It’s A Disaster

Again, I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time, sheltering in place with my lovely wife, so I have another story about her to share.

On May 4, 1998, I was at my in-laws’, watching television. Everyone else was outside, but I was violently allergic to some of the plants that they grew by the swimming pool, so I stayed indoors (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). My wife returned from a shopping trip with Jade (again, maybe she’s the common denominator here) and while my daughter ran outside to go swimming, Mia excitedly pulled me away from whatever show I was watching. Probably Maury Povich, he’s my favorite.

“Wes, I just saw a tornado!” I listened patiently while she explained that she had seen the clouds darken and swirl and start to reach for the ground.

Then I told her that the San Francisco Bay Area does not get tornados. We do not have the proper landscape or weather patterns. The buildings and road also compromise the weather systems needed to create a tornado. She tried a couple of times to convince me and I responded with, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mia looked physically hurt. “Well, I thought it was a tornado.”

“I’m sure you saw something, I don’t know what,” I said, “But it wasn’t a tornado.”

Mia nodded and we turned on the news to see what had actually happened. Immediately, there was a reporter in the field talking.

“Well, Bob, it appears that we had a tornado, here in Sunnyvale. It tore the roof off the house behind me.”

Well, how about that. Who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

Just a note to follow-up on this story. I’ve told it for years and Mia always got mad at me. I finally asked her why she got mad? Mia said that I was making fun of her. Incredulous, I asked her how I was making fun of her?

“I don’t know. Somehow,” she said, frustrated.

I really do love her.

The Lemon Tree Incident

I love my wife. There is no one on this planet I would rather be stuck working at home with, so now that I appear to be sharing space with her during the workweek, I thought I would share some stories about her.

I was working a patrol shift, in the days before cell phones (or at least cell phones that didn’t require a suitcase) when the dispatcher called me and said that my daughter (the older one, Jade, age eleven at the time) was on the phone and that it was an emergency. I got on the phone and Jade told me that her mother, Mia (my wife) had been trimming the lemon tree when it stabbed her in the eye and that she was bleeding. I asked her if the blood was coming from the eyelid or the eyeball.

Jade, “I can’t tell, there’s too much blood.”

Okay. I told her to call 9-1-1 and then let me know what hospital they take Mia to. Jade agreed and I hung up the phone. I sat in dispatch for the next thirty minutes, making inane conversation with the dispatcher, worrying about my wife and her eyeball.

Finally, I began wondering what was taking so long? Fire department response, maybe seven minutes, arrival and assessment, maybe fifteen minutes, then they should be packing her up and transporting. I should know where she’s going by now. I called my house back and Mia answered.

“What the hell are you doing home?” I asked, incredulous.

“What are you talking about? Can you believe Jade called 9-1-1? I had to cancel them.”

My mouth opened and closed but no words came out. “How is your eye?”

“I don’t know, I can’t open it. It hurts too much.”

“Okay, I’m coming home,” I told her and hung up.

I arranged to make sure my shift was covered and went home. It took some convincing, but I told Mia that I was not going to wake up in the morning with a puddle of her eye goo on the pillow, we were going to the emergency room. Several hours later, with a prescription for anti-biotics and a scratched cornea, we were home again. Safe and recovering.

And right now, as I type this, she is watching a horror movie (with both eyes), which she does not normally like to watch. So if you notice any typos or words missing, it’s because she is screaming near me periodically.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Cops can be a superstitious bunch. If some cop you know doesn’t think they are very superstitious, just wish them a “quiet shift,” and see how angry they get. I learned early in my training about the “beat gods” (they are minor gods and do not require capitalization). If you want to get a good arrest, you might have to appease the beat gods by arresting some idiot who needs arresting, but you would rather be lazy and not do it because it would be too much paperwork. If you bypass the untouchable, you may get nothing but stupid calls all night. If you treat some transient poorly, the beat gods may punish you with a burning building or worse, a car fire in the parking garage. If you appease the beat gods by doing your job right, you may be rewarded with a good night, but if you say something stupid…

On a particular night, I was assigned to have a trainee ride along with me on patrol. I made some pedestrian stops and some vehicle stops and then told her, “Hey, let’s find you a DUI investigation.”

