the plans to phase out the old standard police car, Ford’s Crown Victoria.

I drove a Chevrolet Caprice for several years. Mine was midnight blue with dark-tinted windows in the rear. The tint was installed so people couldn’t see who, if anyone, was in the backseat. That way I could drive an informant through a neighborhood so he could point out all the hotspots without anyone knowing what I was up to. And, the CI’s identity could remain anonymous. Plus, the darkened windows added a bit of mystery to me and the car. Kept the bad guys guessing.

My old “Blue Ghost” reached it’s top speed of 80mph, or so, when we were rolling downhill with my foot squashing the accelerator to the floor (all my successful pursuits terminated on the downhill side of the city). It was a tough old car and I loved it, passing up a couple of new rides in favor of keeping the car with a seat that was perfectly molded to the shape of my own downhill side of town.

I also drove a Crown Vic for a while, and that was one tough, beefy car. I used it on a few pit maneuvers and to chase down murder suspects, bank robbers, and escaped convicts. It was a great car. Actually, I drove a few Crown Vic’s during my career. A couple of them were take-home cars that also served as my office. In fact, I’d used the car to ferry my daughter to sporting events, driven it in several parades, and took it to various school events as show and tell for kids.

The Vic and The Ghost often served as safe sanctuaries for victims of abuse, rape, attempted murder, and assault, where they’d wait with the doors locked while I dealt with their attacker(s). The car’s heater warmed the tiny legs and arms of abused children whose homes had no heat when I found them inside, alone and shivering. I kept treats in the console for the younger folks who had nothing. The trunk held my riot gear, a shotgun, and other tools of the trade. But it was also home to several stuffed animals I ‘d bought for the kids who simply needed to hug something after mommy or daddy had used them as punching bags.

Driving slowly through neighborhoods with my windows down was just something I did. I’d pass by kids and old folks who all knew my first name. They’d wave and I’d wave back, and I’d often stop to speak or to get out and sit on someone’s front porch to talk about whatever was on their mind. Children knew The Vic and The Ghost, and they knew it meant someone was there to keep them safe, or to toss them a football.

Now, sadly, the Vic’s are gone. Replaced by big powerful cars with huge thunderous engines. Cars that can easily reach 150mph and beyond.

I see them zoom by on the highways, thinking back to the days when I wore a badge and drove the highways traveling to and from calls. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a teddy bear in the trunk of that passing Charger or Impala.

I certainly hope that’s a part of police work that never grows old.