Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gimme watcha got!





It's two thirty in the morning...there are three marked cars around the trailer, four patrolmen and a patrol Sergeant.


My unmarked is in the driveway of the trailer, sitting in the passenger seat is a fifteen year old black kid who I believe has just robbed at gunpoint a gas station up the road. Right now I'm just chit chatting with him, trying to get a feel for who he is and how I can angle in and build some rapport. He keeps looking at me, finally he says You look familiar, I know you." He looks vaguely familiar to me too but after a while all the faces sort of run together. I ask him where he used to live and he gives me an address that immediately sets a two year old memory ablaze.


June 2005...I''m standing in the driveway of a rickety brick house in a terrible neighborhood. There is a chain link fence surrounding the property. Up by the house in a plastic lawn chair sits a twenty something black guy who refuses to make eye contact and looks like he'd rather be anywhere else. Next to my patrol car is a cavalier with a broken windshield, on the hood of the car sits a large cinder block and broken glass. A sixteen year old overweight black girl is angrily yelling at me that her younger brother threw the concrete block through the windshield and that this was the third time this year he had done the same thing.

I talk to her thirteen year old brother who says "Yeah , I threw that brick through her window. I did it the other two times too."

"Why did you do that?" I ask.

"Cause she made me mad. She put my game in her car."

He goes on to tell me that he knows I can't do anything to him because he's a juvenile.

I ask him why he thinks that and he tells me that that's what the other cops told his grandma when they came out about him doing the same thing before.

I tell him that if his sister wants him charged I was going to charge him. He looked at me with disbelief. His sister told me that she wanted him charged.

The next day I call the sister to follow up and she has changed her mind. Grandma paid to have the windshield replaced and her brother "has been acting better." I close the case checking the refuse to cooperate box at the bottom of the investigative report. I hope she's right about him changing his ways.


The dim lights from my dashboard cast orange and green glows across our faces as I sit behind the steering wheel with my notepad and pen. We talk about the incident with the windshield for a few minutes and the last thing he says about it is that I've been the only officer to come close to charging him. He smiles through the whole conversation as if its a fond memory. I lean close to him as if we're sharing a secret and he mirrors my movement leaning close to me. "You know your grandma and sister saved your butt on that one. I was sitting in the juvenile justice parking lot getting ready to charge you when they changed my mind."

He just keeps smiling.

I notice he is very short and has a deep voice. Part of the description I got a few minutes ago of the hooded suspect from the clerks at the store that was robbed. I'd already watched the video and knew what clothes the suspect wore and what the gun looked like. I've already located and talked to a man the youngster tried to recruit to rob the store with him, I know the man refused and I know the boy then asked the man if he could borrow a gun to commit the robbery with.

I begin to question him about why he is outside so late on a school night and why is he so sweaty? Have you been jogging?

Outside the car the boy's now nineteen year old sister, whom he's been living with, is arguing with the patrol officers. I can't tell what they're saying but I'm sure it's a bunch of angry nothings trying to distract them from the task at hand. That's how this game is often played. Half assed attempts to divert attention from the investigation to some angry irrelevant bickering.

The boy tells me his sister is behind on the rent and they've been evicted. They have until tomorrow morning to be out. He says he's up and sweaty because he's been packing and carrying things to the dumpster.

Another witness has already told me that they had seen him throwing things in the trailer parks community dumpster and I've already searched it for the gun and clothing. I found neither.

"Do you or your sister have a gun in the house?" I ask him.

"No."

"So there is no gun in the house?"

"No." I suspect he's lying to me. Either that or he's thrown it in the woods while running away from the store after the robbery.

Finally I cut to the chase and flat out ask him if he had anything to do with the store up the road being robbed.

He denies having anything to do with it or even knowing it was robbed.

I ask him if he cares if we search his room. He thinks about it for a second and tells me that it would be o.k.. All I have to do now is convince the sister to let me search the trailer.

I thank the kid for his time and he goes back inside the trailer.