Almost immediately, I saw a blue Kia driving toward me on a 25 MPH street at about 40 MPH. The Kia came to a screeching halt at a red light and the driver looked at me across the intersection. When the light turned green, he drove past me very slowly and I made a U-turn to go after him. At the next intersection, when the light there turned green, the Kia made a slow left turn, the wrong way onto a one way street and failing to yield to the oncoming traffic that was now honking at him. I followed and turned on all my emergency lights to stop the car. It slowly continued northbound in the southbound only street until it pulled to the right at the next intersection. I gave the dispatcher the license plate and was about to put my car in park, when the Kia turned left and shot up Carlos Street. I went after it, until it ran the red light at the next intersection. I stopped and told the dispatcher that the vehicle had fled and that we were not in pursuit, as our agency only allowed the pursuit of violent felons. The dispatcher notified me that the plate came back to a stolen car.

“Motherfucker,” I said out loud, “I hope you crash and die.” Then I remembered the trainee next to me in the car. Oops.

Dispatch sent us on another call and we busied ourselves looking for a drunk person falling down. About four minutes after terminating my pursuit, one of my other officers, Edward called on the radio and said that the local metropolitan police department had an injury crash and that the vehicle was on fire on Carlos Street at Scott Street.

No. It couldn’t be. Dread swirled up like a San Francisco fog.

 I asked dispatch if they had a license plate for the crashed vehicle and they did not. I told dispatch that my officers and I would respond out to the crash location just to be sure. If it was the same vehicle, the city police would need to know that we had interacted with it.

Edward arrived on the scene before I did. His voice was high and strained as he reported, three times, that the fire department was on scene.

“They’re on fire,” Edward radioed.

“Vehicle is on fire,” dispatch parroted.

“No the occupants are on fire,” Edward corrected. “And it’s too hot to get in there.”

I arrived with the trainee and saw the debris field in the roadway. The engine block, a single wheel, and a generous sprinkling of small metal shards, fragments, and scrap littered the street. The vehicle had struck a concrete abutment at a high rate of speed, possibly near 100 MPH and had catapulted into a homeless camp down the embankment, burning, flames thirty feet in the air.

Edward waved me toward the guardrail and explained that he was the first police officer on scene. In the background, firefighters aimed hoses at the burning car. Edward said that prior to his arrival, passersby had pulled the two passengers from the vehicle, most notably, an Allied Universal security officer assigned to the Valley Transit Authority, who had burned both hands prying the superheated door open to free the front seat passenger.

When I looked over at the car, I watched firefighters struggle with the driver, to free him of the inferno that engulfed the vehicle. The driver’s feet were still trapped as two firefighters, holding him by the torso, just kept trying to jerk him free through the window while another firefighter hit him with the powerful stream from the hose. Finally, after freeing him, paramedics loaded the driver onto a gurney and trundled him toward the ambulance.

My trainee had seen his face, even though I had not. She asked me if she should try to identify him. I told her she could, if she wanted to. She took a few steps and stopped.

“Will I be traumatized?” She asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I guess that’s up to you.”

She nodded and turned back to the fire. As the paramedics brought him past her, she nodded and told me she recognized the tattoo on his neck that this was our runaway driver. Firefighters muttered “Non-survivable injuries.”

Presently, a city police supervisor arrived and I explained how we were involved, but that we had not conducted a pursuit in their jurisdiction. A few minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy arrived and looked at the vehicle, then approached the city supervisor, announcing that they had tried to stop the vehicle much earlier in the evening, but that when it took off, they stopped.

The two passengers were underage, chronic runaways who were now both seriously disabled after joyriding in a stolen car with an intoxicated driver, who died within a couple of hours of reaching the trauma center.

This was what I had asked for, but not what I wanted.

