“Most of us go to work every day with a pretty good of what’s going to happen. As Detective Bryant will be reminded of today, cops never do.”
It’s ironic that this episode aired this week. Since 20 January, 11 officers have been shot nationwide. 4 have died. My condolences go out to the families of those officers, and I pray for a speedy recovery for the injured.
Lee Lofland’s review of a very intense episode is up at The Graveyard Shift. Here’s my take.
Domestics can go south in a heartbeat, and when cops have a bad day, people get hurt. You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on. Anything in the room is a weapon in a domestic: dishes, knives, glasses, and even hot skillets. I was a Police Explorer for a time, and would hang out at the Sheriff’s Office late at night. Early one morning, one of the sergeants brought in an intoxicated and combative female, maybe 5 feet tall and a hundred pounds. But it took the sergeant, the jailer, and the dispatcher to hold her down at one point, and she gave as good as she got. I watched part of it on the security monitor, and afterward, the sergeant apologized to me for the way he manhandled the woman, but pointed out that she was in custody, and was fighting, and he and the other officers were allowed to protect themselves and control her. When an officer loses control of the situation, bad things happen. Ben made a real rookie mistake: he didn’t want to lay hands on a woman. A lot of women are not afraid to try and exploit that weakness, either. But she was out of control, and he would have been right to restrain her and even cuff her until she calmed down.
Sammy’s losing control too. He’s more focused on Tammy and his dead marriage than the dead body. That’s another rookie mistake, and the family of the dead man suffered for it. No one should have to see their loved one like that. But it does happen in the real world. Using his coat wasn’t ideal for a number of reasons, but he did need to get the face covered. Then later on, he takes a call from his estranged wife while he and Nate are in the middle of trying to convince a reluctant witness to identify some gang bangers. He lashes out at the suspect later on, right after he lets him see a nice clear photo of the witness. Very bad moves. He’s right on the edge, and needs to get things back under control.
Ben’s developed an attitude lately, and John’s doing exactly what he needs to show Ben he’s not quite there yet. Ben has lost focus, and he’s not paying attention to detail at all. Make sure you’ve got the right apartment when you’re delivering a death notification, especially when it’s a common name. Lots of ways he could have handled it better. “I’m looking for the mother of so-and-so” would have prevented that whole scene. Thank God I’ve never had to do a death notification. But I have experienced that eruption of frustration that Ben did. The hostility he got from the mother is pretty common too. People assume the cops are only there to harass them, or arrest them. That’s often the result of a guilty conscience, but that attitude is out there.
“And his tires look bald.” That’s probable cause to stop the driver. A careful and observant officer who wants to stop someone can usually come up with an issue like that. But it has to be articulable. He has to be able to say in court that based on his years of experience, he observed that the tires on the car looked to have less than the required minimum tread. Sure, it’s just an equipment violation. But there’s always a reason handy to make a stop: bald tires; a burned out taillight; failure to signal a turn. Maybe you just end up warning him about the tires. But maybe, as in this case, you end up with a nice drug bust, and then someone else notices something and says, “Hey, isn’t so-and-so looking for a necklace like this? The other nice touches in that scene: As John comes around to look inside the car, the glances over his shoulder to check traffic.
“Where’s your suspect?” Been there and done that, but in training, thank goodness. We were practicing felony stops. I was using a county sheriff’s cruiser as my unit, backing up another trainee in my department’s car. That car was a Chevy Corsica without any extra police equipment such as a shield between the front and back seats. I wasn’t used to dealing with a shield. There were two suspects in the other car. We got the first one out; I brought him to the back of the cruiser, cuffed and searched him, and seated him in the back of the sheriff’s cruiser. Then we dealt with the second suspect. When I turned to put him in the back with the other guy, the other guy was gone. I hadn’t secured him with the seatbelt. When I left my position at the front passenger door, he was able to squirm out through the opening in the seat shield and get out the driver’s side front door. Major embarrassment, but only major embarrassment in a training situation, as opposed to a bad guy running down the street.
The scene after their tour was perfect. John is right: this is the time when rookie officers are most dangerous to themselves and others. There’s a cycle of readiness and preparedness that officers go through. The day they come out of the academy, they think they’re ready to take on the world. By the end of that first shift on the streets, they realize how much they still have to learn. Six or nine months later, they’re starting to get a little cocky again, thinking they’ve picked up everything they need. If they’re lucky, they’ve got a good FTO like John, who pulls them up short and reminds them never to get complacent. There’s another peak/valley at about two years as well. From 2000 – 2009, 32% of the 536 officers feloniously killed in the line of duty had between 1 and 5 years experience. Another 25% had between 6 and 10 years of service. Only 2% had less than a year on duty. Cops tend to get complacent after a time. They get comfortable in their precinct or patrol area, and get to a point where they think they know what’s going on, and what’s going to happen. That’s when they get hurt.
Lydia had a busy day, checking up on two detectives who probably need the extra attention. She walks in on them playing a video game at a murder scene. It’s not at all uncommon for one officer to carry the load when the partner is in court. It makes things a little more interesting for the one doing the work though. You’re down to one set of eyes and one set of hands to go over things. It’s easier to miss something, and makes communication with your partner that much more important.
Will Rokos did a great job writing a very intense episode. Ann Biderman has assembled a great crew for this series.