In retrospect, I could have easily shot the suspect and it would have been considered justifiable in those days. The suspect was armed and dangerous. If indeed, I had pulled my six inch Smith and Wesson revolver, I can guarantee that I would have unloaded all six bullets squarely into the suspect’s chest, without hesitation. It just so happened that day that his number wasn’t up. Neither was mine, nor the suspects’ mothers. None of us got to call Bingo that day. But today, if I would have killed the suspect, I would be serving time.
Currently, there are so many unarmed suspects who are killed by Police Officers. I cannot imagine what goes through an officer’s mind when placed in a life or death situation. I do not know what type of training they have gone through, or what their day has been like, but I believe that they acted in a manner consistent with their training. More than likely, they feared for their own life, or the life of another. I do not believe that any officer would simply murder a suspect without reasonable cause.
CRISIS INCIDENT #2 - IN THE LINE OF DUTY
As a Police Officer, I was never afraid of dying in the line of duty; I just figured that when “your number is up”, there is nothing that can be done. I did my job to the best of my ability. I used common sense, and never turned my back on a suspect. But sometimes common sense isn’t enough. It was the Fickle Finger of Fate caused the end of my police career.
In July of 1977, I was dispatched to a local department store to transport a 15-year old female arrested on shoplifting charges. It was just another routine call in the life of a Police Officer. After escorting her out of the department store security office, I walked her outside to the front curb where my unit awaited. I stopped her and told her to wait near the unit’s front right bumper. The right front tire was parked about four inches from the curb, just enough room for me to step down between the tire and the concrete. Unfortunately, I did not realize that my steel toed boot had become wedged between the two. The shoplifter stood to my right while I explained to her that I was required to handcuff all suspects, and that I would release her to her parents at the police station. I explained that it was routine procedure. Something in the girl’s eyes told me she was spooked. All of a sudden she turned and ran towards the back of the unit. I was facing opposite her, toward the front of the car. As she darted, I quickly turned to grab her and heard a loud snap. I didn’t yet feel any pain, but knew something was horribly wrong. Then just a second later, I felt the pain. I yelled for her to stop, and to my surprise, she complied. I wobbled over to her, managed to handcuff her, and placed her in the backseat, all the while in excruciating agony. If a cop were to attempt to restrain a suspected shoplifter today, he could be brought up on charges of harassment or civil rights violation. I called for an ambulance and backup for the girl’s transportation.
By the time I reached the emergency room, my knee was swollen to the size of a volleyball. Once the swelling subsided, the doctors advised me that I would require surgery. I underwent two surgeries to repair torn ligaments and the knee’s meniscus, but my knee never did heal properly. I elected to forego any further surgeries as there was no guarantee that other medical procedures would help. Because of that injury, I would never be able to return to active duty as a full time Police Officer. So on July 1, 1978, almost a year later, I retired medically, with full benefits.
I never would have guessed that something so simple as a routine stop would end my career. I spent many nights in the locker room changing my uniform because of scuffles with unruly suspects and combative prisoners, and thought that I would “go out” differently. But Fate called out my number that day, and Bingo, my career was ended, but was life went on. It just goes to show you that when your number is up, your number is up. There is no rhyme or reason to Fate, and you cannot control what happens.
But Fate is still on my side. After my years as a Police Officer, I developed a successful real estate business. For the past forty years, my company Ten Four Real Estate has amassed a small fortune. I would like to help other officers become successful entrepreneurs.
Through that website, Ten Four USA, I offer all Police Officers and Firefighters discounts on real estate, nationwide.
Fate wants you to believe that when your number is up, your number is up. Either God or the Devil calls out a number, like a game of Bingo, and if your number is called, your time is up. You have no control over the situation. Once your number comes up, it’s Bingo, your dead. You see it on the news every single day. But nowadays, most of the news reports are about cops killing unarmed suspects. As a former Police Officer, I call BS on the media. They are responsible for creating a mobocracy against all Police Officers.
A Police Officer’s sworn oath promises to defend the citizens of the United States, no matter what the cost or consequence. Most officer’s swear to an oath similar to this:
“I, _____________, do swear, that I will well and truly serve our sovereign country and state, as a Police Officer without favor or affection, malice or ill-will, until I am legally discharged, that I will see and cause our community’s peace to be kept and preserved, and that I will prevent to the best of my power, all offenses against that peace, and that, while I continue to be a Police Officer, I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof, faithfully, according to law. So help me God.”
I truly believe that most Police Officers keep to their oaths. But there seems to be a general consensus in this country that all officers are corrupt, and “out to kill”. When did that happen? When did the tide turn against them? I blame the media for irresponsible news coverage. The media is currently full of bad publicity regarding cops killing unarmed suspects. But the media seldom divulges the whole truth. The general public reads those erroneous reports and goes into riot mode without hearing the entire truth. They only hear what the media wants them to hear. Their lack of knowledge and insight into the incident causes them to lash out at the police force, causing danger to innocent bystanders. People are left in the dark; so of course, they are going to want change. And people are eager to jump on any bandwagon when it comes to attacking the police force. But angry mobs rioting in the streets, destroying their own cities and declaring open season on cops isn’t the answer. What did their actions really accomplish other than chaos and more misery? Absolutely nothing.
