Better And Better

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September, this and that. Curmudgeon.

--I'm training a rookie. He's a nice guy, but I'm not used to having another guy in my patrol car. We're joined at the hip all shift.

--My daughter just turned 16, and I won't let her take her driving test until I'm completely satisfied with her ability with the manual transmission Honda that I'm giving her. She's really coming along, though. Something finally just clicked with regard to her feathering the clutch while revving an underpowered engine (there's just not that much compression left after all these years). I want her to really GET the joy of using your gears to maintain a perfect speed and keep you at the top of your power curve while downshifting through a downhill double-S curve, and then accelerating out of it, never touching the brake. I also love that she will know how to drive whatever she chooses to drive.

--I'm getting old or something. I've been really noticing lately how people let their kids interrupt adult conversations to have their say. I'm talking about 4 and 5 year-olds, lately. I'll be dealing with the parent in an important issue, and the parent will stop down to hear what the kid has to add. Which, of  course, means that I have to stop down to hear it, too. There is this egalitarian philosophy that seems to have pervaded the world, about how Everyone Has A Right To Give Their Opinion. Except that: that 4 year-old's opinion was not sought. It did not add to our understanding of the situation. Grownups were talking, and you have now rewarded undesired behavior.
I weep for our future.

--I get some evil looks when I casually mention that someone's kid is "kinda high maintenance, isn't he?" Oops.

--I bought some stuff from an older gent that my mother knows. He has Parkinson's and was clearing out some of his gun stuff. I got some dies and a bunch of bullets and a whole bunch of fired cases, along with some .44 Mag ammo  and some other reloading tools, for $100. I expressed interest in the old reloading manuals that he had, and he asked for $15 more. I only had a $20, and he didn't make change. Ah, well, I came away with a pretty good haul. That said, I don't have a 7mm magnum, for which a lot of the cases, bullets, and some dies were for. Also I got a bunch of cases and bullets for .22-250, which I don't have. (I would LOVE to have a Savage 99, but I'd rather it be .250-3000 or .300 Savage.)  There was a case of 12 gauge shotgun shells which touted the "New Plastic Hulls." There were 20 round boxes of .44 Magnum for under $5.00. I bought a couple of large shallow TupperTote boxes to put it all in, and put the lids on them, to keep the dust out.

--It never occurred to me to go visit the guy without taking my dad along. Those kind of treasure hunts are right up his alley.

--Now I'm the parent haranguing his 7th grade daughter into using her agenda planner every day to be organized about studying for tests and getting assignments in on time. I have to stay on her, or she won't use it. She protests that she's not organized. I answer that that is EXACTLY why she needs to use it. All the time.

--I'm wanting a new car for me. I'm thinking about a nice reliable used Tacoma 4dr pickup.

--This crappy low/no-carb diet of mine has caused me to lose a belt notch or two this past summer, and about 20 something pounds. I will grudgingly admit that the diet works. Eh.

--Some dudes are up on my house right now to put on a new roof. We're negotiating it into gutters as well. Getting excited about putting gutters on your house pretty much makes you an Old Man.

--Get your prostate checked. And donate to Kilted To Kick Cancer, which my buddy Ambulance Driver and others are raising money for.

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More coffee. The high-end stuff.

After my last post, Old NFO sent me a pound in two packages of Kona coffee. I reiterate: NOT "Kona Blend", but 100% Kona.

I have been making it in the French Press, with filtered water. I have shared it with my family but little.

My wife tilted her head and squinted and asked "Why are people sending you coffee?" I smiled and told her that it was because I'm such a big deal, which made her roll her eyes. In truth, I don't know why I'm blessed to receive such blessings, and I know that I don't really deserve such friends and friendly gestures.

[Raised cup] Here is to you, Old NFO. Until the next time that we can share a pot of coffee on the range or at our friends' place.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Coffee in the round-about manner.

My wife and I went into Town to the large local pizzaria-and-bar, and sat with Dad and Holly and friends, to play trivia. It's fun, not least of all because our table pretty much always wins. It seems that our family and friends are frickin' huge repository of knowledge of questionable use. The restaurant is always full on Trivia Night, so there are a couple of dozen tables in play. I want to say that I think that I contributed one or two answers to our table's win, but I may have also negatively influenced some answers, too. 

