Better And Better

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

This is not who we are.

There is a story on National Public Radio about how the Governor of Alabama is apologizing for a recent incident in which a Madison officer body slammed a non-English-speaking Indian man for not complying with his verbal directions.


I made the mistake of reading the comments.


NEVER read the comments.


Many of the comments refer to how police will do such things. Many of them refer to how that's what happens in the Deep South.


I thought that liberals were supposed to be more understanding, and inclusive, and not given toward making sweeping generalizations about people?


The police chief apologized. The department fired the officer, Eric Parker, who performed the leg-sweep and put 57 year-old Mr. Patel down. Mr. Parker has been charged with a crime.


How many ways can we say this? We don't put up with that. That's not who we are.


Please quit tarring us all with that same brush.



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Finding Peace.

I am an atheist. I don't say that much, because of the negative reactions and connotations that seem to come from saying it.  This may be the first time that I've said it public. I think that it is. It's something that I've recently come to grips with.


I don't draw my peace from a higher power. For me, it has to come from within.


You may have noticed that the URL for this blog is MayPeaceBeWithYou [dot] BlogSpot [dot] com.


I composed that address one night after a decent beer or two, when I tried to decide what this web log, or 'blog, was to be about. I thought about writing about my experiences as a peace officer, but realized that most people don't tune into police stories for the "Peace" part of the officer's trade. They want to hear about the drama that accompanies discord.  I knew that I was mostly going to let people down if I promised them such things. If I had a counter on the number of times that I've drawn my gun with real concern that I was going to fire it, it would be in the double digits, and not really threatening the century mark.


When I suit up every day for work, I try to remember what my job is. I am employed to keep the peace.  The best way to do that is to show respect to the people that I come in contact with. And to be honest, I fail, occasionally. That respect thing works in a lot of other areas of life, too, for finding peace. Be it your neighbor, your wife, your daughter, your son, your work partner, your political adversary, or the saber-rattling nation a half-world away-- showing respect is a decent way to keep the peace.


That's hard to do, when we're irritated with someone. But if your goal, when contemplated in quiet times, is peace, then it is probably when we're irritated with someone that we most owe it to ourselves to display constant respect.



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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

When It's Time To Gracefully Withdraw From Driving

Maryville P.D. had to clean up an ugly situation, caused by an elderly person who momentarily got confused, and struck 9 cars. Somehow, no one was hurt. The video's pretty impressive. 

Every year or two, I end up bringing a confused old man or woman into a meeting with his or her family, and we have a conversation about the eventual necessities of maturation. I have a talk that I've created, in which I reference how, when I was 11, I had to come to grips with the fact that I had to wear glasses. At  35, I realized that I couldn't run like I could when I was 25. As I advance into my 40s, I'm realizing that I'm soon going to need reading glasses.  Many people need canes as they get older, because falling could cause them to break a hip, or worse.  This is about accepting stages in life. Usually they will have similar experiences, and I encourage them to tell me about them.

My interactive talk is usually planned at 10 minutes, but tends to run more like an hour. Often there are tears from those involved. (Not from me. Not while in uniform.)

I get the elderly driver to turn over his or her keys, and promise not to drive again, unless cleared by a doctor.

I then inform the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver Improvement and Compliance Bureau that we need a Medical Advisory Board for this person, and I detail and include copies of call sheets for the calls for service which brought me to this conclusion. I have found elderly people lost and unable to find their way home in a town which they grew up in. I have found people with their foot on the accelerator as they chugged their car forward into another car, unable to figure out why their brake wasn't working. I have found people that had no idea that they were driving on a flat tire, having hit a bridge abutment and sideswiped another car. There is a point where a confused driver looks a LOT like an impaired driver. They can be very dangerous. And I have to be the instrument of the state which starts the process of taking this driver out from behind the wheel.

But here's the thing-- ANYONE can request this.
Just as anyone can call in a reckless driver, anyone can request that a person with medical impairment or simple old age be examined. Texans can fill out and mail in this form. If you have an elderly driver that you're worried about, here's further information from Texas Department Of Transportation.

Other states will have similar provisions, if you look.
Sometimes it takes a family member or loved one to put it all together. If Great Aunt Myrtle has had fender benders and senior moments in Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, the local constabulary probably won't have clued to it. But you know it.

