Ride Along ~
The Vice-president (non-sworn) of the IPOC saddles
up with the
After many years commenting
and writing on Police/civilian relations and interacting with the men and
women of professional law enforcement, the subject of me being on a "ride
along," shadowing an active duty peace officer during a patrol shift, was
intimated numerous times. Many law enforcement and support people were surprised
that I had never been.
The last time the subject was
broached, I put out a query on the LE lists Im on, asking what are
the policies and procedures for the local agencies to initiate just such
After a few generous offers
from out of state officers, extending an invitation should I ever find myself
in their jurisdictions, Sergeant John Lopotosky of the Riverside Sheriffs
Office (RSO) wrote, "Mike, I can set you up in Lake Elsinore any time
After a few notes back and
forth concerning shift hours, personnel available, and viable dates to work
around both our schedules, I was directed to report on 21 February, 0700
sharp, at the Lake Elsinore Station of the Riverside County Sheriffs
That Wednesday morning was
cold and a little overcast, but I left early for the forty minute drive,
to make ready for any contingency. I hadnt been in the city of Lake
Elsinore for many, many years, so didnt want to spend time lost on
unfamiliar streets. Pulling up Main Street of the town, I was a little surprised
at the changes that had taken place over the years. Back then Elsinore was
a little backwater built around the lake and catering to the tourists who
came to utilize the lake and its facilities for various water sports.
Main Street had been renovated and converted into a strip of collectors and
antique shops modeling the same development trends that had transpired in
upscale Temecula further down Interstate 15. Following the Sergeants
printed directions, I was even more surprised as I pulled around the Police
Formerly housed in a small
older building and a few trailers, the Elsinore Police Department, a contract
agency working under the auspices of the RSO, was a brand new facility covering
almost a city block and top of the line. I pulled into the public parking
lot and waited a few minutes for the top of the hour to roll around.
A few minutes before 0700,
I let dispatch know, at the direct line at the door, that I was on board
to report for a ride along. The station was still buttoned down for the night.
Sergeant Lopotosky came to the door and let me in. Walking down the hall,
we turned into the patrol operations room, I met Sergeant Bruce Smith, the
supervisor for the next shift, and Sergeant Lopotosky had me pull up a
I really like the RSO uniforms.
Green and tan, gold insignia, and with a tan stripe down the seam of the
pants, it made for a sharp presentation. Especially with the chevrons at
these guys shoulders. In the environment of the posh, new structure,
the overall scenario was definitely not the preconceived notions I had of
a typical rural LE agency.
Sergeant Lopotosky put me in
the custody of Sergeant Smith. The tone of the day was tempered with the
news that a small baby had stopped breathing and Sergeant Lopotosky was going
to have to leave to the residential site. Unfortunately, the baby had not
survived the episode.
After Sergeant Lopotosky had
left, Sergeant Smith than directed me to follow him to the roll call room.
We walked across the hall and entered the good sized room, which already
had a dozen or so Deputies and Community Service Officers seated at the lined
up tables preparing for the debriefing of the night shifts activity
and the up and coming shift change. Most eyed me quickly and turned back
to the front of the room and the Sergeant.
ROLL CALL ~
Sergeant Smith had immediately
struck me as a quiet, composed, professional individual. Qualities I respect
in any individual in leadership. That same quiet composure was distinct as
he addressed his subordinates. He had informed me that roll call was an informal
affair, and I was quickly appreciative of the open, casual atmosphere that
prevailed as he bantered back and forth with the Deputies. Personally, I
feel that supervisors, before anything, should be "approachable" by their
subordinates. The interaction between this man and his patrol and support
staff set a tone and mood that would prevail throughout their day. In their
high profile, high stress day, this was critical. Although the interaction
was relaxed and easy going; conversation between friends for all intents
and purposes; his adamant "Okay?" and "Understood?" on critical points maintained
a delicate command balance.
"Mike, this is Deputy Kathie Perry. Shes the Deputy youll be riding with."
I was startled back from my
musings, to see a face lean forward from front and center of the room, past
the deputy between there and where I was against the wall. A big, gracious
smile said, "Hi!" and I waved back.
