Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A note for "helpful" people.

When you see the police officer on a traffic stop in your neighborhood, yelling to him, and getting his attention, and asking if "everything's all right"-- that's not actually helpful. If things WERE getting tense, you're not then a reassurance; you are a distraction.

Please don't do this, good citizen. Please.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blogorado... 7? I think???

I went up to Colorado on Thursday, and came back on Monday. I had a great time.

My wife, who did not go, thinks that all we did was talk guns and shoot guns and be manly men, or something.

She doesn't realize that I participate in more hugs in that weekend than I do for the rest of the year.

I ate well. I communed with friends, old and new.

I enjoyed watching my friends' successes, and joked with them about their insubstantial failures.

Yeah, we shot at dynamite, and we shot a bowling ball mortar, and we blew up a car and a kitchen appliance. But mostly, it was about The Exchange.

Farewell, my tribe. Until next we meet.

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Monday, October 05, 2015

More of this, more of that. Mostly home.

--Having taken allergy medications, I just slept for 16 hours. No, really.

--Reviewing my kids' report cards, it appears that I need to go to the bank, because they've earned some cash. We shamelessly pay for results.  But they need to tone it down, or I'm going to need to get a second job. Maybe if I got them into World Of Warcraft, or something?

--My elder daughter got home just now. Healthy and trim, modestly-dressed, wearing the tooled belt that her granddad had bought her in her jeans and long-sleeved T shirt, with her hair pulled back, my senior in high school looked self-assured but friendly. I think that I would have wanted to be her friend, at her age. She asked me for rubber gloves, because she's helping her mother refinish some cabinets. While I found them, she looked through the mail that she had brought in, and laughed at the hoity-toity colleges sending invitations for her applications. She gets that we don't want her saddled with education debt. She's barely 17, and she gets it. I suppose that it's possible that I could be more proud of my daughter, but I can't really imagine how, realistically, just this second.

--One of my chickens is injured, badly. In just a minute, I'm going to dig a hole and do what needs doing. Yeah, I hate to waste the meat, but the injury probably ruined some, and the danged bird has a name. It will contribute to the garden. Rest in peace, Pocky. You ate a lot of bugs, and gave us a lot of eggs.

--I just found out that my middle-schooler has been taking a thermos of coffee to school with her for lunch, because she has been getting sleepy after lunch every day. That ends now. [Matt looks guiltily in the mirror as he considers what kind of bad influence he's been on his daughters.]

--My middle schooler over-dresses for school. She prefers dark silks, which she buys second-hand, and likes long skirts and full blouses. She has dyed her brown hair black, and wears it long and straight and brushed-out. She has a very different style, all her own. I don't fully understand it, but I respect that she is not falling into others' ideals of style.

--Wednesday, my wife and I go to the Great State Fair of Texas, in Dallas. We're deliberating on whether to pull the girls out of school to go, as well.

--The weather, man. It's beautiful. Guess I'll go dig a hole, shower, and go to work.

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Saturday, October 03, 2015

This and that.

--I got a minor promotion the other day. No big deal.

--I am suffering greatly from trees and grasses and ragweed having sex. The quantity and distribution of phlegm is suboptimal. (Not quite enough to kill me. Too much to be at all comfortable with.)

--I went with my dad last night to Cabella's to pick up a new set of electronic earmuffs. I had a first generation set of Peltors from 16 years ago, which gave up the ghost. It's stupid not to have a set or three, given the importance of being aware of your surroundings when shooting. My preference is for using the thinner electronic muffs, turned to high volume, over foam earplugs. I note that this pair came with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so that I can jump my phone or iPod or whatnot to it. More importantly, though, I can jump my 2-way radio mic to it while responding to an active shooter on duty. I'm going to keep in with my go-bag at work. I probably need to get a second set.

--I haven't been to the gym in two weeks. Not good.

--Our okra plants are tall and beautifully-leafed, and very green... and are bearing almost NO okra. Anyone have a suggestion for what nutrient we're missing?

