“Be the type of person that when your feet touch the floor in the morning, the devil says, ‘aww shit… they’re up.'” -Dwayne Johnson
One of the things that keeps going everyday, is the fact that criminals benefit from cop’s laziness, ignorance, and any other mistake we make.
Weekday night, 2200 hrs. I was out hunting for guns and crime. I saw a man jerk the gas at a red light and slam the breaks. Instantly, I knew my presence had startled him as I pulled up from behind. When the light turned green, he took off slower than most traffic and I saw him and his buddy talking like they were arguing. He bent down, leading me to believe he was hiding something under his seat. Possibly an illegal gun, I hoped. I lit my sirens, signalling him to pull over. He had a cocky grin when I asked him if he knew why I stopped him. I explained to him the list of infractions he committed in my presence and after some questioning, he revealed he was on probation for a gun charge. I knew the possibility of finding a gun in his car had just increased exponentially.
I read the ink scribbled all over his arms and face and instantly identified him as a local street gangster. I asked him what hood he was from and he lied to me, probably because he knew I was rookie AF, thought it would be funny, and didn’t think I was familiar with his tattoos. Lucky for him, that gang wasn’t nearby to hear the blasphemer. Unlucky for him, I didn’t mind playing the rookie role, being underestimated is the beginning of your adversaries’ downfall.
Since he was on probation for a gun charge, we both knew he had to submit to being searched, the vehicle included. After both the driver and the passenger were out of the vehicle, my investigation revealed there was no gun. Instead, I found roughly $12,000 in crinkled up cash, multiple denominations, stashed under the driver’s seat. At that exact moment I got re-toned to respond to an emergency “shots fired” call. Not being able to pin any crime to the street gangster, I released him and ran off to my emergency call.
I arrived at scene and met with nothing. Just another sleepy neighborhood on a work night. No victim down. No bullet casings. A couple going for a walk told me they hadn’t heard any shots fired.
I realized very quickly what had already been looming over my head. I had released my good caper for the night, off on a warning. Playing the rookie role was exactly why he got away. Epic FAIL. A criminal I had placed in cuffs was released because of my own laziness, ignorance, and investigative mistakes.
I spent the next weeks talking to more senior officers and supervisors focused on learning more about conducting good investigations. Crime doesn’t always fall on our laps. I was rookie AF, as I still am, and if you are wondering why my partner didn’t intervene, that is because he was even more rookie than I was. It was a lesson learned for both of us. Police work isn’t something you rush. We have to use our resources, team work, and education to fight crime.
The next week, we conducted a traffic stop for a minor infraction. Again, I had a hunch I was onto something bigger than traffic stop. This time I took my time, I was thorough, and most importantly, I used teamwork and available resources. I remembered the conversations I had with more senior officers, including training officers. A simple traffic stop ended in a felony arrest for identity theft. A crime very difficult to make an arrest on. When I’ve worked the desk, I’ve taken many reports for identity theft and never thought they would go anywhere. Yet there I was, closing out a crime report that was taken a few months ago. The man I arrested eventually confessed to the stealing someone’s identity and using it to open multiple credit accounts.
That was one thief who was disappointed my partner and I showed up to work, awake and alert, to serve our community. We were so proud of making such a significant, yet low key arrest, we often forget we were in a crazy pursuit later that night.
Training is continuous. Knowledge is power.