The morning briefing concluded
and the Deputies gathered their paperwork and started leaving, whether to
their patrol cars to hit the streets, to various support positions throughout
the station, or to the report writing room to the rear of the roll call room
to finish up reports and paperwork that was needed. Sergeant Smith informed
me that Deputy Perry was going to have to attend a closed door meeting in
an hour, so I would have to cool my heels in the break room till she was
free. We would be on the streets for a short time till the meeting.
As I stood in the report writing
room with the Sergeant and a few other Deputies, he forewarned that the bulk
of the Deputies time was spent right there, writing about what they
did "out there," and not to expect too much excitement. I told him I understood.
It was funny in a way, his comments mirrored much of the same perceptions
of the many LE people and supporters I have contact with when I informed
them of this ride along. Sure, the idea of getting personally involved in
a high speed pursuit or major Police action has some elements of intrigue,
but as a student of cop culture, I was more interested in what happens "in
there," when the cops where gathered together in their secluded, exclusive
community; what I was experiencing in a small way right then and in the previous
Deputy Perry retrieved me and
we went out to the car. I had mentioned to Sergeant Lopotosky I was leaning
towards rolling on a night shift when we talked on the phone. He mentioned
that he had a Deputy in mind, an individual he had a lot of respect for who
was on duty on the day shift, but. . . .
I quickly deferred to his choice.
I know only a few female officers. The thought of spending some time with
an active duty female cop would definitely present a whole different aspect
of modern day law enforcement. I was quickly discerning the wisdom of the
reasoning behind the Sergeants choice.
Deputy Perry wields an infectious
smile that lights up a roomor the cramped confines of a police cruiser.
Sandy blond hair pulled back in a bun, a steady gaze, and the ruddy complexion
most fair skinned citizens of Riverside County develop after working a few
summers in our areas notorious, blistering heat, her easy laugh had
me immediately at ease. It was stressed enough for me, a civilian, an outsider,
being in the company of cops on the job, but also trying to mentally record
as much of the next ten hours as possible in the middle of it. Deputy
Perrys demeanor was friendly, altogether disarming, and removed a major
distraction to me focusing on the events of the day.
MORNING PATROL ~
We pulled out of the station
yard, then headed for the city gas station. An array of people is going through
my mind at this point. Myriad active duty and retired officers from many
different backgrounds and parts of the country I correspond with and know.
If they could only see me now.
Yes sir, Mister Horn! I certainly
do feel right at home in this here radio car.
We engaged in idle conversation
as she tapped away on the units computer terminal and we plied the
still quiet city streets. After the unit service, we pulled into a residential
area to check on an abandoned vehicle next to a wash. In an open area between
the street and the wash, a beat up and faded Honda four door with no plates
sat in the mud. We pulled up behind it and got out. Deputy Perry checked
the VIN and I peered inside. The vehicle came back not in the system, so
if it was stolen, it wasnt reported yet. The last time it had been
registered was four years previous. She began to fill out the paperwork to
have it towed and we waited for the tow truck to pull up. An area on the
towing report requires a determination on if the vehicle is operable or not.
Is it "wrecked" or "stripped?" She decided to wait until the tow truck driver
gets there and well pop the hood.
The flatbed pulled up and as
I was putting my jacket in the car, I hear her and the driver laugh.
I walk over to the front of
the vehicle where they have the hood up. Were all looking through the
engine compartment down to the ground. No guts to this car. The engine
compartment is picked clean.
Deputy Perry says procedure
dictates we have to wait until the driver has the car on the truck, to provide
security on the off chance the owner comes along to stop the impoundment
of their vehicle. Still, four years worth of tags in liability, one temporary
spare on the front, and no guts in the car, guarantees this little pile of
rusted tin an unopposed trip to the wrecking yard.
Afterwards, we cruised through
the surrounding neighborhood, and stopped and talked to another Deputy for
a moment. Deputy Gibson. Her partner. Tall, tough, sporting a little gray
in his regulation high and tight, a veteran of the streets and lake patrol
and enforcement. Wed run into him again later. After a short exchange,
we then proceeded on a silent alarm call.
"Its more than likely
false," Deputy Perry mentions. "Merchants are generally opening up this time
of morning and have problems shutting them off." The computer terminal IDd
the business as a smoke shop. We drove over to another side of town and pull
into one of the towns newer shopping centers, anchored with a nationally
known chain store. The smoke shop is on the east side of the lot, and we
pulled up to the side of the building, which was hidden from view.