The sister has gotten inside her car hoping to leave the scene. I walk up to her drivers side window and talk to her before she can back out. I talk to her for nearly thirty minutes trying to convince her that she should let me search her trailer, but she refuses consent. I ask her why she won't let us search, suspecting there is probably dope in the house among other things, and she says "It's because her house is messy, and that, although I have been very nice to her, she didn't appreciate the way the other officers had talked to her." She tells me that if I want to come back in the morning she will let me search.

I tell her that that isn't a realistic possibility for me and that I am going to apply for a search warrant. She tells me that she is going to pick up her boyfriend, who I know and who is a real thug, and I tell her that is fine, knowing that when she gets back boyfriend will do something stupid and get himself locked up.

I make some calls and get the patrol sergeant and several deputies from his squad to post up around the residence to make sure no one goes in or out until I get back. Having never applied for a search warrant I call my Sergeant who is bleary eyed but meets me at the office. About an hour later we are back at the trailer search warrant in hand only to find that the sister has come back and picked up the suspect and they left "to go get something to eat" and hadn't come back. I suspect they are going to try and hide the boy at his grandmothers so I'm not too worried about it. I'm more concerned with the fact that they may have gone in and removed the evidence I'm looking for.

The front door is unlocked and we enter with the warrant announce our presence and our intention and begin to search. It doesn't take long before I find the gun and clothing worn by the suspect in the boys bedroom, along with a small amount of crack cocaine and some scales in another bedroom. I suspect the drugs belong to the sister's boyfriend. The sister comes back as we are finishing our search and gets into a brief argument with the patrol officers about the legalities of the search warrant. We finish up and let patrol clear the scene. we talk to the sister a bit and she tells us that she did take her brother to their grandmothers house. She calls him and asks if he will talk to us if we come over . He says he will. we pick the boy up and he agrees to ride with us to the office for an interview. After talking to him for about an hour he confesses to the whole thing. we then take him back home and drop him off. I go to Juvenile Justice and obtain a secure custody order on the boy and we go back to the house and arrest him.

The case comes up on the docket and I am sitting in the courtroom listening to other cases of juvenile banditry when the boys attorney waves a trial and pleas guilty. the boy had no remorse and acted as if committing the robbery was funny. The judge actually notices this and mentions it to the boy who just keeps smiling. She sets another court date for sentencing and says she is considering having him locked up rather than serving his time on juvenile probation, which he is already on. The states attorney leans over and in a whisper asks how long I think it will be before he violates his probation, and I just answer not long.

I sit ans listen to a few more cases involving unruly thirteen year olds, mostly boys, charged with everything from shoplifting to trying to strangle their mothers, and I observe how the system bends over backwards to give these wayward kids every chance. I watch as the judge orders half days at school rather than full days and gives the kids mentors and counselors. I counted four separate agencies represented in the courtroom, all there to offer services to these kids, who didn't bat an eye or seem to appreciate any of it.

I wondered as I sat there if we were actually helping any of these kids or rewarding bad behavior with attention and half school days instead of teaching accountability and assimilation into society.










Saturday, August 11, 2007

The System


"Fuck that detective, I'll bash his head in!!"...The angry voice travels out of the computer, along the wire and to the headphones spilling the words into my ears with crystal stereo clarity. It's a sentiment I've heard him repeat several times while he's been locked up on the charges I made against him. I've been listening to and recording his calls for a while now.


He's looking at ten to fourteen years on one of my charges and another four on another, with three felonies I've yet to charge him with. He's a real P.O.S. A one man crime spree of sorts. He moved here in the middle of May and made my radar and was locked up on June 18 and has been in jail pre-trial ever since. I hope he hates this county. The more I investigate him The more felonies he accrues. I've even tied him into some felony crimes in a neighboring county. I gave them my information and copies of my video interviews and they have several felony warrants on him now too.


As I listen I wonder if he thinks he is fearsome. He doesn't instill much fear in me. He's a pathological liar and a bad one at that. I have listened to him blame his crimes on his mother, his brother, his girlfriend, he blames everyone but himself and has no sense of accountability for his actions.


He's in his early twenties, never had a job and has drawn a government check of over 800 dollars a month , which ultimately comes out of my pocket and yours. He spends that money on crack and when it's gone he just steals our stuff when we're not home for more crack money. He claims he is bi-polar and can't work but refuses to take any of his prescribed meds. I guess crack is better for bi-polar disorder.