--The temperature finally broke this week, and we finally have highs under 90 degrees. It's glorious.

--October is my favorite month. It has my birthday, and the birthdays of some very nice friends of mine. It is the month when the weather is the best in North Texas. It is associated with Oktoberfest, which includes two of my favorite things-- malty beer and German sausages. Halloween's okay, but it shouldn't account for the whole of the month.  October is when I join up with my friends on the range in Colorado, and we shoot a bit by day, and gather around the campfire by night.

--I look forward to seeing my friends, next week.

--I caught the pilot of Blue Bloods on Netflix the other night, and have since binge-watched the entire first two seasons on Netflix. The show is ridiculous. It is over-the-top pulp fiction in its plots and procedures. We basically never see more than about 6 cops in a 36,000-man police department, and evidently one Manhattan ADA handles every major case in the city of New York. They mention paperwork after an officer-involved shooting, but seem to be back on the street faster than Crockett and Tubbs were.  Only one guy in the family (Donnie Wahlberg's character) speaks with a New York accent. The detectives cross the ethics line on a daily basis, with illegal searches yielding somehow useable evidence, warrantless arrests, physical intimidation and assault during interrogations, etc, etc, etc. Donnie Wahlberg's grip on his pistol is amazingly low, with an inch of space above the web of his hand. His partner, in true Hollywood style, wears her holster between 1:00 and 2:00 o'clock.
But the show is cast very well, with Tom Selleck playing the respectable patriarch of the cop family, who happens to be the second generation of police commissioner for the PD. The interaction between the family is very attractive, and tugs at the heart a bit. It is shot very well. It is silly [melo]drama which I'm going to end up watching every minute of.

--I got  to work and found a voicemail from a senior district attorney, the other day. He said that he was working intake, and had just reviewed a felony DWI case that I had submitted, and that he wanted to compliment me on the good work that he found there. That was it. He didn't have any questions, and didn't need me to provide him with any information; he just wanted to let me know how much he appreciated the quality of the report and the investigation. I've only gotten a few of these calls over my years, and I will tell you that they mean a lot to me. He certainly didn't need to do that, and DAs are busy people. But nothing motivates me more than praise. (Note to self: remember that with the guys you lead.)

--We're about to outfit me with a new patrol car. I've never driven a brand-new one, but my car is getting tired. We're looking at getting a Ford Police Interceptor Utility, which runs about $10k less than the Tahoes we've been getting lately. The Ford P.I. Utility is based on the Explorer, so of course I'll call it Dora. Interestingly enough, the Explorer now shares the same unibody base as the Taurus. When it started, the Explorer was based on the Ford Ranger pickup. I'd noticed that the Explorer has gotten a lot more car-like over the last few years, but I hadn't realized that they had gone that far.

--Seriously. It's gorgeous outside. My wife and I are about to go for a walk.

--My elder daughter is competing today for UIL choir. She lucked out that this was a bye week for the football team, so she didn't have to lead the band last night before leaving at 06:15 this morning (Saturday) to head out to the vocal competition. As of now, it's 17:49, and they're not back, yet. Hope they fed her.

--My younger daughter is enjoying school more than she ever has. I was worried when she dropped band (it had really been good for the elder daughter), but she took up art and choir. She was a point under the cut-off to get into Pre-AP Algebra, so she wrote an appeal, and got in. She's in honors English, and just signed up to do the Creative Writing competition. I had my misgivings about her schedule this summer, but 7 weeks into the school year, it's clear to me that, with good grades and a happy 13 year-old, it was the best decision. I'll give up quite a bit for a happy kid who doesn't dread school.

--Our kitchen cabinet project eeks along at a snail's pace.

--I bumped Skills Week for my EMT class to November. I need to study.

--I need to build a fence this month.

--We now have a boutique shop in our small town which sells a variety of coffee beans by the pound. The price is high, but I appreciate the local service, so I give them my patronage.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

DWI Trial

He had as good a defense as a man could ask for.

The defense attorney got a lot of stuff redacted from the trial: the drugs? Gone. (There was an ownership question, so we couldn't even mention them.) The passenger? Not to be mentioned.  Audio from the video? Muted. (On scene had been discussed the drugs, and the not-to-be-mentioned passenger.) 

Because of technical glitches, one of the three DVDs of the stop didn't work. 

I had made a typo on the PC affidavit, which made it into the text of the report. 

The defendant had refused to give blood, and I had shrugged and decided that my case was strong enough without it, so I didn't seek a blood draw warrant. 

In an interesting twist, the attorney really tried to nail me to the wall for NOT getting a warrant and taking his client's blood. I explained that, before 2007, I had NEVER gotten a warrant for someone's blood, and that I didn't like to bother judges unless I needed to. "It only takes, what, about 20 minutes, to do it?" the defense attorney asked. 

"Is that your experience? Because after hours, I tend to find that it takes longer, sir. In MY experience," I answered. 

The defense attorney really grilled me on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. That guy knew his NHTSA manual, pretty well. Well, so did I. I guess I answered the questions about the tests fairly competently. Lord knows, I've been administering the tests long enough. He took me to task for presenting all nine steps out and back to the Walk And Turn Test, because the manual says to only demonstrate three, and then turn around and come back. To me, I was being MORE fair, and giving the defendant more of an example to follow, but he pressed the case (and, if I'm fair, made a good case) that by presenting the longer version of the example, I was making the defendant have to stand heel-to-toe for a longer time, thereby increasing the likelihood that he would lose his balance and stand normally. 

He asked me if it was "natural" or "unnatural" to stand like that for any period of time. I answered (perhaps a little impertinently) that, while it probably wasn't natural behavior, the question could be begged as to whether driving was in and of itself unnatural behavior. 

He grilled me hard about the videos. As well he should have. A the attorney for the defense, he should demand to know why a key piece of evidence was missing, and hold our --no, my-- feet to the fire for why I couldn't produce it. I answered honestly that I didn't know, and sure wished that I had it, for our case. (Honestly, he had to be cheering that it was not available, because the other two videos were quite damning.)  In fact, it was that missing video which probably gave him the best glint of hope for the trial. 

The jury returned in an hour and a half with a Guilty verdict. 

I shook the defense attorney's hand afterward. It turned out that he had represented a citizen who had sued my department and me a few years ago (I was eventually dismissed as a defendant.). I don't always wait to shake a defense attorney's hand. But he had stalwartly defended his client, and hadn't attempted to impugn my character while doing so. It was a spirited, honorable defense against a good (but not perfect) case. 

I hope the defendant finishes out his probation, clean. We don't need more guys in jail.

A lot of people --me included-- complain about how the government works. About how it unnecessarily oppresses the public. But in this case and many others, I have seen it made to account for why it charged a citizen with a crime. I have seen the government have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was committed, by the defendant, during the time in question. That is due process. It is what we expect, but it is still a lot of work.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

A good day.

1. I got paid to shoot for three and a half hours, yesterday. I shot ammunition that I didn't pay for.

2. A cold front came in yesterday. The high was 78 degrees.

3. I had lunch with my father yesterday. We had Indian food. It was delicious and inexpensive and filling.

4. I took a nap.

5. After taking my kid to a meet-the-teacher thing at the middle school, I got home to find that my wife had fixed a superb green-chiles-and-rice dish.

6. I ended the day at home with an adult beverage or two, of higher quality than is commonly found.

I'm calling it: Best Day Of Summer, 2015.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Brady disclosure.

In 1963, the US Supreme Court ruled (quite correctly) in Brady v. Maryland that any and all evidence collected and/or held by the state in a prosecution is to be passed on to the defense. To fail to forward all of it to the defense would result in a lack of due process, which at the minimum would guarantee that the defendant's case would be dismissed. Over the years, this has come to some interesting ends. For one thing-- if an officer investigating a criminal case takes 32 photographs of the exact same thing, but only 1 of the pictures is in focus, all 32 still must be included in the case file turned over to the defense.  The thought is that the first or the 31st picture might well have contained a shred of evidence which would have led toward the defendant's case.

