Tag Archive for: security

The final two weeks of preparation for the annual Writers’ Police Academy passed by quickly, but eerily. I say it was eerie because there wasn’t a speck of trouble or problems. Well, other than presenters who backed out at the last minute. Fortunately, we filled those spots quickly, with fantastic speakers. In fact, we filled the spots almost as fast as the short time it takes to read this paragraph.

During that fortnight of preparation, Denene and I were busy designing and printing name tags and banquet meal tickets, creating spreadsheets for everything we could imagine, days of plotting and planning individual attendee schedules, devising backup plans in case the sunny weather forecast morphed into a rain-soaked weekend which would have grounded the helicopter, drenched the emergency vehicle driving track, and caused the K-9s to smell like, well, wet dogs.

But we were blessed with sunny skies and mild temperatures throughout the event.

Since we had a mountain of luggage, and boxes and bags full of WPA “stuff”, which was far too much to ship, Denene and I opted to drive to Wisconsin. A 16-hour trip, one way.

When it came time to load our vehicle, well, I felt like I was the tall green fellow in Whoville who was delivering a colossal bag filled to the brim with toys and floof to the Who girls and boys.

So many packages filled with snoof and tringlers and fuzzles; pantookas, dafflers and wuzzles. We had everything we could think of that we might need. Everything but the roast beast, which the event hotel assured me there’d be plenty of for everyone at the Saturday night banquet.

The day before we left home, we made a dry run to make certain the menagerie of cartons and cases fit into our vehicle and still leave room for two human passengers. And, after twisting, turning, shoving, and me grunting and groaning and spewing a long line of words that I didn’t know were in my vocabulary, I stood back to look at the result. What I’d created was a masterpiece. A work of art. Every bit and bob fit together into a giant, perfectly and tightly formed Jenga puzzle. Had one box slipped from its spot I believe the vehicle would have exploded.

The problem then was that I had to unload everything so we could fill the empty suitcases with enough clothing for ten days, stuff the empty boxes with registration goodies and other vital information, etc. Oh, I almost forgot the cooler. I couldn’t leave home without Coke Zero, bottled water, Cheerios, almond milk, gluten free bread and peanut butter, and jalapeno Cheetos (my crack)—the staples for a long road trip.

Denene knows me well; therefore, she knew it was likely I’d not remember how to accurately recreate the complex Jenga puzzle and, being a bulldozer in a china shop, end up destroying something when using my foot to stomp the &*$% out of the final box that refused to fit into its (im)proper place. Therefore, before unloading everything, Denene took photos to aid with re-packing. She’s a good wife who knows how to keep my blood pressure at a level that doesn’t send my brain jetting into orbit.

I drive a large pickup truck, a 2022 Chevrolet Silverado High Country. Hey, I’m a big guy who needs big space and comfort. Plus, we plan to do the obligatory retirement activity of using the truck to tow a travel trailer/5th wheel when heading south to visit family. Rick McMahan, one of WPA’s longtime core instructors and our good friend, said my truck was the size of a boat.

So, with our bags packed and truck loaded to the gills, we were ready to go. I filled up with gas ($4.49 per gallon) and off we went, with Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” pumping from the speakers and the woman inside the dashboard telling me to drive X number of miles and to turn here and there, slow down, a speed trap is ahead, make a U-turn, do this, and don’t do that. My truck was also very talkative and pushy, ringing bells that warned me to slow down for school crossings, exceeding the speed limit (this one clanged more than once), alerting me to other cars that were too close to me on either side, and so on and on and on.

The next stop was for, well, you know, and to again fill up with gas—$4.69 per gallon. We consumed a peanut butter sandwich at this stop, and then we were off, in search of a hotel for the night.

We’d already traveled through four states, and it was quite late, past the hour of “nothing good happens at that time of night,” when we started our scan for roadside hotel signs. Finally, on that very dark desert highway, up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light. My eyelids had grown heavy, my sight dim. Yes, we’d found a hotel, and it was one in. chain that might rhyme with Killton. Relief at last.

However, we soon discovered we’d made an awful mistake in judgement when choosing this hotel. I promise, our experience there is not indicative of this chain’s properties, but I must share with you the tale of this overnight hell.

