Monday, May 31, 2010
A couple of months ago I was at the shooting range. I had my police motor parked near a table where we load our magazines and clean our weapons. Down range you could see the targets of human silhouettes hanging. While there I heard someone say loudly, "Who's motorcycle is this?" There were three of our motors parked at the range and turning around I noticed a group of about 15 to 20 men dressed in black BDU's standing at the rear of my police motor.
I answered that it was my motor parked there. One out of the group asked me about the blue star flag which I have on the back of my motor. I told him I have a son who is currently serving in the armed forces. This person who appeared to be the spokesperson for this group said, "Tell him thank you from us for his service." I told him I would make sure that he knew.
About a week ago I was running errands with my youngest son who is in the second grade. The errands took a little longer than I had planned. My son being hungry chose to eat at a nearby restaurant. While we were seated I noticed that something had his attention. Looking to my left, I saw that my son was staring at two uniformed soldiers who had walked in.
My son asked me why they were here. I guess to him it seemed a little different to actually see a couple of soldiers in a restaurant to eat lunch.
After we had finished our lunch, we approached the soldiers table. I excused our intrusion as I extended my hand to thank them both for their service. I got a firm hand shake, a slight look of surprise and a polite "You're welcome." My son shook both of their hands and said, "Thanks for protecting me."
I think he understands to the best of his limited life's experience why and how they protect our way of life.
So today while we are celebrating this extra day off, having family and friends over for a barbeque, please take a small moment of time out of your day to remember those who are serving in distant countries and are without their families. Remember those families who's lives have been forever changed due to the loss of their loved one(s) who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of our way of life.
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastering of fear - not absence of fear." Mark Twain
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I'm sure almost everyone is familiar with this fairy tale and how they used a trail of breadcrumbs to mark their way with the intention of using the same said trail to find their way back.
This story came to mind during a cold hit and run traffic collision one cool clear morning. My partner, Jolly was dispatched to this traffic collision just after I had been dispatched to a totally separate traffic collision. Turns out my two driver's had decided to exchange their information with each other and actually were kind enough to contact our dispatch center to cancel my response.
I decided to head over to Jolly's hit and run. The victim vehicle had been legally parked on the street in front of their home. The left front end and driver side had been smashed by another vehicle which drove onto the opposing lane of traffic.
I pointed out to Jolly through the scuff marks left from the suspect vehicle's tires that it had veered sharply to the right, gone up over the raised concrete curb, across the front lawn of a home and came to a stop within about 12 inches of going into the living room.
While Jolly spoke with the owner of the smashed car, I noticed a distinctive tire mark left from the suspect vehicle. I looked down the roadway and could distinctly see the direction the suspect driver had fled. I told Jolly that I was going to follow the tire marks and see if they led anywhere.
The tire mark was actually two marks, a wide one of about 3 to 4 inches with a skinnier one about 6 inches away and it was about an inch wide. After about a half mile the tire marks pretty much became to light to see. They were last pointed in the direction of one of our major north - south roadways.
I noticed how the tire mark was still visible across the white painted crosswalk lines and were as distinctive as the one on the roadway surface before becoming too light to see.
I was able to see and follow this distinctive tire mark across every white painted crosswalk line as it lead me south along a frontage road. After about 3 miles of following this tire mark it led me to a shopping center. The tire mark became very visible on the black asphalt parking lot. I followed it to where the tire mark appeared to have stopped and parked 90 degrees to the marked parking stalls.
This was the spot where whomever had ripped off the plastic front bumper to their car and left it. I continued to follow this tire mark which pretty much did a 180 and saw it was parked (properly) in a marked parking stall and behind a hedge high enough to shield it from view.
So a quick records check of the license plate showed the owner lived in the adjacent county and city to the south. Jolly met me at the location of the suspect car where we rode down to the owners home and contacted them, bleary eyed and still intoxicated.
Needless to say, she was the registered owner of the car. She was able to produce the car keys and admitted to drinking, driving and "believed" she may have bumped into a parked car. She failed miserably doing a set of field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested for DUI pursuant to Calif. Vehicle Code section 40300.5.
Not quoting the entire section, the driver met the requirements of this section and through the totality of the circumstances and certain articulate able facts she was lawfully arrested for DUI 6 to 7 hours after "bumping" into the parked car. Her BAC (blood alcohol level) was STILL well over the .08%.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
There I was, parked in the shade and minding my own business, people watching. I see Joe Citizen roll to a stop in the left turn lane talking on his cellular phone. Joe looked over at me and continued talking on his cell phone. I'm thinking to myself either Joe is a complete idiot or from out of state and unaware of California's cell phone law.
Joe's light cycles to a green arrow and he makes a legal u-turn and begins to drive off in the opposite direction. I decide to conduct a "stop and talk" with Joe.
2WT: Hi, good afternoon. May I get your driver's license, vehicle registration and insurance card.
Joe: What for?
Here's a clue people. Motor cops don't just arbitrarily pull people over for no reason contrary to what you may have heard or believe. If you're pulled over and asked to produce the aforementioned documents by a police officer in the performance of his or her duties, don't begin the contact with any such or similar question.
