‘A Thousand Different Habits and Instincts … ‘

 

I no longer carried a badge but I still carried a thousand different habits and instincts that came with the badge. Like a reformed smoker whose hand digs inside his shirt pocket for the fix that is no longer there, I constantly found myself reaching in my pocket for the comfort of the badge. – Michael Connelly through Harry Bosch.

I still have some habits that I carry from my time on the streets. I still stand to the side of the door when I knock on a friend’s door. I didn’t think too much about that until a friend mentioned it to me. When I go to any store, large or small, I watch people. Does everything look normal? I look for all the exits as I walk through the store. When I walk out to the parking lot, I scan the lot. Training and observation is still a constant routine.

I do not get involved with people. I don’t have any backup now; besides, I’ve had my fill of dealing with people I didn’t know.

I know of one officer who tried to stop a driver that was speeding and seemed to be intoxicated, crossing the centerline and the fog line on the right-hand side of the road multiple times. For whatever reason, the driver entered the drive-thru lane of a fast-food restaurant. He was stopped and pinned by the vehicle in front of him.

As the officer walked toward the driver’s door of the pickup truck, he looked into the bed of the truck. He noticed a shoe that was not covered by the tarp in the bed of the truck. He lifted a corner of the tarp and saw a foot attached to the shoe. Lifting the tarp again, there was a leg attached to the foot and shoe. He went from zero to a hundred on the adrenaline meter. His traffic stop became a felony stop. The driver had murdered his girlfriend, and I suppose he was too lazy to use a shovel.

You never know what you’re going to find.

Published in Policing
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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    I love your war stories.  Keep ‘em coming.

    • #1
  2. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I love your war stories. Keep ‘em coming.

    Thank you

    • #2
  3. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Jeepers!  I hope that ended well for your friend.  The pick-up driver not so much.

    • #3
  4. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Good grief! Stopped to get fast food to boot. That’s cold. Good police work by your friend. 

    • #4
  5. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Jeepers! I hope that ended well for your friend. The pick-up driver not so much.

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Good grief! Stopped to get fast food to boot. That’s cold. Good police work by your friend.

    He made the arrest without getting hurt, or having to hurt the suspect. Needless to say the driver was ordered out of the truck at gunpoint, and back-up was on the way.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Doug Watt: As the officer walked towards the driver door of the pickup truck he looked into the bed of the truck. He noticed a shoe that was not covered by the tarp in the bed of the truck. He lifted a corner of the tarp and saw a foot attached to the shoe. Lifting the tarp again there was a leg attached to the foot and shoe. He went from zero to a hundred on the adrenaline meter. His traffic stop became a felony stop. The driver had murdered his girlfriend and I suppose he was too lazy to use a shovel.

    Guid laird. Don’t need no coffee before that, and coffee won’t help after the adrenaline crash.

    • #6
  7. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    Substitute Police Week in DC this week, Doug! Thinking of you, as I stand with the newly grieving.  

    • #7
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    My wife hates sports – except those our son is playing in. When we walk in to a stadium for the first time I will usually stop and take it all in before we make our way to our seats. After I’ve looked around for about two minutes, she’ll say to me, “Ok. You know where every camera has to go, now let’s get to our seats.”

    Old habits die hard, man.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Do you also sit with your back against the wall and face the door? I remember a couple of lunches I had with a police chief and he didn’t make a big deal of it but it was obvious to me. Always ready, just in case.

    A great story, Doug. 

    • #9
  10. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Doug Watt:

    I still have some habits that I carry from my time on the streets. I still stand to the side of the door when I knock on a friend’s door. I didn’t think too much about that until a friend mentioned it to me. When I go to any store, large or small, I watch people. Does everything look normal? I look for all the exits as I walk through the store. When I walk out to the parking lot, I scan the lot. Training and observation is still a constant routine.

     

    I have read in several places that this training induced habits sometimes trips up police officers trying to do undercover work. The officer gives away that he is a police officer when he neglects to break habits like his posture as he stands, his patterns of scanning the environment, where he positions himself in a room, (as you said) where he stands relative to a door, how he approaches a vehicle, and so forth. 

