Hoodies: Intimate or intimidating

Hoodies—today’s word for a sweatshirt with a hood. They’re comfortable. They’re warm. They keep the rain off your head. And the hood keeps your ears from freezing into tiny blocks of ice. Hoodies have also become a fashion of the times, like bell bottom pants of the 60’s, mini skirts, etc. They’re cool. They’re stylish. And they’re a must-have these days. You know, if you want to “be someone.” And I’m all for kids being kids. I know I was my father’s personal nightmare, with that “hippie” long hair and rock and roll bands I played in. I get it, believe me. Ya’ gotta be cool!

Okay, I admit it. I’m a hoodie fan. An addict. They’re my jackets of choice, and I own and wear several. But I don’t wear them to be cool. Instead, I wear them because they’re comfortable and they keep my head warm without leaving behind the dreaded “hat hair.” Besides, they have those fantastic and easily accessible “glove-pockets” in front. Yes, I love my hoodies.

Unfortunately, those pull-tight hoods are also great for helping bad guys conceal their identities. And they’re absolutely fantastic for covering immediately recognizable characteristics, such as hair style, length, and color. Hoodies are the perfect accessory for hiding scars, marks, and tattoos. They’re also worn to intimidate others. I once dealt with a particular group of juvenile gang members who, when they were about to “beat down” a rival, immediately pulled their hoods up over their heads. It was a sign to other gangs that trouble was brewing. When the leader of the gang covered his head with the hood, well, it was game on—a sign to his followers that it was time to go to war.

Before I go any further I feel I must address the Treyvon Martin situation. Yes, I’ve received hundreds of messages asking my opinion, and until now I’ve remained silent on the issue. And there’s a good reason for my silence…I simply cannot offer a reasonable opinion about a situation I know nothing about. I wasn’t there. I haven’t seen the actual evidence. I haven’t spoken to witnesses. And I absolutely refuse to jump to any conclusions based on media reports and family statements. You see, family members in nearly all criminal cases defend their loved ones, and the media is always trying to sell something. So those are two opinionated sources to avoid like the plague when searching for solid evidence that can be used in a court of law. And isn’t that where we’re supposed to try cases…in court? Not on TV or in the street.

Also, the police and attorneys have jobs to do. So I choose to allow them to do those jobs. If they fail, which I have not seen because I’m not involved in their investigation, and neither is anyone else on the outside, then it would be time to complain. But not now. Investigations take time, often lots of time. I sort of believe in the theory “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Sometimes blowing a lot of hot air around that smoke doesn’t allow it to drift into the right place at the right time. Instead, stand back, let the investigators investigate, and soon the source of the fire comes plainly into view. Remember, an arrest that occurs before its time often ends in  a not-guilty verdict (Casey Anthony, anyone?). No one wants a bad guy to go free, right?

Sure, my heart goes out to the parents of Treyvon. He was their son. Their child. They loved him. And they would love him no matter what.

Same thing with George Zimmerman. His family loves him and will continue to do so no matter what.

But my blog isn’t about the person inside that particular hoodie. Nor is it about the man who shot the wearer of that hoodie.

No, this piece is about THE hoodie. Sure, everyone has a right to wear one, or any other article of clothing, without being judged, profiled, or stereotyped. But it happens, and it happens sometimes, unfortunately, for good reason. And that reason is…lots and lots of bad guys wear hoodies too, and they wear them for a specific purpose. They’re either trying to send a message—to intimidate someone, or they’re wearing one to conceal their identity. I assure you, their motives for wearing hoodies have nothing to do with fashion.

For example:

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor




Kansas City

London Rioter


Virginia (notice the date)


The Unabomber

See what I mean? These for-real bad guys, and woman, all wore hoodies as part of their disguise to commit robberies, murder, or in the case of the protester, destruction of property. Hoodies are indeed associated with bad guys. There’s no way around that statement either. It is what is it is. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve responded to reports of hoodie-wearing prowlers, burglars, robbers, rapists, attackers, carjackers, home invaders, etc.

Even I’ve been approached by the police because I was wearing a hoodie. Last winter while staying at our home in N.C. during the Christmas holidays, I went outside at midnight, in a snowstorm, to brush heavy snow off the branches of some newly planted trees. I had the hood of my sweatshirt (I know, I’m old-fashioned), pulled tight to keep out the bitterly cold air, and, well, a neighbor saw me out there with a flashlight and called the police. Two deputies responded and said they’d received a report of a large hoodie-wearing man prowling around our yard.

I’m telling you, it’s the hoodie, people! There’s definitely a perception that they’re associated with crime!

Even the next two images give two starkly different impressions.

Sure goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, huh? But some people do give us reason to judge, like the robbers in the photos above. Well, except for Taylor Swift. The only thing she’s guilty of stealing is hearts…

Life after the crown vic

It’s official. I’m getting old, and I’m positive this is happening because everything I know and love is rapidly disappearing right before my eyes. The aging process alone is distressing enough as it is. But add to it receiving that first letter from AARP, new-fangled gadgets such as the “I” everything’s (I-Phone, I-Pad, I-Pod), weird music that really doesn’t resemble music, and the “F” word spewing from the mouths of nearly every kid in the 4th grade, well, it’s beyond distressing. Downright anxiety-inducing, if you ask me.