Time to utilize one of the most powerful tools that a citizen has in managing the government: the Open Records Request. Get copies of the incident reports and/or crash reports involving Aunt Myrtle, and compile them into a time line, which you send to the licensing bureau, pleading for them to gently relieve Aunt Myrtle of her license. If they're like me, they won't tell her who sent them. Let the government folk be the heavies. Oftentimes, seniors won't listen to family begging them to stop driving, but they will abide by the licensing authorities's decision.

Remember, you're not taking away their driving-- you're helping to save them, and other people, from a dangerous situation. 



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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Another dog call.

I responded to two reports of a large pit bull acting aggressively. I arrived, and couldn't find it. I was informed that it had run off toward the highway. As I walked around the area, he showed up, and attacked the wheels of the complainant's Jeep. Literally, he bit the tires, snarling. He wheeled and ran at me, barking, ears down.


I drew my duty weapon, and had a few ounces of pressure on the Glock 31's trigger before he finally checked up about 4 feet from me, barking. He wheeled around, and I transitioned to Taser. I really didn't want to shoot the dog.


Taser still in hand, I phoned the animal control officer, and told him that I really needed a response. He was half an hour out. I set to calming the dog down.


My chief and I tossed him sticks, and talked nice to him, and generally wanted him to know that we thought he was great. He wouldn't kennel up in the back of my car, and periodically would get very aggressive again. My chief took my Taser, I kept my ASP out.


We called out the owner. She arrived right after Animal Control showed up. We asked for the dog's shots and registration, something that the owner had been warned about the last time that the dog was found running loose. She informed us that she HAD gotten he dog vaccinated, but that I just wouldn't believe her because it was a pit bull. It's funny-- I have long known that one of my tender spots is to be accused of being a racist. Here, I felt that same anger rise up. I swallowed it. Huh. Apparently my irritation at being called a racist translates into irritation at being called a "breedist." Or something. Good to know.


We got the dog put up. The owner got a ticket. She insisted that the dog was NOT aggressive. I pointed out that it had been to us, and that it had tried very hard to kill a cat in my presence (damn near managed it, too). "That's what dogs do," she said. "They get out, they kill cats, they kill chickens... big deal!" I pointed out that it was a big deal to the owners of the cats and chickens, and to the parents of the children in the area.


The dog had gotten out because she had it tied up in the back yard without a dog house this morning when she went to work, and he slipped his collar.  It was 30 degrees with a 25 mph wind outside this morning. I warned her of the Health And Safety Code: Unlawful Restraint Of Dog.


She shook her head ruefully and told the animal control officer that I just had it in for her and her poor dog.


I have very little enamel left on my teeth.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New (to me) car.

We live within our means, here at Chez G. That said, we don't buy new cars-- we just buy quality used ones, and drive them until the wheels fall off.

I bought a 2004 Toyota Tundra SR5 V8 with the cash back on my mortgage refinance. I found it on Cars Dot Com, and got a reasonable deal on it. It was a trade-in at a dealership. They'd had trouble moving it with the warped rotors that it had when it was turned in, so they were changing the front rotors and pads out when I came by the dealer. It being up on the lift, I took a shop light and checked around under it, and was happy. I still paid a mechanic to check it out. It passed. I went by the motor bank and pulled a few thousand out, and discovered yet again that you can hand people a handful of greenish rag papers with Ben Franklin's portrait on them, and they will hand you the keys to a tangible piece of property.

This one came with leather, and a Rhino liner, and four real doors. As it had a touch over 100k miles, I had my SAE-certified mechanic friend change the timing belt and replace the water pump for me.

It scratches an itch that I've had for awhile, and I own it free and clear.

Because we found pomegranate rinds int he bed when we first looked at it, and because of the color, it's already been dubbed The Pomegranate, or "Pome" for short.







Sure, it's really storage for the jack, but in my mind, it's totally Han Solo's smuggling storage in the Millennium Falcon. 

I like that strut, which holds up the rear seat when it's rolled forward. That's a nice touch. 

With only 240 horsepower, the 32-valve, 4.7L V8 produces not a RIDICULOUS horsepower, but it gives a nice 315 foot-pounds of torque. It's a true 1-ton truck. 


