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).

Footsteps.

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…

*     *     *

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.

Have you reserved your spot for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy?

Ride-a-longs with sheriff’s deputies, jail tours, firearms and driver training are only a part of the fun!

Train with the pros.

Sign up now at:

http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/

Space is limited!

 

No Key? No Problem

 

Set of picks, tension wrenches, and a broken key remover.

Padlock shims. Used to open spring-operated padlocks.

PRO-LOK7 is designed to open any standard ACE 7-pin lock.

62-piece lock pick set

Manual pick gun. Insert pick. Squeeze trigger. You’re in!

Slim Jims and wire tools for vehicle entry

 

Window punch

 

Breaking car window glass is easy enough using a punch, but not everyone has access to the tool. But…everyone can certainly get their hands on a common, everyday spark plug, right? Well, here’s what a tiny piece of porcelain from the tip of a spark plug can do.

 

Death Penalty of Jared Loughner

Twenty-two-year-old Jared Loughner is certainly one of the most hated humans to have ever taken a breath of American air. And a wager that he’ll be found guilty of his heinous crimes would probably be a safe bet. If fact, he’ll probably be sentenced to death…if he’s not found to have a mental impairment that will prevent him from standing trial. But this story is a long way from over.

First things first. Enter the attorney who’s job will be to defend a man who killed six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, and wounded fourteen others (among the wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords).

Criminal defense attorney Judy Clarke

The attorney dubbed “The One Woman Dream Team,” Judy Clarke, has been named to represent Loughner in federal court, and she’s no stranger to tough death penalty cases. Some of her more well-known cases include, Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Eric Rudolph (the Olympics bomber), and  Zacarias Moussaoui (9/11 conspirator). Clarke also represented Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two young boys.

Judy Clarke is the perfect attorney for cases such as the aforementioned, since she is a fierce opponent of the death penalty. Her passions surely drive her will to triumph, and triumph she has. Rudolph, Smith, and Kaczynski all dodged death row.

Clarke’s latest client, loughner, has been charged with two counts of murder (Judge Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a staff member of congresswoman Giffords). He has also been charged with two counts of attempted murder and a single charge of attempting to assassinate a member of congress. Since these crimes were committed against federal employees, Loughner will answer to the charges in a federal court somewhere within the United States, in Arizona if at all possible, but not likely in any courtroom near the shooting scene, or near Judge Roll’s court (the entire federal bench in Arizona has recused itself due to close ties to Judge Roll.

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall

The state of Arizona has yet to issue warrants, but officials, including Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, have both stated that numerous state charges will be filed. LaWall says it’s important that justice be served for all of the victims, not just federal employees. The state charges could include one for each and every person (approximately 150 people were in attendance of the meeting) who were placed in the line of fire.

It’s important to note that not all attorneys are permitted to appear and plead cases before all courts. In fact, many attorneys who’ve been admitted to the state bar never appear in federal court. To do so, special requirements  must be met.

Also, federal rules often differ from state rules of law. Will those different rules of law cause complications for Loughner’s defense?

Maybe so.

Loughner crime scene

Sure, this one’s an open and shut case since Loughner pulled the trigger, many times, in front of many witnesses. And without a doubt Loughner’s sanity, state of mind, etc. is going to be the root of his defense, and his sanity may very well be the single factor that spares his life. But it may not keep him from going to prison. And this is where the differences in state and federal rules muddy the waters.

The state of Arizona does NOT allow a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity. Federal law does. Instead, Arizona’s options are Guilty, Not Guilty, or Guilty But Insane, and a Guilty But Insane verdict means a convicted person may be held at a state mental institution, BUT, if doctors determine their sanity has been restored at some point, they will then be transferred to prison to serve the sentence for their crime.

This time, no matter the direction this case takes, Defense Attorney Judy Clarke has her hands full. I think her record of winning death penalty cases is about to take a hit because prosecutors and law enforcement officials are coming after this guy, hard.

Pima County Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

*     *     *

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is set to open in a few days!

Reserve your spot early. Space will be limited this year!

New workshops!

New hotel!

Renowned experts in computer crimes, forensic psychology, criminal law, and bioterrorism!

Driving simulator!

Action, action, action!