Yes, I know aging is a natural process, and with it comes (or goes) a lot of things we’ve held dear for our entire lives—hair, a trim waistline, memory, eyesight, strong backs, good knees, finger dexterity, speedy reaction time, soft skin, and well, you get the idea.

And getting older shoves all the good things aside, replacing them with odd little ugly things, such as:

– that once wavy mane of 80’s rock-band hair morphs into a peculiar-shaped hairless orb

– eyeglasses with super-thick lenses replace $200 super-cool sunglasses

– sports cars replaced by minivans

– comfortable tennis shoes replace dress shoes, even when going out

– going out is a trip to the grocery store, or a visit to the proctologist

– a quiet evening at home means turning down the volume on your hearing aids, not an intimate dinner party of six

– rolling a joint means to massage the pain from your knees, fingers, and feet

– listening to music no longer means turning on the radio to hear people sing beautiful melodies. Instead, we now turn on the radio to hear some guy using bad grammar to rapidly recite nonsensical, profanity-laced rhymes to the beat of a computerized, artificial bass guitar and drums (at least by listening to this crap on the radio we’re spared seeing the constant crotch-grabbing and dance-partner-humping).

– singers don’t sing. Singers don’t even have to be able to sing. Instead, a “gadget” harnesses their out-of-tune lyrics and mechanically brings the screeching tones into pitch. Anyone can become a singer these days. I won’t name names, but anyone, anyone, anyone ~ subliminal message here…Taylor Swift, Black Eyes Peas ~ can have a top-selling record.

– awards presented to actors and musicians used to mean something. Not anymore. Nowadays there’s at least one for everybody, sometimes more. And yes, even the fast-talking rhyming folks get them for “singing.”

– even the people who can’t sing but use the auto-tuners to dupe us into thinking they can sing win awards for “singing.”

What ever happened to folks who had real singing talent? Folks like Frank, Bing, Dean, Robert Plant, Aretha, Dionne, Barbara, and Paul McCartney?

Speaking of Paul McCartney, did you see the Twitter boards light up in response to Sir Paul’s performance on the recent “award” show? Most of the trending tweets were something like, “Who the hell is this Paul McCartney dude?” “Who’s the old white guy?”

Yes, it’s definitely a sign that times are changing when people don’t have a clue about Paul McCartney and his contribution to music and to the world as a musician.

I know. These are all signs that I’m getting old.

But the Geritol really hit the spoon when I learned of the plans to phase out the old standard police car, Ford’s Crown Victoria.

I drove a Chevrolet Caprice for several years. Mine was midnight blue with dark-tinted windows in the rear. The tint was installed so people couldn’t see who, if anyone, was in the backseat. That way I could drive an informant through a neighborhood so he could point out all the hotspots without anyone knowing what I was up to. And, the CI’s identity could remain anonymous. Plus, the darkened windows added a bit of mystery to me and the car. Kept the bad guys guessing.

My old “Blue Ghost” reached it’s top speed of 80mph, or so, when we were rolling downhill with my foot squashing the accelerator to the floor (all my successful pursuits terminated on the downhill side of the city). It was a tough old car and I loved it, passing up a couple of new rides in favor of keeping the car with a seat that was perfectly molded to the shape of my own downhill side of town.

I also drove a Crown Vic for a while, and that was one tough, beefy car. I used it on a few pit maneuvers and to chase down murder suspects, bank robbers, and escaped convicts. It was a great car. Actually, I drove a few Crown Vic’s during my career. A couple of them were take-home cars that also served as my office. In fact, I’d used the car to ferry my daughter to sporting events, driven it in several parades, and took it to various school events as show and tell for kids.

The Vic and The Ghost often served as safe sanctuaries for victims of abuse, rape, attempted murder, and assault, where they’d wait with the doors locked while I dealt with their attacker(s). The car’s heater warmed the tiny legs and arms of abused children whose homes had no heat when I found them inside, alone and shivering. I kept treats in the console for the younger folks who had nothing. The trunk held my riot gear, a shotgun, and other tools of the trade. But it was also home to several stuffed animals I ‘d bought for the kids who simply needed to hug something after mommy or daddy had used them as punching bags.

Driving slowly through neighborhoods with my windows down was just something I did. I’d pass by kids and old folks who all knew my first name. They’d wave and I’d wave back, and I’d often stop to speak or to get out and sit on someone’s front porch to talk about whatever was on their mind. Children knew The Vic and The Ghost, and they knew it meant someone was there to keep them safe, or to toss them a football.

Now, sadly, the Vic’s are gone. Replaced by big powerful cars with huge thunderous engines. Cars that can easily reach 150mph and beyond.

I see them zoom by on the highways, thinking back to the days when I wore a badge and drove the highways traveling to and from calls. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a teddy bear in the trunk of that passing Charger or Impala.

