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Hello Sarge is a blog dedicated to the men and women of law enforcement, their families and loved ones. This blog was designed to share stories and perspective of our experiences on the street.

We here at Hello Sarge are all active duty LEO’s from a large full service police department in the Washington D.C area. We look forward to sharing some of our experiences from the street and to hear your stories as well! 

    As the blog grows, we will be introducing new content ranging from current police culture at our department, gear reviews, guest authors, interviews, and whatever you guys want to discuss or see in the blog.

Have a story to tell? We would love to hear it! Just post your story in the comment section, or email the Sarge and we’ll get it up on the blog. We will be posting 2 stories a week to get the ball rolling.

Take your assignments, please be safe. 

Barricade? Nope.

    The priority tone screams through my shoulder mounted microphone, “Units respond to a man with a knife”.

  Once on scene, Officers were met with the victim who stated that he got into a verbal altercation with a family friend and he was subsequently cut with a knife and that the suspect locked himself in his  1st floor apartment and rolled shut the blinds.  Officers immediately requested a supervisor to respond on scene.  The Sarge is en route. 

    I make it to the scene along with another Sergeant and we begin to piece together the elements of the situation so we can brief the Watch Commander via telephone. We attempt to establish communication verbally with the suspect through the door and outside window of the apartment with no luck. We place Officers around the outside perimeter of the first floor corner apartment to prevent someone anyone window jumpers. We call for Officers equipped with non lethal munitions (i.e 40mm, shield, etc) to make their way on the scene.  We checked all the boxes and covered all bases and waited for the watch commander to arrive to ultimately make the determination of our next course of action. 

    At the time of the watch commanders arrival we have a suspect locked in his apartment wanted for a armed felony refusing to come out or talk to law enforcement. The suspect was taking and sending pictures out of his window and texting them to the victim, and he closed his blinds in efforts to conceal himself.  All these facts led me to believe that this could be a barricade situation.  We were advised that a barricade would not be declared and that we would handle the situation ourselves, “No problem sir, patrol got it”.

    We met with the apartment management office who gave us keys to the apartment and we began to mount up for a dynamic entry.  Those of you who have been in an entry team will understand that everyone planned on going in is getting nervous, my job was to ease that nervousness, like a football coach’s halftime locker room speech. We stage the entry team right outside of the suspects door and make preparations for entry with me being the 3rd or 4th in line with an M4.  We open the door and the team floods into the first room. 

    There are many challenges the entry team has to face, one of the big ones is tactically clearing an unknown location but we did a good job and kept it moving into the bedroom where we found the suspect laying in bed watching TV, a movie on lifetime to be specific. The suspect was very compliant, we were very respectful and the situation ended with no injuries to the suspect or officers. Mission accomplished. 

How would your department handle this situation? Would a barricade be declared? Would SWAT/ERT be called out? Please comment and let us know. 

The Rookie

    Yesterday I was in the office when I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a couple field training Sergeants, a field training Officer and a rookie officer discussing his performance and what I heard was not good.

    The rookie was in his fourth month or 4th cycle of my departments FTO (Field Training Officer) program. The old field training program was outdated, unmonitored and in desperate need of an overhaul, and in 2017 the program was completely revamped.

    The new program is now 4 months long with periodic stage checks with field training Sergeants. The actual FTO’s are now paid for teaching rookie officers after they complete FTO school. Documentation of a rookies field progress are recorded daily and closely monitored by management to ensure progressive performance, measures are now put in place where officers that are not progressing as they should are counseled and sent to remedial training. 

    This particular rookie is in his early 20’s, a recent college graduate, no military service, no prior police and first real job. His performance in the last month triggered his FTO to reflect it in his daily performance evaluation, which in turn caused the meeting. After the meeting, I wanted to talk to him and try to understand what the problem was. After about five minutes the problem was that he was too scared to make his decisions on scene known, fearing that it would the wrong one. 

    The Academy does a great job in giving you the basics of police work, but it doesn’t develop confidence I believe it does the opposite. While I was in the Academy we were told repeatedly if you do this wrong, you’ll get fired, if you go hands on, you might get fired, if you misclassify a report, you’ll get fired, and all of that is the furthest from the truth. The danger of this narrative is that when I get the recruits on the street they’re afraid of everything because they don’t want to get fired, which is understandable, because thats what they were fed for 6-9 months. I sat the rookie down and clarified this and try to instill what little confidence he had left in his tank. 

    Scene management is a huge determining performance factor with any developing officer. Being able to focus on the details of the person your interviewing while understanding the needs of the scene around you is tough, but you have to manage it all. I told him that when your on scene, its YOUR scene and that he should own it.If you need someone another officer to do something, ask if they could do it, if you need help with notifications, ask someone to do it, don’t just sit there with the action in your head and not voice it to others.  I felt like a football coach who’s team was down by 30 at halftime. His eyes lit up as if I took a 50 pound weight off of his chest. I told him to speak up, take control, and get through this training program. 

    This happened yesterday so we’ll see if it worked out and I’ll give you guys an update. What was your FTO like? Comment below. Fall Out.

Academy Prep

From time to time I get emails asking ” Hey Sarge, what can I do to prep for the academy?”. My answer normally consists of a series of questions.

How long has it been since you studied?

The academy consists of a lot of tests, both academic and physical. When was the last time you studied? If you recently graduated college you should be accustomed to academic preparation. If you were coming from the military and haven’t studied in years then you might need to start getting used to studying again.  In the academy, there will be academic tests that recruits need to pass to progress through the program. These tests are computer based and are normally around 30-50 questions. Passing score is 70%. You will be studying a particular subject for a couple days then end the module with a test. From my memory, its not that hard but we did have one recruit get fired for failing a test three times.

How long has it been since you worked out?

The academy will test you physically, so be prepared to be challenged. Normally military recruits excel in PT (Physical Training) and the college graduates have a harder time. If you haven’t been working out and your in the application process, start NOW.  Being able to pass the PT test on day one will relieve A LOT of stress, and will enable you to concentrate on other areas that need some extra time and attention.

Do you have the right attitude?

Believe it or not, in the academy there will be people who yell at you, question your decisions, and will make an example out of you. You will be uncomfortable, embarrassed, angry, and clueless. You need to be mentally ready for this. Too often there are recruits who spend six months of their lives in the application process, get hired only to quit the first time a Sergeant drops the class for push ups. You need to be able to play the game and put your pride away and accept criticism, after all you’ll definitely experience the same feelings on the street and need to be able to deal with it, might as well start in the academy.

Do you have work ethic?

This is a basic trait that you should have as an adult but I bring it up for a reason. In our academy you will be detailed out to assist the city on a multitude of different assignments. Recruit classes will staff large events, crime scenes, and anything else the department has for you to do. These additional assignments will be held during different times, so be ready to have your shift adjusted.

Academy starts early, so the days of partying and going to sleep early in the morning should be limited to the weekend (Friday and Saturday night) if not cut all together. Which leads us to my next topic

Be on your best behavior!

Prostitutes, alcohol, domestic violence, DUI’s are the killers of recruits. Your going to be cop in a couple of months start acting like it. If your going to drink, get a designated driver. On my department your on probation for the first 18 months of your career. This means that you can be fired for any reason, don’t give the department a reason to do so. Your about to start a journey in law enforcement where a 21 year old can make a six figure income with overtime, don’t throw it away at the bar. There will be plenty of other recruits who do it and will lose everything, let the natural selection take place, be the smarter recruit and enjoy your paychecks for the next 25 years.

The academy is a place where you will make career long friends so put your best foot forward, don’t be stupid and make a postive first impression.

As always thanks for stopping by, and if there is anything you want to know shoot me an email at TheSarge@hellosarge.com

Be safe, fall out.

 

 

Rain & Blood

    This past weekend was proved to be a particularly violent one here in the nations capital. After 11 days of leave, a trip to New Orleans and Biloxi Mississippi, under my belt, back to the grind. 

Here We Go

    I was the roll call Sergeant for the daywork tour on Sunday. I parked my car and began walking up to the doors. Coffee in hand, I stare at my watch and its 0400, way too early for anyone to be coming to work. I was approached by a midnight officer who asked “Hey Sarge! you hear what happened?”.  This is NOT what I wanted to hear as I’m getting into work to prepare the next shifts deployment. “No, whats up?” I replied scared to hear her response.”

    “We had THREE homicides, a car chase, TWO double shootings and THREE departmental vehicle collisions.” I asked if all the officers involved were ok and they were. (My specific district spans ONLY about 5.5 miles long and about 4 miles wide, so its a VERY small geographic area.)  I exhaled and began to think about the mountain of paperwork, hospital details, accident packets, chase packets, investigations, arrests, crime scenes, notifications, that came with an eventful shift. When I was an officer, nights like this were always interesting, being able to respond and chase bad guys were always fun, but as an officer I never understood what actually took place behind close doors AFTER everything was done, being a Sergeant, your WILL find out. 

Resource Management

    The challenge with nights like that is the management of manpower and resources needed to secure and process each individual scene. Each scene requires different notifications to different services provided by my department. Violent crime detectives, watch commanders, mobile crime, K9 etc are just a few examples of what needs to respond to each individual homicide scene. The homicides happened to be outdoor scenes which needed several marked patrol cars to secure the area, block roads, and secure ally ways. The juggling act starts when trying to plan for the daywork deployment. Midnight officers needed to come in with their assigned cars while daywork officers take their assignments and get into their vehicles assigned at roll call. I had 15 cars out on different scenes that couldn’t be moved with 21 Officers waiting for them to come in. We had a prisoner at a hospital with several officers providing security who needed to be swapped out with daywork officers. I was stepping into the perfect storm.  

Stressful

    Being able to deal with stress and multitasking comes with the job, specifically the sergeant job. The midnight units ended up being held over (not able to go home) and reassigned and put back out on the street, a notification that I myself, hate having to make to a group of officers who have been ran ragged for the previous 10 hours. We released them after 6 additional hours. 

Check out the news link below for news coverage on D.C’s violent weekend. Stay Safe!

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/6-Killed-in-Spurt-of-DC-Weekend-Shootings-494092761.html

Bigfoot in Georgia?!

    A year or two after my field training (FTO) I came across an opportunity to become a vehicle skills instructor for my department. I called the Director of Continuing Education to confirm the possibility that they would bring me over to help teach classes after my instructor certification, and his answer was “Yes”. The problem was, how to get certified.

    Our department used to utilize a fixed permanent unit assigned to the academy to teach each recruit class. The unit had an agreement with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center or FLETC in Cheltenham Maryland where the class would be taught. FLETC had a great location to train, they had a private track, skid pad, urban area, and plenty of well equipped classrooms to make teaching the class enjoyable for both the recruits and the instructors. That was about to change.

    Apparently our departments Chief at the time had a disagreement with the current Director over at FLETC and the result was the immediate end of our mutual agreement of our department from utilizing the their facilities. The vehicle skills program went from training 20-30 recruits on a multi million dollar federally funded track and facility, to a parking lot at a stadium. This is what I had to look forward to. 

    Getting the certification was my responsibility, my department didn’t care where or how I received it, they just wanted to see the certificate and they weren’t paying for anything. I began calling different departments to see if they had an instructors course coming up, they all laughed at me. At the time, funding was very tight and budgets were shrinking rapidly, which left me in a tough spot. I went online and looked into getting certified through FLETC. They had a class coming up but it was at their main facility in Glynco, Georgia but it was over $3k. Talk about a punch to stomach.  I exchanged email with a really nice lady there who urged me to apply for a scholarship, which I did, and 2 weeks later I was waiting in a witness waiting room at court when I received the email stating I was accepted into the Federal Law Enforcement Driver Instructor Program (LEDITP-204) Class 204 and granted the scholarship, awesome! The only thing that wasn’t covered was transportation to FLETC and the time I had to take off of work to attend the 2 week course.

    I flew into Jacksonville, Fl and rented a car, pointed it northbound on I95 and rocketed to Glynco. I checked in and they told me my dorm was in the new area of campus, students refer to these dorms as “The Taj” short for Taj Mahal due to it being very nicely equipped compared to other dorms federal agencies use. It reminded me of a Holiday Inn Express, it was really nice considering other Federal agencies were using old crappy looking bungalows to call home. I passed out early for the 0600 class start the next day.  

    The course was two weeks long and had very strict performance standards. If one training event required students pass with a 80% instructors had to do it at 90%, if a student was allowed to hit one cone, we couldn’t hit any. Students came from all over the country. We had Air Force OSI, Navy NCIS, Cleveland PD, couple of local guys, Cincinnati PD, and a couple of Florida HP. I was by far the youngest guy in the class. 

    The first week we knocked out all the written and practical examinations that they required the regular students to complete, it was a brutal week of hearing all the basic stuff that everyone who completed a LE vehicle skills course heard before, but week two was AWESOME.  Week two the instructors opened up tracks and as instructor trainee’s we were allowed to “test the cars out”.  Basically what this meant was to pick any car from their fleet, and go test your limits on a closed track for almost 5 hours. At the end of the day they had contract employees come up and ask you what vehicle you would like for the next exercise, how much gas you wanted in it, new tires or old etc. It was a car guys paradise.  It was by far the most fun I had while wearing a badge.

    We had a night pursuit course where they opened up an unfamiliar track in the pitch black Georgia woods and we had to chase the rabbit (bad guy car). The chase started with a primary police car and a secondary car. The primary police vehicle was tasked to maintain eyes on the rabbit, while the secondary car follows the primary and calls out the turn by turn to the dispatcher. This allows the primary vehicle to concentrate on the rabbit. The night course started with the primary and secondary vehicle getting the imaginary call on our car radios of a felony vehicle wanted for a felony and gave description of the vehicle, and what do you know the vehicle was driving right in front of us, I was the primary vehicle and I turned my lights and sirens on and the chase began. The chase started on the same familiar track that our class was on for the last week, so we knew all the turns and how fast we could take them. The rabbit was a supercharged 1990’s Chevy Caprice SS and we were in the new Ford Police Interceptors, definitely and unfair chase, but thats how it is on the streets, unfair.

    The rabbit then made a turn down a unfamillar road, and I thought to myself, “well this is gonna be fun”.   The rabbit card opened it up and the distance between us started to increase when out of the corner of my eye I saw something walk into the tree line. When I said I saw something, it wasn’t a animal, it looked like a human being, the reason why this was weird was because it was midnight, we were at least a couple of miles DEEP in the woods on a dirt road, the last thing I would expect to see was another human being. The funny thing about it was I was going around 70 mph trying to keep up with the rabbit and I swore to myself that the person had fur all over it.

    I know, I know what your thinking but that was the truth, I saw what I saw. When the exercise was over we had a group de brief and the cadre asked everyone for their input, everyone was really happy with the exercise. I looked around to see if any of the other students were talking about any possible sightings or anything unusual, nothing, so I kept my mouth shut about what I saw.

    The cadre asked our class if anyone saw any animals on the track so they can keep a record of animals observed by students and forward it to the safety department. Everyone shook their heads no, when one of our lead instructors jumped out from a nearby bush wearing a Bigfoot costume! We all jumped and laughter erupted. “Why didn’t you guys say anything?” one instructor asked. “I didn’t want to be the first guy that said he saw Bigfoot out here and everyone think I’m crazy.” said one of the students with a thick southern accent. The laughters continued all the way to graduation a few days later.

What was your vehicle skills class like? 

More questions about FLETC?  Fire away!

Leave a comment!

    

Man Down

Not Actual Bike

    The priority tone screams out of my radio, we get a call for a “Man down”.  Man down calls are very common, I wouldn’t say routine because there is nothing routine about our career, nothing. Every call is fluid as dynamics change rapidly and have to be compensated for. I open the slip on our MDT (car computer) and in the notes section the call taker wrote that a man fell off his bicycle and was lying in on a sidewalk. We were only a block or two away and we were there almost as fast as the call came out.

    My partner and I exited the vehicle and approached the man. The man was getting himself up and brushing off his pants and jacket. We exchanged greetings and asked him if he was ok. The victim was alert, conscious and breathing. We updated the dispatcher of the condition of the victim and she in turn relayed the information to the fire department’s dispatcher who then updated the responding fire apparatus. The man started getting upset when the fire truck and ambulance arrived on location.  You might be asking yourself why a fire truck would be appropriate for a man who fell off of a bike? The answer to that is not all ambulances have a certified paramedic on board, and fire trucks or engines do. The responding ambulance carried two EMTs or emergency medical technicians. EMTs are medically trained and certified however Paramedics can perform advanced lifesaving techniques and are allowed to administer medication, as EMTs are not. On this call the EMTs wanted the victim to go to the hospital to get checked out. The victim refused at first. My partner and I could not see any blood coming from his head or body, however there was one very small spot of blood on the victims collar that looked relatively fresh. The spot of blood looked like he cut himself shaving and used his collar to wipe the blood off. We ended up convincing him to hop in the ambulance and my partner and I helped him get his bike in the back. I remember the victim and I laughing about how he fell off his bike and had to go to the hospital but I assured him that it was in his best interest. They transported the man to a local hospital where he died.

    The victim died of a gunshot wound to his head that none of us could see, not even the paramedics. The gunshot is what made the victim fall off of his bike. He got right up, talked to us for about 10 minutes, got a ride to the hospital and died. An x ray revealed a small .22 caliber round lodged in his head. The doctor couldn’t believe it and neither could we. My department launched an investigation to investigate if responding members violated any procedures.  The investigation revealed there was no misconduct in the responding officers, it was just an unfortunate homicide. Being in patrol really shows officers how precious life can be, and how fast it could be taken away.  Fall Out.