"Can I get out on this
"Sure, just wait at the corner
of the building until I check it out."
I watch as Deputy Perry walks
down to the other corner of the building, then cautiously peers around the
corner to the face of the smoke shop which is set further back on the strip
mall. Although the Deputy mentioned that the alarm was probably false, her
actions are SOP for approaching a genuine burglary in progresswhich
it very well could be. She disappears, then momentarily comes back. With
a smile and a wave of her hands, its a given its a false alarm.
Four store staff members are inside, with one merchant prattling he
couldnt remember the password or something.
We saddle back up and its
time to return to the station for Deputy Perrys meeting. Back inside,
she went to take me into the station break room. The Lt. intercepts us and
shepherds us back out the door. I notice a small group of people sitting
at a table in the middle of the room.
The family of the baby who
had died in the early morning. Wrong place to be parking me in the morning
for an hour.
Deputy Perry takes me back
to the roll call room and turns on the TV and hands me the controller. "Sorry
we dont have an easy chair!" She leaves me to CNN and Comedy Central
till shes done. An hour stretches into an hour and forty-five minutes.
But I get a chance to grab a private moment with Sergeant Lopotosky. Hes
still working on the infant death case. At one point the Lt. came through
and seeing me watching the news, asks about the weather. I respond, then
he asks me if Im waiting for somebody. I guess he didnt remember
"Yes, sir. Deputy
"Oh. . . Okay." Turning and
leaving, he doesnt look too convinced.
I read that as saying,
"Whats an unescorted civilian doing in my roll call room?!"
After a while longer, Deputy
Perry came up behind me.
"Hey, am I interrupting a
commercial?" Its time to get back out on street patrol.
Deputy Perry pulled into a
coffee shop parking lot to get some coffee. I decline. Too much coffee and
well be looking for a restroom every thirty minutes. Back in the cruiser,
the next call is a fraud call. A local big chain grocery store has a bogus
checkstolento turn in. On the way over, Deputy Perry runs me
through something I tell all my ride alongs, and goes through
the procedures on how I am to respond if she is hurt or incapacitated. I
know deep down that nothing radical like that will happen. Still, roaming
the streets in a marked Police car these days, when hostility towards
professional law enforcement is at an all time high, at least being informed
on how to react in just such a scenario is a smart thing to do.
But that "nastiness" is quickly
dealt with and stuffed back away into the recesses of our minds. Whether
Deputy Perry having to deal with that sometimes remote, yet always feasible
possibility on a daily basis, or me as a private citizen facing it constantly
in my correspondence with LE professionals both young and old, its
something thats uncomfortably shouldered and on the whole familiar
in a strange sort of way.
Driving back down a main street
in the town, were discussing spouses and kids, and raising kids to
be responsible adults. One of her kids has had major medical challenges;
weve been fortunate up to now, having escaped any major trials with
Deputy Perry started pushing
my buttons right away. She detailed her foundational efforts, along with
her associate, Criminal Information Technician Willi Simmons, in initiating
the popular area "Cops for Kids" program. Simmons and Perry work closely
with local businesses and organizations to not only assist needy families
during the holidays but also to provide funds for medical care and summer
camp. In 2000 alone, the organization raised more than $50,000. Deputy Perry
and Willi Simmons were recently awarded commendations by their station Captain,
Bill Walsh, for their years of work on the program. For me, a seasoned Sunday
School teacher at our sizable churchs ample Childrens Ministry,
as well as a Security Ministry volunteer for many years, our joint efforts
in working with kids immediately established another unstated bond.
The weather is comfortably
cool and clouds fill the sunlit sky. Real nice day. I cant remember
where we are heading next; something related to the conversation between
Perry and Gibson earlier on; but its another innocuous destination,
"forty-five percent of police work" as another Deputy mentioned in the report
writing room earlier with Sergeant Smith.
Suddenly theres radio
traffic that I didnt catch, and Deputy Perry pulls the cruiser over
to the side of the road. Im trying to interpret the radio jargon coming
through, without much luck, but theres a definite tension in the
"Theyre saying a robbery
just took place back at (a well known convenience store/gas station). Its
right down the road from us." Its about 1200 hours.