I was thinking about that last Tuesday as I lay on a surgical table with a tube in my back sucking excess fluid from inside my skull so I can function normally and go to work to earn my living.


As the fluid drained through the tube and into a vial I thought about a woman I knew named Joyce. I met her at Denny's when I was on patrol. She was a waitress in her late sixties with two bad knees. She moved very slowly. She worked the midnight shift. She hobbled large trays of food to tables and refilled drinks infrequently. The other guys used to complain about how poor her service was.


She was always nice enough but had a pained look in her eyes. I hadn't been out of the hospital long then and I recognized the look from seeing patients in the waiting room of the oncology department during my follow up appointments. It was a look of pained, hopeful, despair.


I always tried to leave her little bit of a larger tip than I usually would.

Joyce eventually disappeared from Denny's and I ran into her one day a few months later and struck up a conversation. She had cancer in addition to bad knees and had gone to work at Denny's to pay for her treatments, until she just couldn't work any more and had to quit. I asked her if she had applied for disability. "Three times" she said. "They denied me every time I've applied."


I remembered back when I was blind and the doctors had decided I may not get any better, I had called SSI to find out about disability should I eventually need it. I was told that blindness didn't qualify as a disability since the blind can still obtain "meaningful employment." I never applied and hoped for the best. Drawing a check isn't for me anyway. I got lucky and my vision returned after six months, very slowly but it did come back after several treatments and several thousand dollars in medical bills, some of which I'm still paying for 6 years later.


I told Joyce she should get a lawyer and fight SSI that way. I left her thinking of all the shitbag criminal twenty somethings and 18 year olds' I'd arrested over the years who were "disabled" and had never had a job in their lives, but were healthy enough to rob people, stab people, kick in doors and carry out 32 inch televisions to support their crack habits.


As I walked to my car my face was red with anger and embarrassment. Embarrassment of a government and system that is so terribly screwed up and broken. A month or so later I ran into Joyce at the hospital where I was babysitting a "disabled" eighteen year old who was claiming he was "thinking about hurting himself or someone else." (the exact words he used. I wonder if he picked that phrase up from his mental health worker.


She saw me standing in the hallway and smiled . "How are you Joyce?" I asked. She looked sallow but her smile counteracted the effect the cancer was taking on her body. "Good" she answered. "I found a lawyer who took my case for free and when he applied on my behalf they didn't even dispute it, they just approved me. I'm getting my treatments again. Maybe if I'm lucky it's not to late to send my cancer into remission."

"I sure do hope so." She talked to me a bit about her grandchildren, whom she had been raising since they were born.


I watched her hobble down the hall on the wreckage of her knees and she struck me as somewhat heroic. 18 year old disabled boy looks at me in the hall and says "I'm fuckin' hungry get me something to eat cop." I shoot him a glance and quietly tell him to shut his fucking mouth.


I don't know how things turned out for Joyce, I never saw her again after that night in the hospital. I tell myself that she beat her cancer and is somewhere pushing her grand babies on a swing in the summer sun, but deep down in my heart I know from her appearance that her prognosis was likely very grim.


I like the lie I tell myself better though.


As for my "head bashing" jailbird I'll say this, Real fear in life doesn't come from fists or threats. Real fear comes from not knowing how you're going to pay your bills every month, or working your ass off to spend three hundred bucks a month on doctors so you can work your ass off. Real fear is being blindsided by some illness, and real bravery comes in the form of people like Joyce, who are living their lives, marching forward with no promise of tomorrow.


As I lay there on the table last Tuesday, with a small tube draining excess fluid from inside my skull so I can continue to function and work, I thought of all the 800 and something dollar checks the government would take from my pocket, your pocket, and give to my little jailbird while he sits in prison for the next twenty years. His mailbox will be full of checks when he gets out, he'll have a better retirement than me.


As the doctor finishes and pulls the tube out so I can go back to work one sentence runs through my mind and, ironically, it's probably the same sentence that my shitbag jailbird has been thinking ever since I locked him up...


"Fuck the system."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two Weeks


In the past two weeks...I've assisted in a murder investigation, a bank robbery and the was the primary investigator on a Felony child abuse case. Mom and her boyfriend decided it would be a good idea to drink a case of beer, eat ten xanax each and top it off by smoking some crack. All while they were watching not only her daughter but three other small children. When they got good and high they began to fight which woke up the 16 month old daughter. Upon hearing the screaming and seeing her mother and her mothers boyfriend punching each other to the floor, the little girl became frightened and ran crying to her mother to be consoled. Mom and boyfriend couldn't take the crying so mom started smacking the girl in the head and mouth, when that led to further crying they gave the little girl at least one xanax and the baby is found on the floor, face down, blue and not breathing, a few minutes later by her father who has come to pick her up after visiting a relative in the hospital.
Mom and boyfriend are laying on the floor too high to even realize he is taking the baby and heading back to the hospital with her.
Mom didn't even cry until she found out how high the bond she earned was. I've charged boyfriend with a few things to and there are more charges on him the more I investigate him. The newest charge I'm going to hit him with is failure to register as a sex offender, It's interesting what you can learn about someone once they make it onto your radar. He made bail on my other charges and is in the wind right now. Nest time his bond will likely be too high to get out.
It's midnight one week ago as I look at her tiny body laying limp on the hospital bed. Tiny blood crusted mouth covered by a tiny plastic oxygen mask. It seems almost perverse and terribly wrong to see a child like that. I look at her and I wonder if, eighteen years from now I'll be arresting her for something similar. Will she sit in the back of my car on the way to be booked and tell me a story about how her mother almost killed her when she was a baby?
This is the metal sky we all live under. Where people are shit and babies are comatose, limp and unaturally blue, lying face down on a dirty hardwood floor covered with used needles and crack pipes.
I want to run from here screaming.
But I don't.
Maybe someday.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Just a bird


I'm sitting under a small canopy...on a bench behind my building. I work the second floor, above the comm center and below the court rooms and jail. There's a tall fence a few feet away to keep people from hap-hazardly falling to their doom into the parking lot below. This is our designated smoking area and due to a lack of smokers I usually have this space to myself.
This is where I come to formulate my plans of action during investigations. Trying to decide who to talk to first, who to arrest first and when to arrest them. I attempt to find the best course of action to make the dominoes fall in my favor. It's sort of like playing a chess game in your head.
The sun is shining and it's a comfortable 75 degrees. A slight breeze blows across my face as I light my cigarette. In the distance I can hear the faint but distinctive sound of an ambulance racing through the city to some medical emergency or another. A sparrow flies in from somewhere and lands atop the fence. I watch as its head angles one way and then the other with a strange sort of bio mechanical precision, surveying the area to decide how safe it is from moment to moment. It raises then lowers its tail to maintain its balance.
I watch the bird and wonder what its purpose is. What is its reason for existence? Its head continues to move as its small black eyes constantly surveille. Is its sole existance the sole purpose for being survival?
I used to equate birds with flight and freedom. Seeing them used to make me want to shed my suit for more comfortable clothing, step out of the grinding machinery of my life, get into my truck and just drive to see where I might end up. As I watch the sparrow today it seems somewhat oppressive. What good is a life spent simply for survival? Constantly eyeing the area for dangers. Assessing everything around you. Existing in constant fear of being devoured. Simply existing to eat and fly. Never feeling any emotion, unable to appreciate your surroundings even for a moment. Living without the realization that you are a separate and unique creature form everything else. Blind to the fact that there are other ways to live. Never wondering what it would be like to be anything but a sparrow.
There again, perhaps the sparrow is freer than I imagine it to be. The sparrow isn't tortured with fear of illness or debt. It doesn't worry about disappointment in itself and in others. It's free to exist and be a bird. To eat and take flight. The sparrows only pressure is to survive.
The sparrow isn't concerned with being a dove or a robin and doesn't have the capacity to distinguish between the two. The sparrow doesn't feel hatred inwardly or outwardly. The sparrow doesn't have to worry about the details or think about tomorrow. He exists only in the current moment. His is a life free of complications or dilemma.
I stand up to put my snubbed cigarette into the ash can. The sparrow, fearing I may try to eat him, takes flight and is out of sight in an instant.
To him I'm already forgotten.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Make her happy

I was attending in-service training...all week last week. I think that only 24 hours of training is whats required by the state to maintain my certification, but we do it up right and that means over 40 hours of training.
I like training but my mind kept reverting to "My god, how many cases are piling up on my desk with leads going dry and stolen property getting further out of my reach?" I'm finding that although I enjoy the hunt and arrest, what I really like is recovering stolen property and getting confessions.