For a prosecutor to possess information which could be exculpatory and not turn it over is not only grounds for dismissal of a case, it is grounds for civil, administrative, and even criminal sanction against the prosecutor himself.

This led to Brady Lists.

Occasionally, there are times when what the state's witness on the stand testifies to and what the prosecutor knows to be true don't line up. Maybe the witness was in error. Maybe the prosecutor's grasp of the facts were in error. Maybe a document which the prosecutor briefed himself with was in error. Or, sometimes, the witness just lied. When the prosecutor knows that a witness doesn't tell the truth on the stand, he cannot in good conscience put that officer on the stand again. Over the years, it became a practice for district attorneys to draw up forms which they had their Assistant D.A.'s fill out about questionable police witnesses. If an officer's name was on the Brady List at a DA's office, then the DA would either look for another officer with knowledge of the case to testify, or would dismiss the case. Presumably, they would also consider turning over their knowledge of the officer's alleged misdeed to the defense, if they had to go forth with the case.  But it didn't happen, because those lists were kept secret for a long while.

Until recently. Dallas County's list was just published, and Tarrant County just sent out disclosures about their lists to a bunch of defendants.

So it was that, a couple of weeks ago, my chief sent me a text:
"See the local paper's article [about the existence of Brady lists in our county DA's office]. Let me know if you think I should contact the DA office." 
I immediately replied: 
"Yes. You should. If we have an officer on staff whom our DA has deemed untrustworthy enough not to back, you need to know about it. Even as uncomfortable a topic as that is to contemplate."  
I went on to assure him that I doubted that we had anything to worry about.

I promptly forgot about the conversation until Friday, when the chief called me in and asked me with a stony face whether I had been worried about what the DA would say. I told him, quite honestly, that I hadn't been. I know that I rely on the other men in my department, and I know who they are, and know that they would not fudge the truth, even when it damns them. I would bet my life on it.

He smiled and told me that none of our officers in our small (less than 10 man) department was on the list, and that ours was one of the only departments in the county without a person on the list. I smiled with pride at the first part, but was a bit saddened and a little shocked by the second part of that sentence.

I have heard that some of these lists got combined with grading lists on whether the officer was a good testifier (Did he speak clearly, did he stumble over words, did he seem unsure of himself or frightened of the courtroom? Did he wear an inappropriate tie?), and thus it could turn out that an officer on such a list might have made only the error of being a shy person with bad taste in tropical neck apparel. I don't know if that is true or not. I do know that these lists are made and added to by young prosecutors who don't have to prove up their case. While some police unions and advocacy groups have questioned them, however, they have been upheld by courts. Getting one's name on such a list, ironically enough, brings up the whole question of due process again (which is how the whole Brady issue got started.). So, the best thing for an officer to do is to avoid all appearances of impropriety, and state only that which is known, and never, ever, EVER try to "wing it."

Okay, I'll admit that I'm a little bit proud of my department. But I'm not going to break my arm patting ourselves on the back about it.

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My daughter's senior year begins.... Now.

To lots of people, the summer doesn't end until September First, or the observance of Labor Day, or when regular school is back in session. But when your child is in band, it starts earlier.

My elder daughter is a senior in high school this year, and is a drum major in the band. Today is the first day of band camp. Even though she has some kind of stomach ailment, she is fighting through it, and put together materialsm and cupcakes (hopefully safe?), and her water bottle and color-coded cards to give notice from across fields, and sunblock and sunglasses and her ever-present whistle (nicer than mine)-- all to get to school a half-hour early for the day.

This kid has been sleeping in until noon or later the last couple of weeks, staying up reading and watching movies with her sister. And she's been dating a little bit. But, she's been practicing her horn obsessively for the last month. She took a week earlier in the month and went to an elite drum major camp.  She's been working on summer assignments for her honors English, Math, Biology, and Spanish AP courses. We've been getting her into dual credit classes and getting her car set up for the school year, which basically for her starts today.

Here. We. Go.

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