It takes a cop to know a cop, and as a former cop, I offer a counter-defense. We need to unite and take back our streets. We are the ones that deserve a change. And our political leaders need to stand by our side; they need to support the force instead of constantly haranguing us. And parents need to teach their children respect for the badge. When confronting a police officer, people need to learn how to act in certain situations. Better yet, don’t put yourself in a certain situations and you are likely to stay out of harm’s way. It’s just that simple. But nothing will change unless Police Officers unite and turn things around.
As a former Police Officer, I can attest to the change in the public’s attitude towards us as a whole. From 1968 to 1978 I was employed by the City of Garden Grove in California. It was a different time, a time when citizens still had respect for the badge. I graduated from the Police Academy at age 21, took the Oath of Office, and ten years later, I was still employed and had a family with two small children. Ten years later, the public still had respect for the badge. If these two incidents had occurred today, I would probably be involved in a civil rights case, or some other frivolous lawsuit.
CRISIS INCIDENT #1 - JUSTIFIED
My first incident occurred in 1970, on a hot summer California day. I was on routine patrol in my Unit 3208, when I received a call from the dispatcher citing Penal Code 217. I was ordered to go to such-and-such address, where “A man with a butcher knife is trying to stab his mother”.
When a Police Officer responds to a Code 217, he has no clue as to what he is walking into. But if he responds to a Code 5150, he is trained to use restraint. The officer is aware that 5150 in California is a non-crime health and safety code, and the suspect is unstable and should be booked in a mental ward for a 72 hour hold for observation. This was not the case. This was a Code 217 which is assault with attempted murder. There was no reason for me to use restraint, but I did anyway.
I happened to be patrolling the immediate area, and responded to the crime scene within a matter of minutes. At that time, Garden Grove Police Department only had one-man unit cars, so I was the sole responder. However, a follow up officer arrived later, but he was further from the scene. As I pulled up across the street from the given address, I observed the suspect standing on the front porch thrusting a 10 -inch butcher knife through the opened front door. My car window was open and I could hear an elderly lady behind him pleading desperately, “Please don’t kill me”. He was obviously attempting to kill his mother. The usual procedure, if you wanted to live and go home to your family, was to wait for a back-up officer to assist. She was in immediate danger, and I knew I couldn’t wait for back up.
I kept the suspect in plain view while I quickly parked curbside, opposite the house. The distance from my squad car to the front porch was approximately fifty to sixty feet. The suspect must have heard my engine, because all of a sudden, he turned around and focused all his anger in my direction. With a twisted grimace on his face he bellowed, “I am going to kill you, you fucking pig!” He jumped off the front porch and bolted towards my car while frantically waving the butcher knife towards me. I attempted to exit my police unit. With the car window was down, I knew I did not have time to roll it up. Besides, that was the last thing on my mind. My immediate instinct was to exit the car. I finally got the door open while he was still running at me, butcher knife in midair, and cursing profanely. He gave every indication that he wanted to kill me. I had a quick vision of my number being called, just like the Bingo balls. I really thought my number was up. But I needed to keep my wits about me and stay calm. I thought, “What is my best option?” I knew I would not be able to grab my gun in time to shoot. I only had few seconds before he would be upon me with the knife. So I grabbed my heavy duty nightstick which lay next to my seat. I kicked open the squad car and jumped out. This is when everything began to appear in slow motion. Sirens were wailing in the background, signaling the arrival of a backup unit. But at that moment, I was not even aware of the sirens; everything seemed surreal. But the suspect must have heard them; he became distracted. I noticed his hesitation and used it to my advantage. I swung my nightstick low, with all my might. I was now in “fight or flight” mode and my adrenaline was pumped. The blunt force landed squarely on his left shin.
The combination of drugs and alcohol in his system staved off his pain for a few seconds, but when it finally registered, he hit the ground with a thud. I jumped behind him, stepped on his hand clutching the knife, wrestled it from him and threw it out of reach. My other arm had him in a choke-hold. The suspect was strong and crazed, amped up on who knows what. Somehow I managed to get my handcuffs out and cuff him. Luckily, the responding officer was by my side to assist. We finally got him into to back of the squad car. After re-assessing the incident, the other officer asked if I was injured or cut. I checked myself and said no. He said this was my lucky day, and from his point of view, I was lucky to still be alive. Yes, I guess it was my lucky day. I was still alive, and still able to go home to my family without having to kill someone today. Later, I learned that the suspect was an extremely dangerous felon under the influence of PCP. My actions that day earned me three different Awards of Courage. One from the City of Garden Grove, one from the Sheriff of Orange County, and one from California Governor Ronald Reagan.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.