Monday, August 31, 2015

Phonetic Spelling

Like most first-responder agencies, we use a phonetic alphabet on the radio. It's simply necessary, because so many letters can sound alike over the air. We don't use the military one (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, etc.), but one that's mostly names (adam, boy, charles, david, edward, etc.).

Having spent a huge amount of time on the radio while in the Marine Corps, I had to practice the "name alphabet" in my off time while I was in police training in order to get used to it. I used to do things like call out plates in my head while driving around, or even do it out loud when I was pretty sure somebody couldn't see or hear me. It was important to get it down so it was second nature, and I wasn't fumbling and stammering when it counted. By the time I was out on my own, I could do it without thinking about it.

A friend of mine in a neighboring agency couldn't be bothered. He would make stuff up as he went along, and part of the time dispatch didn't know what the hell he was doing. He was counseled about it several times, but that didn't seem to make an impression on him.

Finally, one night he was stopping a vehicle, and called out the plate as "1-2-3-bucket-camel-taco". He was removed from patrol duty almost immediately after. Years later, he's still working at the jail.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Have A Seat Right Over There

You may have seen the "To Catch a Predator" series on Dateline NBC a few years back. In these shows, men who had initiated sexually oriented chats with underage boys and girls (actually undercover cops) would show up at houses where they thought those kids were home alone. Once inside, they were confronted by reporter Chris Hansen, who would interview them. When they'd leave the house, they were usually arrested by awaiting officers. All of this was filmed by multiple hidden cameras.

We also do these stings within our department. Working patrol, I'm not usually involved, but twice I've been in on the actual arrest. The initial on-line portion of the investigation is handled by a special group from our Investigations Division. Rather than the elaborate set-up in a house like the one Dateline used, they typically make arrangements to meet the subject in a parking lot - usually by a fast food place or a shopping mall. We have a description of the person and the vehicle he's driving, and park in an inconspicuous spot. When the suspect pulls in, his car is boxed in by marked and unmarked cars, and he's taken down at gunpoint. The looks on their faces show that this is the ultimate "Oh-Shit!" moment of their lives. If convicted, they are looking at serious, serious prison time.

Maybe I should have more empathy for these losers. We all have our foibles, peccadilloes and kinks, and sometimes that little voice in our head that tells us a certain thing is weird goes unheeded. And I have no problem with that when it's among competent, consenting adults, and nobody gets hurt to the point that I have to take a report. But when you're bending the mind of some little kid to gain their trust, then taking them down a life-altering path just so you can get your rocks off, you need to go away somewhere for a very long time. Never mind what this person might have been willing to do to cover his tracks had it been a real kid that showed up rather than the cops. I'm checking my sympathy meter - it appears to be stuck on zero.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Hero Passes

I was once dispatched to a medical at an assisted-living facility. An 86-year-old man had keeled over and was unresponsive. I did CPR while the ambulance crew did their thing, but to no avail. I tried to recite the correct platitudes to the son, who happened to be there, and I left.

I learned later that the old guy had served in the 4th Marine Division during WWII. He fought as an infantryman on Roi-Namur, Saipan (WIA), and Tinian, and was in the first assault wave on Iwo Jima. All these landings were savagely opposed at the beach by the Japanese. Over 10,000 Americans died and over 32,000 were wounded in just those four campaigns.

These places are holy ground to we Marines who came later. We stood on the shoulders of men like him. It was an honor to have been there in his final moments. I'm sorry I couldn't have done more.

Marines and the Battle of Roi-Namur

Marines and the Battle of Saipan

Marines and the Battle of Tinian

Marines and the Battle of Iwo Jima

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Fast It Can Happen

Officer approaches man who was confronting women in a university parking garage:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Boom Goes The Dynamite

Hold your right hand up in front of your face, palm toward you. You have four fingers kind of sticking straight up, and one thumb sticking out to the right at maybe 45 degrees, right? That's your frame of reference.

One day - I forget exactly what I was doing at the time - I was out of my squad car when I heard this very loud boom. It seemed like it was quite some distance away, but loud nonetheless. I wondered for a second what it could be, then didn't think much more about it.

About 5 minutes later I get dispatched to a boat landing on the river, a good 3 miles from where I am. When I roll up, there's a teenage boy standing there holding up his right hand. He had four fingers kind of sticking straight up, just like your frame of reference. He also had one thumb. But unlike your frame of reference, it was pointing straight down at the ground, with the thumbnail side up against his forearm. All that meat between the thumb and fingers was gone.

He had been holding a homemade firework of some description, and it had gone off in his hand. The explosion had essentially ripped through the web of his hand and down through the meaty part of the palm, all the way to the wrist. The thumb was dangling there by a thin strip of skin.

The kid looked relatively calm. He held this mangled mess up in front of me and actually asked, "Do you think they can fix this?" I doubt it, son. I doubt it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Marine Corps Hymn Redux

The Marines' Hymn is arguably the most recognizable military theme on the planet. It still sends chills up my spine whenever I hear it, even all these years after leaving the service.

The music itself is from the 1859 Jacques Offenbach comic opera Genevieve de Brabant. Ironically, it's the piece called the Gendarme's Duet, in which two French cops sing about how lazy and afraid of confrontation they are. Supposedly, a Marine officer stationed in Paris heard this popular tune, and it later was used as the basis for the Hymn.  Here is the Gendarme's Duet.

I think most people know at least the first part of The Marines' Hymn lyrics: From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.

The "halls of Montezuma" refers to the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. In 1847, Marines led an attack on artillery emplacements within the Mexican army stronghold, Chapultepec Castle. The elimination of the artillery allowed other forces to enter the citadel. Some other pretty good, albeit non-Marine, fighters present included Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and George Pickett (of Pickett's charge).

The "shores of Tripoli" refers to the Battle of Derne during the First Barbary War. In 1804, 1st Lt. Presley O'Bannon and just eight Marines spearheaded a force of 500 mercenaries in assaulting Derne, Tripoli. O'Bannon raised the American flag on the fortress wall. He was later awarded the Mameluke sword by the Ottoman Empire monarch's representative. Swords based on the Mameluke design are still worn by Marine officers today. It looks like this:

Put it all together, and it sounds like this: Please stand at attention while this plays!