Fast forward one week. I'm sitting in my office arranging my cases, both old and new. I closed one last week it was a break-in and by the end of my interrogation I've got the suspect on video laughing and practically bragging about committing the crime. It was like he had completely forgotten he was confessing to a cop and was, instead, talking to his drinking buddy.

Anyway, I'm sifting through case files deciding which ones are most serious and which ones are most solvable. It's a host of stolen guns, cars, tools, extension cords, copper wire, four wheelers, you name it. Only two victims had any serial numbers to their missing property. I need to call the victims and let them know why their cases have been stagnant for a week before they start complaining to my bosses that I must be the laziest cop in the world, and wondering why nothings been done about their cases.

The Chief appears in my doorway with a sticky note. One of my victims must have called already. "Do you have Mrs. such and suches case?" he asks.

"Yes sir, I just finished reading that case file as a matter of fact." I say.

He holds the sticky note out looking somewhat grim. I can never tell what he thinks of me. I can't decide if he doesn't like me or if he's afraid that I'm about to snap and bite off one or more of his fingers. He's just one of the few people I just can't read at all and it makes me a bit nervous. His body language is conflicting itself.

"She called and wants to know what's going on with her case. She didn't seem happy. Call her and see if you can make her happy."

I take the sticky note and he leaves. It's a stolen 4-wheeler case. No VIN or description is listed on the vehicle, just a brand and motor size. I call her and she seems friendly enough as I explain that I have been in training for the past week. She tells me that her neighbor saw a vehicle leaving her house on the day the atv was stolen and that someone else tole her that the 4-wheeler has ended up at a crack house. I know which crack house she's talking about as she tries to describe where she thinks it might be, her directions suck but I know the neighborhood. If its gone there it didn't stay there long and the chances for recovery are slim to none. That dealer never keeps large items for more than a few hours, and over a week had passed since it was stolen.

I dig around a little bit and find out that a truck matching the suspect vehicle was stopped a few nights ago for not having insurance and that the truck had been towed to an unknown address on a certain road. I go to the road and drive looking at the houses until I see the truck in a driveway, and luckily its owner standing next to it. as I pull into the driveway I see a 4-wheeler next to the mobile home, it is the same make and engine size as the stolen one.

I get out while the guy tries to figure out if he's going to run or not, he decides not to. I introduce myself and ask "You know why I'm here?"

He looks at the four wheeler and shakes his head yes. He tells me a bunch of lies about buying it off sojme guy that rents a camper in his yard, yeah he let the guy borrow his truck and yeah when the guy came back the atv was in his truck but then he sold it ot me. I listen to his lies and have him write me a statement outlining everything he tells me so I can hang him with the lies later. He helps me load the atv on the sheriffs office pickup and I notice the VIN on the 4-wheeler has been scratched off by someone.

Four hours after I first talked to the victim I'm giving her 4-wheeler back to her. She asks if I've arrested the guy that stole it. I tell her I'm still working out the details but I hope to have charges filed by weeks end.

As I leave I hope I've made her happy. Or perhaps her next call to the chief will be to demand an explanation to why I found her 4-wheeler and haven't made an arrest yet.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Random Realizations


1) My son is growing up. I forget how much he has changed over the years until I look at old pictures of him.
2) In life there are some people who won't like you no matter what you do.
3) Sometimes even though you do all you can it still doesn't feel like it's enough.
4) The unit I was stationed with in the Marines is now fully manned with people I don't know. They have had a 100 percent turn over in personell since I was stationed there.
5) My brother is a Meth addict serving a ten year prison sentence. I still remember catching crawdads in the creek near our house when we were kids. It doesn't seem that long ago.
6) Every woman's ear I've ever whispered "I love you" into has since had the same sentiment whispered into it by a different voice.
7) Someone else is catching crawdads in a creek with their little brother right now. Blissfully unaware of their future.
8) Someone else lives in the first apartment I ever rented. I wonder if they enjoy it as much as I did.
9) I am now older than both my parents were when I was born.
10) Of all the cigarettes I've ever smoked I can pinpoint the one that addicted me. It was a marlboro red smoked in the airport in San Diego thirteen years ago.
11) The fact that thirteen years have come and gone since I sat in that airport amazes me. I still remember what I was wearing that day. Blue jeans, a pair of red and white nike tennis shoes, and a red and white striped long sleeve pullover with three buttons at the neck and a white collar.
12) I can't remember what I had for lunch two days ago.
13) Not everyone that does bad things is evil and not everyone that does good things is a saint.
14) I haven't gone to church since my wife and I divorced five years ago. Sometimes I miss it. Mostly I don't.
15) All my neighbors are retired. Seeing them makes me feel young. Watching them tirelessly maintain their yards while I watch the birds makes me feel old and lazy.
16) I have more in common with people that I dislike than I'd care to admit.
17) We live in a society of instantaneous self gratification and have access to nearly anything we want at a moments whim. On demand television, microwave ovens, pre-cooked and fast food. The internet, credit cards. No one is patient or willing to delay gratification any more.
18) I can remember as a kid living in missouri for two years in a house with no indoor plumbing and having to bring water inside from a spicket in the yard. I wonder how many people my age can say that?
) People are free to make any decision they want, good or bad, even if they could only get by with it once. Sometimes I wonder how many people realize that.
20) Everyone you meet judges you. You judge everyone you meet.
21) NPR is informational and entertaining.
22) There are still more people in the world that give a damn than there are people who don't.
23) kindness and tolerance are are better than political correctness. Being politically correct is destroying our society.
24) In the end the love of money is the root of all evil.
25) I like wearing a suit to work more than I thought I would.
26) Zealots are dangerous.
27) Jehova's witnesses mean you no harm. Neither do mormons.
28) though not a fan of Rodney King and having witnessed the aftermath of the riots in L.A. while I was in California "Can't we all just get along?!?" is one of the greatest quotes to come out of a persons mouth.
29) There is a psycho that lives half a mile away from me and the second time in the same day that I arrested him he asked "what I'd do if he came to my house one night after he got out of jail?" I calmly told him I would kill him the minute I saw him. He is the only person I've ever told I would kill.
30) Nothing is unconditional.
31) As I listen to other cops talk about how rude or confrontational they were to someone I realize that there are bullies among the ranks.
32) I've been rude to people when I shouldn't have been.
33) There are people in the world that I would die for and that would die for me.
34) Someday I'll be old and weak and I think that nothing i do now will have made any difference at all.
35) There are a lot of people in the world who are only interested in you when they want something from you.
36) Since the advent of video games and home movies children playing outside are scarce. Sometimes when I work I drive through the poor crack hoods just so I can see kids playing outside and here them laughing and yelling in the distance as I pass with my windows rolled down.
37) My son doesn't play outside as much as he should.
38) Teenagers aren't disrespectful...mostly. They're just different than from everyone else.
39) It won't be long until my son is a teenager.
40) It sucks to be blind.
41) You can never really know anybody. Nobody can ever really know you.
42) I haven't maintained contact with anyone I grew up with and I miss them.
43) i wonder how good it would feel to be miles from anyone else and just scream until I was out of breath. I guess this isn't a realization but I bet it would be great.
44) I was jokingly called a hippie three times last month.
45) Maybe it's time for a haircut.
46) Bi-Polar disorder is widely over diagnosed. Especially among those who are disabled and live in trailer parks.
47) # 46 wasn't very politically correct.
48) If no one ever died we'd have to start killing people. How would we decide who dies?
49) My son believes that animals have souls. When his hamster died we tied carrots to a balloon and let them float away so they could get to the hamster in heaven.
50) Someone is wondering why there is a balloon with carrots tied to it in their front yard.