    • #10
  11. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Substitute Police Week in DC this week, Doug! Thinking of you, as I stand with the newly grieving.

    Thanks, it has been a rough year and a half for officers and deputies, as well as their families. Every once in awhile I get the chance to talk with officers. You know you’re getting old when they look like they’re 18 years-old. I listen to their stories and I’m grateful that a new generation of officers are on the job. There is some common ground in shared experiences.

    • #11
  12. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Do you also sit with your back against the wall and face the door? I remember a couple of lunches I had with a police chief and he didn’t make a big deal of it but it was obvious to me. Always ready, just in case.

    A great story, Doug.

    I still take a seat in a restaurant that allows me to see who is coming through the door. I avoid watering holes, bars that cater to alcoholics, dimly lit so the patrons cannot see each other. Low lives recognize fellow low lives, and they don’t like each other.

    I’ve had to take my turn driving the van on special details. They attack each other even though they’re hand’s are cuffed behind their back. Head butts, biting, kicking, and spitting means having to break-up van fights before the trip to booking.

    • #12
  13. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I can’t help watching to see if small children are under supervision.

    My wife and I had eight kids.  Just walking from the van to a restaurant or a bigger adventure like a shopping mall or a trip to the zoo I developed a habit like sonar pinging every few seconds looking around, watching, and counting.  It was not even conscious.  A younger kid getting a few feet out of formation prompted a quiet intervention or shift in observation position.

    I intuitively understand why baboon troops arrange themselves the way they do when they move–the three senior dominant males lined in the center, around them the babies and young mothers, the next ring is other adult females and adolescents and the outermost ring is young males. Everybody knows where the kids are.  A cheetah would be nuts to try to make a run at a baby.

    In restaurants, airports, and stores, I can’t help taking up watch duty where parents of very little kids clearly have no spatiotemporal sense of parenthood.  There should be an instant reaction when a five-year-old gets outside the normal radius of the troop–there are always cheetahs lurking–somebody has to keep watch.  I can’t help it.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    I can’t help it.

    That’s so sweet–and important. We had lunch at a restaurant the other day where a family was sitting at a nearby table. They had an adventurous three-year old who got tired of his high chair. When he coyly walked over to us, I smiled and looked up at the family, and commented that I just wanted to be sure he was being watched. They smiled back, and I noticed that his mother was wandering with him at a short distance. I thought it was so sweet that she knew he was restless and gave him the freedom to work it off–instead of forcing him to sit in his chair, crying impatiently.

    • #14
  15. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    They smiled back, and I noticed that his mother was wandering with him at a short distance. I thought it was so sweet that she knew he was restless and gave him the freedom to work it off–instead of forcing him to sit in his chair, crying impatiently.

    Well played, young mother, that is the right approach.

    • #15
  16. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Doug Watt:

    I still have some habits that I carry from my time on the streets. I still stand to the side of the door when I knock on a friend’s door. I didn’t think too much about that until a friend mentioned it to me. When I go to any store, large or small, I watch people. Does everything look normal? I look for all the exits as I walk through the store. When I walk out to the parking lot, I scan the lot. Training and observation is still a constant routine.

    I do not get involved with people. I don’t have any backup now; besides, I’ve had my fill of dealing with people I didn’t know.

    I have a question, but first some background: I read this part to a younger man with with a lovely wife and nine really great children (one’s a girl whom I just don’t know at all).  My friend was a former MP, then police officer in one of the top ten cities in the USA (also one of the fastest growing cities in the USA), who later on relocated up here and for a few years was a police officer in a smaller town here.  He is a brother in Christ, one I enjoy being around.  This is a part of his response when I asked if this was his experience:  

    The sad part is the not getting involved with people. It is a real struggle for me to hang out with people. I sometimes feel as though I have no friends after the military and law enforcement.

    Finally, the question: Do you know anybody else like that? What do you do?

    • #16
  17. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Doug Watt:

    I still have some habits that I carry from my time on the streets. I still stand to the side of the door when I knock on a friend’s door. I didn’t think too much about that until a friend mentioned it to me. When I go to any store, large or small, I watch people. Does everything look normal? I look for all the exits as I walk through the store. When I walk out to the parking lot, I scan the lot. Training and observation is still a constant routine.