I certainly hope that’s a part of police work that never grows old.

Jail visits: pros and cons

He stands at a tiny window watching and waiting for her car to round the bend.

Any minute now.

The drive is long. Four hours, one way.

The little ones, five and seven now, will have on their Sunday best.

The boy’s hair’ll be slicked down. The girl’s in springy curls.

She, the red “company” dress.

She’s always looked stunning in red.

Heart pounding.

Can’t wait.

It’s been six long weeks.

They’re all he has.

No one else.

She’s late.

One hour, then two.

Other wives have come and gone.

Three hours and four pass.

He’d been up at dawn, ironing his best shirt and pants.

The creases sharp and crisp.

A shave and a fresh haircut.

Five hours.

No answer at home.

Only a message.

“The number you’ve reached is no longer…”

A broken heart.

Nothing new.

Story of his life.

No hope, no dream.

No where to go.

A change of clothing.

Bare skin.

Tattoos exposed.

Metal mirror.



They’ll be there.


Prison life is tough. It’s definitely no picnic. Sure, some people choose to live the life and will always live the life, serving sentence after sentence. They live their lives on the streets committing crime after crime. Let’s face it, it’s the only life many people know. And when they end up in prison surrounded by career criminals, well, things only grow worse. Surround yourself with successful people and you, too, will become successful, right? Yes, that sentiment is also true among the bad guys. Being around successful criminals all the time will almost certainly spawn another success.

There are many programs to help inmates with various problems—AA, NA, religious services, anger management, psychiatric treatment, counseling, and even sports programs to help to relieve stress and anxiety. But, according to a study by researchers with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the thing that helps prisoners the most and, reduces the rate of recidivism, is a simple visit from a family member.

Researchers studied 1,6000 inmates for five years and learned that prisoners who received at least one personal visit at any time during their incarceration were 13 percent less likely to commit another felony and 25 percent less likely to end up back in prison on a parole violation. And the more visits they received the less likely their chances of re-offending after their release from prison.

There are problems, though, with prison visits. They’re not mandatory (you can’t force family members to visit), and prison and jail officials see visitation as a privilege, not as a tool to help reduce recidivism and to assist the inmate with a successful crime-free return to society. Instead, officials in some areas have reduced the number of visits as cost-saving measures. Others have even begun charging a visitation fee. That’s right, family members must pay Arizona prisons a one-time $25 fee to visit their incarcerated loved ones. Again, another barrier between prisoners and their families. It’s tough enough to pay the exorbitant charges for inmate phone calls ($4 – $5 per minute at some institutions). The visitation fees in Arizona are used to help pay for the maintenance of the prisons in their state. The families, the people who are already struggling to make ends meet, are the ones most likely to suffer the burden of paying these fees if they want to see their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, etc.

A return trip to prison by single parole violator will cost the state no less than $9,000. A visit by a family member doesn’t cost the state a penny, with the exception of salaries of the staff members who oversee the weekend visitations, something they’re already doing.

Prisons should encourage family visits. If not for the reduction in recidivism, then for their own peace of mind. I’m almost certain that prison violence is at it’s lowest point on visitation days, especially among those inmates who receive a visit from a family member.

Interestingly, though, inmates who receive visits from ex-spouses…well, those prisoners have a tendency to commit more crimes after their release.

What do you think, lock ’em and throw away the key? Or, do something positive and try to reduce the rate of recidivism?

*Reference HuffPo

Is pepper spray really the issue?

Pepper spray (Oleoresin Capsicum) is made from the fruit of plants, such as chili peppers. The chemical is basically a simple concoction—a high concentration of ground pepper suspended in pressurized water. Sometimes a dye is added to the mixture which marks a suspect for easy identification (as if the coughing, crying, and drooling aren’t enough).

The effects of the spray are: an immediate closing of the eyes (the person is able to open them but the burning sensation causes a strong desire to close them), burning sensation in the throat, breathing is uncomfortable, runny nose, hot itchy skin, and coughing. These effects of the spray normally last less than an hour. Sometimes the spray has no effect on the suspect.

However, people who suffer from asthma could suffer severe side effects, including death. And this is the side effect that made me re-think my position on pepper-spraying seated, peaceful protesters. A non-violent person, even people who are clearly breaking the law with their non-violent acts, should not be sprayed because there’s no way of knowing who has asthma or other medical problems, and who doesn’t. BUT, in the case of protesters who choose to toss a rock, push, shove, or strike a cop (or anyone else), well, they should be prepared for instant arrest using whatever means it takes for the officer to gain control. No time to check medic alert bracelets when someone comes charging with a sword.

So, I guess the only option for removing non-violent lawbreakers would be to return to the old standby—pain compliance, using wrist locks, arm bars, come-a-long techniques, riot batons, and sheer muscle to move people who break the law by blocking sidewalks, streets, bridges, and other public passageways and buildings.

San Diego protesters… “a peaceful resistance”

NYC protester “passively” ATTACKS a police officer. The crowd of peaceful protesters cheered as the man attempted to choke the officer.

