Dealer Or No Dealer

When people think of drug dealers, they tend to think of the kinds of people they see on crime shows, gang members, bikers, underworld types, but those are not the kinds of people that I ended up arresting for dealing drugs in my career. The very first person I arrested for dealing drugs, I stopped for a simple traffic violation. At about 1 A.M., I stopped a guy for no bicycle headlight. As he rode up onto the sidewalk and dismounted his bicycle, I watched him set a small toolbag down on the ground and then stand up and wait for me. We conducted our bicycle stop and when his ID came back clear, I told him he could go. He hopped back on the bicycle and started to ride away when I called out to him.

“Hey, you forgot your bag.”

He looked at me, blankly. “That’s not mine. I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

I had been a police officer for less than a year, but even I knew that this was a clue. I stopped him again, grabbed the bag, and opened it. Inside was an entire pharmacy. If he had just picked up the bag and rode away, he would have been on his way, instead he went to jail.

Some people ask the police for help when they probably shouldn’t. I was at the police station when a student came up and asked if we were able to access the University Dining Commons which had closed, but the university police have keys to everything. The student was very nervous and near panic that he had left his backpack inside and he said that he couldn’t wait until the morning. Already a little suspicious, another officer and I went to the Dining Commons and found our way inside the office to see if the student’s backpack was there. We found a backpack and opened it up to see if there was something inside that said that the backpack belonged to this particular student. Unfortunately, the only things we found inside were illegal drugs and boxes of baggies. The fact that he also had a list of names led us to believe that the student had been possibly selling illegal drugs.

We returned to the police station, where the student had begun to have second thoughts and was trying to leave, while another officer tried to convince him to stay. I held up his backpack and asked him, “Is this yours?”

He must have assumed because I was asking and the backpack was all zipped up, that he was safe, but as soon as he identified it as his, he was on his way to jail.

Another time, one of my officers, Hans, told me that every shift, before he gets into his patrol car, he walks around it and makes sure that all the lights work and that nothing is broken and that he would think that drug dealers would do the same, to avoid getting pulled over. Instead, he stopped a student who was driving a car with an expired registration. When Hans approached the driver, he saw that the driver had a lock box on the passenger seat and was very nervous. Hans asked for the driver’s license and when the driver opened his wallet to take out his driver license, Hans saw a second driver license in another pocket. He asked for the second driver license, as well. The second license was a fake that made the driver over 21 years old. Hans arrested him for possession of a fake ID.

Once Hans had the driver in the back seat of the patrol car, Hans used the key on the driver’s key chain to open the lock box and discovered this particular student’s pharmacy, including a customer record on a notebook inside. At the time of this arrest, police were allowed to search cell phones incident to arrest, just like other spaces in the car, so Hans opened the driver’s cell phone and began looking at his text messages. And there, having been sent just minutes before, was the perfect message that our dealer had sent to his girlfriend. “We should quit school and do this full time. We are so smart, we will never get caught.” And then he went to jail. I hope he stayed in school because this career track wasn’t going to work for him.

And finally, I was working dayshift, but nightshift was short-staffed, so I had agreed to come in at 3 A.M. At 3:05 A.M., I walked out of the police station and into the parking garage. I happened to see three young men exit one of the stairwells and stop when they saw me, then they looked up into the stairwell. So as they walked away, I went into the stairwell and started climbing. I wanted to see what they had been looking for. Glancing down, I saw that the three young men had been walking slowly away and that at least one of them was using a cell phone. When I neared the roof, I heard a phone ringing above me, and a small group of male voices.

“Why do they keep calling?” one of the voices asked.

I reached the level where three young men were sitting.

“I think they’re trying to warn you that I’m coming,” I said, amused at the shock on their faces.

Sitting beside one of the young men was a large plastic container, perhaps the kind you would find filled with cheesepuffs at Walmart, but this one was filled with marijuana. I arrested the young man for possession of marijuana for sales, which was still a felony at the time of this incident. During later questioning, I asked him why he was selling drugs and he said that he didn’t have enough money to pay for anything other than tuition and books, and so he needed to sell pot to have spending money.

The next day, now that I was working my dayshift, I walked out of the police station and saw my arrestee, clearly out on bail, and a woman walking toward the entrance.

“That’s him,” my arrestee told the woman while pointing at me.

“How can I help you?”

“Are you the officer that arrested my son last night?”

“I am.” Here it comes, I thought.

“What happened?”

“I’m sorry, your son is an adult. I can’t give you any non-public information without his approval.”

She turned to her son. “Give him permission to talk to me.”

My arrestee looked defeated. “It’s okay to tell her what happened.”

So I did, including the fact that he had to sell drugs because he didn’t have any spending money.

“You don’t have enough money?” she asked him, obviously rhetorically. “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY? How do you not have enough money? I gave you $200 last week for spending money. What happened to that?”

I didn’t hear his answer, as his mother had released me at that point, assuring me that he would not be selling drugs any more. And that he might never be allowed out of the house again.

