Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Warrants: how you serve them. (For the cops out there.)

I'm a garden-variety cop. My phone number is not zero, and I'm not a Billy Badass. I believe that I am competent at my job, though, and one aspect of that job is case development and evidence-gathering. Another is making arrests of those whom I have proven had sufficient probable cause to be taken to jail. If the event was on-view, I arrest them then and there. If I put the P.C. together after the fact, I get a warrant, and go arrest them later. 

I list here the steps to getting a warrant, because it seems like there are those who don't follow them, sometimes, and they make the news. Maybe we need to publish a primer, or something. So here's mine:

The first step in getting a warrant is to soundboard your plan against a competent cop. Sometimes this is your boss. Sometimes it's a peer with another agency. But explain what you're trying to do, and what evidence you have, and ask him or her to review your plan to check it for blind spots or subjective assumptions.  This is not just about being a professional-- it's about being fair to the suspect and to the system. Sometimes an investigator will miss a glaring reason why either:
1) The charge is incorrect or less appropriate than another charge,
2) The suspect is exempt from the charge due to statute or case law
3) The investigator needs to recuse himself from further investigation due to a conflict of interest.
4) Reason X, which hasn't been thought of yet.
Lots of cops don't do this, because they don't want to look like they're not capable of handling it by themselves. I used to be like that. Trust me: the seasoned cop soundboards, and does a better job because of it.

A second step (which is not necessary in my jurisdiction but which is a very good idea) is to run your proposed action by the local assistant District Attorney. He or she can often give advice about the procedure which is helpful (after all, they're the ones you're asking to prosecute the case in court). Just as importantly, though, you're getting a D.A. to sign off on your case, and take ownership of the case. This definitely helps.

A third step, in the service of a Search Warrant or Search And Arrest Warrant on a property is to go get photographs of exactly what you plan to search. Is it the shed behind 101 Main St? Get a few digital photos of it. Attach them to your Probable Cause Affidavit for your search warrant. Describe the property carefully in the first paragraph of the Warrant Affidavit.

Go take the affidavit and the warrant (You should have a generic warrant form on your thumb drive and on an office computer. Don't have one? Get one, right now. Save it. Make it editable. Don't wait until you need it; that's too late. Ask your D.A.) to the judge or magistrate. Swear to it, and get the warrant. Attach the photographs to it.  Make a copy of the warrant for the property owner/manager/tenant.

I'm not saying "serve it all by yourself." But you will physically be there. Even if you need to assemble a team of 20 snake-eating Professional Operators (tm) to help you, you will be present when that warrant is served. You will brief everyone helping you on what to expect, and what you're trying to accomplish.  "They got the wrong address" is not an acceptable excuse. In such an instance, you, the investigator obtaining the warrant, have personally failed.

You will see that everyone on the warrant service team is attired in an easily-recognizable police uniform. Warrant service is not the time to go Office Casual. This is the time for badges displayed, patches displayed, and large patches with the name of your agency presented prominently. You will all carry police identification as well, which you will gladly present if at all possible to do so safely. Every officer present on the warrant service team will be identified, and their role given, on the call for service or incident report.

You will make contact in a courteous, professional manner with the homeowner or resident or manager, and state your business. You will present them with a copy of the judge's order to search the specified property. You will then make clear that you are going to follow that order at that time. While there is a clear imperative, here, this does not have to be an adversarial dialogue. Be respectful to that citizen; you work for him or her.

Document how you go about this. Roll video, with audio. I like car video, backed up by body cameras.

Secure the scene. Be courteous but direct. Screaming "Get On The Ground" and pointing weapons at people who happen to be there is not courteous. Don't point weapons at people just because you're serving a warrant and they're present. You need to articulate why they were a threat before point a weapon at someone.  I'm serious about this.

As I've written before, don't serve No-Knock Warrants unless there's a hostage present.

Leave a list of what you took as a receipt for the resident or manager. Have a scribe keep the list during the search, and photograph what you took and what the condition of it was.

Get out.

Send a return to the judge or magistrate, showing that the warrant was served, and what you seized.

Lots of cops say, "that's above my pay grade." "That's for the detectives." "That's just the way I was shown how, and we don't have time for that." 

Fellow peace officers, a search warrant is a very specific exception to rights held by our citizens. Take it seriously. Do it right. Even if you don't do them, know HOW to do them. If learning how is too much trouble, then go find other work, please. We've got this.

Let us be professionals.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I deleted some online contacts, today. One was Byron Quick. Byron passed away a few years ago. He was a nurse, and a Georgia cracker, and had been a fellow staff member at, and at I hunted with Byron, and took meals with Byron, and was his guest, once. I miss his company.