Toward the end, Holly waved from the other end of the table and said that she and Dad had a package for me. The package was one sent to me care of Phlegmmy, who had transferred it to Dad and Holly, who held it for me to come by and pick up. 

Next day, I went to their house, and opened a box with three packages of coffee from The Roasterie, sent to me by ZerCool. I immediately ground some Kona, and Dad and I consumed a pot of it while discussing his new (to him) coach gun and his new (to him) S&W M27-2 (P.&R., natch).  

Now friends, I don't know what YOU did with your Wednesday, but an afternoon drinking fresh coffee, eating ripe peaches off the tree and talking guns with JPG happened to be exactly what this man needed. You are welcome to be a little jealous. 

That bag of Kona went fast, but I found that the Kansas City Dark Blend, ground fine, makes an excellent light espresso, and that the "40 Sardines" blend makes another good cuppa. 

I think that ZerCool sent that CARE package about 6 weeks ago, but it was timely-- I was out of coffee again. 

Thank you, brother. There is nothing more pleasurable than finding an unexpected gift in the post. 

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Multiple language barriers.

I speak a little Spanish. Not a lot, but I can usually get basic concepts across.
I do not know sign language, beyond one or two very simple phrases. I can't "get by" in it.

A few months ago, I had a traffic stop in which the driver, a Spanish speaker, was deaf.

My daughter had started drawing in my pocket notebook when she found it on the table while I was doing laundry. I found it in her possession, and confiscated it, because the contents are not her business. (Mostly data without actual connection to specific charges, but still, that's mine.) I found part of the conversation that I had had with the driver when I issued the citation, in the notebook, which I attach here:
It's interesting to me that if I knew sign language, it would cut across that language barrier.
It's handy having access to Google Translate in your patrol car, too.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

The unions. (Why I don't want to be part of them.)

So, today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released it's opinion on Harris v. Quinn.

The main question:
May a State, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the State for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs?
The question we thought that it would settle is whether a person could be compelled to pay union dues without joining the union, just because of the job that he or she held?

The pivotal case of precedent was Abood v. Detroit Board Of Education, which had affirmed that they could, saying that it was fine to require share payment of those in the public sector who benefitted from collective bargaining agreements. The thinking was, "Hey, you benefitted from this agreement that gets you better wages and benefits, so you better pay up and not be a freeloader."

It puts in mind that guy who signs the card on the gift that he did not contribute anything to. Well that's not right, is it??!? 

But to continue the analogy, consider the other employee who comes to you and says, "It's Bob's birthday. I bought him a new laptop. Everyone's chipping in $50. Cough it up." Well, that's not fair, either.  First, I like $50. I need my $50. Also, this creates dangerous precedent. What about when it's Maria's birthday? And Gordon's birthday?* Are we going to do this EVERY year? And you get to decide how much I chip in? Can't I just opt out and not sign the card? I'm just trying to work, here.

You'll note that the cases are in Detroit, MI, and Illinois, where unions are a big deal. I myself find it amazing that a person can be compelled to pay union dues, and be told that it's okay, because they don't have to actually join the union; they only have to subsidize it.

As it is, Abood didn't get fully overturned, because the Court didn't find that the petitioners (contract employees receiving state subsidies for home health care) were the best fit. They didn't have good enough standing. But Justice Alito made clear that he is rubbing his palms together to receive a case that fits the issue best. As well he should.

Unions have done some good things in this country. The ability to belong to a union is of course nothing that I dispute. But they have generally gone too far, and the law as it has stood under Abood v. Detroit B.O.E. has been nothing less than a state requirement to join and subsidize a union.

I see current unions as doing crazy things.  I know a local industrial manufacturer which employs union workers to make its trucks. Brand new employees with no more than high school diplomas can start working on the line at around $30 an hour, which sounds great... until they're laid off after a few months. When they get a big order, they recall the workers. There's no job continuity. If their union hadn't bargained so stiffly, these young men and women could keep $18/hour jobs (which is a living wage in Texas, I assure you), and not miss work.  

I am a cop. I regularly hear about how police unions make it next to impossible to fire a dirty cop. And, in some places, that's embarrassingly true. Regular readers here may recall how I pushed for a letter-writing campaign to have Officer Harless with the Canton, OH PD fired after his incident, after which his union actually temporarily won his job back for him

So excuse me if I don't particularly like unions. They make hard-working, honest employees look like lazy money-grabbers. They have hurt the reputation of my own profession, even while I work in a "Right To Work" state. It is jokingly stated that "Right To Work" really means "Right To Terminate," and there's some truth to that. I can be fired from my job pretty much any time. I don't have a union protecting me. Oh, I belong to the Texas Municipal Police Association, which provides me with legal insurance (I pay in monthly dues, and in exchange, I get a policy for up to a million bucks to pay for legit legal fees, in such instance as if I am sued), but that's not a union. I'm not entitled to my job or my badge. And I'm fine with that-- it means that I and my co-workers had best keep our walk on the straight and narrow.

I am embarrassed for public employees who feel otherwise.

*Or Big Bird's? Or Cookie Monster's?  Sorry. The names came at random.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Controlling one's own destiny.

Well-known and well-thought-of firearms trainer Louis Awerbuck passed away this week.

I never me the man, but I’ve friends who knew him (like Tam and Rich). I have of course read his stuff for years.

There is something to be said for placing no dependence upon others, if that is your greatest fear (it is not mine). There is yet more to be said for going out on your own terms.

The freedom to decide how we meet our fate is ultimately what most of us who meet here and at my other haunts are talking about. No sane person wants to get into a gunfight. But nobody wants to have all of their options taken from them, either. Louis Awerbuck, it seems to me, made his career out of helping others to maintain their options. 

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Monday, June 16, 2014


By the way, it was rude of me to hijack Caleb's thread with almost 1500 words in the comments section, and I do apologize. I started out just responding to the post, and the riff just went on and on. I should have reined it in when I started numbering frickin' paragraphs. :rolleyes:

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Police Shooting Dogs.

Caleb posted about police shooting dogs. I responded there, but decided to bring it here as a post, as well.

This is an emotional topic.
I'm going to speak here as a cop, but also as an academic who has put 20 years into Criminal Justice studies. I ask that people not take this personally, and please don't take my words as those of all police.

1. Animals are property.
This one statement is going to get a lot of people riled up that I say it, but it's a fact. They are owned.  If someone takes your dog without your permission, and they are caught, that person is caught, they are charged with Theft, not Kidnapping.  Animals including dogs are bought and sold at a brisk rate.  
People know this to be a fact, but they cannot embrace it, when their dog is a family member to them. This is about emotion. Emotion, we know, is neither right nor wrong-- it simply is. But it can play merry hell with an equation built only on facts.

2. Emotions seem to trump logic.
If a cop serves a felony warrant, and uses a sledge hammer to break open a beautiful oaken door, people say, "Well, that's a shame about the door, but if the warrant was in order and the homeowner wasn't opening up, then it was time to open it however." If that same cop is met by a scared and aggressive dog that is doing what arguably is its job (protecting the household), but which is also endangering the cop with bloodshed, and the officer uses his weapon to stop what is the threat of what is, after all, property, from hurting him, the same logic often isn't used. It is short circuited by emotion.

3. Officers should not have to be bitten first.
I have been bitten on the job. I've gone to the ER and been treated and then bought new $70 uniform pants out of my own pocket, and never gotten recompensed for it. I've had dogs nip at me, and come charging into my taser and baton. I will die with clear scars left on my body that I have obtained from dogs attacking me while on the job. On a couple of occasions, I'll be honest with you: I should have shot the dog.

I have heard it said by people upset about a shooting that the dog hadn't bitten the officer yet. Given a large enough dog, a grown man can be permanently injured by a dog attack. Often it is shocking how small a dog can render lifelong injuries to a man. Without getting into breeds, we all know the breeds of dogs that are used the most for dog fighting, which are nowhere near the largest breeds. Sometimes a 40 lb dog is enough to permanently harm a man. Consider also the biological weapons in the dog's bite. Dogs left to roam and attack are often the same kind of dogs not getting their shots.

4. Officers should be trained better about dogs.
Jeff Cooper once said that a properly-trained police officer ought to be able to deal with a single dog attacking him. For the most part, I don't disagree, and that's frankly the main reason that I've never shot a dog that was attacking me while on the job. I have tazed them, and I have used my expandable baton, and I have used my steel-toed boots on them. A lot of the reason that I have not shot dogs when I would have been approved to do so by policy is because of #2, above: Emotions Trump Logic. I had a lieutenant get on to me about tazing my second dog attacking me in 2 months (both were pit bulls, and I promise you, both were in the immediate act of trying to get a mouthful of me. This wasn't a dog trotting up to check me out. One was airborne at me when the barbs hit.), because Taser cartridges are more expensive than pistol cartridges. He may have been speaking tongue in cheek, but I pointed out that I was able to resolve the problem without having our department featured in the news for "Another Cop Shoots Another Dog," and that's a win.  (Also, I was in a vey residential area, and I don't like skipping pistol bullets around if I can help it.)