    I do not get involved with people. I don’t have any backup now; besides, I’ve had my fill of dealing with people I didn’t know.

    I have a question, but first some background: I read this part to a younger man with with a lovely wife and nine really great children (one’s a girl whom I just don’t know at all). My friend was a former MP, then police officer in one of the top ten cities in the USA (also one of the fastest growing cities in the USA), who later on relocated up here and for a few years was a police officer in a smaller town here. He is a brother in Christ, one I enjoy being around. This is a part of his response when I asked if this was his experience:

    The sad part is the not getting involved with people. It is a real struggle for me to hang out with people. I sometimes feel as though I have no friends after the military and law enforcement.

    Finally, the question: Do you know anybody else like that? What do you do?

    All I could tell him is that the vast majority of people in this country can behave themselves without a police officer’s supervision. He will right the universe when he can. Faith, family, and friends is the priority. He should keep as many friends as he can outside the law enforcement world to balance out what he sees on the streets.

    I pulled a 19 year-old jumper from a bridge railing. It was over a 100 foot drop to the pavement below. She told me I could not be there every night. She was right, but I didn’t reply to her statement. I wasn’t going to let her drag me into the abyss. I thought to myself; Well it didn’t happen tonight. I gave her another 72 hours (her psych hold). I don’t know what happened to her, but I never chased heartbreak on my own time. Sometimes all you can do is give someone another 72 hours.

    Don’t stare into the abyss, because something will start staring back. That was the advice that I gave new officers when I was an FTO.

    • #17
  18. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Doug Watt:

    I still have some habits that I carry from my time on the streets. I still stand to the side of the door when I knock on a friend’s door. I didn’t think too much about that until a friend mentioned it to me. When I go to any store, large or small, I watch people. Does everything look normal? I look for all the exits as I walk through the store. When I walk out to the parking lot, I scan the lot. Training and observation is still a constant routine.

    I do not get involved with people. I don’t have any backup now; besides, I’ve had my fill of dealing with people I didn’t know.

    I have a question, but first some background: I read this part to a younger man with with a lovely wife and nine really great children (one’s a girl whom I just don’t know at all). My friend was a former MP, then police officer in one of the top ten cities in the USA (also one of the fastest growing cities in the USA), who later on relocated up here and for a few years was a police officer in a smaller town here. He is a brother in Christ, one I enjoy being around. This is a part of his response when I asked if this was his experience:

    The sad part is the not getting involved with people. It is a real struggle for me to hang out with people. I sometimes feel as though I have no friends after the military and law enforcement.

    Finally, the question: Do you know anybody else like that? What do you do?

    All I could tell him is that the vast majority of people in this country can behave themselves without a police officer’s supervision. He will right the universe when he can. Faith, family, and friends is the priority. He should keep as many friends as he can outside the law enforcement world to balance out what he sees on the streets.

    I pulled a 19 year-old jumper from a bridge railing. It was over a 100 foot drop to the pavement below. She told me I could not be there every night. She was right, but I didn’t reply to her statement. I wasn’t going to let her drag me into the abyss. I thought to myself; Well it didn’t happen tonight. I gave her another 72 hours (her psych hold). I don’t know what happened to her, but I never chased heartbreak on my own time. Sometimes all you can do is give someone another 72 hours.

    Don’t stare into the abyss, because something will start staring back. That was the advice that I gave new officers when I was an FTO.

    Good words.

    • #18
  19. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Jeepers! I hope that ended well for your friend. The pick-up driver not so much.

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Good grief! Stopped to get fast food to boot. That’s cold. Good police work by your friend.

    He made the arrest without getting hurt, or having to hurt the suspect. Needless to say the driver was ordered out of the truck at gunpoint, and back-up was on the way.

    So, was the driver ordering a Happy Meal? Burying a body properly requires some serious digging, so the driver showed some forethought in getting food en route to disposing of his girlfriend’s body.

    • #19
  20. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Interesting.  I spot fire extinguishers and fire exit signs after my experience walking hallways looking for signs.

    • #20