Short Shorts

Brown Paper Bag

I was working security outside a Fraternity Party. One of the activities I performed while working these events was to manage the consumption of alcohol in public. The less drinking outside the party, the less chance of violence outside the party. Often when the party would spill out onto the front lawn, or worse, the sidewalk and the streets, fights would break out. So I would stop anyone in possession of an open container of alcohol outside the party. If they were over 21, they would get a warning for an infraction violation of the municipal code. If they were under 21, I would write a misdemeanor citation for minor in possession of alcohol.

I saw a young man walking toward the party, drinking from a beverage inside a brown paper bag. This suggested to me that he was probably drinking an alcoholic beverage. I contacted him and asked him what he was drinking. He pulled a 4Loko from the bag and admitted that he was drinking an alcoholic beverage. I got his ID from him and saw that he was 23 years old. I warned him that he was not allowed the drink alcoholic beverages in public and he said, “Oh, it’s okay. I kept it in the brown paper bag.”

I realized that he didn’t understand and explained that the brown paper bag didn’t make it legal, it was just to keep me from knowing what he was drinking. The young man’s pleasant expression fell and he realized that he was committing a violation.

“Oh my God. Thank you for telling me. I could have gotten in real trouble.”

Parolee Insight

I was supervising a trainee in Field Training. He was having issues and we decided to try putting me in plain clothes to see if that helped. I like Hawaiian shirts, so that is what I wear. I’m supposed to look like a civilian ride-along, but perceptive people can tell that I’m a cop, wearing a vest under my shirt, and a gun hidden in my waistband. My trainee was detaining a parolee who might have been involved in some gang activity. This detention lasted a while as the trainee tried to figure out what he was supposed to be doing (well into his 14th week of training-where he should be able to manage all on his own). I leaned against the patrol car during this time and watched and waited. This particular trainee often complained when the trainers intervened, “But I was just about to do that.” So I was no longer intervening. I brought a book, in case I got bored. Finally, the trainee was done and told the parolee that he was free to leave. As the trainee got back into the driver’s seat, the parolee approached me and asked quietly, “Hey, Sarge. He’s not going to pass training is he? He’s gonna get himself killed out here.”

Prison Roll-ups

I stopped a parolee who told me a long rambling story about his criminal career. I caught that he used the phrase “rolled up” a couple of times. This was in the context of when he got in trouble in prison and that he got “rolled up.” This “rolling up” was a serious obstacle to his betterment in prison and prevented him from getting good assignments. Either way, I was there, contacting him because he was behaving like an idiot and I needed to shoo him away. Shooing done, I continued on my way.

Later in the day, one of my officers asked me to watch the two parolees that he had detained while he searched their pickup truck. While we waited, I took the opportunity to ask them if they were familiar with the term “rolled up.” They both said that they were, enthusiastically. I told them that a guy I had stopped had mentioned it to me and I didn’t know what he was talking about, could they explain?

Driver: Yeah, it means he’s a fuckup.

Me: How so?

Passenger: Did he tell you who rolled him up?

Me: No. Is that important?

Driver: Yeah. If you fuck up and the guards roll you up, that means the guards come into your cell, throw all your shit on your mattress, make you roll up your mattress and take you to a new cell, somewhere else so they don’t have to deal with you.

Me: And who else could roll you up?

Passenger: Well, if you fuck up and piss off the other prisoners, they come into your cell and kick you until you roll up into the fetal position. Same thing, different response, but really, you end up in the same place, ‘cause the guards have to move you anyway.

You learn something new every day.

My First Jumper

I was only two years on, just a newby, driving around in a shiny police car, wearing a neatly pressed uniform, and a smile you just couldn’t get off my face. I heard that the city police were responding to a jumper (someone had leapt off the top of a building) just one block from me. I turned on the lights and siren and hit the gas, driving very quickly to the other side of the block. This was in a downtown area at about 10 AM and there were people everywhere pointing for me to see a man lying on the sidewalk. I grabbed my First Aid Kit and ran out to save a life. Way too late.

One person told me, “He just stopped blinking and making noise just as you drove up.” Uck.

I checked for a pulse, but found nothing. The man was lying face down on the brickwork sidewalk, but was bent at the waist at a funny angle. His head seemed to melt into the sidewalk, as though it extended a couple of inches into the ground, though I knew that it wasn’t the sidewalk that had given. A wave of thick, dark blood rolled slowly toward the gutter and there were several teeth lying about nearby. I got on the radio and said, “I think he’s out of the game.” It’s not like I practiced that, it sounds stupid even as I write it. Hey, I was new. That’s what came out of my mouth.

I was busy trying to cordon off the area for the city police, who had not yet arrived, when another witness told me that it had looked like he was trying to grab one of the evergreen trees that lined the roadway, on his way down. Like maybe he had changed his mind or something. Someone else said that he had landed on his feet, buckled in half, and his head struck the sidewalk, hard, and he didn’t get up.

A bystander ran up to me, and right out of the First Aid/CPR training video, said, “I know First Aid and CPR. Can I help?”

I pointed to the gentleman on the sidewalk and asked, “Do you want to perform rescue breathing?”

He looked down at the dead man, whose mouth was pressed against the brick, and hesitated. “Um, no.”

I gave him some latex gloves and asked him to double check for a pulse.

Firefighters and paramedics arrived and set up a better perimeter. Then the city police arrived. I was pretty frazzled at this point, so I gave my information to the first arriving officer, including the statements of the pedestrians. He smiled at me like, this isn’t my first rodeo, son.

And so I drove away, listening to the radio just to see what was going on with the investigation. About 30 minutes later, I heard a city officer report that he had found the location that the man had jumped from, at the top of a parking garage. He reported that the area was littered with crumpled up money, heroin, baggies, a knife, and bloodstains. Even if he had jumped, it was in a desperate attempt to avoid another violent death. The city police immediately began widening their perimeter and doing door to door checks for witnesses, now that they had a murder, and not a suicide.

There is a reason that they teach us to investigate suicides as murders until we are certain they are not.

Imposters: Part II

I never had to interact with Steven J. Nemec as a police officer, but I did have the next best thing, Daniel Perez (not his real name-Daniel never made the Mercury News).

The dispatcher sent me to a call that she couldn’t quite explain over the radio, so I called her on the phone. She told me that the previous year, one of the investigators had been looking into a case about a man wearing a gun to class. The professor at the time was concerned because he wasn’t sure if Daniel was a police officer or not. It seemed that Daniel was very non-committal when asked about it, but ultimately explained that he worked for the California Youth Authority. When the investigator started to look into him, the man stopped coming to class. But on this day, Daniel had returned and was waiting for something in the department office.

I went to the department office to contact him, unsure of what I was walking into. When I arrived, I met Daniel who was wearing a full Navy uniform. I explained that I was trying to investigate a weapons violation that may have occurred last year and asked if he was a peace officer of any kind. Adam said that he was a peace officer with the California Youth Authority, but that he had recently been activated by his Navy Reserve unit and was busy trying to get some unfinished business resolved prior to being shipped to the Middle East, including getting all his “withdrawal failures” removed . Even though it all appeared in order, something about him seemed off. With Steven Nemec rolling around in my head, Daniel’s behavior peaked my suspicion.

 I confirmed that he didn’t have a firearm on him and he was unable to show me his agency ID because he had left it at home with his badge and firearm. Yeah, cops do that (sarcasm). I asked him if I could search his car to determine that he did not have a loaded gun in his car. He said that was okay. When we got out to his car, I saw that his 20 year old Nissan had registration that was expired by about a year. California law allows police officers to tow away vehicles from public property that have expired registration over six months. When I asked for the key, Daniel had changed his mind and rescinded his consent to search the car. That’s fine, I told him, but I was going to tow his car for expired registration and department policy required that I conduct an inventory search prior to towing.

I searched the car and found a local police agency ticket book, a large metropolitan police agency’s training video, a personal checkbook belonging to some random person, and a stack of letters to his creditors with certified mail receipts. No gun, but again, things seemed off. I asked about the items and his answers were vague and non-committal. (If I actually try to recreate the conversation, this will go on way too long). But so far, this was enough for me to investigate Theft of Lost Property, as he told me that he had found the items, but had made no effort to return them. I placed him in custody, towed the car, and drove him to the police station.

I placed him in the holding cell, but removed his handcuffs because he was being cooperative. I asked for his commanding officer’s name and unit number and called the local Air Force Base, where he said that his unit was waiting until they where shipped out. I called the Air Force and asked them for the unit that Daniel had identified. They had no idea what I was talking about. They asked me to go back and confirm the unit number. I went to the holding cell and noticed that all of his navy insignia were gone. I went in and found all the insignia in his pocket.

I said, “You aren’t even in the Navy, are you?”

He responded, “I’d like to be.”

He admitted that he was not in the Navy and that he was not a peace officer. He was actually a loss prevention officer at a local grocery store. I went and apologized to the Air Force. I called his real boss at the grocery store where Daniel said he had found the checkbook, which he collected as part of his job, for safekeeping. I explained what was going on to the boss and asked about the checkbook. The boss told me that the checkbook should have immediately been put in the safe at the grocery store. The boss asked if I had Daniel’s key ring. I said that I did. He asked if he had a specific key on the ring. I said that he did. The boss asked me to take and destroy the key and to please let Daniel know that he did not have to return to the grocery store, that his final check would be mailed to him.

Now, no one wanted to press charges for the lost property, so I had to release him as a detention only, but I kept those letters. It seemed that he was asking all his creditors to forgive his debts due to his activation by the US Navy Reserves, per the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act. I called the Postal Inspectors and spoke to them. The local US Attorney called me and requested copies of the evidence and pursued a case against Daniel for a mail fraud case. I do not know the final outcome.

During the course of this investigation, I learned that Daniel had been a county probation officer for less than a year, and had never worked for the California Youth Authority or any other law enforcement agency. He had never been in the Navy. A few days later, his fiancée called me to ask why I was harassing Daniel. I asked her what he did for a living and she told me that he was a cop, that he put on his badge and gun every morning and went to work. I told her the truth. Strangely, she believed me right away. A couple of days after that, I received a call from her father. He thanked me for letting his daughter know what was going on; he had been trying to tell her that something was wrong with Daniel, he just didn’t know what.

And my investigation could have been cut much shorter, had I just called one of our parking officers to come look at him in uniform. This parking officer had been an active US Marine. When he saw a photo of Daniel in uniform, later that first afternoon, he told me the following:

The uniform was for a Lt. Commander, but the hat was for a Chief Petty Officer. Also, he was wearing a Navy SEAL pin. Daniel was sort of round and doughy, in worse physical shape than me; there was no way on this blue planet that he had ever been a Navy SEAL. Something new every day.

Imposters: Part I

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Steven who wanted to be a police officer, really bad. He was only 18, so he had to be diligent in trying to find police agencies that would hire him. I met him when I was working as a Records Clerk for a mid-sized police department while I attended college and he was a police explorer for the same agency. He would talk to me frequently about which agencies he had applied with and interviewed with, mostly because I was the only other person he had met that had interviewed with the California State Police (they have since become extinct as an agency). I was later told that he had been fired from our agency because he had been taking the police cars to the car wash (that’s always helpful), but then driving Code 3 (lights and siren) back to the police station. That is not an approved method of drying the police vehicles.

When I moved on the local university police as a police officer, I didn’t think too much of Steven, until I was in Briefing one day, flipping through the BOLs (Be On The Lookout printouts). There, on a flyer from the California State Police was Steven. The flyer said that Steven had been driving around our county, in his white, Ford Tempo, pulling people over with a red spotlight, and then telling them he was a State Police officer. I was slightly amused, but I didn’t imagine that I would interact with him again.

Years later, I read a newspaper article about Steven. It seemed that Steven had finally gotten hired as a civilian police officer on a local military base. But while working there, he decided to purchase a fully outfitted police car from the CHP, using department letterhead and (I guess) his personal checking account. He painted this police car with the logo of a fictional federal law enforcement agency, like the Western District Federal Police, or something similar. He then went down to a local county courthouse and obtained a handful of outstanding warrants and set out to serve them.

Steven drove around that county (not my county, but about an hours drive away) and served a bunch of arrest warrants, taking people into custody and booking them into the county jail. Unfortunately, one of the people he arrested was not the person from the warrant; it was a case of mistaken identity that the arrestee couldn’t resolve…because he was developmentally disabled. Much later, when the family finally found their disabled relative in jail, they raised holy hell (as they should). The Sheriff’s Office demanded to know which agency had booked the young man into their jail. Um…the Western District Federal Police? Who the F*** is that? I imagine someone shouting at shrugging shoulders.

Steven was located and arrested for his crimes and sentenced to federal prison. I was telling a group of my students this story at the police department when my Captain walked in. My Captain had come to my agency from the local airport police department and he was an excellent commanding officer and kind of a badass. He listened to the story for a moment and said, “That sounds like Steve Nemec.”

Shocked, I told him that it was Steven. The Captain then shared with us that while he was working at the airport, he began hearing reports that someone was driving around the tarmac in a white, Ford Tempo, with a magnetic sign on the door that said “FAA Inspector.” The Captain said this person would board commercial aircraft and inspect them. The Captain began searching this person out and finally caught him and sure enough, it was Steven. Steven, following his stint in federal prison, was out on probation, which required that he not work in either law enforcement or security, immediately went out and got a job with airport security. It was during his lunch breaks that he felt the need, or desire, to pretend to be an FAA Inspector. He was arrested for a violation of his probation.

But that is not the end of the story. If you want more, simply Google “Steven J. Nemec” for the rest.

https://www.smdailyjournal.com/police/two-years-prison-for-impersonator/article_76bf7a17-164e-5112-9884-73837df136ac.html

My Most Expensive Mistake

There is the old idea that if you make a mistake at work that costs your employer money, that you should reimburse the employer. I do not subscribe to this idea, and this is why. Here is the mistake I made that cost the University money:

Parking is at a premium for my university, and so is space, so we had been operating a Park & Ride Shuttle service from our stadium parking, a mile from the main campus. My new manager decided to ramp up usage by offering free parking at the Park & Ride for the first two weeks of school. The idea was that if people got used to parking there, they might continue and that would reduce the overcrowded parking at the main campus.

When I moved into my position as “Assistant Parking Manager,” I had received about an hour’s worth of instruction. Oddly enough, POST doesn’t have a course in parking management. One of the things that I was told was that if I needed additional contract buses and bus drivers, that I should call “John.” There was a post-it note on my new desk with John’s name and phone number. That was it. I didn’t even know the name of the contract company until I called John to introduce myself and explain that I was the new Assistant Parking Manager.

The first day of school was a disaster. We had three university owned buses and drivers working, as well as three contract buses and drivers, and lines of people waiting. It was taking as long as 40 minutes to an hour to get to school…a mile away. Students resorted to walking the mile to the main campus. While I know that is not a hardship, I’m sure it would not encourage them to use the Park & Ride in the future.

The Chief of Police called me directly and ordered me to get more buses. I called John and asked for buses and drivers. He asked me how many and I told him, all you’ve got. Within two hours, we had everything down to a manageable wait time and students were getting to class without problems. But the demand didn’t die down after first two weeks of school. In fact, use of the Park & Ride Lot remained high, filling regularly and requiring the use of additional contract buses and drivers.

In October, the department’s Fiscal Services Manager called me and asked me where we were on the budget for buses and drivers.

Budget?

The discussion went like this:

Me. “I don’t know. What is the budget?”

FSM/ “You don’t know the budget?”

Me. “No, isn’t that what you do?”

FSM. “No, I call you and ask you and you tell me and I keep track of where we are at.”

Me. “Oh.”

FSM. “Well, how much are we paying for buses and drivers?”

Me. “I don’t know.”

FSM. “Well, what does the contract say?”

Me. “What contract?”

FSM. “Don’t you have a contract?”

Me. “I don’t know. I don’t have one.”

FSM. “What do you have?”

Me. “Um…a post-it with a name and phone number.”

Long pause.

FSM. “Okay, I’ll take care of it.” He hung up.

