Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yet Another Dark Day For The Thin Blue Line

I'm numb, speechless, shocked.

The tragedy of the Oakland Police Department when Motor Sergeant Mark Dunnigan, Sergeants Erv Romans, Dan Sakai and Motor Officer John Hege were murdered is still fresh in my mind. I wanted to believe that this was a tragedy which would never happen again. Yet it has.

Four Lakewood, Washington PD Officers, Sergeant Mark Renninger, Officer Ronald Owens, Officer Tina Griswold and Officer Greg Richards were gunned down at a local coffee shop, working on their laptops. A whole shift murdered. Four families suffering the pain and loss of a loved one. The holidays will no longer be such a festive season for these unfortunate families.

A person of interest has been named, Maurice Clemmons. It's not clear at this time why, but he is being sought for questioning.

A "calling" is what brought me and many others to wear the badge. When a tragedy like this strikes, our chosen profession takes a hard hit. We try to make sense of the "why". I know there are those in our society who hate the uniform and badge for what it represents, and not the person in the uniform.

I pray that the person responsible for the murders of these four Law Enforcement Officers is caught quickly before he is able to cause more loss and sorrow. We try to make good of our "hard lessons" on how to be safer and to do our jobs better. What little if any consolation it is to the families of the fallen.

Although the Thin Blue Line has taken another tragic hit, we will continue to handle our beats and sectors without fail.

We will remember those who have fallen, and we will honor them. Their names will be added to the list of other fallen heroes on our State and National Peace Officer Monuments. Tragedy does not weaken what we do, it only strengthens our resolve and dedication.

To the Lakewood, Washington Police Department and the families of the fallen four, you have my sincerest condolences and sympathies for a loss of which there are no words to express.

To those of us who wear the badge, stay safe.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just Plain Stupid

While in court one of my motor cohorts, Joker is up testifying for his case. Joker had originally stopped the car for the driver not wearing a seat belt and for not having her driver's license in possession.

After hearing the defendants testimony the Judge asked her if she had her license with her. She replied that she didn't have it with her (still!). The Judge looks over at the court clerks computer monitor which she casually turned toward the Judge's view. The Judge tells her, "That might because it looks like your license might be suspended."

Of course she tells the Judge it isn't, so he replies "No, I'm looking at your DMV record here and it says its suspended." So now the defendant has been notified that her license is suspended by the Judge.

She tried to continue to argue her point about not having a suspended license. The Judge shut her down and said he was looking at her driving record and it says its suspended. He told her that the DMV was one block down from the courthouse if she wanted to check on her driver license. He admonished her that she was not allowed to drive.

After she was found guilty, Officer Joker left the courtroom while the Judge imposed a fine for the seat belt and no driver license in possession.

Joker, being the fanatic, oppressive, heartless motor officer that he is waited outside in the parking lot. Sure enough Joker's defendant exits the courthouse, gets into her car and begins to drive away. On go the pretty flashing lights and she is pulled over just after her court case.

Of course her license was suspended and Joker had her car towed. Because her driver license was suspended, not only was her car towed, but impounded for 30 days on her dime.

People might think this cruel, but most of our hit and run traffic collisions involve drivers with never having had a driver license or have had their driver license suspended for one lawful reason or another. We tend to look at these situations as preventative traffic collision follow up for a hit and run that the District Attorney's Office won't touch because they're under funded and have bigger more important fish to fry and a motor cop would much rather be out writing tickets that sitting at a desk typing out a crash report.

If there is any bright side to this story it's the driver's case for driving on a suspended license will be heard at the same courthouse and same courtroom.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Same Bat Time

The other week, Juan Jalisco and I are sitting in traffic court. As the cases are called and the court room starts to thin out, I finally hear my defendants name called. I see my defendant rise from his seat as I do the same. I catch movement off to my right side. I look over and Juan Jalisco is standing up also.

Apparently both Juan and I had cited the driver less than 7 days apart for the same violation, speeding. I stand behind the podium in front of the Judge as the defendant is standing behind his to my left. I give my version of events and the Judge allows the defendant to cross examine me meaning ask me questions.