I will say, though, that modern expandable batons were mostly built more as pain compliance devices than as bone-breaking weapons, and they are surprisingly ineffective at rendering incapacitating injuries. To this end, the old second-growth hickory batons were FAR superior. The main feature of an expandable baton is that it is always on the belt of an officer. Strangely, most cops seem to forget about it. That's a two-pound chunk that they carry on their belt every workday for years, but they literally forget to use it. This is frankly a training issue.

5. There are times to shoot the dog.
When there is more than one dog coming after the officer, all bets are off. It is my professional opinion that packed-up dogs attacking a person need to be met with deadly force, unless we're talking about Chihuahuas or Pekinese or teacup varieties of canines. (In which case, proper footwork is key.) 
During documented high-risk incidents, when the dog comes after an officer engaging in something that needs his undivided attention, shooting a dog may be the best option, keeping in mind #1. If the officer is swinging away with his baton to defend himself against a dog, he is not focusing on the other threats around him, be they a felon to arrest, or traffic. This last paragraph is not going to make me popular, because of #2.

6. We could bear rethinking the dog issue.
Because the dogs are such a hot topic, and so ubiquitous, we might re-think ways of dealing with them? How? I don't really know. Shin and forearm guards for warrant service where dogs are known to be come to mind, but I really question how effective they would be. I will tell you that tasers are of questionable use if you don't have a means of securing the animal while it's down. Catch poles might be a good piece of kit to bring. Dart guns are basically non-starters, because the amount of sedative that will put a dog down immediately is generally the amount of sedative that will kill the dog. Also, these things are time and resource-consuming. When you are going in to extract a felon, things need to move along rickety-tick.

For officers making a routine call upon a house for an administrative or non-emergency purpose, teaching them to survey the area before walking into the yard is worth doing. If a dog moves up aggressively, back off an call animal control.
We need to keep in mind Robert Peel's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th principles.

7. A lot of this problem could be fixed by talking to the dog owners.
I've already said that we need to do away with no-knock warrants except in hostage situations.
Knock on the door. Call them.  Tell them that you need them to put their dog up. Sometimes that's what it takes. It kills the element of surprise, but not the dog. This isn't always possible, but it's possible sometimes:
"Hey, Mr. Smith? Bob Smith of 123 Any Street?"
"Yeah? Who's this?"
"This is the police. We're out front. And out back. We have a warrant for your arrest/ to search the house. We are in uniform, and in marked patrol units. We need you to put the dog away and come on out. If we have to come in, and the dog attacks us, we'll be forced to shoot the dog, and none of us ever wants that. Please comply immediately."
"Okay, I'll put the dog in the kennel/bathroom/closet. Don't shoot. I'm coming out."
This happens. Not all the time. Sometimes it's not feasible. But it does happen. Maybe it could happen a little more.

I know of one incident in which someone whom I know personally was actually held hostage by a family member of hers, who had put their pit bulls in different bedrooms around the house to prevent SWAT from entering. He was drunk, and actually fired random shots during the stand-off. He finally permitted his hostage to leave. After the hostage-taker finally gave himself up, the former hostage convinced the officers --who were going in to clear the house-- to permit her to secure the dogs. The dogs were upset and would have attacked the strangers when they entered the bedrooms unaccompanied by her. My congratulations to the flexibility and professionalism of the North Richland Hills Police Department for handling that situation the way that they did.

8. Finally, I will say that Generalizations Fail.
When we say "There is NEVER a reason to" do thus and so, we are almost always stating an error of fact.  When we say, "An officer should ALWAYS respond to X with Y" we will pretty much always be forgetting about an exception. But guidelines would be a good thing.

It would be really nice if people-- thoughtful people-- didn't have a basis to state that it looks like some cops basically just look like they wanted an excuse to fire their firearm. On the vast, vast majority of the time, it's not true. Let's be sure and make that point by finding ways to limit when we have to do so.

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