There are obviously people who think that selling drugs is the way easy money. I don’t care how smart they think they are, they probably aren’t. And unless they are operating a legal dispensary, they probably won’t make any money in the long run. Attorneys are expensive. Morticians more so.

Good luck.

Coppus Interruptus

One of the hazards of police work, and police work on a college campus in particular, is catching people having sex. There are police officers that love to catch people having sex and there are police officers that hate catching people having sex and there is the full spectrum of emotions in between, but either way, there is no hope of NOT catching someone having sex, at some point. And it never looks like the high quality porn that you might have bought at the AVN Expo in Vegas, it looks much more like the porn that you stumble across in the middle of the night on a weird internet search that you never tell anyone about because you are too embarrassed to let anyone know that you actually saw that. In my career, I have caught college couples, strangers, hookers, cheaters, married couples, and people just about to break up, right after getting caught by the police.

There was the time I was driving in the parking garage late at night when I saw the only car parked on the upper floor, it’s windows open, and then a hand comes up and drops a condom onto the concrete parking space. I stopped my car (which I was surprised they didn’t hear-police cars are not quiet), got out, and walked up to the car. Inside I found a young couple in their early twenties, in various stages of undress, and a small pile of used condoms on the ground outside the passenger side window. Impressive. I asked them both to step out of the car, get dressed, and provide me with some ID. When I looked at the ID, I saw that her last name was Singh and his last name was Gonzalez, and I had a conversation with the two of them that confirmed that neither of their families would accept that they were dating a Sikh/Mexican so they were seeing each other in secret. And clearly saving up. I explained how dangerous it was for them to be in such a vulnerable position while in a public area where criminals frequent and sent them on their way. The young woman stood there shaking. “Are you going to call my parents?” Call her parents? She was 22 years old. “No. You’re an adult. And adults can pay for motel rooms.”

Or the time that I was walking through a different parking garage, during a holiday closure, so there should have been no one inside. On the fifth floor, I saw a single car with fogged up windows. I walked up to the car, thinking that the occupants were “hot-boxing,” smoking pot and keeping the smoke inside to enhance their experience, but when I opened the car door, I instead found a young couple having sex (It was unlocked. If you are going to be having sex in a car, lock the doors). Unfortunately, for me and them, she was 16 and he was 20. I had to call her parents and determine if I was just sending them home or was I arresting the young man for statutory rape. Her father, while certainly angry, told me to have the young man bring her home, and he would have a conversation with his daughter’s boyfriend when they got there.

After sending them on their way, and me not having to write any reports, I took the nearest stairs to the next floor, where I immediately found a man leaning back against a pickup truck while a young woman on her knees was performing orally on him. They stopped as I walked toward them. He was close to my age, somewhere in his late 40s and she was in her early 20s, so my first thought was that he had hired a prostitute, but it turned out that he was an unrelated “uncle,” a friend of the family, and no, her family was unaware that their relationship had taken a turn. Yes, it was creepy.

And then, we opened a brand new, joint, University-City library. Nine stories of educational support. No one would have sex in a library, right? Haha. Of course they would. Within the first week, one of the security officers called me into the control room, where he was watching the security cameras, and show me a woman giving a man a blowjob in one of the glass elevators. I contacted the couple on the fourth floor and explained what we had seen and warned them about their illegal activity. The security staff showed me the video of how angry she was with her boyfriend after I walked away. Later, at a weekly security meeting with library executives, I shared this incident with them. Part of me wanted to shock them and part of me wanted to show them what was actually going on in their building. In the awkward silence that followed my announcement, one of the University Library executives, a woman in her 60s, with her hair pulled up into a gray bun, said, “Well, it was lunchtime. She was probably hungry.” Now, who was shocked?

In an area where we frequently caught prostitutes parking their johns and doing their jobs, I found a car whose license plate had a confidentiality flag registered to the County Sheriff’s Office (meaning that the owner worked for the Sheriff’s Office). I was emotionally preparing myself for an uncomfortable confrontation with an off-duty deputy when I contacted the driver, but he did not look like a deputy. The passenger definitely looked like a working girl and I got ID from both of them. I asked the guy who was busy trying to zip up his pants, “Who owns the car?”

His eyes got wide. “My girlfriend.”

“And what does she do for the Sheriff’s Office?” And now his mouth matched his eyes.

“She’s a dispatcher.”

I asked my dispatcher to send a deputy to my location and to give them the license plate. Once the deputy arrived and realized what was going on, the boyfriend got to walk away without a citation. But he also had to walk all the way home, about a forty-minute drive away. I sometimes wonder if he got home before all his stuff was packed into hefty bags and left on the front lawn.

So these are some of the more memorable incidents, however it doesn’t include all the times that I discovered someone masturbating at the library, or the couple of times that I found prostitutes plying their wares hidden in a small conference room in the library, or all the students I found in classrooms and offices that they thought no one would enter, or everyone in their cars that don’t think or don’t care that anyone else can see them. Either way, it’s never as fun as you think it will be and it certainly isn’t pretty.

As Sick As Your Secrets

I was working during a concert being held on campus, and during such events, we often have lots of people hanging out, drinking alcohol, smoking pot, doing other drugs, etc. in our parking garages. This tends to make the students and staff who are not attending the concert, concerned for their safety. So we do a lot of foot patrols and we issue a lot of tickets. It is a very effective tool of the trade that when one person is seen receiving a ticket, many others decide it is time to go to the venue and not hang out in the parking garage.

I saw one young man drinking a can of beer (drinking alcoholic beverages on campus is a misdemeanor) so I approached him and asked him for ID. He was with his friends so he smiled broadly and told me that he had forgotten to bring it with him.

“Okay, so what’s your name?”

“Ummmm. Troy Lindsay.”

“And your date of birth?”

“Ummmmmmmmmmm. May 3rd, 1980.”

“Okay, and what year did you graduate high school?”

Dead silence. His face got red and I could see his eyes trying to perform the appropriate addition and subtraction, which had been fogged over by a couple of cans of beer. “Nobody remembers that!” he sputtered out.

I placed him in handcuffs (to keep him from running away-I was old and fat even then and chasing people is not my thing) and sat him on the ground as he was technically under arrest for drinking alcoholic beverages on campus.

“Does this help you remember your name and date of birth?”

Also, at this point, his “friends” left to go to the concert.

He provided his true name and date of birth and I issued him a citation for minor in possession of alcohol (he was just 18) and the false information. When we were done, he took his citation and apologized, saying he just wasn’t thinking.

Fast forward about twelve years and I was attending an awards ceremony for police officers who had demonstrated excellence in DUI arrests. An officer from another agency approached me, his award in his hand.

“Sgt. Blalock, it’s good to see you again.” It was Ofc. “Lindsay.”

“It’s good to see you, too,” and I used his real name (okay, it was on his name tag).

Lindsay introduced me to his Chief of Police, who happened to walk up and I introduced myself and said, “Yes, I’m the one who arrested him.”

Lindsay’s face reddened and he looked very serious. “You didn’t have to throw me under the bus with my Chief,” he whispered.

Flashback: About seven years before this, I met with a background investigator for this other agency. He asked me about Lindsay’s arrest and what my thoughts were on whether or not he should be a police officer. Sitting in my office, I thought about it and asked, “Well, what was his response when you asked him about it?”

The background investigator consulted his notes and said, “He said that he had been really stupid and after having a couple of beers, had compounded one bad decision with another. He said that your interaction with him, treating him politely and as an adult who simply made a bad decision later made him think he wanted to have career in law enforcement.”

I smiled. “I don’t think he could have answered that any better, do you?”

Back to This Day: The Chief leaned forward and whispered, “We wouldn’t have hired you without his recommendation. It’s a public record, not a secret.”

A Night At The Theater

It was a little after 11:00 PM on a cool, November evening. The University operated a theater a few blocks from campus, in the downtown core, and I had decided to make a trip over there and circle the building as part of my patrol pattern that evening. Oh, by the way, I was on a mountain bike at the time. I contacted a homeless person who had camped out in front of the doors to the theater, issued her a new court date for a warrant she had, and then asked if she needed directions to a shelter. She thanked me for the new court date and declined the shelter, packed up her stuff, and walked away.

As I slipped my gear into my bag and began to ride back toward campus, I heard voices shouting behind me. I saw two young men walking quickly in my direction and two other men shouting at them, trying to start a fight, circling them like sharks. I rode my bike over to put myself in between the two groups to separate them. But the aggressors refused to be slowed, they simply walked around me and continued to taunt the other two men who purposely tried to ignore them and their taunts. Clearly, this was going to be more work than just chasing away the aggressors and letting everyone go on their way.

I hopped off my bicycle to physically stop the two instigators and find out what was going on. During this time, I did not hear on my scanner that there were a group of three men running around downtown, physically attacking people. I did not hear that the last attack was only half a block from my current position, just minutes before. I reached out to grab one of the men by the arm, while keeping the second man in my field of vision. I did not see the third man run up behind me from the shadows and punch me in the side of the head.

The first blow actually struck my bicycle helmet, but it was jarring. The only thing my brain could equate it with was when I was in a car accident as a teenager. My brain told me that I had just been hit by a car. I turned and was immediately struck in the face, repeatedly. My confusion turned to anger. While taking blows to the face, I reached down with my left hand and keyed up my microphone. I told dispatch that I needed Code 3 backup at the theater. I said this calmly and clearly, although my speech was interspersed with blows to my cheek and jaw. With my right hand, I grabbed the handle of my firearm, but thought, “I’m not there, yet.” I instead drew my baton. After taking perhaps a dozen blows to the face and head, I grabbed my attacker’s shirt and ordered him to the ground.

Now that I was armed and giving orders, he tried to get out of my grip and fell to the ground, pulling out of his shirt. I ordered him to stay down, but when he to get up, I had to use the baton to keep him from continuing to attack me. One of the other aggressors came toward me to help his friend, I ordered him to stay back and when he continued toward me, I used the baton on him as well. Then all three ran away. One of my officers drove up across the sidewalk and chased down the primary attacker, using a TASER to take him into custody.  Another officer arrived in time to catch the other two instigators.

Before the ambulances arrived to take us all to the hospital, I went to speak to the primary attacker. With blood pouring down my face and my lips and jaw swollen, and my teeth completely out of alignment, we made I contact. I was 51 years old at the time, and easily fifty pounds lighter than this young man of about 20, and while I was working on a bicycle, I was not an athlete in any way shape or form.

“When you get down to the jail, and you decide to brag about how you attacked a cop, remember this. You attacked a little, old man, from behind, took him by surprise, and you couldn’t even knock him down. Brag about that.”

I was then taken to the emergency room by ambulance where I was X-Rayed and MRIed and then referred to a couple of specialists. Diagnosed with injury caused TMJ, my jaw will only worsen over time. A few months later, I lost a front tooth and had to get an implant put in, following a surgery called an apicoectomy, a result of being punched in the face. While I did not have to pay for any of my medical bills, my final Workers Comp costs were about $75,000. And my injuries were relatively minor.

And why did all this happen? Those three men were just out to have a good time.

Apparently, they had a very good time.

Sticks and Stones

When I told the man that he had a warrant for his arrest, his eyes showed no surprise, just the same desperation that they held when I had originally stopped him. It was early on a Sunday morning and the only other officer on my shift that day had called in sick. In order to maintain our minimum of two police officers on duty at any time, one of the night shift guys was holding over to cover. But he was actually holding over to finish a report from an arrest he had made the night before. We were killing two birds with the same police report.

At the beginning of our shifts on the weekends, it’s a good idea to make a quick sweep of the University campus to make sure no buildings had been broken into, no homeless were camped out someplace they shouldn’t be, no dead bodies were littering the ground (you don’t have to believe me on this one, but periodically, on a University campus, we found people who had died of exposure or suicide, that no one had noticed previously), or that no one was vandalizing anything. But Sunday was normally a very slow day, and I counted on that, being the only one on patrol, with my backup typing away in the police station.

I saw him trying to get into the library, yanking on the door like it was the rip cord handle to a lawnmower, so I decided to see what his particular concern was, before he broke the heavy, decorative, glass door. As I walked up, he turned to see me and his face seemed familiar, very similar to the face on a BOL that I had reviewed at the station during briefing. He looked like a man that the detectives wanted to talk to regarding a sex crime committed in the very same library building just a week ago. But he was just different enough from the grainy, video still photo that I couldn’t be sure. But the man’s name was on the flyer. And that I remembered.

So, just a look at his ID should clear it up. I saw the fear in his face when I said, “good morning” and asked him what was going on. He said that he was trying to get into the library. I told him it was closed and pointed to the large “closed” sign in the glass door in front of him. I then asked for ID. He said that he didn’t have any, but that he was just going to leave.

I told him that he was detained for an investigation involving both a crime that occurred in the library last week and for potential vandalism to the door that I had witnessed and asked him for his name and date of birth. I explained that if he was not the person that I was looking for and that there was no damage to the door, that he would be on his way in a few minutes. He responded in a way that made me feel like he wasn’t lying about his information and I ask dispatch to run a records check on him and confirm his identity.

Dispatch told me that he had a very sizeable warrant. Since I never wore an earpiece, the man was able to hear what dispatch told me and we looked at each other for a moment. I nodded and told the man that he had a warrant and that it appeared that the judge really wanted him to be taken to court. I was not going to be able to issue him a citation with a new court date for this warrant. He said he understood and the lack of surprise in his eyes told me that he was aware of the warrant and had been dreading this moment. And then I saw something else in his eyes. An escape plan.

Just as I called for emergency backup, the man took off. I grabbed him on his third step and we both crashed to the ground. He fought to get away from me and I fought to hold him down until my backup got there, but his adrenaline and my adrenaline appeared about evenly matched. Every time he started to get the upper hand, I took it away, but I couldn’t get actual control of him. He would push up off the ground to get his legs under him and I would sweep an arm out from under him and we would fall back to the ground and start again. According the clock in dispatch, when I checked the records later, we fought like this for about three minutes.

If you have never been in a knock down, drag out fight, three minutes is a LONG TIME. I realized that my strength was draining and that I might lose this fight if it dragged on too much longer. With all my weight on top of him (I was old and fat then too, you’d think that would have been enough) I reached back and drew my collapsible baton.

“Sir, I need to effect this arrest and I am authorized to use all reasonable force to effect an arrest, so since I can’t seem to get control of you like this, I’m going to have to use my baton to break your right leg. Do you understand?”

Please keep in mind that physically, based on my strength at that moment and on the angle that I would have had to hit him, I would have been lucky to raise a welt with the baton, much less break anything.

A bystander ran up with his phone and said, “Don’t worry, Dude. I’ll record him breaking your leg.”

I swung the baton, expanding it with a very intimidating sound of metal links locking into place. I pointed the baton at the camera man. “Sir, you are allowed to keep filming, but I need you to step back a few feet.” The camera man followed my instructions.

I turned my attention back to my suspect. “Sir, I’m sorry that I have to do this, but on the count of three, I’m going to break your leg. Okay? One…”

“Please don’t break my leg! I give up! I give up!”

I dropped the baton and quickly handcuffed the man before he changed his mind. And just as my backup drove up, lights and siren in full display.

The camera man walked away swearing, unhappy that he didn’t get the video that he had hoped for.

And no legs were broken during the course of this arrest.

A Dash Of Bitters

I was sitting at my desk, staring at the bodycam footage of one of my officers, as required by my department, to make sure I don’t see my officers doing anything ridiculously stupid, or I guess, even mildly stupid. Either way, I was sitting at my desk, in the middle of the afternoon, when I heard a parking officer call for assistance right outside the police station. I got up, stretched, and walked down the hall to exit the police station and see what was going on outside.

The University police station is situated at the entrance of a parking garage and at the end of a cul-de-sac, where people who don’t want to enter the garage can turn around. I saw that a parking officer was standing beside a compact sedan stopped in the roadway and trying to direct other cars to go around the sedan, but there was limited space to do so.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

The parking officer shrugged. “I don’t know. I just came out and saw this car blocking the roadway.”

I saw that the hazard lights were on. So someone knew that they had left their car not in a parking space. I told the parking officer to direct all the cars into the parking garage and close off the cul-de-sac and took a moment to examine the car. It was an older model, Japanese car with bad maroon paint. I also saw that the registration was expired more than six months, which means that I can just tow it away. I had a citation book with me and a tow form inside the cover, so I pulled out the form and started filling it out. It normally took about ten to fifteen minutes to complete the form, so if the driver returned before the form was completed, I would entertain their story, and perhaps, not tow the car.

So the parking officer continued to direct traffic and I completed the paperwork. Once I had finished, there was still no driver. I sighed and called the dispatch to request a tow truck. Tow trucks usually take about twenty to thirty minutes, so perhaps if the driver showed up before the tow truck arrived, I could still listen to what they had to say and decide if I was going to cancel the tow truck. Now, in order to tow the car, I needed to conduct an inventory search of the sedan, per policy.

I opened the driver door, since it was unlocked and was hit with a wave of skunk smell that was indicative of significant marijuana use. I let the car air out a little so that I could breathe while I conducted my search, and then with latex gloves, I set off into the Corolla, which turned out to be filthy. Filthy. Everything felt as though it was covered in grime, including the two child restraints in the back seat, that also smelled of marijuana. Other than the child seats, the car contained several empty fast food packages and bags, some assorted tools, and one of the largest glass bongs I have ever seen.

In order to reach under the front passenger seat, I had to move the bong, which immediately fell over and broke in half, spilling bong water all over the floorboards of the car. I escaped the car and closed everything up as I finished my search. While I stood outside the car about two feet from the driver door, waiting for the tow truck driver, I saw a man walking toward me from the inside of campus, wearing a red polo shirt with a food delivery company logo (we’ll call it FoodFlash) and carrying several bags of fast food from a number of restaurants located in the Student Union.

The man walked up to the car and I expected him to ask me what I was doing, but he simply ignored me and stepped around me to get to the rear door. He opened the door and placed the bags of fast food onto the back seat, between the child seats. He closed the door and sucked on the straw to a fast food drink as he tried to squeeze past me to get to the driver’s door.

“I’m sorry, sir. Can I see your driver license?”

The guy looked at me, finally, and reached down, slowly, and patted his pants pockets.

“Uh, I forgot my wallet.”

I asked for his name and I could tell by his uhs and ahs, that he was making up a name. When I confirmed that he had lied about his name, I called for another officer to come help me out. I also saw the tow truck driving up the street, toward me.

As I worked with the tow truck driver, I saw the other officer place the FoodFlash driver in handcuffs. I asked what had happened and the officer explained that our driver had a significant warrant for his arrest and, by the way, his driver license was suspended. As the other officer took the driver to jail and the tow truck driver drove away with the car, I thought about the food piled in the filthy back seat, destined to never see the clients that had ordered it. And I thought, is this where my food sits when I order FoodFlash? Ewwww.

A Good Time…For A While

I had been assigned to supervise the civilian security staff at the new library on campus and we were still a week away from the grand opening, allowing the public inside. But, for one day, we needed to have the doors open for library staff to enter and exit for trainings being held throughout the day. Now sure, we put up “Library Closed to the Public” signs, but the doors were electronic and simply opened with the motion detectors. And we couldn’t put security staff at the entrances because they were in training, too; nine hours of “Verbal Judo.” So much fun. So another police officer and I each sat at an entrance to direct the unauthorized back outside, but we were allowed to be in plainclothes. So there I was, in my business casual Hawaiian shirt and black slacks, gun and badge on my belt.

I was sitting at a security kiosk, saying good morning to the staff I recognized, asking for ID from the staff that I didn’t, and directing members of the public back out of the building, in a polite and friendly manner. Late morning, and no one had come in the door for a while when a guy about my age (we’ll say early 40s at this time) comes in, walking right past the “closed” sign, and says, “So is it open, now?”

“No,” I smile. “We’re still closed to the public. We needed to have the doors open for staff to access the building today. I’m asking members of the public to exit the building.”

“Oh, can I look around?”

I sigh. It had been slow. “You can look around for a couple of minutes, but I can’t let you past this kiosk,” I say, being extra nice.

“Oh, thanks.” The guy mills about the lobby in front of me and I’m able to watch him because there’s no one else around.

A couple minutes later, a young woman, we’ll say she’s in her late 20s, early 30s, walks right past the “closed” sign and asks, “Are you open today?”

“No,” I smile. “We’re still closed to the public. We needed to have the doors open for staff to access the building today. I’m asking members of the public to exit the building.”

“Oh, can I look around from here? Like him?”

Dammit. “Sure, for a couple of minutes.”

The guy came over and started a conversation with the young woman, both talking excitedly about the new library. I watched their meet-cute as it travelled about the lobby until they began to move past the security kiosk. It was completely apparent that the guy was more interested in the woman than the library and it was just as apparent that she more interested in the library, than him. I could tell that he had no shot. I directed them back behind the invisible line I had imposed and they moved back. But it didn’t take long for them to encroach just a little bit more. It had been ten minutes at this point that they had been in the building. I felt that I had been nice enough.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have to ask you to exit the building,” I told them, with a smile and a pleasant, apologetic tone. But the response was not what I was expecting.

“Well, that was rude!” the guy said. Clearly, by his extreme reaction, he was being cock-blocked and he needed to take some control. Redeem himself in her eyes.

“Yes, you are being very rude,” the woman added.

That was it. I stood up, pulled my badge from my belt and showed it to them. “Be that as it may, I still need to ask you to exit the building.”

They began to argue with me and question my authority until I explained that I was a police officer and that if they did not leave, I would arrest them and take them to jail. They left. Grousing every step of the way.

I went back to sitting at my kiosk, when about twenty minutes later, I received a phone call. The shift supervisor told me that a man and a woman had come in to file a complaint against me for being rude. He asked them what had happened and they explained things pretty much exactly as it had happened and finished their tale with my unprofessional level of rudeness. The shift supervisor said that he told them that I had been nice, just letting them into the building in the first place, that he would have directed them to leave immediately, like he was supposed to. He then accepted their written complaints against both me and the shift supervisor.

I never heard anything else, so I don’t know what the resolution of the complaints were, probably “Unfounded.”

And I learned my lesson.

Just Some Tales From My Dad

When I was in college, I took a geology class (to meet a minimum requirement) that happened to have a field trip to a large, local park that had a very demonstrable landslide area. We traipsed around the area seeing what had once been a neighborhood road that was now buckled and jumbled, completely impassable without scrambling up and down the rocks. Our professor explained that there had actually been several homes along this street when he started the field trips, but over the years, the houses slowly slipped over the horizon and into the gullies below.

I returned home and told my Dad about this and asked if he had heard about it. My Dad worked for thirty years for the City. Not San Francisco, mind you, but for a nearby city with slogans like, “Small Town Heart. Big City Soul,” and “We are growing up.” If anyone recognizes either of these slogans, let me know if you remember any more. I’ll update this blog entry. Our city has had a gaggle of ridiculous slogans and mottos. Tax money well spent.

Back to the landslide area. My Dad said, “Oh, of course. That had all been county land and a big developer kept trying to get permits to build homes there, but it was deemed a landslide area and unsafe to build homes. So the developer was able to arrange for the City to annex the land, contract for a geologist to report that the area ‘wasn’t that bad’ and sign off that homes could be built, and approved the permits.” Tah-dah! At that point, I knew the story that homeowners almost immediately noticed problems with the homes. “Within a few years, the developer had disappeared and couldn’t be held accountable, so the homeowners sued the City, who was forced to purchase all the homes back and add the land to the existing park that had been situated below the homes.” Millions, nay dozens of millions of dollars, back in the 70s, when that amount of money meant something.

That was when I realized that my Dad had some serious, scandalous stories. I began to listen. Some were very simple stories, like the ones about his time in the Navy; how he chose the Navy because as he was concerned about being drafted into the Korean War, a local veteran told him that the Navy provided a lot more comfort than the other branches. My Dad told me that he joined the Navy, ultimately, because he could get real butter there. And during basic training, he remembered after the day’s training, doing laundry and hanging it out to dry near the river. All while at the Marine base on the other side of the river, Marines were marching, chest deep in the river, holding their rifles over their heads. My Dad said that he and his shipmates held their beers high so that the Marines could see that they were drinking in their honor. There was also the time his ship was docked in Okinawa and he and his shipmates had to cross through the Air Force base to go to town. He said that when they returned to the base, all drunk and unruly, they called the Air Police officers at the gate, “bus drivers” due to their plain uniforms and hats. They would then be beaten with police batons and thrown into the back of a pickup truck and dumped out in front of their ship. It was very nice of those Air Force guys to give them a ride like that. Or when the ship he was on would perform big gun target practice on a banner attached to a seaplane as it flew by. The seaplane would drop the target when they were done and the sailors would use a grappling hook to pull it out of the water. The only holes in it were from the grappling hook. Thank God they never actually went to Korea. But sometimes the stories were more sad, like when he spent his last six months in the Navy at Treasure Island, processing out sailors who were being discharged for being gay.

After the Navy, he was hired by the City and worked in what would now be the IT department, back then, it was Data Processing. And the City had scandals. Like the time an accountant assured the Finance department that a particular broker was the way to go with city investments. Unfortunately, it seems like the brokerage should have been named Fast Buck Financial with the slogan “We’ll Invest Your Money til It’s Gone.” The City lost a significant amount of money. And then there was the guy responsible for managing all the money from the parking meters; he had the collectors drop off the money in his office, where he had a safe and he would reconcile the money and deposit it into the bank. His mistake was taking a vacation. When he was gone, the parking meter collections were three times higher than they were when he was working. His next vacation was likely county jail or just the unemployment line if he was lucky. And the guy that worked for the police department property unit. He was supposed to be auctioning off bicycles, but he was pocketing the money instead.

There were also the small corruptions that must have been commonplace during that time period. When my Dad went to his boss, explaining that one of his best employees was going to the City of Santa Cruz, because they paid better, the boss told my Dad to add 10 hours of overtime to the employee’s timesheet each week. Not assign him overtime, just write it on his timesheet. Or the obsolete discriminations, like when he worked with a data processing employee from the police department. My Dad complimented him to his boss and asked why this particular employee wasn’t a supervisor? The police department manager simply said, “He’s not tall enough to be a supervisor.” My Dad didn’t know what to do with that information so he ended his questioning. It wasn’t until later that someone explained to him that all supervisors at the police department were police officers, themselves. And there was a height requirement back then.

But one of my favorite stories had to do with when he started dating my mother. My Dad said that when he met my Mom, she was also dating a young, City, police motorcycle officer. The officer, Bill Danforth, had broken his leg and so every time my Dad saw him, Dad called him “Gimpy.” Ultimately, my Mom stopped dating Danforth and started dating my Dad. I had heard this story at some point into my 20s, probably early on in my own law enforcement career in the University police, a separate agency from the City police.

But about ten to twelve years later, I was riding a bicycle on patrol when I heard that there was a house on fire about three blocks off campus. Since the call had just gone out, I rode over there to see if I could help. I saw an older City police lieutenant giving instructions to officers and coordinating with the fire department. I rode up to him and told him I was the Watch Commander at the University and if they needed assistance, I could direct some of my staff their way. The lieutenant said that they were good but thanked me for stopping by. As I started to leave, I glanced down at his name tag. W Danforth.

And you know what happened. I didn’t mean to do it. Not out loud at least, but out loud it came.


He looked at me, then at my name tag. He smiled a little, just the tips of the corners of his mouth rising as he lifted his eyes to make contact with mine.

“Tell your Dad, he’s an asshole.” And then the smile was full. I smiled back and we went our separate ways.

Anyway, Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Almost Death

My wife, Mia, had just had a major surgery the night before. She’d had her gall bladder removed, but that is another story for another time. Today, she was recovering; she looked good and felt good and was looking forward to just going home. At lunchtime, a tiny, Vietnamese nurse came to bring her lunch. Her name tag said “Vinh,” but the dry erase board listed her as “Vicky.” Vicky was friendly and attentive and told my wife that they had to move her from the bed to the chair in order to change her sheets and it seemed like a opportune time to feed her; if she wanted to go home that day, she was going to need to meet some benchmarks. Mia eased herself down to the floor and then sat in the chair while Vicky opened up the lunch and placed it on the tray.

Mia paled and turned to look at me. “Wes, I don’t feel good.”

She then began seizing. Vicky tried to get Mia to respond and told me to hit the “Code Blue” button on the wall, near the bed. I followed instructions. Almost immediately, another nurse, Hope (Huan on her name tag) ran into the room. These two tiny women, perhaps 180 pounds altogether, tossed my wife onto the bed like a sack of potatoes as more nurses walked and jogged into the room. In order to be helpful, I pulled chairs and tables and trays out of everyone’s way.

I was still an active police officer at this time and all my instincts told me to DO SOMETHING. And yet there was nothing I could do. Nurses were attending my wife and I was just trying to stand out of their way. Waiting, outside the flurry of activity at my wife’s bed.

“Is she breathing?” I heard a nurse ask.

I did not hear an answer.

I saw a single doctor standing in the doorway, hand on his chin, contemplating. I wanted to scream at him, “Why aren’t you doing anything?”

“Does anyone have a pulse?” I heard another nurse ask.

I did not hear an answer. Again.

A deep pain throbbed inside my chest. I had lost her. I had not prepared for this and it was just beginning to hit. There were no tears yet.

And then:

“Okay, she’s looking good.” A lead nurse thanked everyone as they began to file out of the room.