Unless, of course, public opinion is to allow the occupiers to take over any place they desire, disrupting anything they want, all in the name of their peaceful movement (Please don’t misunderstand me, I agree with much of what the level-headed occupiers are saying. I just don’t agree with breaking the law to get the message across).

Seriously, should protesters be left alone to do whatever they want, anywhere they want? Is it okay for a hundred people to show up to camp in someone’s yard or place of business because the squatters don’t agree with how that particular citizen conducts his/her affairs.

NYC occupy camp

Is it okay for people to sit down at the entrance to someone’s personal driveway, blocking them from coming and going? How about camping in someone’s yard, running generators and using the flower garden as a public restroom? Is that okay because the campers don’t agree with the homeowner’s position regarding PTA matters?

NYC occupier

I guess the police can simply do nothing and just wait and see what happens. I’m positive everything would be fine. Sure, everyone will play nice and no bad would come of doing nothing to keep order. They won’t block city streets. They’ll stop burning cars and breaking out store windows. They’ll make the public parks a pleasant place to take your kids on a Saturday afternoon. Stepping across or around them to do your banking won’t be an inconvenience. Taking a one-hour detour around blocked streets and bridges will suit everyone just fine. Losing income due to damages to the store you’ve worked all your life to build from the ground up…no problem as long as the protesters have what they want.

Yes, there are protesters out there who are peaceful and truly want to make a difference. But police officers have no way of knowing the difference between the good and the people like those in the photo above who are using the movement as an excuse and cover to do damage. Therefore, officers have no choice other than to err on the side of caution, assuming everyone is out to do harm, until they see something to the contrary. Safety first.

Think about it, if the assaults, vandalism, car fires, etc, would go away, then so would the riot gear.

LA occupy camp outside City Hall

I think I like L.A.’s approach to the problem. Give the protesters an old office building (for a $1 per year rent) and shelter for the large group of homeless people who’ve joined their ranks. At least they’d be somewhere legally, unlike their counterparts in Oakland who’ve set up camp on a privately-owned lot that’s in foreclosure (sure, that land will be easy to sell now).

Back to the L.A. group, though…isn’t the offer of an office building a good idea for the group? There, they’d have a center of operations to conduct their activist work, instead of sitting in a public park or in the middle of public street where much of their focus is now on surviving the elements and dodging the police and local government officials. But the group hasn’t made a decision yet, not really wanting to give up their camp at City Hall, a condition that comes with $1 access to the office building.

By the way, the antidote for a dose of pepper spray is clear, cool water or milk. Not to drink, though. Turn the face sideways and slowly pour the liquid over the affected area(s). Another way to avoid the burn is to obey the law by not resisting arrest or assaulting police officers…

Pepper Spraying

Liz Nichols, at five-foot-nothing, is hardly a physical threat to big, burly, well-armed police officers. But add Ms. Nichol’s tiny body and soft-spoken voice to a herd of angry protesters and suddenly she’s ten-feet-tall and bulletproof. And that’s exactly what she tried to become (unstoppable by police and other officials) when she and her fellow Occupy Portland protesters “sat down” inside a Chase Bank, refusing to move. Admittedly, her goal was to be arrested. Yes, it was her intention to break the law and, when officers entered the bank to remove Nichols and her group, she asked to be arrested.

However, officers did not arrest Ms. Nichols or her fellow protesters. Instead, the officers herded the group out onto the sidewalk where a large crowd of protesters were already refusing orders to disperse and vacate the street (they were impeding the flow of traffic on the street and sidewalks and blocking and interfering with business-as-usual in public places). Not only was this crowd of protesters refusing to obey the police order to disperse and vacate, they had begun to push back and throw items at the officers. By the way, announcements to disperse and vacate were continuously broadcasted via loudspeaker. The message also clearly stated that those who didn’t comply would be arrested. There was plenty of advance notice regarding impending arrests if orders were not obeyed. Everyone had the opportunity to leave. MORE than amply opportunity. The mob chose to ignore the continuous warnings.

Well, Ms. Nichol’s once tiny presence had grown significantly and had now become a huge threat to the safety of the definitely-outnumbered police officers and citizens who were attempting to conduct that business-as-usual. So what options were available to police? Actually, there weren’t many. They could do nothing and allow the protesters to take control of public places and businesses, such as parks, banks, city streets and sidewalks. Obviously, that would be the wrong thing to do.

Protesters attempt to occupy Steelbridge in Portland

Or,  the protesters could do what’s legal and leave those public places, obtain the proper permits, and then conduct their protests and have their voices heard in an appropriate venue.

A great example of having a message heard, without breaking the law, took place on August 28, 1963, when someone announced his “dream” to over 200,000 people.

In the case of Liz Nichols (receiving the mouthful of pepper spray in top photo), she and her fellow protesters across the country may have a valid point to make. But, and I’m speaking from the point of view of the police officers, there’s a better way to make that point. Why poke a stick into a hornet’s nest full of officers who have a job to do (remember, they’re acting on orders given from their bosses), and who simply want to do that job without getting hurt or hurting anyone else. Besides, the Occupier’s points are being overshadowed by all the negativity.