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Monday, February 09, 2015

This and that: February 9, 2015.

--I worked an off-duty job last week, and am expecting a little bit of mad money from it. I'm going to buy me a Canon Rebel body, and then go lens shopping. It's embarrassing that I don't have any kind of DSLR, with my family.

--I took the helm for a week as the OIC of my P.D, while the chief was out of town. Nothing happened.

--I went to a Traffic Incident Management school for a couple of days, put on by the North Texas Council Of Governments. The instructors were great, and passionate about what they were teaching. They were fervent in teaching that, if you want to contribute to the safety of first responders and the public at large, you MUST clear the roadway quickly. Statistically, for every minute that a traffic incident continues, there is a 1 to 1.5% chance of a secondary event occurring. That's astounding. They had plenty of evidence to back it up, and were proponents of taking a quick picture of the crash, and using push-bumpers and-or chains to clear disabled vehicles out of lanes so that traffic could get moving again. The instructor said, "My dream is to see push bumpers put onto fire engines. I may retire the day that I see that happen."

Firefighters like to block off extra lanes for the safety of the first responders. The doctrine that these guys were trying to push was to get the firefighters on board with clearing the lanes, in the name of preserving the safety of the motorists upstream of them. I get that.

-- I've been working out again, trying to bring back the physical gains that I had made before the holidays. That left rotator cuff is telling me that I'm stuck at the amount of weight that I'll be benching for awhile, but I'm making nice gains on the eliptical machine, and on the abdominal curl machine. I'm trying to get my wind up, and strengthen my core. Everything else is gravy. Well, losing some more weight would be nice.

--Spending time on the eliptical machine got a LOT better, once I realized that I could use the little Galaxy tablet that my mother gave me for Christmas to watch Archer episodes on, with my Bluetooth headphones on. I, uh, had to turn it off in a hurry the other day when my Bluetooth wireless connection failed and the speaker began blaring the unfortunately blue dialogue at Missus Grundy, trudging away on the machine next to me.

-I taught my 12 year-old daughter the painless-until-resistance-is-encountered come-along hold we call "the Gooseneck." It's mostly used for escorting drunks away from a location. I should make sure that my 16 year-old is good with it, too. Lots and lots of times, just getting a belligerent drunk out of a confrontation will deescalate a tense situation into nothing.

-The Open Carry Movement guys in Texas have a very, VERY vocal minority who are frankly assholes. These asses will ruin it not only for the open carry proponents, but also for regular 2nd Amendment people. The most common method of the OCM activists is to carry (legally) long guns in public places in a prominent manner. It's one thing to carry a gun, and it's another thing to carry a gun at someone, as lots of these guys are doing. The nice thing about the Concealed Handgun License in Texas has been that the guy who wasn't being an idjit, and was following the law in keeping their gun concealed, was going to prevent a lot of foolishness in other ways. More on this, later; it deserves its own post.

--I called my best friend (a small business owner) and asked his advice on starting a small business. Two hours' later, we were kind of at an impasse.

--I refinanced the house, with cash back.  Just because you have cash sitting in the bank doesn't mean that you're wealthy. Not. At. All.

--When we refinanced, they made me sign my "signature" about 75 times throughout the hundreds of papers worth of documents. I say "signature" because the rep from the title company insisted that I had to write in script my first, middle, and last name each time. Who does that?!? I then had to sign a sworn affidavit that this was my "normal and true signature," and give and exemplar above the signing. I wrote for the exemplar my NORMAL signature. The lady with the title company pursed her lips and said that might not work, "because they're all supposed to be the same." I made clear that if I were swearing to the validity of the statement, I would see that it was true, and the only way to do that was to actually sign my actual normal signature on the exemplar line. I pointed out that her own signature below her notary stamp only included her first initial and last name. She countered that it was okay, because she had a letter from her attorney saying that this WAS her normal and true signature. I laughed and said that her attorney held no power to grant such status. But I signed the rest of the documents the way she wanted me to, to keep the title company (and my now-irritated wife, also present) happy.