Hope and Vicky continued to attend to Mia and a third nurse turned around and startled as she saw me standing there for the first time.

“Oh my God. Have you been there the whole time?”

I didn’t answer, as I could not form words, and I just nodded my head.

She could obviously see the tears forming in my eyes and she just stepped forward and hugged me. She held me tightly and then there were tears. Tears of fear, tears of frustration, tears of relief. She hugged me until the tears were gone and then she disappeared into the hospital, just like the angels that nurses are.

It turns out that Mia suffers occasionally from Vasovagal Syncope, a neurologically induced drop in blood pressure that can mimic a seizure and cause a brief loss of consciousness. Usually the most serious complication is injury from a fall.

That is the story of how I lost my wife for about twenty seconds and I can’t comprehend or fathom what that loss would feel like if it were any longer. It is her birthday this week. She’ll be XX years old and each birthday that she shares with me is a gift that I try not to squander.

Happy Birthday, my love.

Ohana Means Family

My son, Albert, was attending the very same University where I worked (Yes, we got a discount) and while he was there, he met a young, graduate student who was living in the Dorms. She had just arrived from out of State and he was there in her dorm room to install her phone. There was immediate attraction. So for a short time, we began to see not so much of him at home; a significant amount of his time was spent “at school” as in, “Mom, Dad. I’m going to be at school.”

“Oh, you have class today?”



Anyway, they had been seeing each other for about six weeks and appeared to be deeply emotionally connected to each other and although we had met Diana and she seemed genuinely nice, we didn’t really know her very well.

On a particularly cool, October (Homecoming) night, I was working the Fire on the Fountain Homecoming Celebration Tradition. For a 150-year-old university, this tradition was only about six years old. My university, no matter how much they tried, was not very good at maintaining any sort of meaningful tradition, beyond sexual violence in Intercollegiate Athletics. So I was working this event, assigned on foot to stand around and make sure nothing bad happened, or when it did, to call an ambulance (like last year when the sword dancer cut off his ear). And during this time, one of the patrol officers, Matthew, stopped by to chat with me.

Meanwhile, at the University Police Department, one of our dispatchers, Katie, answered a non-emergency number. A young woman called and asked to be connected to me, but I was out at a special event, so I was unavailable. The young woman said that she just needed to let me know that she was having some medical issues, and asked if she could have me call her back. Katie’s ears pricked up with “medical issues” and she dug for more information until the words “something is wrong with my heart” came out. She immediately dispatched officers and paramedics to the young woman’s on-campus apartment.

While I was talking to Matthew, he received a medical aid call in the Dorms, in the graduate student/faculty tower. As he drove away to the call, I tried to remember the location. It was Tower A, and on the 7th floor. What was Diana’s apartment number? I didn’t want to bother the dispatcher, because they were obviously busy, so I called my wife and asked if she remembered Diana’s apartment number. She couldn’t.

So I waited, listening to Matthew on the radio as he contacted the patient and gave instructions for the paramedics. Matthew happened to know my son, Albert, as Matthew was an Olympic-level Judo Athlete (I even found that he has his own Wikipedia page) and Albert was also involved in the Judo world. My cell phone rang and I saw that Matthew was on the phone.

“This is Wes.”

“Sarge, why am I looking at a picture of Albert on this young woman’s fridge?”

My adrenaline spiked. I had heard the dispatcher’s instructions involving possible chest pains, a high priority medical call. “Is it Diana?”

“Yep? Is this Albert’s girlfriend?”

Matthew let me know that Diana was definitely going to the hospital, but that Diana, who had come to us from Puerto Rico (and if your first thought was, ‘Oh, she’s a foreign exchange student,’ you can stop reading this now, goodbye) had insurance, but didn’t know what hospital to go to. I knew that she was far from home and far from family, so I made the split-second decision that she should go to Good Samaritan Hospital, which was just blocks from my home and would make it easier for us to provide support.

Then Matthew asked me if Albert was on campus. He was. He should be in class in the Engineering Building, on the opposite side of campus from the Tower A.

“Well, if he wants to go to the hospital with her in the ambulance, he needs to get here, soon. I’ve already spoken with the paramedics.”

I called Albert’s phone, and he answered, which surprised me, since he was in class, but I explained what happened and told him that the paramedics were going to be ready to go very soon. The only things that Albert said were, “Hey, what’s up?” when he answered and, “Okay,” before he hung up.

Less then four minutes later, Matthew called me to let me know that Albert had just arrived and that the paramedics weren’t sure who needed oxygen more, him or Diana. After they arrived at the hospital, Albert called to give us an update and let us know that Diana’s mother and sister were going to be coming and could we recommend a hotel. We immediately offered a spare bedroom in our house, again, just blocks from the hospital. Ultimately, her medical condition was resolved and a few years later, they married.

Usually, young couples try to carefully orchestrate the meeting of their separate families, but for this couple, our families were thrown together in crisis. We met, we connected, we bonded, and just a few short days ago, Albert and Diana welcomed their first baby into the world. Congratulations and thank you.