Firefighers!

EMS workers!

Cops, Cops, and more Cops!

And, yes, FATS training will be back!

Details coming soon on our all new website.

See you there!

Officer Jillian Smith

I remember the feeling of answering your first calls with your field training officer stuck to you like glue, making sure you didn’t do or say anything dumb. It was also the FTO’s responsibility to keep you safe. Sure, you’d been through months of training at the academy, but nothing could prepare you for the real street action.

Years later, I, too, became a field training officer, watching over the rookies as they learned the ropes and tricks of the trade. It’s a period in an officer’s career that’s not unlike a baby taking her first steps. They stumble around and mom or dad is always there to catch them when they fall. But there are some in this world who never trip. They never stumble. Those are the ones who hit the carpet running. And that’s the story of Arlington Texas Police Officer Jillian Smith.

Jillian was a typical girl in high school. A good student and a cheerleader. But there was one thing that set her apart from the other giggling  sixth-graders. She wanted to be a police officer, an interest sparked by the local D.A.R.E. program.

Smith, with her goals in mind, received a bachelors degree in criminology from the University of Texas where she graduated with honors in August of 2009. Six months later she was hired by the Arlington Police Department. She checked the first goal off her list and entered the police academy—Class 41. Again, her drive was evident. She earned top grades in many of the classes and she graduated on August 20, 2010.

With her academy training behind her, Smith breezed through the field training program, completing it on December 13, 2010. She now had another goal in mind. She wanted to get some street experience behind her and then, hopefully, sign on with the FBI. That was two weeks ago.

Tuesday night, fifteen short days after completing all her training, Jillian Michelle Smith was shot to death while protecting an 11-year-old child during a domestic dispute. Officer Smith had responded to a low-priority call where a woman wanted to file a report of abuse by her husband who had already left the residence.

Officer Smith was in the process of recording the necessary information when the husband returned and began firing a weapon. Smith placed herself between the gunfire and the child and was killed. The suspect also shot and killed his wife, but the child Officer Smith had protected was able to escape without harm. The suspect then shot and killed himself.

Officer Jillian Smith was a true hero, and if she were able to do so she could check one more item off her list. You see, Officer Smith firmly believed she was on this earth to protect and serve the community where she lived. And she was right. Because of her bravery a child lived to see another day.

Who says Cops can't write fiction

I saw a few comments floating around the internet yesterday about the writing skills of police officers. Those words prompted today’s blog post. Without going into detail I’ll simply provide the following.

There are hundreds of published books, both fiction and nonfiction, written by hundreds of police officers. So, contrary to to what you may have read yesterday, cops are not big dummies who can barely read and write. In fact, here are a few authors you may have heard of, and most of them are still working the streets as police officers.

Robin Burcell

Burcell is an award winning mystery author who spent over two decades working as a police officer. She served as a hostage negotiator, a detective, and as an FBI-trained forensic artist.

Jim Born

James O. Born has been a deputy U.S. Marshall, an agent with the DEA, and currently serves as a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). He’s also a very successful author who shares an editor with W.E.B. Griffith and Tom Clancy.

Mike Black

As an active-duty sergeant, Michael Black has seen some real action. He’s been a SWAT commander, a patrol supervisor, and a member of a raid team. He’s into weightlifting and the martial arts. He’s the classic tough-guy cop. And, he graduated from Columbia College, Chicago in 2000 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing. He previously earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Illinois University.

Joseph Waumbaugh

Cops can’t write fiction? Yeah, right. Joseph Wambaugh is a former MWA Grandmaster!

Will Beall

Still serving the LAPD, Beall finds time between arrests to pen books. He’s also written a few episodes of a mildly popular TV show called Castle…

Rick McMahan

ATF Special Agent Rick McMahan is an award winning author whose work has been featured in books such as Death Do Us Part, edited by Harlan Coben.

John J. Lamb

A former homicide investigator and hostage negotiator, John J. Lamb is a successful mystery writer who just happens to be married to a fingerprint expert.

It would take days to list all the cop-authors and I just don’t have that kind of time. But please feel free to peruse the Police Writers website to have a look at a rather long list of authors who’d probably disagree with the statement that cops can’t write fiction.

http://www.police-writers.com/fiction.html

South Fulton Firefighters: A Disgrace To The Uniform?