211 ~ STRONG ARM ROBBERY
Checking for incoming vehicle
traffic, Deputy Perry executes a U-turn and we quickly head back in the direction
we came. Shes communicating with Deputy Gibson and dispatch, giving
her location and getting the info on the suspects description and the
get away car. We pull into the convenience store parking lot, and Deputy
Perry communicates with dispatch that if the victim is okay, shell
proceed. The situation at the convenience store is secure so we pull out
onto the other street to the rear of the business and head west. Were
looking for a primer gray Mazda, vehicle make unknown. For some reason, I
immediately thing its a mini-truck. I dont know why.
Deputy Perry keeps the radio
in her hand as we patrol along, looking for a primer gray vehicle. Cruising
by a car dealer, she remarks it would be a good place to hide a car. Were
both visually sifting through the sea of vehicles, new and the ones on the
sides of the streets. She decides to pull into a residential area further
down, thinking they may have pulled into the area and hid on one of the side
streets. Were still scanning the side streets. Up and down, the seconds
are ticking away. Its only been scant minutes since the robbery, but
Im thinking theyre long gone. Im still becoming extremely
alert and focused, the tension clouding the air. We pull out of the side
street in the residential area and back onto the quiet main street leading
into the area. Suddenly, I hear Deputy Gibson on the radio,
". . . Okay, I got em.
Im right on his tail. . . ."
rightright onto the same street were heading down. Less than
a quarter mile down, I see the gray mini-truck turning the corner, away from
our direction, with Deputy Gibsons unit trailing them like hes
being towed by their truck.
"I have you in sight! Were
right behind you!"
"Okay. . . Im gonna
light em up. . . ."
I see the light bar on
Gibsons unit sparkle to life, like a miniature Match-Box car.
"Were right behind you.
. . ."
Deputy Perry hits the switch
for our own lights, then digs the spurs in. We roar down the street and in
seconds are on Gibsons six. The two RSO units pull in tandem onto the
dirt shoulder behind the yielding gray mini-truck carrying two male passengers.
Were on a curved slope in the road fronting the 15 freeway. Its
a high risk stop and times passing in nano-seconds now.
Deputys' Gibson and Perry are
deployed behind their swung open doors, sidearms drawn down on the mini-truck,
shouting clear commands in unison,
"HANDS, PEOPLE!! HANDS!! LET
ME SEE HANDS!!"
The driver is complying. The
passenger door swings open,
"HANDS!! LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS!!
The passenger gets out of the
truck. Hes has his hands out, but hes running his mouth. Its
"GET BACK IN THE TRUCK!! I
DIDNT SAY GET OUT OF THE TRUCK!!
He makes like hes going
to sit back in the truck. Hes incoherently running his mouth. Hes
perfectly aware of whats going on and what they are directing him to
"KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN
He moves back towards the truck
and reaches down to retrieve something! Im in utter amazement! Is this
At this second, Im cringing
at the thought of three quick rounds sounding off from Perrys gun,
if he comes up with anything that even looks like a weapon, the spent casings
from the Deputys automatic bouncing across the hood of the unit in
front of where Im sitting. This dummy is staring down two law enforcement
professionals authorized to wield deadly force at this very momentand
totally justified at this second if they did.
He grabs a baseball hat, slaps
it on his head, then starts moving away from the truck. The seated driver
has both hands out the window waving them frantically, looking back at the
Deputies with a terrified look in his face. In the next second, focusing
on the passenger, Im thinking, "This clown is going to run. . .
Then the dummy bolts for the
fence along the freeway, and then is up and over!
Deputy Perry is on her
". . . The suspects heading
for the freeway. . . Notify the CHP. . . !"
Deputy Gibson is still covering
the driver, and Deputy Perry moves up and into the passenger side of the
vehicle. Deputy Gibson moves up, gets the driver out, then handcuffs him.
The passenger is running along the freeway.
Another RSO unit pulls up behind
the two lead units. Deputy Perry runs back to our unit and orders me, dead
"I need you out and in the
front seat of that Deputys car."
