Sunday, February 9, 2014
In several businesses you will find family members working with each other and sometimes for another family member. This is no different in police agencies. When a brother officer has proven himself to be a dedicated member of his team and a sibling applies to join the ranks it is often given top priority to hire him/her over all other applicants based on an already proven sibling. This can sometimes backfire as the new hire has to live up to the expectations of his/her older sibling.
A very young officer candidate, Officer T, is the brother of Investigator P. Officer T is personable, clean cut, self assured, and eager to prove himself. It is obvious that he isn't happy having to go through the training phases with other officers because he is the brother of Investigator P and he already knows what to do. Or so he thinks! Officer T makes it through the previous 4 phases. The officers that trained him in these phases have reservations about several things but nothing specific to warrant remedial training and they pass him along to other officers in hopes that they may see what they see and feel strong enough to recommend remedial training or more drastic action such as termination.
I am assigned Officer T in the 5th and final phase of training. In this phase I am dressed in plain clothes and I ride in the passenger seat. I do not interfere in Officer T's duties UNLESS he breaks the law or jeopardizes
the safety of the public or ourselves. I opt out of reading the comments of the previous training officers in order to be completely objective in my observations of this phase.
In the first call it is a domestic disturbance where the wife is the aggressor against her husband. Officer T approaches the husband while another officer arrives and talks to the wife, in a separate room. Officer T displayed no concern for the welfare of the husband. He failed to allow him to tell what had happened to prompt the argument. Officer T simply became rather obnoxious to the male and told him to 'get a grip' and stand up for himself. He further stated to the male that he should be the boss in his own home. If his wife wouldn't listen to him he needed to get an 'equalizer' to get her attention. I was aghast at his advice to become violent. The poor husband was in shock too. Thankfully, the other uniformed officer gave better advice to the wife and there was a peaceful resolution. As we were departing the scene Officer T became indignant toward the husband and began to laugh at the weakness he felt he displayed. Then he began to laugh out loud uncontrollably. I was shocked at this demeanor. I noted his immaturity and lack of sympathy.
The main purpose in Officer T being an officer was to run radar and write traffic citations. He was a fast study in the operation of the radar unit. Currently, he held the record for the most traffic citations written by a candidate officer in training and he was so proud of this.
On one afternoon we were assigned to the northeast corner of the City. The roadway we were on was a busy street with 2 lanes in each direction and a turn lane in the middle of the two. There are several businesses and apartment complexes along this road.
Officer T pulled into the parking lot of a car wash and began monitoring traffic with radar in a stationary mode. He was monitoring eastbound traffic. In a few moments he was alerted to a violator speeding towards him. The speeder was traveling 60 mph in a 45 mile an hour zone. The violator was 3 lanes from where we were parked. Of course there was also traffic in the westbound lanes. Officer T simply turned on his siren and did not even turn on his overhead lights (which is mandatory for emergency vehicles) and pulled into the traffic without giving them time to hear him and respond. There were several near misses for accidents with his zeal to catch the speeder. I was petrified that we were going to have an accident. When he finally cleared this portion of the roadway he then turned on his overhead lights and called in the pursuit. After traveling about 2 miles he was able to stop the vehicle just outside the city limits. He got out of his car and nearly ran to the suspect vehicle, he was so enraged that someone would run from him! I also exited the car and walked to the passenger side so I could hear his conversation with the driver. Officer T demanded the license of the driver and he failed to ID himself as was procedure. The driver was an elderly lady who was very hard of hearing and she kept asking him to repeat himself, which infuriated him. Officer T soon removed the female driver from the car and walked with her to the passenger side of the car which was off the roadway and away from traffic. She saw me and she relaxed some but Officer T demanded her attention to him. She told him that she was 88 years old and never had a ticket. She was going to a hospital out of town as her grandson was in a car wreck and admitted to a hospital, she needed to go! She also did not have her driver's license with her. This did not sit well with Officer T. He then told her she was under arrest for RECKLESS DRIVING. She asked if she could call her son, he was the school district administrator for the City, to take her home and Officer T told her she could call him from the jail. He placed handcuffs on this poor lady and placed her in the patrol car and had her car towed. He was so proud of himself!
Officer T took the prisoner to the jail where I also spoke with the Sergeant on duty. The Sergeant called the lady's son and asked him to come to the jail and get his mother. She was released to the custody of her son the very minute he got there. Officer T was not happy. The Sergeant spoke with him and what was said I do not know as I excused myself. Thankfully, our shift was about over and it was time to begin documenting the days events. I was ready to be done! But tomorrow was another day.
The next day, prior to our shift, Officer T inquired as to how I would have handled the traffic arrest from the day before. I told him I would have taken in to consideration the driver's age. She was concerned over a family member. This may not have justified her speed but it was understandable. I would have written a traffic citation for the offense and called her son to pick her up. Service to the citizens of the city is part of our job. Understanding and compassion are traits we as officers have to use at times.
Officer T promptly responded to me and said, 'If I wanted to be a preacher, I wouldn't be wearing this badge! I represent the law and people WILL do as I say!'
As he prepared the patrol unit for our tour of duty I began to really take a hard look at him as an officer.
He really had an attitude as to the meaning of his job. The badge reflected that he was the 'law' and because of that he demanded respect. Respect was earned not demanded. He had to prove to others that he was as good if not better than his brother. He could not afford to fail.
Yet I know that to learn you must fail and you must accept the failure so you can learn from it. I really don't feel that Officer T is capable of that acceptance.
Once we are in our area Officer T goes to the area of the car wash where he was the day before. Rather than parking in the parking lot today he stops in the left turn lane facing west and monitors traffic also westbound. There is no place in this area to make a left turn and I ask him what he's doing, he tells me he is running radar at which time the radar locks in and squeals telling him a violator is traveling towards us from behind. As the violator passes us on my side he begins to pull out with no lights on or siren when I hear a siren and I yell for him to stop. He slams on the brakes and a police unit from a neighboring city flies by in pursuit of a stolen vehicle. We then follow him as his backup in emergency mode. This is proper protocol. After the suspect is stopped and in custody, we return to our police department. After our arrival I check the unit's radio and find that Officer T had turned off all other channels except ours. This is a violation of our protocol for instances such as what we were involved in on that day. Because of it we came very close to being involved in a major accident. Carelessness in the police world can be deadly.
An emergency meeting with Officer T, the Sergeant, the Lieutenant, and I was called. Prior to Officer T entering this meeting I informed the Managers of the past experiences involving Officer T the past 4 days. I specifically told them he was a danger to himself and the citizens of the city and I refused to continue training him. They concurred. I also requested that I be the one to tell him in their presence. We knew that he would be terminated as he was probationary and his reaction to this was uncertain.
As Officer T walked in to the office he was all grins and boasting about how great he was in his duties today! As I began talking to him I emphatically told him that he was not so great today or all week for that matter. He was stunned. As I relived the events of the previous few days and pointed out the flaws in his reasoning Officer T was becoming angry at me because I was weak as most women are according to his beliefs. He was told that if being compassionate, caring, and sympathetic is weak then how did his brother get to be such a good investigator? These are the qualities of a good police officer. In a few years when he matures and develops these traits I sincerely hoped he would reapply for an officer position. Painfully, I had to remove his badge from his uniform and direct him to human resources. This was the most unpleasant part of my job.
After he left the building, I read the summations of all the previous training officers. By all rights Officer T should never have made it to the 5th phase. Honesty should win out over loyalty every time. In this instance it was the only answer that provided a solution to keeping safe those I was sworn to protect. This provided salvation to the citizens and peace of mind to me!
In the early months of the year 1987 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Affirmative Action in police agency hiring practices. This ruling stated that for every white person hired or promoted there is to be one black person hired or promoted as well. This ruling was to combat law enforcement departments overt and defiant acts of racism in hiring.
The police department I was working for thought they had the answer to the Affirmative Action law to have black employees in the patrol division of the Department by encompassing the employees who worked the jail. Many of these were Black or of Latin descent. With the new ruling this would no longer suffice.
I grew up in the Seattle, Washington area of the northwest and discrimination was not practiced so I did not understand the reasoning for the omission of blacks or other minorities from being hired. You can imagine my surprise to learn that I was considered a minority just for being white and female!
Treating people like people was and still is my mantra. The color of their skin has no bearing on it!
As a Field Training Officer, I was given the responsibility to train the first black patrol officer. I knew from past experience that there were those that had hoped he would not pass the training. BUT they failed to recognize that I also was aware of these same feelings from them when I went through the training process. In my heart I felt that come hell or high water he would make it! It seemed ironic that a minority officer would be training a minority officer candidate.
Officer S began his formal training for the first 3 phases of the training program with male officers. He became my responsibility in the 4 phase which was also the longest phase. I started his training by getting to know him and his aspirations. He was very determined. After a few days it was apparent to me that he had no fear in the face of the citizens he was sworn to protect. He had fear alright but it was of me as I held the power to make him or break him in this job.
I knew I had to convince him that I had no such power, he was responsible for his own destiny. I could teach him the fundamentals of the job but he had to make the job his own. I further told him that he had to know that pinning the badge on his shirt did not make him anything or anyone special. He would still be himself. He had to make the badge mean something to others. Being true to the meaning of the badge and the job by your words and actions will be what makes you or breaks you.
Halfway through the training phase I let Officer S be in charge of our unit. He did all the driving and he would be the initial officer of contact. When we'd arrive at a call I would hang back a little (as I was well known by the citizens) to see how he was received and how he handled it. At first he was met with angst and disdain by white citizens. I noticed it but he never acknowledged their ignorance and he provided them with answers and assistance as if they were his family. Of course, there were times where no matter what he said he had to prove that he meant what he said. In these times we more often than not ended up in a physical confrontation. We often ended up on the bottom of a 'pig pile' and had to be rescued by other officers but we always did it as a TEAM. He had my back and I had his.
At the end of the training phase Officer S would next enter his final phase of training. I closed my 4 weeks of training with him by telling him that from the very beginning there was never a thought in my mind that he would fail. I want him as a fellow officer and only he, himself, has the ability to make it or not. Fulfillment as a police officer or a human being comes with sacrifice and service. The decision is up to each of us.
Officer S went on to become one of the most revered officers in the police department. He retired about 2 years ago and during a trip to Texas in 2013 I was able to see him again. Officer S told me that it was my confidence in him and my encouragement and unconditional belief in doing what's right that solidified his successes. Even in my absence he'd recall my passion for helping others and making the badge mean something. He wanted me to know how much I had touched him in 4 short weeks that lasted for 25+ years.
I feel that without the Affirmative Action law I would not have met Officer S. The Lord works in mysterious ways and I believe He had a hand in this as well. This door was opened for a reason and the salvation of our fellow man, no matter the color of our skin, was the purpose.