When I raised my right hand and pledged to protect and serve citizens and their property I took that oath seriously. Every officer does. And so does every single firefighter I know. I’ve never met a police officer or firefighter who’s in the business for the money. Not one. They took the job because they want to help people.

I’ve been called to the scene of scores of fires where I’ve seen brave firefighters wade into a wall of flames just to bring out a family heirloom, or a beloved pet. They’ve risked their own lives to save the lives of others. It’s what they do and what they do is dangerous. Very.

Firefighters, like police officers, raise their right hands and promise to help others when in need. In fact, here’s a copy of the firefighter’s pledge.

A Firefighter’s Pledge

I promise concern for others.
A willingness to help all those in need.

I promise courage – courage to face and conquer my fears.
Courage to share and endure the ordeal of those who need me.

I promise strength – strength of heart to bear whatever
burdens might be placed upon me.
Strength of body to deliver to safety all those placed within my care.

I promise the wisdom to lead, the compassion to comfort,
and the love to serve unselfishly whenever I am called.

-Author Unknown

I’ve said all this as a lead-in of sorts to a story that really rattles me to the core. And it bothers me to speak badly about public servants but, in my opinion, firefighters of South Fulton, Tennessee didn’t serve the public. In fact, they stood by and watched a couple’s home burn to the ground and didn’t lift a finger to stop it. Inside that home were a lifetime of memories along with the family pets. They all perished.

Obion County, Tennessee – Gene Cranick was burning trash in two metal drums, a common practice in rural areas of the country. The containers were quite some distance from his mobile home, yet the fire ignited nearby grass and quickly spread toward Cranick’s home. He called 911 seeking the fire department’s help.

The 911 dispatcher advised Cranick that firefighters would not be responding because he’d failed to pay a $75 “fire service fee.” The distraught homeowner told the dispatcher he’d pay whatever it took to get the firefighters to respond because his house was now on fire. The response he received was an unbelievable, “It’s too late to pay and they will NOT be responding.”

Cranick, along with friends, attempted to extinguish the blaze with garden hoses, but the fire was too much for the small amount of water. Meanwhile, the fire had spread to a neighbor’s field and fence, so they called the fire department. However, their response was quite different and in a matter of minutes a fire crew was on the scene spraying gallons of water using high-pressure hoses attached to publicly-funded fire trucks.

Why did the fire department respond to the grass fire? Because the owner of the dry weeds had paid the $75 fee in advance. So, after the Fulton FD extinguished the brush fire they stood leaning against their trucks and against the property fence and watched the Cranick home burn until it was reduced to a pile of cinders. A pile of cinders that also contained the remains of the Cranick’s beloved pets.

You know, this story disgusts me. It makes me ill…sick to my stomach. Sure, taxes and fees must be paid. It’s the law. But there are remedies available to collect those fees, even after the fact. For goodness sake, put out the fire and then sue. Get a $75 lien against the property.  Bill the homeowner for time and material plus interest. Take Visa or MasterCard. Install one of those credit card swipers directly in the body of a fire truck. Something. Anything! But don’t stand by and let a lifetime go up in flames over a few measly dollars.

Thankfully, this is an isolated incident. Firefighters everywhere are true heroes.

As for the firefighters of South Fulton who stood by and watched this family home burn…shame on you. Sure, you’ve probably saved lots of property in your day, maybe even a few lives, and you deserve thanks for those acts, but this is a dark cloud that’ll hang over your heads for a while. Policies or no policies. You were there, on the scene, and did nothing to help your fellow man. Perhaps you need to read this…again.


Fire Fighter’s Prayer

When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child before it’s too late,
or save an older person from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert to hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me,
to guard my neighbor and protect his property.

And if according to your will I have to lose my life,
bless with your protecting hand my loving family from strife.

So what’s next, a fee for police service? “Sorry, ma’am, but you didn’t pay your $75 rape insurance…”

I’m just saying…

*This article is strictly my opinion and parts of it were paraphrased from comments found in news stories…lots of news stories).

*     *     *

Writers’ Police Academy Photo of the Day