Im piling out before
shes finishing the sentence, around, and in the front seat of the other
Deputys car. Radio traffic is staccato and frequent now. Deputy Gibson
disappears after his prisoner is secured in the cage of the third Deputys
car. Deputy Perry peels up a rutted dirt road fronting the freeway, as the
paved road swings away to our left flank from here. I can see her standing
out on high ground, hearing her radio traffic directing the incoming,
multi-agency resources converging on the scene. Somewhere, in response to
the call, theres a CHP unit rocketing code 3 down the freeway.
RSO units litter the scene
now, coming and going. I cant see where the passenger is from where
Im sitting. Suddenly, the RSO helo, Star 80, banks in tight over the
containment scene and the tightening noose. The thump, thump, thump, of the
big helos blades reverberate in the air and echoes on the radio as
various Deputys are communicating back and forth. Im amazed that
there is a helo in the air so fast, but find out a few minutes later from
the Deputy Im with they were in operation over the city of Perris,
just to the north of our position. Im straining to decipher the radio
traffic as the operation unfolds.
"Sir, hey sir? These cuffs
are kinda tight."
Gibsons prisoner is
complaining from the back. He thinks Im somebody who can help him.
Im not going to start chatting it up with this guy, as Im trying
to follow the action on the ground. The passenger is across the freeway
"Sir, these cuffs are really
"Tell it to the Deputy when
he returns to the car." The third Deputy is searching the gray mini-truck.
I see Deputy Perrys unit crawling up the crest of the hill in front
of me. Radio traffic is from many different people now and Ive lost
track of her voice.
"Hey, sir? Tell that Deputy
that guy put something under the front seat."
Im trying to ignore him.
He starts calling out to the Deputy searching his truck.
"Heyhell find it,"
I say, trying to get this guy to shut-up.
Slowly, as time passes, the
passenger is collected by RSO Deputies and a CHP officer across the freeway
and taken into custody. The helo pilot confirms the arrest. I guess the runner
didnt feel like leading a foot pursuit into the isolated foothills
surrounding the area. The Deputy whose custody Im in says I can get
out of the unit now, as he attends to the driver of the truck in back. Im
glad to be away from the prisoner sitting in back. Somewhere the transfer
of the prisoner across the freeway takes place between the cooperating LE
Deputy Perry rolls back up
to our position on the slope, and as our eyes meet, we both let out a laugh.
Having spent only the morning hours together in the car, we both interpret
what the other is thinking. What was sailing along as a pretty subdued and
uneventful day had just generated a pretty broad police action in which we
found ourselves center stage. More than one Deputy had mentioned something
when the Lt. himself drove slowly by in his unmarked car, surveying the
"Well, better take my ride
along back," Deputy Perry says, smiling. "Sorry for the musical cars. We
had to have the suspect in custody."
Oh, ah, no problem, maam,
Sergeant Smith is receiving
a field debriefing, quietly comments, "Good work, people!" and is gone. Various
Deputies come and go; Deputy Gibson and another walk slowly down the side
of the freeway looking for the hundred dollar bill that was snatched from
the clerk, which is missing. Deputy Perrys prisoner is brought on scene
and placed in the back of our unit. The clerk from the convenience store,
a bleach-blond, spikey-haired, kid, is rolled up to positively ID the prisoner.
The primer gray mini-truck is picked through again as evidence is collected
before the tow truck pulls up to haul it away.
Finally, its just us
again, me, Perry, and Gibson, with the two mini-truck passengers on board.
The gray mini-truck disappears with the flatbed tow truck. Im estimating
the time now, but its well after 1400 hours when we finally roll down
the slope and head back to the station.
Perrys prisoner is going
to prove to be a real pill, as if he wasnt one already. Hes
complaining of medical problems and that hes going to have a seizure.
As were driving into the area of the station, he begins a pretty elaborate
act, trying to mimic that seizure. Deputy Perry glances into the back. Then
I do. I have a family member who has a mild seizure disorder, controlled
with medication. The prisoners performance, although not without some
effort, doesnt even come close. Unless he can mimic foaming at the
mouth and losing complete control of all bodily functions. I guess he
doesnt feel the abhorrent condition of soiling and wetting his shorts
is worth the sacrifice to achieve his furtive goalwhatever that is.