Believe me, it’s no fun to squirt pepper spray into the faces of unarmed people, especially tiny women like Liz Nichols. Actually, it’s a bit demeaning to do so. There’s always a feeling inside tugging at your emotions because you’ve hurt someone, even though that hurt is normally temporary and minor.

Please, everyone, place yourself in the officer’s shoes for a moment. You’re outnumbered 50 or 100 to one. The mob is angry. They’re throwing rocks and bottles at you. You have no way of knowing who’s armed and who isn’t. Cops get shot and killed almost every day. These folks are breaking the law. They will not listen to reason, or your commands to move out of the street. And they start pushing back. Harder and harder. Any sign of hesitation and weakness on your part and they push even harder.

City Press Image

Or, protesters have filled the lobby of your bank and won’t leave, turning your customers away. Hundreds of them have camped out on your property, using your shrubbery as a bathroom.

City Press image

They litter the ground with waste and feces. Tents fill your once beautiful landscape. Your friends and family can no longer visit. Generators hum all day and night. Assaults and rapes take place during the dark hours. And the protesters will not leave, so you call the police.

As a police officer, what would you do, tuck your tail and run? Certainly not. You do your job, using whatever it takes to enforce the law. I’m truly sorry Ms. Nichols got a face full of O.C. spray, but the officers didn’t know her. All they know in those mob-type situations is…

AP photo

…if walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it must be out to hurt me. After all, a little woman can be as violent as well as any big man. There’s no time in these situations to take a “who’s violent and who’s not” survey. So please, Occupy Folks, sit down and have a meeting. Discuss things. Iron out the details. And for goodness sake, use your heads. There’s got to be a better way. This plan is definitely not working.

* Ms. Nichols has been charged with three counts of interfering with a police officer.

Businesses in Oakland are suffering due to the Occupy movement – KFI radio image

* So far, the Occupy movement has cost cities in excess of $10 million ($6 million in NYC). And who’s footing those huge bills? Yep, the taxpayers. People whose backs are already breaking from the state of the economy.

Portland has shelled out approximately $100,000 just to fix damages caused to public parks by the Occupy protesters. Another $750,000 has been spent in police overtime.

* Top image – Huffington Post


Brains and Blood

The job is fantastic. Everything you wanted and more. Excitement, fulfillment, serving mankind, and action. But, along with following your dream sometimes comes a price. And sometimes that price is quite steep…

Yes, everything you’d always wanted out of life. The perfect wife (or husband), two beautiful, healthy children, a nice home with a not-so-bad mortgage, two fairly new vehicles—a mini-van for hauling the kids to ballgames, scouting events, and family vacations—and an always-by-your-side dog the kids forced you to rescue from a local shelter. Work is going great, too. You’ve just reached the five-year, unofficial, no-longer-a-rookie status. And along with that milestone came a permanent day-shift assignment.

No more graveyard shifts. More awake time at home with the family. Normal meals and meal times. No more Denny’s Lumberjack Slams with a side of hash browns at 4 a.m., or the not-quite-finshed-because-of-the-shooting, three piece, extra crispy meals with the Colonel. Yes, things were looking good for you.

You feel good. Well-rested. You’ve finally watched your favorite TV show at its actual air time, not as a recording after everyone else has seen it and talked about it for days.

You feel so good, actually, that you volunteered for extra-duty. Running a little radar on your off time would be an easy assignment, and the extra money would come in handy during the holidays. Besides, little Sally Sue needs braces and Jimmie Joe had already been dropping hints about attending a Boy Scout summer camp. It would only be a few hours each week. Not so bad.

Your supervisor likes what she sees. You’re a hard-worker. A real go-getter. She writes a letter recommending you for the Emergency Response Team (ERT). You interview and before you know it you’re on the team. Training is only twice a week, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, your days off. Well, there’s the bi-monthly night training exercises, and the team competitions. You don’t get called out all that often—two, three times a month at the most? The last time you were gone for two days, but that’s not too bad. Well, maybe you could cut back on the radar assignment. But…the money’s nice. After the holidays. Yes, that’s it. You’ll cut back after the holidays.

The hostage situation was a tense one. Took 14 hours before the sniper finally popped one in the guy’s T-box. That piece of crap never had a chance to think about pulling the trigger before his lights went out. At least his victim came out okay. She’d probably be scarred for life, but she’d live. Might spend a few days with a shrink, but she’d live.

Man, that sniper is good, huh? Blew that guy’s brains all over the block wall. Sat him down in a hurry, too. Now that’s what a bloodstain pattern is supposed to look like. TV directors should see this stuff.

To celebrate a job well done the team goes to a bar for a few drinks and to unwind. You make it home at 3 a.m., drunk. Your wife and kids are fast asleep. There’s a piece of birthday cake on the counter. The frosting has hardened just a bit. Damn, you forgot your kid’s party.

