The simplest solutions are the best
I was a pretty active narc, and easily closed the most cases in my unit. My buddy Sean had just made Property Crimes sergeant, and he wanted to remake that unit into a first-class, highly productive team. He thought I’d be a great fit for that and recruited me to join him. Finally, I did.
Sean was getting on everyone to close all the cases that were dragging so that we could tackle bigger and better stuff. My buddy Steve was trying to close a fraud case, and all he needed to do was put bracelets on one gal who was allegedly out in a small mountain community called Monte Rio. He got a lead where her banged up, P.O.S. car was parked at an apartment complex out there, so he set up an early morning surveillance to bag her.
Steve and crew started sitting on that car at 0600, and by about 1300 hadn’t seen diddly-squat. Sean and I were back in Santa Rosa working on other stuff, but he started getting antsy about Steve’s surveillance and sent me out there to see if I could help.
Being an old narc, on my way out there I started thinking about how to smoke out Steve’s suspect, a gal named Tara. When I got there, I told Steve and his crew to get in close to the car and make ready to pounce on Tara when he heard my bust signal, “how much?” Then I put on some ratty-ass cranker-looking clothing I kept in my unmarked and walked over to her car. I started looking under and in the windows, and before long a biker dude sticks his head out the window and tells me to get the F away from the car.
I yelled back that I was restoring a car just like this one, and if the price was right, maybe I’d buy it for parts. Biker guy responds by yelling at the next-door apartment, “Tara, some guy wants to buy your car!” Sure enough, Tara pops out of her apartment. I told her what I was up to, and asked to check out her car. She came down and unlocked the car. I looked around a bit, and then with her standing in between me and her car, I asked her, “OK, how much?” Smiling, I watched as Steve casually walked by … and then pounced on her, and the deal was done.
Case closed. Steve smirked and just shook his head. Remember, the simplest solutions are often the best. This low-tech ruse took five minutes. I told Steve next time he needed to make an arrest, just give me a call!
— Dave Albritton
Santa Rosa (California) P.D., ret.
It seems that our best efforts are never good enough
It was October 1996. I was a day shift sergeant, and it was a clear, cool sunny day. I went to get a coffee (a 9 a.m. ritual) when we got a report of a man who threatened a waiter at the diner with a knife. A moment later, a patrolman radioed that he would be talking to the man, and he was a block away. I responded. My officer was about 10 feet from the man, and he had wild, crazy eyes. I walked up and asked the man if he had a knife and he said that he did. His hand was in his pocket. I grabbed his wrist and he pulled away, back peddling onto a front yard lawn. He yanked out his knife and started swinging it at our faces. We drew down on him and screamed at him, “Drop the knife!” He kept swinging and was getting too close.
I stepped forward to aim and fire, and the suspect backed up a bit. I perceived that we may have a chance to de-escalate the situation, so I yelled at my officer to hold fire. While keeping target acquisition, I used my weak hand to empty my can of pepper spray in the suspect’s face. I kept my gun on him and emptied my OC spray in his face. He tried to keep swinging, but he was pretty debilitated. Finally, he dropped the knife. I tackled him and we made the arrest.
I was off the next day. Reading my local paper in the morning, I saw the suspect’s picture on the front page. It was a story about him being a missing person. The suspect was a 51-year-old Egyptian man and psychiatrist from a neighboring town. The article said he liked to go to restaurants, and that he gets violent when he’s off his meds. After reading about his life and his family, I was really glad I didn’t have to shoot him. I called the number and let them know where he was.
I’m willing to bet there are thousands of stories of cops using less force and risking their lives instead of going right for their gun. People also don’t know what goes through a cop’s mind in a blink of a second. When I drew down on this guy, I remember the thoughts going through my head: “If he runs left or right and I shoot and miss, the bullet will go down the street. If he runs past me, a funeral is letting out behind me … 50 or more people on the sidewalk. Don’t let my officer fire yet. Will my spray reach him? Do I have time?” People don’t understand our job at all. I went to grand jury on this incident. One of the jurors asked me, “Why couldn’t you contain him and call for a crisis team to come out and talk to him before using your spray?” I just sat there dumbfounded.
— Lt. Kevin Watts
Nutley (New Jersey) P.D., ret.