Delusions of escape and evasion? Stalling the inevitable? Deputy Perry and
I look at each other and grin and roll our eyes at each other. I know hes
faking it. Deputy Perry knows hes faking it. And whats more,
the prisoner knows hes faking it. But he continues anyway.
"I give it a three," she states
quietly with a grin, grading the performance of our friend shaking and twitching
around in back.
Deputy Perry is too
AFTERNOON AT THE STATION ~
Regardless, Deputy Perry gets
on the radio and transmits the circumstances. We rolled back into the station
yard and park at the back of the building. Two individuals working off their
community service are washing patrol cars and peer inquisitively at the incoming
units. Momentarily, EMS and an ambulance pull up. The prisoner is still laying
in the back of the unit, feigning medical distress. After some conferencing
between Police and medical officials, the prisoner is shackled, loaded into
the ambulance, and escorted to the hospitalonly to receive a clean
bill of health. All at the expense of the California tax payer. Im
constantly annoyed by those who criticize the "brutality" of the American
law enforcement community, quoting extremely rare Police misconduct incidents
nationwide that always receive broad disclosure in the media, making them
seem somehow "common," without the context of the majority of the whole to
balance those skewed perceptions. In another country, the prisoners
transparent antics would have won him a response quite different from that
which he received. In this situation, these Deputies went well out of their
way to attend to this prisoner.
Deputy Perrys prisoner
is back from the hospital in a short time.
That afternoon, I was unprepared
for what followed. The driver of the mini-truck was secured in one of the
holding cells off from the report writing room. Deputy Gibson was back and
starting the reports. Deputy Perry and Gibson were negotiating who would
do what. Because it was extensive. Very extensive. I was quickly overwhelmed
at the blizzard of paperwork that followed such an event as this. I realize
now why most of the cops I know are such good writers. Gibson was crafting
the re-creation of the action for the records. Sergeant Smith came in and
interviewed both Deputies; the event being recreated again for the official
press release. The event was pretty high profile in the community and would
necessitate an explanation for a citizenry that holds their law enforcement
community responsible and accountable for their actions. Deputy Perry was
checking priors on the prisonersanother extensive listand the
report writing room printer was generating page after page after page after
pageand then more.
Good. . .gosh. And there
was more to follow tomorrow Im told!
"Yeah, were gonna
kill a tree with this one," Deputy Perry laughed.
The three of us were alone
in the report writing room, when Deputy Perry went to interview Gibsons
prisoner, the driver of the truck. After she re-informed him of his rights,
she queried him for an explanation concerning his part in the caper. Turns
out he had just picked the passenger up and was, by and large, caught up
in the event. I sat at the end of the bank of computer monitors, with Gibson
in the middle, and Perry, with the door open, in the holding cell with the
The prisoner was a registered
sex offender. He was required to register in whatever community he was living.
He was asked why he had been moving so much in recent months. He was asked
to detail the restrictions of his probation.
No child pornography. No Internet
access. No cameras. No childrens toys or video cassette games (to use
as lures). I was beginning to understand why my skin was crawling, sitting
in the unit with this guy in back.
"Are you listening to this?"
Deputy Gibson asked me quietly. I nod my head. Yeah, Im listening.
Im wondering what Deputy Perry is thinking, for some reason. She
articulated clearly in our conversations in the morning the objectivity and
impartiality the peace officer has to always model in their dealings with
people out on the street, regardless of what or how you think of them. This
is another quality I have never found lacking in any cop I have met or dealt
with. But I always wonder about the responses of LE people to some of the
worst that society parades past them.
TIME WITH THE PATROL STAFF ~
Perrys prisoner was back,
bellowing and complaining from the other holding cell. The Deputies
patience was wearing thin with him. I know mine was. It was amazing that
one individual could cause so many people so much trouble. He seemed to have
recovered quite well from his medical "difficulties." Their pictures were
taken, the driver, after his probation officer was contacted, was cited for
driving without a license. The prisoners was later transported by the incoming
shift to the RSO Southwest jail facility. Perry and Gibson continued the
arduous paperwork task, as well as numerous phone calls. At one point, the
three of us walk across the building to the administrative area and the Lt.
sets us up in a video viewing room where we have a chance to review the security
tape from the convenience store. Frame by frame, Gibson walks through the
tape to the exact moment the robbery took place. The last frame we see shows
the private citizen who had just handed the hundred dollar bill over to the
clerk looking towards the door with a startled expression on his
As the day shift was winding
down, Deputies began drifting in and out, finishing up reports, dropping
off and picking up equipment, and preparing for the next shift. From time
to time, a half dozen were in the room, talking, receiving a short recount
of Perrys and Gibsons day, glancing in at the prisoners.