You can’t sleep. Brains and blood. That’s all you see when you close your eyes.

You know she’s awake and can smell the Jack Daniels.

But brains and blood…that’s what’s on your mind.

You stare at the ceiling, knowing in two hours the clock will ring. Will the Jack odor be gone?

Brains and blood keep you awake.

The buzzer sounds and you’re up, shower, and dress. Skip breakfast.

Breath like a dirty ashtray and stale booze.

A domestic he-said-she-said, a lost kid, and an overnight B&E at a midtown mom and pop grocery store. Your head is pounding. Pearl-size beads of sweat run down your back, following your spine until they dip below your waistband. You’re dreading the overtime radar detail. Two more months. Only two more months and the holidays will be over.

A drug raid at 10 p.m. A good bust, too. Two kilos and some stolen guns. What’s a couple of beers to unwind? Sure, you’ll go. 3 a.m., again.

Pass out on the couch. Late for work. Forty minutes late, actually. A written warning.

A week later you’re late again, but this time the sergeant smells the Jack on your breath. Suspended. Ten days.

Your wife goes shopping with her friends. You watch the kids. She comes home late, really late. The stores closed hours ago.

Back at work. Another shooting. This time you fire a few rounds at the guy. He runs. You chase. Her turns and fires, so you pop off a couple in return. He drops, bleeding on the pavement.

The kid dies. He’d turned thirteen just four days ago.

Suspended pending an investigation.

Your shrink prescribes a couple of meds to help you sleep.

Brains and blood.

Pills help, some.

Jack Daniels.

She’s out shopping…again. This time she wears her “going out” makeup and a tight skirt and top.

More Jack Daniels and a pill or two.

She comes home drunk and smells of cheap aftershave.

You’re awake, staring at the ceiling, knowing the clock is set to go off in three hours. She’s snoring gently. You smell the Jack with each tiny exhale. The aftershave burns your nostrils.

Two more pills. No, make it four.

Sitting in the garage at the workbench where you’ve mended countless toys, appliances, and fixed the heels on her favorite shoes, you glance down at the off-duty weapon in your hand.

It would be over in a second.

You open your mouth and place the barrel inside. It tastes like bitter gun oil.

The metal is cool against your tongue, almost comforting.

A lone tear trickles down your cheek.

Brains and blood…

*     *     *

* In 2010, 145 active-duty police officers committed suicide. The suicide rate for officers is 17/100,000 compared to the civilian rate of 10/100,000 – Badge of Life stats.






Most memorable search warrant

The entry team has been briefed and they’re in position at the front door. A second team is standing by at the back door. Other officers are covering each of the windows to prevent someone from slipping away. It’s an impressive sight, all those highly-trained police officers dressed in black, holding enough firepower and break-and-rake tools to overtake a small country. On command, the entry team moves like a well-oiled, precision machine.

First, the distraction, a technique used to be sure the team members at the front door are able to make a safe entry into the home. CRASH! A side window is broken by an officer swinging a crowbar (Break). Shards of broken glass are “raked” away from the window frame and sill. BOOM! A flashbang is tossed into the bedroom. The cover officer aims his weapon at the inside and clears the room (Never insert the gun barrel past the window frame. You don’t want some thug grabbing it and taking it away). Now, with all attention diverted toward the crash and explosion, the battering ram hits the front doorknob. A second CRASH! The house is suddenly flooded with heavily-armed police officers who mean business. They’ve come for the wanted suspect and they’ve caught him with his “pants down” (sometimes you really do catch them that way!). People scream. Men run. Woman yell. Babies cry. Dogs bark. Cellphones ring. TV roars. Radios crackle. Handcuffs click. And finally…silence.

That’s how a search warrant execution can go. They’re dangerous. Exciting. Adrenaline flows like whitewater. Heart pounding against the inside of your chest. Pulse pushing against the neck.

Ah, yes…the excitement. But not so for me on one summer night…

It was to be the largest heroin bust I’d ever made. Hell, finding any heroin would have been the largest heroin bust I’d ever made. But this was supposed to be the mother-lode. I had all my I’s dotted and T’s crossed on the warrants and we were ready to make our move. I absolutely wanted no mistakes. None. So the team was briefed, re-briefed, and briefed again. Besides, we’d worked together for so long that we could practically do a safe entry with our eyes closed. Still, you never know.

Sometimes I preferred to surprise the bad guys by simply knocking on the front door (with everyone else hiding around the corner). Occasionally you get lucky and they open the door, thinking it might be Aunt Susie or one of their regular customers dropping by to re-up their supply. I decided to go for the door-knocking this time—the polite kind, not the cop-knock where you slam the door with the butt of your fist or end of a flashlight. Always use command presence, even with a door-knock, right?

Knock, Knock, Knock (gently, with my knuckles).


I stand slightly to the side (I’m allergic to bullet holes).

The door swings open.

I’m prepared to grab my suspect and pull him outside.

It’s an elderly lady. White hair, glasses perched on the end of her bird-beak nose. Faded house dress. Slippers.