Another was William Bligh-Glover, MD. I wrote here of his passing. I never met him. Still I thought of him as a friend.

Another was Jason Pittman. Jason and I were students in grade school through high school, together. His mother was my teacher. His father was an assistant scoutmaster of my troop. Jason, I am given to understand, fell into drugs and depression (who knows which caused the other), and he took his own life. He had been an Eagle Scout.

The day after his father was buried, I watched my Chief, a friend, delete his father from his cell phone, saying that it was silly to keep it in there. I shook my head, not sure that I could do such a thing with such a cavalier attitude. But I don't think (looking back) that he did it without thought. A photo or a note or a subscription to or a social media "friendship" does not a relationship make. You carry that in your heart. It is not a flag, that you wave.

I don't believe in ghosts. I wish that I did. But I've got some of these people's transferred personalities stored within my wetware*, and so I guess that they live on. In the meantime, this picture reminds me of an adventure in Georgia with my friends. I think that Tamara was already gone, but I don't recall who took this picture. JPG or John may recall. That's Byron in the middle.

*If I could, would I be stored as a RAM AI, like Neuromancer? If I were simply a ROM AI, I would want to be deleted, like Dixie Flatline

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"If I knew then what I know now." 2014 in review.

"On the last day of Pompeii
Thought I heard some poor boy say:
'Oh wow man if I knew then what I know now
I would've done more been more than I been
Had fun more sinned more mortal sin
Oh wow
If I knew then what I know now
I would've sent back that steak that was so overdone
Grabbed that big break while there was time time time
Made my life into a fantasy
Hot stuff for me to remember remember
And now that I'm a goner
All that lava rushin' 'round the corner
Oh wow-- I ain't complainin'-- only thinkin out loud...'"
Trout Fishing In America sang it best, but I can't find y'all a link to their performance of Michael Smith's great song about living for the moment. ;

Comes now the end of 2014, and we have lists of what came and what went.

We lost more and more of our Greatest Generation, and we lost some more of our innocence.

This year, our nation went from 18 states with legal same-sex marriage, to 35 who legally accept it.

This year, we saw more distrust of police than I've ever seen in my life, even while there is more oversight than there has ever been. When I got into patrol, we were just beginning to put patrol cameras into patrol cars, and soon after, made it required. I just saw a proposal for bills for the 2015 Texas legislative session, including two requiring that departments equip officers with body cameras, and apply for grant funding if they couldn't afford it. I reckon that we'll see body cameras on every uniformed officer within 3 years. And here's a prediction: I predict that we will see weapon-mounted cameras become standard within 10 years for police. Maybe even sooner. I predict some kind of automatic proximity switch will turn on the camera when the duty pistol is drawn from the duty holster.  Something to invest in, because they're coming.

This year, I had reinforced again that facts really take a back seat to emotions when people have an agenda to push. The Ferguson riots started with a rally cry of "Hands up! Don't shoot!" In fact, it turns out this was based upon a false premise. I had people tell me that, regardless of the facts in that shooting, the disparity in races in nationwide shootings throughout history give one reason to believe in racism on the part of the officer shooter. Think about that for a moment: the individual incident no longer matters: it's the perception of a trend that matters. Meanwhile, we cannot use criminal history of an individual as evidence of his most recent crime.

This year, we saw quadcopter drones with high-definition digital cameras really take off, literally and figuratively. This will have repercussions that we haven't even realized, yet. Heck, I've been pricing them myself, even. I had an 8 year old go missing at a park near a large field with a creek in it the other day, and was thinking, as I toned out the Volunteer Fire Department, how nice it would be to conduct a quick fly-over with a drone to find the kid. (Fortunately, a cold rain began to fall, which told me (when he didn't show up) that he was likely not outdoors. We searched nearby houses, and found that he'd made a new friend that he'd neglected to tell his mom about.) They can be run off of tablets with WiFi boosters, and you can get into one for well under $500 if you don't need high end and already have a tablet.   I can see hunters scouting their area with these. Home defense? Get one with an IR camera. Police work, good and bad? Sure. Fire suppression. Crop evaluation. Roof inspections. I think of those guys who inspect radio towers. This would be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

This year, we saw NetFlix, originally just a streaming service for movies and syndicated television shows, be taken seriously as another network, turning out its own produced shows of high quality that had Emmy expectations. My wife bought a couple of dozen shares of NetFlix a few years ago, and sold it for a nice profit a couple of years ago. Man, we wish we had held on to that, now!
Shoulda held on to some of that.

This year, we saw the economy of China become the largest in the world, and some people tried to make hay over that. Really? They've been the largest country (by population) all of my life. It's hardly surprising that they would have a bigger economy. Now, let's see what they do with it. We still have the biggest market and most revenues. Frankly, I'd like to see China be more careful with its environmental issues; we're downstream of them. 