I had been a police officer for six years and a supervisor for two and nothing in my police supervision training or experience had prepared me for this conversation. I thought I was going to get a letter of reprimand for this, minimum.

The following week the Fiscal Services Manager called me back. He told me that I was paying $38 an hour per bus and $28 an hour per driver. He told me that my budget for buses and drivers was $50,000 a year and that only eight weeks into the school year, I had spent $78,000. I was currently on track to spend in excess of a quarter of a million dollars OVER budget.

Now I was certain I was going to be fired.

Ultimately, it was determined that the need for the extra budget was there to get the Park & Ride Lot used effectively and they increased the budget. However, if it had gone the other way, as bureaucracies are sometimes wont to do, I could have been responsible for a $250,000 mistake.

As a state employee, I would have had to sell a couple of my children to pay that debt back.

Mental Illness as a Terminal Disease

After thirty years, there have been many bad days, and generally they involved people who had passed, usually tragically. Many colleges and universities have tall buildings that tend to draw desperate people to them. On one occasion, I was working as the Public Information Officer when a student, a young man had leaped from the top of one of our parking garages and had suffered fatal injuries near the front entrance of one of our service buildings. I avoided the scene, because I could. I was not part of the investigation; I was to provide appropriate information to the people and organizations that needed it. They say that things cannot be unseen; I have enough dead bodies in my head, I didn’t need to add any more. The day was long and sad for students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and others.

About an hour after the scene had been cleaned up and everyone had either gone home or back to their respective jobs, I was in my office, still a little time to go on my shift. The dispatcher called and said that the young man’s father was on the phone and there was no one else around to send him to, could I take the call? The Coroner’s Office had already notified him, but he obviously had some additional questions. Not having any real options, I told the dispatcher to send me the call. I couldn’t bring myself to simply let him stew until someone else could call him back, no matter how heart-wrenching the conversation might be.

The father spoke for a while first; he clearly needed someone to listen and I did that. He explained that his son had suffered from severe depression for several years, since his early teens, that he was on medication, and that he had to be hospitalized several times, including an emergency mental health hold that he had just been released from about twelve hours before he had taken his own life. And then he asked me, “How could I have failed my son, like this? How could I be such a bad father that he had to kill himself? There must have been something else I should have done.” (I’m sure that is not exactly how he said it, but it is how I remember it).

When he finally paused, I explained to him that his son suffered from a serious illness and that he needed to think of it like cancer. Sometimes, even if you go through all the treatments and procedures, the cancer wins and takes the patient’s life. The same is true of mental illness. His son didn’t kill himself, he succumbed to his mental illness; he fought long and hard, but ultimately lost his battle with depression. And nothing the father did caused this.

Mental illness is a killer and the victims need the same support and resources that we provide to people with cancer and other deadly illnesses.

An Astral Affair

I was patrolling in an area where we usually found prostitutes working their clients. I saw a vehicle that was out of place, there and that there were two people in the front seats. From what I could see, it appeared that the couple in the front seat were engaged in some intimate activity. I contacted them and saw immediately that the driver, whose head had appeared to be in the passenger’s lap, was a transgender woman.

I separated them and obtained their IDs. I asked if they know one another’s names, as prostitutes and clients tend not to know each other’s real names, people in that situation tend to give fakes. The driver told me the passenger had identified himself as (let’s say David). The passenger said the driver had identified herself as (let’s say Marie). I looked at the IDs and saw that Marie was actually Mario on her ID, but that was her middle name. Her first name on her ID was Angel. I saw that David was the middle name on the passenger’s ID, his real first name was Lucifer. (Who the hell names their child Lucifer?).

It became clear that this was a very recent pickup in one of the nearby bars and that they had found the closest dark location to get to know each other better. However, it also became clear that “David” was unaware of “Marie’s” gender situation (or more likely, was embarrassed that he was caught with her) and was getting agitated and angry. Another officer assisted me in keeping “David” away from “Marie.” When we were done, we sent “David” away on foot and allowed “Marie” to drive off.

I let them off with a warning, because there was no prostitution going on, but how many people have had the opportunity to witness an Angel giving Lucifer a blowjob?