After exiting the main road I pulled beneath the covered drive at the front door of the sleeping establishment. This being the only hotel we’d seen for miles and miles it, I hoped it was an oasis where we’d get some much-needed rest.

When the automatic front doors parted I was greeted by an odor like I’d not experienced before. Not quite terrible, but slightly offensive. My senses told me to turn around, but the need for sleep pushed me inside. Still, there was a nagging feeling that we’d stepped inside “Motel Hell,” the fictional hotel from the 1980 comedy horror film of the same name. In the movie, the hotel is run by Vincent Smith, a farmer, butcher, and motel manager who traps travelers and harvests them for his popular smoked sausages made of human flesh. I wondered about the off-putting scent pouring into my nostrils and immediately scanned the area for homemade sausages.

The desk clerk at our hotel (not Motel Hell, but close) was a man who looked young enough to be fresh out of high school. When I approached the counter, I saw him seated at a desk in a backroom, in full view of the front counter, intently watching a video. He didn’t hear me come in. I called out to him a few times before I got his attention. He finally walked to the counter at the pace of a snail who’d overdosed on tranquilizers.

When this slender, frail person finally made it to the front desk he simply stood there. His thick round glasses made his eyes appear to be the size of marbles. When it became clear that he had no intention of speaking I asked if he had a room available for the night. He nodded once but still did not say a word.

The odd guy, still without speaking, handed me a paper with spaces highlighted in purple. Being the detective that I am I figured out that two spaces required my initials and the third a signature. Then he spoke. “I need your ID and credit card,” he said. His voice was quiet and tranquil, like the voice a parent uses when trying to convince a baby to sleep.

Well, the computer system wasn’t working so he completed the transaction by hand, old school style. As he handed me the card key he said in his unique snoozy tone, “There’s a problem with the hot water.”

Me – “We WILL have hot for showers, RIGHT?”

The pasty man with fingers barely larger than spaghetti noodles (the tiniest fingers I’ve ever seen other than those of a infant) didn’t reply. Instead, he very slowly shrugged his shoulders, and by slow, I mean it took him 7 full seconds to raise and lower his shoulders.

So, I asked again. Another slow shrug of his shoulders.

Ordinarily this would have been my final clue to head out the door and move on to another hotel. But we were in the middle of Stretch of Nowhere, Ohio. Population … one guy who works at the only hotel for miles and miles. And we were exhausted.

So, I grabbed a luggage cart and began the laborious process of unloading the Jenga puzzle in reverse order for transfer to the hotel wagon. Once it was loaded to above my eye level with cartons and cases bulging from all sides, I then leaned into the task of pushing the grossly overloaded trolley toward our room, straining my legs and back along the way. The cart, by the way, was so heavily laden the excessive weight caused its well-worn wheels to moan like a wounded animal while digging deeply into the cheap, stained carpeting in the hallway.

I opened the door to the room and the yucky odor inside was even more pronounced than the funk permeating the air in the lobby and corridor. The source of the stink, we believed, was a large sofa cushion sized area of black mold on the bathroom ceiling. The drapes were badly torn and couldn’t be closed on their own. Denene creatively pinned them shut using the metal clips on the in-room clothes hangers. Then she, being an astute microbiologist and immunologist, broke out a package of alcohol wipes and proceeded to disinfect every reachable surface in the room. The only thing in the room that was clean and fresh smelling was the bedding (we tossed the comforter and used only the sheets).

The a/c barely worked, and when it did it rattled like someone emptying metal garbage cans into a refuse truck.

The hotel was like one you’d see in a low budget film featuring crack dealers and prostitutes.

Somehow, we made it through the rest of night without being attacked by bedbugs, roaches, rats, or drug dealers and prostitutes. But the next morning, as I feared … NO HOT WATER. Not a drop. It was like showering in ice water. What I didn’t foresee was the power outage that occurred when I stepped from the shower. It was 80 degrees outside, and it didn’t take long for the heat to rush into the room once the ailing a/c unit wheezed its last breath.

I repacked the Jenga game into the truck, using the photo as a guide, and then filled up with gas—$4.89 per gallon.

The rest of Ohio was uneventful, but the further we traveled the higher the price of gas. The next stop it was $5.59 per gallon.