The mood was light and relaxed,
at least for the three of us. Deputies were engaging in good natured ribbing,
mocking, and jocular antics back and forth. Laughter erupted again and again,
mainly from me. These people are a riot! In the midst, Perry and Gibson expressed
intermittent self-effacing commentary and self-critiquing of their performance
during the high-noon stop. As usual, I was impressed and grateful. This quality
is one I have, up to this time in my position with the IPOC, not found lacking
in any active duty officer I have come in contact with. Action after action,
event by event, these responsible people of caliber we task to protect us
and society, dont relay on anybody else but their peers and their own
high personal standards to police themselves in their performance on the
streets. Personal standards I have found higher than that required of them
by the recorded standards of their field. This is always a wonderful thing
to see. This keeps people alive in the field, in high stress scenarios, whether
cops or civilians.
Watching as an observer of
this particular agencys street staffs interaction with each other,
the trust and good natured verbal ribbing, indicated a platoon of officers
possessing mutual trust, respect, devotion, and confidence. Confidence in
each other and themselves. Qualities each of them fall back on when things
"go sideways" out on the mean lake-shore streets or in the isolated rural
hills. What was going on in that report writing room at the end of the day
was what I ultimately came on this ride along to find. It was neat to be
a part of it for a short time. Those who daily shoulder this great responsibility
they have taken upon themselves, hazarding their lives on a daily basis,
an isolated group of people tasked to maintain our societys law and
order on our streets.
In stark contrast to much of
the political turmoil now scarring and undermining moral in some Police agencies
nationwide, the RSO Lake Elsinore station impacted me as an oasis in the
midst of that storm. There is some great things going on in here as well
as on the outside within the context of their interaction with the
AN ASIDE ~
I would like to take a moment
to interject some observations and insights concerning the high risk stop
scenario on the slope of the frontage road, especially for the benefit of
the civilian readers of this account. I craft this free of embellishments
This stop was a classic and
pristine example of the type of situation law enforcement people find themselves
in every day, all across this nation. We hear much commentary on the
"split-second decisions" that Police officers have to make concerning the
implementation of deadly force; the decision to fire or to give the suspect
the benefit of the doubt, all within a very fluid and multi-variable
I saw this scenario in this
high risk stop. I saw it in real time. I saw this arena ten feet away from
me. This wasnt a slit-second proposition. This was worse.
Sergeant Lopotosky comments,
"It takes the human mind .75 seconds to perceive a threat, and another
.75 seconds to react to it. If a gunman has a weapon in his waistband, hes
already decided what hes going to do. Hes going to pull that
gun out and use it. Hes already decided. The law enforcement officer
still has to decide to react to it, whether to retreat, stand their ground,
or look for cover. It takes about a second and a half to fire six rounds
from a standard revolver. By the time the officer sees the threat, they have
incoming rounds coming at them."
This scenario unfolded in mere
seconds; nano-seconds as I mentioned earlier. If that suspects demeanor
had been a little more aggressive, if his body language had been a little
more combative, if his movements had been even a little more violent and
quick as he ignored and defied the Deputies commandsand he reached
back into the cab of that truck, he would probably have been carried off
that slope in an ambulance, or worse, a coroners wagon, instead of
in the back of Deputy Perrys car.
The Deputies would not have
made that decision. The suspects willful actions would have made that
decision for them. I am still subdued in having seen this potentiality displayed
in such a graphic and dynamic way while witnessing this stop, and whose fault
is whose. I thought I had a good grasp on the dynamics of just such a scenario,
but seeing it in real life, being there, was like getting hit with a fist
in the face.
END OF DAY ~
Deputy Perry and I returned
for the final time to the car. Deputy Gibson, in his civilian attire, met
Deputy Perry at the unit and bid his farewells. Deputy Perry pulled the car
around to her personal vehicle and started unloading her gear into the trunk.