On a personal note: 
This year, I saw my elder daughter learn to drive. She's not bad. I saw my younger daughter turn 12, and overtake both her mother and her elder sister (16) in height. I saw my elder daughter take the stage in a musical, and knock it out of the park singing in front of a full auditorium, the same semester that she had started choir. Then she started dating. (He's a fine boy. No, seriously.)

This year, I took my elder daughter to get two ear operations, and took my wife to have a gall bladder removed and have heavy sinus surgery. All of this, BTW, was since October. Given that we've never had any kind of operations in my little nuclear family before (we're a healthy lot), it's been nerve-racking. 

This year, we re-roofed our house and put gutters on it, and set up a cash-back refinance that will end up going through next week, with which we're buying a nice used Tacoma pickup. 

I lost a few pounds, this year, and then this holidays gained 15 pounds right back. 

This year, I trained a guy the way I wanted him trained. I sat on a couple of review boards, and did some background checks. I put some bad guys (real ones) in jail, and saw more than one find prison time. I also helped a few decent people who had made some technical errors in judgement get right with the law. I also helped a few people that just needed help. But I also got some people mad at me, and I just hope that I was doing the right thing when I did. 

I have seen evidence that I have the respect of my boss, whom I respect. I've gotten phone calls this year from officers calling me for advice when I was off-duty, and I will tell you that there is no greater compliment. 

2015 comes now, and I don't know what it brings me. But I hope it brings us collectively more peace. 

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

In case you've forgotten his name?

Christian Trejbal is still an ass. 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Power line down.

Just when you think that you're getting used to the random arcing, the transformer will blow. I don't care how many times you've seen it; that'll still get your danged attention.

The hot wire literally catches the dirt on fire. The sand in the dirt begins making glass bubbles which remain.

Live loose trailing wires in windy conditions are an ongoing problem. Blowing past the fire and police barricades to get to your family because you heard that there was "a fire in the yard" makes you a new source of problems. Prepare to meet Mr. Crankycop and his friend Firefighter SourFace. Seriously, you're better off stopping to ask the firefighter how best to approach your house. Sure you're worried about your family. But if we have to deal with a new problem, we're distracted from helping your family.

I love the smell of a freshly-popped road flare.

35 degrees? Not a problem. 35 and a 20 mph north wind? Kinda raises your skirts a bit.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Most of you didn't have to.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"There's a man at the door."

I was in the laundry room, turning dirty clothes into clean ones, when my daughter hollered to me that there was a man at the door.

I've actually been having some issues with a local who has lost his grasp on reality, and who believes that I'm the cause of his problems, so I made decent speed to the door. Not running, not amped, but ready. To my irritation, the door was standing ajar. I opened it, and found one of our newest officers at my department on the porch. I'm afraid that he may have misread my irritation with my daughter's accurate-yet-incomplete report as irritation at seeing him. He stepped back, and noted my hand in my pocket.

"Damn, Matt, you were about to put a cap in my ass!" He laughed.

I protested that I was happy to see him, and that no such thing was on my mind.

"Bull. You've got your hand on a gun, right now!"

I had actually been re-seating my little J-frame back into my leather pocket holster. I shrugged and pulled the whole rig out to seat it better, and re-pocketed it.

I closed the door and stepped outside, expecting there to be a potentially sensitive issue. There wasn't one. We chatted. Seems that a month or two back, I had done the recently-late officer from another agency a favor, when he had asked me over chat on our MDT to check on the registered address of a reported hit-and-run vehicle. I had found the suspect vehicle in its driveway, and documented the damage to it thoroughly photographically. I then had put all the picturess on a DVD,. and mailed it to him (my email couldn't handle it, and I was too lazy to set up a DropBox account.). Well, with his sudden passing, the case was languishing. I said that I would find the pictures and re-mail them to his P.D.

Strange the things that pop up.

Now I need to have a chat with the family about my expectations on answering the door and giving a more complete report than just "a man at the door."

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Daughter's surgery. Part 1.

My elder daughter had nothing on her eardrum. Look in her ear? See bones. So today, she went into a little surgical center place and had some skin grafted to the eardrum. Yeah, we're living in the future or something. The doc did it without even peeling back the ear. I asked him if he also built ships in a bottle. (He doesn't.)

So my 16 year-old honors student daughter came out of the surgical center, still groggy from the anesthetics, pain meds, and anti-anxiety meds that they had pushed, and said excitedly: "They gave me stickers! And now I'm free as a pretty pony!"

And then we put her in the car and took her home.

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