We spent the night in Wisconsin, in town that’s been in the news quite a bit during the past couple of years. That’s not why we stayed there, though. We picked it because there was a variety of hotels and restaurants. We struck gold this time because the hotel was quite pleasant as was the food. And gas prices were heading down—$4.59.

The next day was a shorter drive and in just under three hours we pulled into the rear private parking lot of the impressive Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton, WI, the location of the nighttime activities of the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

The Fox Cities Exhibition Center is attached to the Hilton Paper Valley Hotel, our official event hotel).

The 2022 WPA was a fantastic event, one of the best we’ve produced to date.

Of course, there was the one night during our stay when the local police were called by hotel security to assist with booting the gaggle of loud and rowdy underage alcohol-consuming partiers from the room next to ours. I learned the next day that the mother of one of the teens rented the room as a graduation present. And, as teens do, they invited all their friends over, also under legal drinking age, to yell, scream, squeal, shriek, giggle, bang on walls, stomp on floors, and play music at ZZ Top concert levels.

Security visited the room twice to ask the group to hold down the noise. I heard the security officer say, “This is your final warning.” He was soft-spoken, yet firm, and he was built like a small tank. He had the widest shoulders I’ve ever seen on a real person. It looked like he’d inserted a six-foot 2×4 inside his suit jacket, lengthwise across the tops of his shoulders.

Think of a torso shaped like Spongebob, with a human head on top and arms and legs protruding from their appropriate locations. A waist length braided ponytail, and a small black hoop ring inserted through one eyebrow. This guy is tailor made to be a character in a novel.

After the final warning and with the party still in full swing, SpongeBob’s patience was a thing of the past, as was mine (we had to get up a 5 a.m. and by this time it was after two. He called the police to assist with the eviction.

Yes, there’s nothing like a booming “cop knock” on a metal door in the wee hours of the night/morning, followed by the gentle sound of a police officer’s timid voice when he shouted, “POLICE! OPEN. THE. DOOR. NOW!” Then, “PACK. YOUR. STUFF. AND. GET. OUT!”

Mom was not happy when she was roused from her sleep with a call to come pick up her daughter who’d been evicted from the hotel and was currently standing on the sidewalk outside the hotel.

Before you read further, please know that I cannot and will not comment on border and political issues. I can’t offer insight or opinion because I am not there, have not seen anything first-hand, and I definitely believe absolutely nothing I read in the media or see and hear on “news” programming. It’s disheartening and extremely frustrating to read three or four news articles from various sources with all having different things to say about a current event, something that actually happened, not fiction, and many of what’s supposed to be news articles are merely the opinions of the “reporter.” And for goodness sake, some of the stuff I read on social media is so incredibly outlandish that it, too, is beyond belief.

I try to sift through the nonsense to get at the real meat of the matter. But until I know the facts, I try to hold my tongue. Speculation and opinion are fuel for fires. However, what I can do is to present the law, the stuff that’s passed by our elected officials and in turn enforced by law enforcement. I know, what a shock, right? Cops do not make the laws. Who knew …

Okay, here’s the reality of arrests and/or detention – short and sweet.

When someone breaks the law—felony or misdemeanor—they are typically arrested and held in jail until they post bond or until a hearing where a judge then releases the subject or holds them until trial.

During the time the person is incarcerated, they are totally separated from family members, unless, of course, there’s a family member already in lockup. If the person has a child with them at the time of the arrest, the child is placed either with responsible family members or, if no family is available, in the care of the government. Sometimes this involves a secure facility until other arrangements are made (foster care, family member offers to take the child, etc.).

This not something new!

Every person who’s in jail is separated from their children, if, of course, they have any. Every single time. Kids are not permitted to live in jail alongside their incarcerated or detained parents.

This is not something new, nor should it be a surprise.The folks who choose to illegally cross over into the United States are committing a crime. It’s a simple as that, according to the law.

Yes, they’re breaking the law; therefore, law enforcement is obligated to arrest and detain. Unfortunately, the children accompanying them are caught up in the mess.

Again, when it comes to what’s written in black and white, it is not the job of law enforcement to determine who they may release and who they may hold, nor is it permitted that they act as prosecutors, judges, and as members of a jury.