An officers office place is their unit. Deputy Perrys gear filled
her trunk, as would mine if I had to unload my own work vehicle every day.
The patrol unit was then parked and the shotgun unloaded, car secured, and
the shotgun locked up inside the station. Deputy Perry then escorted me to
the front door of the station. It was getting dark. We shook hands and I
thanked her for the experience, and I left into the darkening night.
I wanted to say so much more
before I left. But people who know me personally know my public persona is
nothing like the persona presented from behind the keyboard. Besides, I was
still reeling from the jolt of witnessing in person the high risk stop at
noon. I knew once I was out on the road working the next day, lost in the
anonymity and quiet freedom of the highway, the events of this day would
start to crystallize and set.
Even driving home that night
I thought about Deputy Perry, a level-headed and impeccable representative
and ambassador to the civilian community of the American law enforcement
community nationwide. When manipulative politicians, exploitive political
activist groups, and the biased media, paint the men and women of the American
LE community with a broad brush of slander, mischaracterization, anecdotal
evidence, and plain and simple lies and falsehoods, it both infuriates me
and breaks my heart. Innocent people like this officer are the only ones
who get hurt. Deputy Kathie Perry and her graciousness, professionalism, service,
and heart, stands as one among many in her field, in stark, unassailable
defiance against that storm. An insurmountable standard.
There is a quote that says,
"We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them."Livy.
I believe a lot of the conflict in our society between law enforcement and
the citizenry they are sworn to protect is the lack of communication and
understanding between the two camps. Law enforcement is an exclusive, isolated
field, a mysterious, dangerous career choice that many civilians don't fully
understand. That mystery leaves a vacuum of understanding in the minds of
many people when law enforcement is thrust into the national media spotlight
during controversial times and events, a vacuum that exploiters and special
interest groups are more than willing to fill up with fear-mongering and
I have found that to understand
any culture that is different from our own, the best thing to do is get right
in the middle of it, keep your mouth shut, observe, and learn their ways.
"Cop culture" is no different. Over the years that I have kept company with
the men and women of professional law enforcement, I have always been welcomed;
have always found people ready to answer my relentless interrogation of their
motives, intents, purposes, and way of life.
Arm-chair patriots and keyboard
commandos are always quick to criticize the American LE field from the safety
and comfort of their secure homes. I would encourage these individuals sometime
to do what I did. Make a friend in law enforcement, go down to your local
law enforcement agency or Sheriffs office, take the risk and sign that discharge
form releasing them from all liability should you get hurt or killedand
walk that long mile in a Deputys boots. Stand for a moment on that
Thin Blue Line with them. If youre lucky, you can stare right at the
specter of death that they encounter every day, feel the threat and see and
face the split-second decision yourself, and find a whole new perspective
about being a street cop.
Saddle up sometime with
professional law enforcement and go on a ride along.
Personally, and on behalf of
the Inland Police Officers Coalition (IPOC), I would like to offer my heartfelt
and sincere thanks to the Riverside County Sheriffs Office, the RSO
Lake Elsinore Station command and supervisory staff, Sgt. John Lopotosky
and Sgt. Bruce Smith, and the day shift patrol staff, for letting me ride
with your posse. Your gracious hospitality and cordiality is deeply
And Deputy Kathie Perry, God
bless your heart! Thanks for hauling my silly hide around your beat. (Geez,
maybe next time we can get in a screamer high speed pursuit or interdict
a bank robbery or something?) I have no doubts you will continue to prevail
within the career field providence has placed you in. May your friends and
peers continually watch your six with extreme prejudice, that you may do
so. (Including that tough ol guard dog Gibson!)
County Sheriff's Office (RSO)
You Are Currently A Visitor To
Ride Along Copyright © 2001 Michael A.
This material is copyrighted to prevent altering or
reproducing for profit. Permission is granted to the reader to forward all
writings from Salem the Soldier's Homepage/Michael A. Baker,
without altering, to friends, groups or other ministries or to copy for similar
or personal use.
Any other publication is expressly forbidden without the
clear permission of the author and the Riverside Sheriff's Office, Lake Elsinore
Station. Contact RSO Sergeant John Lopotosky at: