I was working southeast on 3rd watch in the mid 90’s. The recent “push” had been to arrest minors under the age of 18 for being in violation of curfew. The command thought it would be good to get them off the street as both a possible victim and/or suspect. I was focused on drunk drivers and didn’t care much for curfew arrests. One night I was headed for our trailer on 47th St, to get a cup of coffee, when I saw 2 males walking toward the trolley station. They looked under 18, so I stopped them. They were both 16 and it was 11pm and 10pm is the latest they could be out. I arrested them and found 2 stolen city schools hand held radios on them. The radios had been taken in a recent burglary from a school 6 blocks away. Sometimes the little things become big things. They went to Juvenile Hall instead of home.
Northpark in the late 1990’s and I saw a couple kids on bikes and they were not wearing helmuts. They turned into an alley and as I turned the corner one of them pulled a military bayonet out of the back of his pants and threw it behind a wall. It is a felony to conceal that type of knife on your person. He went from a fix-it ticket to a felony arrest. Still in Northpark a 15 year olds mother calls us because another kid took her son’s bicycle. He came up to him and pushed him off his bike a rode off. I took the kid with me and his mom followed in her car. The suspect had taken off S/B on 30th st and thats the way I checked. I found him riding the stolen bike a couple minutes later. Happy ending, the victim got his bike back and the suspect got a ride to Juvenile Hall. (Juvenile Hall is more of a scare tactic. The 1st thing they do is call the parent to come pick up their child. It does give them a taste of the system)
I cannot remember the amount of “check the welfare” calls I went on over the years. The call usually comes from family or friends that have not heard from someone and want the Police to see if they are ok.
I went on a call in the North Park area in a retirement home. When we got out of the elevator I knew the person was dead. The smell of death is something you don’t forget and sure enough the lady had been dead a couple days. She had a security screen door and the wooden door was open. She was dead in the living room.
Another call in Pacific Beach and the smell of death. The apartment was empty, except for a body under a blanket on the living room floor. He had been dead a week or so and there was a line of little critters going to and from the body. He had melted into the floor.
We had a body on the beach outside a place called the “marine room” in La Jolla. He had a drink glass near him and we figured he had too much to drink and fell asleep on the sand, during low tide. The tide came in and he drowned.
A call to check on a drunk lying on the driveway of him’s mother’s home. Some of his friends brought him home from the local bar. They tried to put him in his camper in the backyard, but the gate was locked. They left him on the driveway instead. Rule #1 with passed out drunks. Lay them on their side, not their back. He threw up and drowned in his own vomit. His mom was in the house at the time.
We had a guy in Clairemont that died putiing on his socks in his living room. He was on his back with one sock on and the other in his hand. I sat at his dinner table and did my reports while waiting for the coroner to come and get the body. The wait could be up to an hour or more. When I worked Pacific Beach I would volunteer for death calls, to catch up on my paperwork while waiting at the location for the coroner.
I was working the Mission Bay area in the early 1980’s and checking out the local bay parks for people drinking. I saw five guys standing around a parked car. They all moved when they saw me, so I knew they were up to something. I saw a bottle of beer at the feet of one guy and I asked him it was his. He denied ownership of the beer. They were all in navy, so I started talking to them about the importance of taking resposibility for your actions and as service members they should be responsibile. The guy near the beer changed his mind and claimed the beer. I thanked him for stepping up and taking responsibility. I started to walk around the guys on the other side of the car and I saw a baggie of marijuana on the ground, then another, then another and another. As I held up each baggie one of them claimed ownership. I issued four marijuana tickets and one glass bottle. Sometimes you run into honest people. I did thank them all for being honest.
I was working southeast division with a female partner on 2nd watch. We went to a local park on a call regarding some males drinking beer in the park. When we arrived we saw 2 guys with beer cans near the basketball courts. We went up to them and told them they were going to get tickets for possession of alcohol in a park. The guy I was talking to then turned and tried to run. I pulled him to the ground and tried to get him into handcuffs. The other guy stepped up to help his friend and my partner had to have my back. An off-duty officer came up and helped me cuff my guy. I looked back and saw my partner handcuffing her guy as she sat stradding him. When we got downtown I asked my guy why he treid to run. He told me that he had some “weed” on him. I had taken a small metal case, like people use to carry cigatettes and the weed was in there. I told him would have just been a ticket also, until I opened the case. He had 14 small ($5) baggies of marijuana in the case. He just stepped to felony possession for sales.
