It never ceases to amaze me when looking back at those life or death scenarios, I sometimes find myself saying "how the hell did I not get myself killed" or "what the hell were we thinking."
Reflecting on all those who, what, where, when and why’s of an incident, especially the high risk incidents, is productive for many reasons. It’s healthy, it educates you, and if you’re new to law enforcement it matures you.
Properly analyzing an incident, whether it’s a felony in progress, a drug raid, a hostage situation or any use of force situation that could have possibly endangered your life or the lives of others, is a great training tool.
We should continually strive to be better at what we do. We want to be able to make high risk arrests or any arrest for that matter in the safest way possible way through training.
No police officer ever wants to be compared to the incompetent Keystone Cops or heaven forbid, "Mall Security."
I don’t care how funny you thought the movie 'Mall Cop' was — you know, the one with Kevin James (a.k.a. Paul Blart) — That's where we draw the line.
In light of all the recent press with the replacement refs and the NFL, could you imagine for a moment if there were replacement cops? I think I just threw up a little in my mouth!
We all have at least one incident we can look back on and admit that luck or a higher power got us through it safely, and if we were really lucky, even made an arrest. A few years back, while on night shift patrol, I’m dispatched to a residential burglar alarm.
It's three o’clock in the morning — even the opossums are asleep.
I arrive and see a small one story cottage style house with all the interior lights on. No alarm is sounding. A second patrol unit arrives, we walk the perimeter, determine no signs of forced entry and have dispatch attempt to contact the homeowner.
The alarm recycles and siren decibels abound! After a few minutes, the alarm resets and I knock on the front door.
That’s when things start getting weird. I hear noises coming from inside the house.
From this point on we may as well have been wearing 1915 Keystone Kops vintage police uniforms with badges that said "Bangville Police" (circa 1913, great silent short movie by the way, but best viewed if you turn the audio off and crank up Bad Boys by Inner Circle)!
Black and White
My sergeant shows up and together we walk around the perimeter so I can introduce her to the sounds of someone in the house. As a side note, my sergeant looks like Heather Locklear in her prime when she was Officer Stacy Sheridan on 'T.J. Hooker.' Not that it means anything, just so you get a good visual of what’s about to happen next.
But remember, your visual has to be in black and white, kind of grainy, and sort of at a fast forward pace. Don’t worry, Heather Locklear still looks great in black and white movie mode!
We get to the back door, I knock on the back door, we hear a scream and then we hear shots fired from inside the house.
Sgt. Heather says we’re going in and tells me to bust the back door down.
They made strong doors back in the 1950s. I can’t budge it. I have to break the glass windowpane in the upper half of the door.
Sgt. Heather tells me to pick her up and put her through the window. There was no time then to think about where I’m placing my hands on my female sergeant who looks like Heather Locklear! I have plenty of time to think about it now though...
My sergeant is inside and I tell her to cover me till I can get my fat ass through the window. But the alarm siren kicks in again and that request falls on her ears.
She runs down the hall with gun drawn and that’s when I hear "put the gun down, police, put the gun down" over the screams of a woman yelling out for help.
What probably took only a few seconds but felt like an eternity, I get through the windowpane and run down the hall in the direction of the voice commands.
I see a guy holding a gun on my sergeant. She had holstered her gun when she opened the closet door. Now she has her hands up over her head and there is a woman screaming next to the man holding the gun. My first thought — this isn’t good.
I edge into the room and yell for the man to put the gun down. The combination of my gun pointing directly at him along with my very visible 70s porn moustache, large biceps, a Leno-like jaw line, and authoritative command caused him to drop the gun like a hot potato.
I rush him and cuff him.
Sgt. Heather does the same with the woman and we start to get to the bottom of what the hell just happened.
Don’t Do Drugs
How many times have we heard it? How many times do we say it?
Don’t do drugs!
This man and his wife were abusing all kinds of pharmaceuticals. They were hallucinating and scared and paranoid all at the same time. They had barricaded themselves in their master bedroom closet and continued to push the panic button on their alarm system to scare off the "assassins" who were about to kill them.
It turns out the male resident pointing the gun at my sergeant sold high end luxury cars out of his house. He had recently sold a very expensive car to an international drug dealer and that car was found a week after the sale with two dead bodies in the trunk at the airport parking lot.
He and his wife — a nurse who likes to write her own scripts — thought someone was in their house.
Again, we say, "Don’t abuse drugs. They will make you do stupid stuff."
My sergeant could have been killed. I could have killed. Everybody was at risk. It could have turned out much differently. I can think of other ways we could have handled that call and in a much safer way but you do the things your training tells you to do and what is available to you at the time.
We were 'Keystoning' our way through this at top speed and we were very lucky.
Here’s a YouTube video you might find interesting about how the whole Keystone Cops thing got started.
Be safe, train hard, and live to tell about it.
About the author
Mike Peterson is a retired 23-year veteran of law enforcement. He served three years in the United States Military Police and then 20 years with the City of West University Place Police Department in Houston, Texas. Mike held a Master Peace Officer certification and was a Certified Instructor, Advanced Field Training Officer, Crime Prevention Inspector, and background investigator. He was certified in bicycle patrol, officer survival tactics, first line supervision, and City Manager Leadership Training. Mike is a graduate of Leadership Houston, Class XIV, Texas Law Enforcement Torch Run Top Fundraiser and Inductee into the Texas Special Olympics Hall of Fame (1996), three time Texas Torch Run representative for International Special Olympics torch run ‘Final Legs’ in Minnesota (1991), Austria (1993) and Connecticut (1995). Mike has received numerous Senate and House of Representative Resolutions and Proclamations for his fundraising with the Law Enforcement Torch Run as Texas’ Top Fundraiser.
Mike has appeared on ABC-TV’s ‘The View’, was a past finalist on Ed McMahon’s ‘Next Big Star’ contest and was a finalist in Houston Funniest Comedian contest. Mike has opened for such luminaries as Jay Leno, Robert Schimmel, Dave Attell, Richard Lewis, Kathleen Madigan, Jeff Dunham, Frank Caliendo, Michael Winslow, Anjelah Johnson, Ralphy May, and Alonzo Bodden to name a few. Mike has appeared numerous times on Houston’s local CBS ‘Great Day Houston’ and opened for four-Time Grammy Award Winner Glen Campbell as well as performing at police luncheons and banquets. Mike has also had the honor of performing for our Troops over in Iraq. You can see more of Mike on www.myspace.com/comedycop or www.rooftopcomedy.com.