The defendant gives his testimony and I'm completely lost to what he's talking about. The location he was describing was nothing close to where I witnessed the violation occur. The driver said he has pictures he wants to show the Judge. The Judge directs him to hand the pictures to me.

I receive the pictures and I'm looking at them and now I have no clue of where these pictures are about. I hand the pictures over to the Judge. The defendant had nothing further to add, the Judge asked me if I had anything further. I told the Judge "submitted". He was found guilty but would not check his driving record nor set a fine until his second case was heard and adjudicated.

So I sit back down as Juan Jalisco gives his testimony of the same defendant being paced in a school parking lot as school was letting out for the afternoon. Then the pictures made sense. They were pictures of the school parking lot and not the roadway I had cited him for speeding on.

Even the defendant was confused and thought his first case with me was the ticket which Juan Jalisco had given him. Given the circumstances of children all around, the Judge found him guilty of unsafe speed through a school parking lot. Two points on his driver's license in one afternoon, Ouch.

I guess the defendants confusion adds some credibility to the stereotype that all motor cops look alike....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Welcome and goodbye

I was parked at one of my local duck ponds just minding my own business. At this particular duck pond I typically stop drivers for speeding, no seat belt, cell phones and just about anything else I might see which is a violation.

I was stopped at the side of the road after releasing a driver for speeding. I make it a habit while I write my notes on the back of my copy of the ticket to face the on coming traffic. Over the years I've actually gotten used to looking where I place my pen and begin to write. Once I'm writing I'll look at the oncoming cars to see who is not wearing their seat belt or jabbering away on their cellular phone.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think most drivers when they approach a cop who is on a car stop will continue not to wear their seat belt or continue to talk on their cellular phones knowing that the particular Officer is currently tied up.

So there I stand looking at oncoming traffic as I write my notes and sure enough here comes this red Isuzu Rodeo and the driver's not wearing her seat belt. After the Isuzu passed my location, I put my ticket book in the saddle bag of my police motor, fire it up and I'm up and running after that Isuzu.

I turn on the pretty flashing lights and the driver pulls over into a parking lot. Even after stopping her and walking up to her driver door, she's still not wearing her seat belt. I get the usual license, registration and insurance card and tell the driver why I stopped her.

She agrees and tells me she had just come from a U-Haul store and bought some boxes for packing. I always tell a driver before I walk back to my police motor that I will be issuing a ticket for the violation. This way there's no surprise when I walk back up with my ticket book in hand.

So after writing the ticket and walking back up to explain the ticket to the driver, I get her signature and while I'm tearing her copy from the original ticket she tells me, "I remember you Officer 2WT." I finished removing her copy and look at the driver as she didn't look familiar to me during my first contact.

I apologized and told her that I meet so many people during the year that I didn't remember her. She told me that back in 2004 when she was moving into the "Town" where I previously was a motor cop, I had stopped and given her a ticket for speeding.

She mentioned how apropos this ticket was as she was now moving out of the "Town". I asked her where she was moving to. She told me "Georgia", and then added, "I hope your not moving there too." I assured her I wasn't and told her to have a safe trip.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Faith in the human race

Working the weekend graveyard shift many years ago made for an easy commute home as I was driving against the traffic at that time of the morning. You kind of get in that "automatic" mode of driving home, sometimes waking up in your driveway not really remembering the commute at all.

It had been a pretty busy weekend, dealing with the usual drunk drivers, bar fights, juveniles causing a ruckus about the city and yes, those damned residential alarm calls where you'd think the homeowners would now how to turn on and off.

I was driving down the interstate not really in a good mood and waiting in line to pay my bridge toll. I eventually get up to the toll booth and stick my hand out my window to hand over the toll amount when the toll booth attendant told me "The driver ahead of you paid your toll."

I don't know and never found out who that anonymous driver was. But thank you. I had been looking down at the state of the human race lately. You restored my faith.

Because of that random, kind act, I'll occasionally leave the fastrac in my other car, wait in the toll line and pay for the driver behind me.

Who knows, maybe acts of kindness are contagious. That's a pandemic I'd like to see.