I was working sourtheast on 3rd watch with a trainee. We were driving in an alley when I saw a guy urinating up against a trash dumpster. That offense is arrestable, but usually is only a ticket. We stop and when I approach him he tries to run. We get him cuffed and during a search of his person we find $16.000.00 cash and 14 grams of methamphetamine. He said that he earned the money picking apples in oreagon and he had bought the drugs with part of his apple money. He lost the money and went to prison for a couple years. Watch where you urinate.
During my time on I knew about 30 cops that died of various things. I also went to about 25 officer involved shooting scenes. I knew 7 that died in motorcycle accidents, 7 that killed themselves, cancer took 4 more and the rest died in the line of duty. After I retired I went to the funeral of an Officer that I knew from SWAT and southeast patrol. He was killed in an aprtment complex in that community and nineteen years before another Officer had been killed in that same complex. I had worked around that Officer in southeast patrol also. We did not have an Officer killed by gunfire in that 19 year period. How weird was it that two cops were killed in the same complex 19 years apart.
After retirement I joined the retired fire and police association. They e-mail out all the department anouncments. Since retiring I can’t keep up with the deaths of so many guys that I knew. (over 25 at this time) I worked patrol all over the city and I got to know alot of cops. Each death takes a little out of you, depending upon how well you knew them, of course. It seems like if you make it to 60 years old, then you are gonna live a long time. Whatever killed them did it within a couple years of retirement, generally speaking. I ran into a retired officer that left in 1980, when I came on. At the age of 80 he started mixed martial arts and at 86 is a 2nd degree black belt. He is an inspiration.
In 1992 I was told by my doctor that I had signs of PTSD. (post tramatic stress disorder) I had been in my 1st shooting in late 1991 and I had been to several critic incident’s and I was also into my 4th year on SWAT. I started going to a place called FOCUS that offered assistance to department employees. I got some treatment for PTSD over the next few years. After my second shooting in 2003 I was diagnosed with PTSD, again by two different doctors. I started to see a doctor on a somewhat regular basis. I also filed a work compensation case for stress and the city accepted it and gave me a percent of disibilty. In 2008 I was in my 3rd shooting and my command filed a stress claim for me. I took an extra week off duty after that shooting. It was so close to my home that I walked my dogs by there the next day. In march of 2010 my stress level was high and I went to an urgent care to see a doctor for stress. I saw 3 different doctors from that same place over the next two weeks. They gave me a total of 8 days off of work (two weeks). I filed all the proper paperwork and the city, in its devine wisdom, thought that something was not done the right way and did not pay me. ( I got the money back about a year later)
I retired on 10-02-10 after a little more that 30 years as a patrol officer. I had to get out due to the stress. My left fingers would shake when I was in a critical incident. A few weeks after my 3rd shooting I had to point my gun at a posible armed suspect and both my hands were shaking so much the suspect noticed it. I left 22 months early and that cost me about $150.000.00 in retirement money, over 20 years.
In 2013 I filed to change my retirement from service to disibility. In september of 2014 the city retirement people sent me to see yet another doctor. After a 300 question test and a interview with the doctor he said I was no longer depressed, but I still had PTSD. I have had PTSD now for 22 years and counting. The stress that is applied by poor supervisors is much worse that the stress of being on the street. I am so glad to be retired.
I was a training Officer for about 18 years and during that time I had 75 active trainees. I also had other Officer’s trianees for a day or two. I had my 1st trainee, Tim Williams, in November of 1985. I was his 1st training Officer. He died about three weeks ago while riding his bicycle. Tim had almost 30 years on the department and his funeral showed how many friends he had. He was a great person and a great cop.
About 8 years ago another of my trainees, David Moya, was killed while riding his motorcycle on Imerpial Ave. His body was under the car that hit him and the motorcycle he was riding was new. Dave had left work early, due to a morning court case. The Officers he worked with responded to the accident. They didn’t know he was under the car, until it was lifted off by a tow truck.
I had some great trainees and some thatI knew would never be anything but a patrol officer. I always felt that if they could get through the Police Academy, then they should make it in the field. In the late 1990’s I was asked to take a problem trainee and just spend the month riding with him to document the reasons to fire him. I told the field training office that I could not do that, I would try to fix him. They were looking to fire him, so they found someone else.
The SDPD has changed its training program several times during my time as an FTO. (field training officer) At first it was 3 one month phases, then it was 3 two week phases and then 3 one month phases. The first 3 two week phases were while the recruit was still in the academy. They were “debriefed” after each phase. Questions were asked if their FTO got free coffee or 1/2 price meals or did personal business on duty. After phase 1 the recruits did give up their FTO’s, after phase 2 the blue wall came down.