--They had fresh Otis Spunkmeyer cookies on a plate in the middle of the table in the signing room of the title company. I thought that was odd. The lady from the title company urged us to take them, but we declined, as my wife and I are both on a low-carb diet. We finally took them home to our children.

--I've got to make a site plan for the new fence and deck that I'm putting up. Not one in five homeowners in my city gets a permit to do such work, but I'm getting one, because our municipal ordinance calls for one.

--I want a new backup holster for a J-frame, to put on my body armor. This is easier done when I wear the body armor under my uniform shirt than when I wear it in the external carrier. But I'd like to do it either way. Suggestions? I'm reevaluating.

--I'm also getting the itch for a new subcompact auto. I've been considering a Kahr PM9, or a Glock 42. I will say, though, for being a quality little carry gun, that PM9's magazine protruding from the butt by an 8th of an inch irritates me. Not flush, yet not obviously intentionally protruding. Ugh.

--Brian Williams' claims should not blow over. He has one job: tell the news. When he was on the trip in which he claimed to have his chopper hit by an RPG, he was covering a story. When he tells of what happened on that trip incorrectly, he is changing the story. This is a journalistic ethics issue.

--I contacted Tamara for help yesterday, to see if she had another outlook at a problem that I have: I've got a stolen gun report in which the victim DID write down the serial numbers and caliber and make of the guns, but not the model. Sadly, several common gun manufacturers (not Ruger, thank goodness) re-use serial numbers. So when I get "S&W .38, S/N XXXXXX," I can't put it into TCIC/NCIC, absent the model. I had several like this, which I can't put into the system. If the guy had a Model 36 stolen, which shares a serial number with a Model 10 and a Model 42, I cannot in good conscience enter the serial numbers as stolen, and risk the innocent possessors of the other uninvolved firearms being held as a suspect for Theft Of A Firearm (a felony, no less.). Tam tried to help me, but we just couldn't do anything. It's a shame-- the owner didn't remember much about the guns, and a thief may well get away.

--My favorite practice for logging guns is this: Take your driver license out, put it next to the gun, and photograph it in strong light next to the overall gun. Then put it next to the serial number, and take a closeup picture. Email the photos back to yourself along with a description of the gun, the caliber, the value, and SN and model, along with where you got it. Save the email in the cloud, to be found later.

--My Dad is en route to my house right now, so that I can take him to lunch. Then he'll proctor me to make me do a couple more modules of my EMT training.

--I reward myself after a module by watching an episode of Archer. I reward myself while working out by watching the show, too.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Warrants: how you serve them. (For the cops out there.)

I'm a garden-variety cop. My phone number is not zero, and I'm not a Billy Badass. I believe that I am competent at my job, though, and one aspect of that job is case development and evidence-gathering. Another is making arrests of those whom I have proven had sufficient probable cause to be taken to jail. If the event was on-view, I arrest them then and there. If I put the P.C. together after the fact, I get a warrant, and go arrest them later. 


I list here the steps to getting a warrant, because it seems like there are those who don't follow them, sometimes, and they make the news. Maybe we need to publish a primer, or something. So here's mine:


The first step in getting a warrant is to soundboard your plan against a competent cop. Sometimes this is your boss. Sometimes it's a peer with another agency. But explain what you're trying to do, and what evidence you have, and ask him or her to review your plan to check it for blind spots or subjective assumptions.  This is not just about being a professional-- it's about being fair to the suspect and to the system. Sometimes an investigator will miss a glaring reason why either:
1) The charge is incorrect or less appropriate than another charge,
2) The suspect is exempt from the charge due to statute or case law
3) The investigator needs to recuse himself from further investigation due to a conflict of interest.
4) Reason X, which hasn't been thought of yet.
Lots of cops don't do this, because they don't want to look like they're not capable of handling it by themselves. I used to be like that. Trust me: the seasoned cop soundboards, and does a better job because of it.


A second step (which is not necessary in my jurisdiction but which is a very good idea) is to run your proposed action by the local assistant District Attorney. He or she can often give advice about the procedure which is helpful (after all, they're the ones you're asking to prosecute the case in court). Just as importantly, though, you're getting a D.A. to sign off on your case, and take ownership of the case. This definitely helps.


A third step, in the service of a Search Warrant or Search And Arrest Warrant on a property is to go get photographs of exactly what you plan to search. Is it the shed behind 101 Main St? Get a few digital photos of it. Attach them to your Probable Cause Affidavit for your search warrant. Describe the property carefully in the first paragraph of the Warrant Affidavit.


Go take the affidavit and the warrant (You should have a generic warrant form on your thumb drive and on an office computer. Don't have one? Get one, right now. Save it. Make it editable. Don't wait until you need it; that's too late. Ask your D.A.) to the judge or magistrate. Swear to it, and get the warrant. Attach the photographs to it.  Make a copy of the warrant for the property owner/manager/tenant.


SERVE THE WARRANT YOURSELF.
I'm not saying "serve it all by yourself." But you will physically be there. Even if you need to assemble a team of 20 snake-eating Professional Operators (tm) to help you, you will be present when that warrant is served. You will brief everyone helping you on what to expect, and what you're trying to accomplish.  "They got the wrong address" is not an acceptable excuse. In such an instance, you, the investigator obtaining the warrant, have personally failed.


You will see that everyone on the warrant service team is attired in an easily-recognizable police uniform. Warrant service is not the time to go Office Casual. This is the time for badges displayed, patches displayed, and large patches with the name of your agency presented prominently. You will all carry police identification as well, which you will gladly present if at all possible to do so safely. Every officer present on the warrant service team will be identified, and their role given, on the call for service or incident report.


You will make contact in a courteous, professional manner with the homeowner or resident or manager, and state your business. You will present them with a copy of the judge's order to search the specified property. You will then make clear that you are going to follow that order at that time. While there is a clear imperative, here, this does not have to be an adversarial dialogue. Be respectful to that citizen; you work for him or her.

Document how you go about this. Roll video, with audio. I like car video, backed up by body cameras.


Secure the scene. Be courteous but direct. Screaming "Get On The Ground" and pointing weapons at people who happen to be there is not courteous. Don't point weapons at people just because you're serving a warrant and they're present. You need to be able to articulate why they were a threat before you point a weapon at someone.  I'm serious about this.


As I've written before, don't serve No-Knock Warrants unless there's a hostage present.


Leave a list of what you took as a receipt for the resident or manager. Have a scribe keep the list during the search, and photograph what you took and what the condition of it was.


Get out.


Send a return to the judge or magistrate, showing that the warrant was served, and what you seized.




Lots of cops say, "that's above my pay grade." "That's for the detectives." "That's just the way I was shown how, and we don't have time for that." 


Fellow peace officers, a search warrant is a very specific exception to rights held by our citizens. Take it seriously. Do it right. Even if you don't do them, know HOW to do them. If learning how is too much trouble, then go find other work, please. We've got this.


Let us be professionals.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deletion

I deleted some online contacts, today. One was Byron Quick. Byron passed away a few years ago. He was a nurse, and a Georgia cracker, and had been a fellow staff member at www.TheFiringLine.com, and at www.TheHighRoad.org. I hunted with Byron, and took meals with Byron, and was his guest, once. I miss his company.

Another was William Bligh-Glover, MD. I wrote here of his passing. I never met him. Still I thought of him as a friend.

Another was Jason Pittman. Jason and I were students in grade school through high school, together. His mother was my teacher. His father was an assistant scoutmaster of my troop. Jason, I am given to understand, fell into drugs and depression (who knows which caused the other), and he took his own life. He had been an Eagle Scout.

The day after his father was buried, I watched my Chief, a friend, delete his father from his cell phone, saying that it was silly to keep it in there. I shook my head, not sure that I could do such a thing with such a cavalier attitude. But I don't think (looking back) that he did it without thought. A photo or a note or a subscription to or a social media "friendship" does not a relationship make. You carry that in your heart. It is not a flag, that you wave.

I don't believe in ghosts. I wish that I did. But I've got some of these people's transferred personalities stored within my wetware*, and so I guess that they live on. In the meantime, this picture reminds me of an adventure in Georgia with my friends. I think that Tamara was already gone, but I don't recall who took this picture. JPG or John may recall. That's Byron in the middle.

_____________________________
*If I could, would I be stored as a RAM AI, like Neuromancer? If I were simply a ROM AI, I would want to be deleted, like Dixie Flatline

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