The stopper was instantly pulled on the boiling adrenaline. I felt it swirling away at the bottom of the bowl.

“May I help you?”

“Is Mr. Drug Dealer at home?” I ask.

“No, he’s out with some of his little friends.”

“Are you related to him?”

“No. I’m his grandmother’s live-in nurse. She’s here, though. Would you like to see her?”

“Is anyone else in the house, besides the two of you?”

“No, it’s just us. Can I help you?”

Well, I decided to go ahead with the search. We could always pick up Mr. Drug Dealer another time. So I stepped inside and explained the purpose of my visit. The nurse then led me to Grandma so I could repeat the whole story again, to her.

Grandma was at least 190-years-old and shriveled like a spoiled prune. She was propped up in a hospital bed in a room that smelled like a mid-summer construction site Port-a-John.

The nurse asked if I’d like a nice glass of iced tea?

“No thank you.”

I explained the search warrant to Grandma. She said she understood and asked if I was hungry.

“No, Ma’am.”

I told her that we needed to begin our search.

“No one is going to do any searching in my house,” she said. “Not without having something to eat, first. No man has ever left my house, hungry.”

She called for the nurse and told her to set the dining room table, buffet style.

“No Ma’am, we can’t eat. We’re here to—”

“Nonsense. You get all your little friends in here and tell them to grab a plate. Mary! Is the table ready, yet? Set our some of those homemade rolls, too. And the real butter. Don’t forget the butter!”

“No, Ma’am. Really, we  need to…”

She held up a skeletal version of a hand to stop me. “Hush. Now you go have a bite to eat and then you boys can go and do your little searching, or whatever it is you want.”

“Ma’am, really we can’t…”

One of the team members walked into room, with half a hot, buttered roll in his hand. The other half inside his mouth, lumped inside his right cheek. Between chews he nodded toward the dining room. “Food’s getting cold.”

The bread smelled delicious.

He raised his eyebrows and nodded again.

I knew when I was outnumbered and accepted the cold glass of iced tea that Mary held in her liver-spotted hand. I hadn’t eaten all day and was famished.

And that was the beginning of my first search warrant for the mother…uh…Grandma-lode of heroin.

True story…

*Break and rake is a technique used to draw attention away from the point of entry (POE). It’s a great distraction that often prevents suspects from arming themselves, or from escaping custody. Catching suspects with their “pants down” (off-guard) is often the safest way to effect an arrest in a dangerous environment. Having a snack while serving a search warrant is definitely not recommended.

Troy Davis


I’ve lived in Georgia for a very short time, a little over a year, and it’s a wonderful place. In fact, there’s not much I can about it that’s bad. Even getting a driver’s license and tags for the cars was a pleasant experience.

But there is one thing I’ve noticed that’s not so nice, and that’s the high homicide rate in Savannah. There are people in and around the city of Savannah who will bust a cap in your rear end simply for looking at them the wrong way.

Almost every morning, it’s the same feature news stories, over and over again—Woman Shot While Sitting On Front Porch…Two Killed In Laundry Shooting…Three Dead After Overnight Murder Spree…Woman Killed While Walking In Park…Eight Killed In The Past 24 Hours, 2-Year-Old Shot During Drug Dealer Argument,…and, well, you get the picture.

But it’s not just Georgia. The last year I wore a badge, the yearly homicide count in Richmond, Va. was over 330. That annual number is lower now, but even one murder is one too many. I guess the point I’m slowly getting around to is that a life doesn’t seem to be as valuable as it used to be. Killing, unfortunately, has almost become a way of life for some folks. And that brings me to Georgia’s hot-button issue of the day.

Last night, Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection for a killing Savannah police officer, Mark MacPhail, in 1989. Davis had been at a pool party in Savannah where he, during an altercation, shot a man in the face. The he and a friend went to a local Burger King to have a snack, I guess. Doesn’t everyone do that after shooting another human?

While doing the burger and fry thing, Davis got into an argument with a homeless man and began pistol-whipping him. Officer MacPhail saw the trouble and intervened. Witnesses say Davis shot the officer once in the chest and then again in the face. Prosecutors said Davis had a smirk on his face when he killed the officer.

During Davis’ murder trial, prosecutors basically presented only eyewitness testimony, no physical evidence. They’d not located the murder weapon. No DNA. No fingerprints. No blood. No nothing, other than a few people saying they saw what they saw and a mention of finding some bullet-casings that matched the earlier pool-party-shooting. But, several of the witnesses have since recanted their stories, saying they were wrong about their original court testimonies.

This is the evidence that put Troy Davis on death row. And that was the evidence that earned him a spot last night on the gurney in the execution chamber.

Many people argued that the government should spare Davis’ life. They, including former president Jimmy Carter, say there was too much doubt in this case to go forward with an execution. However, every single court, including the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed. The courts ruled that Davis had received his day(s) in court and was guilty as charged. In fact, Davis’ execution had been halted three times before to allow the courts to review the case. The Georgia Clemency Board reviewed his case just this week. And the execution was again postponed just last night, minutes before Davis’ scheduled 7pm execution time, to allow the U.S. Supreme Court another chance to review the facts of the case. They did not agree to review the case again.