Don't believe whom ever said that there is no such thing as a stupid question.... because there are such things and "What for" is one of them.
I just looked at Joe through my sunglasses and he needed no further prompting as he begrudgingly handed me his driver's license which just happened to be from this golden bankrupt state of California.
I told him I had stopped him for not using a hands free device for his cell phone.
Joe: "But I wasn't driving, I was stopped." Then followed his attempt to hurt my feelings by saying I had nothing better to do, and why wasn't I out there catching "real" criminals.
I told Joe that I had seen him roll to a stop as he conversed away. Joe was adamant about not driving and therefore no violation had occurred. I again told Joe my observations which he disagreed with and said he'd see me in court.
My original intention was to "catch and release", which was to stop Joe, explain the cell phone law to him, and send him on his merry way being more aware of at least one of the state's myriad of vehicle code laws.
Typically if I am going to write a ticket to someone, I'll usually give them a warning on some other violation which commonly is no current registration paperwork or no insurance card.
Joe had basically talked himself into a ticket which I was more than happy to oblige. I can write tickets fast or really, r e a l l y s l o w. Needless to say, Joe had a very, v e r y legible ticket.
In Joe's haste, he forgot to hand me his vehicle registration and insurance card and him being an adult, I didn't ask him twice for them. I just added them onto Joe's ticket as additional violations.
Do I ticket every driver I stop, no. My attitude or niceness is in direct relation to that of the driver. Nice driver, nice motor cop and possible warning. Asshole driver, asshole motor cop with your personalized invitation to the local traffic court presented to you with a smile by yours truly.
Education or education through enforcement, Joe opted for the latter.
We do give breaks / warnings, but attitude is everything.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Besides stopping motorists for vehicle code violations, us motor types (at least in my department) handle all of the crashes, provided we are on duty. All crashes means, private property fender benders to fatalities.
I just happened to get dispatched to a report of a solo vehicle into a light pole. There were no further details as to injuries or if the vehicle and pole were blocking the roadway. As a precaution I requested through our dispatch center to have an ambulance started... just in case. Due to the lack of details, I responded with lights and siren and arrived in just a few minutes.
It had recently rained and this roadway is notorious for drivers going too fast on a slippery surface. Usually its a solo vehicle spin-out where the vehicle usually comes to rest against one of the curbs.... but not this time.
I get to the collision scene first and notice a small pickup truck had slid driver door first into a light pole. It was obvious that the light pole had won because it was still standing. The intrusion into the passenger compartment at the driver door was a good 18 inches.
It has been my experience that more times than not, this type of collision usually results in some type of injury requiring the driver to get an ambulance ride to the hospital and in some cases leaving the body in the vehicle as we investigate another fatality and call the coroner after we've wrapped up our investigation and forensic mapping of the scene (which can take hours depending on the complexity of the dynamics of the crash).
I was amazed to see the teenage driver standing, walking and talking with no injuries. I directed him to have a seat on the curb. He had a noticeable knot on the left side of his head as well as lots of broken safety glass from his door window. I let him know that I had an ambulance coming to check him out.
He asked me if the ambulance was necessary because he didn't have any health insurance. I told him due to the knot on the side of his head and the dynamics of the collision I wouldn't be canceling it.
He told me he had been visiting his sister at a coffee shop and was running late getting back to work. Of course he said he was going the posted speed limit of 30 mph when his truck "for no reason" began to slide out of control.
His mom and brother-in-law showed up at the scene. I let mom know that an ambulance was coming. She gave me the same song and dance about her son not having medical insurance, who by the way was only 17 years old. I told her she could take that issue up with the ambulance crew.
Brother-in-law happened to be an insurance adjuster and tried to talk me into canceling the ambulance. I asked him if his brother -in-law had some type of internal injury and latter fell out from it, who'd be responsible. His reply, "Me".
Yeah, right buddy. He obviously had a different take on reality and liability.
He kept trying to get the ambulance cancelled to the point that I had to tell him if he didn't get out of my face he'd be sitting in the back seat of a patrol car with a pretty set of linked "bracelets".
The teenage driver had no other apparent injuries other than the knot on his head. Mom signed the necessary form declining further treatment or transportation to the hospital thus releasing the paramedics from any liability.
The driver was unable to find a current insurance card for his pickup, but brother-in-law said he was the family insurance agent and could vouch for the pickup being insured.
Needless to say, after completing my collision report later during my shift, I completed the required paperwork and cited the driver for unsafe speed for conditions and no evidence of insurance at the scene of a traffic collision.
Cruel? I don't give young drivers any breaks. My hope is that they learn a lesson and improve their driving habits. There may be some nay sayer's thinking that by citing young drivers the only people really affected are the parents who pay the insurance premium. Thankfully in the jurisdiction where I work, the Judge who presides in our traffic court will not allow them to pay their fine and orders them to pay the fine by doing community service.
And just in case some of you inquisitive persons out there are wondering, yes my "no break" attitude includes young drivers who's parents are police officers and firefighters. I'm not going to give some young impressionable mind that they have a sense of entitlement and a "freebie" getting out of a ticket because of what their parent does for a living.