Once officers have made an arrest, they are not allowed to “un-arrest.” The case is, at that point, out of their hands. It is then time for the prosecutor and courts to handle things from there.

Speaking of what’s written in black and white, here is the federal law that officers are, by law, required to enforce. (The solution is to fix/change the law, not blame the cops for doing a job that’s often unpleasant).

Crossing the U.S. border illegally is a crime – 

8 U.S. Code § 1325 – Improper entry by alien

(a)Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts

Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

(b)Improper time or place; civil penalties. Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of—

  • at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
  • twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection.
  • Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed.

c)Marriage fraud

Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

(d)Immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud

Any individual who knowingly establishes a commercial enterprise for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined in accordance with title 18, or both.

(June 27, 1952, ch. 477, title II, ch. 8, § 275, 66 Stat. 229Pub. L. 99–639, § 2(d), Nov. 10, 1986, 100 Stat. 3542Pub. L. 101–649, title I, § 121(b)(3), title V, § 543(b)(2), Nov. 29, 1990, 104 Stat. 4994, 5059; Pub. L. 102–232, title III, § 306(c)(3), Dec. 12, 1991, 105 Stat. 1752Pub. L. 104–208, div. C, title I, § 105(a), Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009–556.)


*I’m trying this once again – PLEASE do not turn this into a political discussion. I’m merely presenting the law as it’s written. Anything beyond that is for your personal sites. Keep in mind that this is a factual piece. There’s nothing hidden between the lines. Nothing. Nada.

Blue Mountain School District Superintendent David Helsel said they’d placed buckets filled with river stones in all classrooms. Their purpose? To allow students a chance to defend themselves in the event of a school shooting.

The Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania official said the idea to arm kids with rocks came to him when he pictured river stones as a comfortable size for the hands of children. The theory was to have the rock bucket on standby in case an armed shooter burst in the classroom while firing a semi-automatic AR-15 or similar rifle. Or even a pistol or two (far more people are killed with handguns than long guns).

Shooter Seung-Hui Cho killed 25 students and five faculty members at Virginia Tech. Cho fired 174 rounds from two handguns.

So let’s picture this for a moment. The alarm sounds (this is not the actual message) … “Emergency! There is an active shooter inside the building. No time to evacuate. Lock all doors and shelter in place. The police are on the way!”

Teachers and children hustle to a rear section of the classroom and use whatever they can find to use as barricades. The gunfire is intense. People are screaming. The shooter is yelling. Police sirens are wailing outside in the distance. Some of the kids are crying and sobbing. Others are using cell phones to call their parents. The teacher is trembling, but trying to be brave. More gunfire and the sound of glass breaking.

Front and center of the group is a plastic bucket filled with lemon-size, smooth and pretty river stones. Everyone grabs three or four. They’re ready to clobber the guy who’s coming down the hallway. Then …

The classroom door bursts open and the barrel of an AR-15 pokes through the opening. Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets begin to spew from the muzzle at a speed of somewhere around at 3,350 fps, and they’re peppering the walls, desks, ceiling, windows, barricades, teachers, children, and the rock bucket, as fast as the killer can pull the trigger.

An AR-15 style rifle is a lightweight semi-automatic rifle.

During the blast of intense gunfire, there is simply no way on this earth that children would have the time to grab a rock and throw it with enough accuracy to stop a crazed killer who’s intent on carrying out the act. Typically, these guys are not afraid of dying and may kill themselves at the end of the shooting. So someone tossing river stones at a gun-toting madman? No way.

This would be more realistic …

Fortunately, officials came to their senses and are now stepping up school security by hiring security armed with guns. I think the rocks still remain, but …

Kevlar Blankets

By the way, why not equip classrooms with large “blankets” made of Kevlar? Kids and teachers could hide behind them and, who knows, the shields could give them the chance to survive an attack.




I’d love to hear your thoughts on adding a bucket of rocks in classrooms as a means of defense against an armed shooter. Also, who knows what the “AR” in AR-15 stands for? Hint. It’s not Assault Rifle.

*As always, please, no comments about politics, gun control, race, religion, or any of the other hot button whatever-no-one-can-discuss-rationally topics. Thanks!