This week, Davis begged to be allowed to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence, something he’s been professing for 22 years. The prison system denied that request.

At 11:08 pm, Davis was finally put to death.

Just before the lethal injection process began, Davis lifted his head from the gurney and said, “I am innocent. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight.”

So, I ask you, did Georgia officials execute an innocent man? Or did Davis go to his grave a defiant cop-killer who never showed a moment of remorse?

I guess we’ll never know for sure…but isn’t that a reasonable doubt? You tell me.



9-12: The Day The Hope Began To Fade

I purposely didn’t post a 9-11 tribute yesterday. Instead, I waited until today, because the “day after” was a time when many people first began to grieve. You see, 9-12 was the day when families realized that their wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, and friends would never return to them. For many, the hope that their loved ones had somehow survived, carried on throughout the day and into the night on 9-11. Waiting for a phone call that never came. Perhaps a glimpse of their beloved on a TV newscast. But deep inside, everyone knew it wasn’t going to happen. Still, the hope was there. Yes, it was possible that somehow, someone escaped the disaster.

But it wasn’t to be.

Then, on 9-12, reality began to set in. Their worlds, and ours, had changed forever.

On 9-11, I was inside a federal building just outside Washington D.C. I saw the billowing black smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon. I heard the sirens. I saw the panic. I saw the horror unfold on a portable television sitting on a security officer’s small metal desk. And I also heard the sickening cheers and laughter coming from many federal prisoners who were from countries other than ours. They were ecstatic that the U.S. was under attack. In fact, a handful of those people who were celebrating the attacks were citizens of the U.S. I’ve never forgotten those sounds of elation and the expressions of pure joy on their faces, and I probably never will. And I’ll never understand how people can be joyful when innocent people are murdered.

Terrorism is absolutely one of the ugliest words in the dictionary. And terrorists who kill innocent people, well, I sincerely hope this is the next to the last thing they see on this earth.

But the last thing I hope they see is this, with U.S.A. stamped all over it, in large, bold letters.


Cops: Did that just happen

Every police officer has that special funny story they like to tell—arresting the guy in the clown suit, pepperspraying the toilet seat before their partner “has a seat,” stopping a car and discovering a naked passenger handcuffed to the door (this is one of my real-life stories)…well, you get the idea. There are thousands of tales to tell because the public never lets you down. Here are a few I’ve run across. Anyone else have one to share?

1. Police in Kansas engaged in pursuit of a woman driving pickup truck. When the driver finally stopped, she was driving on three rims and one good tire. The distraught woman told the officers she “ran” because she was simply too embarrassed to stop for their blue lights. Why?  Because she’d had a fight with her boyfriend and ran out of the house wearing only a shirt—no pants. Sure enough, the woman truly was em-bare-assed.

2. A Boston woman was arrested for mailing explosive-filled condoms to various places because she’d grown tired of being mistreated by men. Understandable, because the suspect worked as a waitress in a strip club…you know, one of those places where women are highly respected. I’m not saying she deserved the poor treatment. No one does. But exploding condoms???

3. A woman in Ohio was arrested for driving with a suspended license. As a result, she was brought to the police department and placed in a holding cell where she promptly had a seat on the bench. Well, when she sat down her fellow cellmates heard a loud BOOM. Upon investigation, jail officers learned that the woman had hidden a .25 caliber pistol in a very “private area” and sitting on the bench had apparently caused the weapon to fire. I wonder if jails employ on-call gynecologists?

4. A Phoenix SWAT officer’s police vehicle was stolen. Certainly it’s bad enough to have your police car stolen, but this one was packed full of weapons and other tactical gear. By the way, it’s not unusual for thieves to take marked police vehicles. And it’s sometimes difficult to catch the crooks when they do, because they, unlike their counterparts, have the luxury of listening to a police radio while making their escape.

5. A city councilman suspected a police officer of having an affair with his girlfriend so he retaliated in the best way he knew how, by egging the cop’s patrol car. The councilman was charged with 2nd degree criminal tampering. Personally, I think he should be glad they caught him before he became a “hard-boiled” criminal.

6. Two patrol officers saw a small container of baby powder sitting on a young detective’s desk. Since the detective and his wife were the new parents of a baby boy, the cops thought it would be a great joke to fill the vents in the detective’s car with the powder. You know, so that when the car was switched on the white powder would fly all over the interior of the car and on the detective. Well, it seems the detective had just busted a guy for possession of a large amount of cocaine, cocaine that he’d hidden in a small baby powder container. I guess that’s why they call it “blow.” Oops…

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Want real-life stories of your own? Want to drive a patrol car or an ambulance? Ever wanted to pepper spray someone? Are you curious about cyber crimes? Bio-terrorism? Serial killers? Want to see and use real-life CSI tools and equipment? Have you wondered what it’s like to be in a gun battle? Then you’ll certainly want to attend the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy.

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