Thursday, July 23, 2009


Composure, and the ability to maintain it, is something that's very important in any profession where you have to interact with people on a regular basis. I would say it's even more important, if not a critical skill, for someone in law enforcement. It's something that has to be maintained, regardless of what your true feelings are.

For example, let's consider the following tableau that I experienced today. Our office receives a tip, that someone we have a warrant out for, is at a location just outside of the city limits. It's a small trailer park. Now that might immediately conjure visions of rednecks into your minds, but you'd be wrong. We have, in my experience, four different types of trailer parks in our area. The first, is what you might expect, mostly white, mostly redneck types. The second, would be composed mostly of Hispanics, and the third, mostly of blacks. These first three, while being separated from each other, based almost solely on skin tone and language differences, all share some common things. They are almost universally composed of older trailers, very run-down, and the people who live in them don't do anything to improve them in any way. Trash usually litters the area, not just around the outside of the trailers, but the inside as well. Things are allowed to sit where they fall, and any pets people may have running loose are, at best, indifferently maintained.

The fourth, and final, type of trailer park I interact with is the nicest. The trailers may or may not be older, but they're generally well maintained. Instead of being surrounded by dirt, gravel, and weeds, they usually have lawns and shrubs and flowers that are neatly trimmed. Pets look healthy, well-fed, and are either on a leash run, or inside of a small fence. What type of people inhabit these trailer parks you might ask? People who take pride and responsibility in themselves and their surroundings. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, what have you. They're all mixed in there together, living side by side, and it's just like any nice neighborhood you might visit, except for the fact that the homes were once considered mobile.

Now, the place where we were going to today, was a small mobile home park, less than a dozen trailers, and fell into one of the first three categories. Skin color isn't important, but it was one of those run down and trashy looking places. We approached the targeted residence, with myself on perimeter heading around the back side to cover any rear entrances. As we approach, we notice a dog, a young Boxer mix, near the front door. Two entry agents make contact with the resident, and secure consent to search. The subject was not there, but was supposedly nearby, and on foot. The warrant team leader steps off towards the car and gets on the phone with the county sheriff's office to appraise them of the situation and probable location of the subject, as they have a warrant for her as well.

Meanwhile, myself and a female agent engage the residents in conversation, trying to see if we can find out any other information. The Boxer-mix pup is hanging around, and fairly friendly, when I notice another pup, similar to the first, peeking out from underneath the trailer. It's standing on three legs, as it's right front paw, is grossly mangled and swollen. We ask the resident about it, and he informs us that there are two dogs underneath the trailer, who have been hit by a car. He doesn't have a car to be able to take them to a vet, and he says he can't get Animal Control to do anything with them, they won't even return his calls. The other agent with me, is immediately on the phone, calling a friend with connections at Animal Control, as I walk over to peek under the trailer and see if I can see the other injured dog. It's lying there, under the trailer, with an injury to it's left hind leg. I know immediately that it's not broken. How you might ask? Because all of the fur and flesh has been scraped from one side of it's leg, and I can see the bones, and how they articulate at the joint.

I suddenly feel this cold, burning sensation building in my gut. I don't notice it right away, but my off-hand is gripping the butt of my baton and twisting it, as I struggle to come to grips with what I'm seeing. These two injured dogs were hit by a mini-van, that never stopped, two days ago. Two days of what must be almost un-endurable agony. Yet they look at us with tongues lolling out of the side of their mouths, and wags of their tails. That look of unconditional love in their eyes that confirms that these are in fact, young puppies, not more than six to twelve months old, and just want to please people.

That fire in my gut is now a full on blaze, and I feel the anger awaken within me. I begin to turn around so I can confront the resident, when I hear the female agent with me, start to get a strained quality to her voice, as she's alternating between talking to Animal Control on the phone, and questioning the resident as to the specifics of the incident and the injuries to the two dogs. From past experience, I can tell that she's about to launch into a tirade. I look past her, and see about eight people, in front of one of the other trailers, watching the proceedings with interest. In front of the trailer next to that are four more people, also watching, as are the six people at the next trailer, and the seven or eight people gathered in front of the last trailer in the cul de sac.

Reality comes crashing back down on me. This is not a 'nice' trailer park, and we're not in the best of neighborhoods anyway. We're easily outnumbered by the residents watching the proceedings, by about seven or eight to one. One thing crashes through my brain. This Can Not Escalate!! The stoneface goes on, and I step away from the trailer, and approach the agent. I tell her to stay on the phone, and get Animal Control out here ASAP, because we're not leaving those dogs here. Then, I get a grip on the anger, push the fire down, and turn to engage the resident in conversation, gleaning what I can from him about the hit and run on the dogs. I have to be polite, and understanding, as I listen to him explain that he just didn't have any way to get the dogs to a vet. He doesn't have a car, and he's not friendly enough with any of the other residents of the trailer park to get them to give him and a the dogs a ride to see a vet. I nod, and mutter platitudes to keep him calm and relaxed, while the only thing I'm aching to do, is pull out my baton and OC, and administer the beating this guy so richly deserves, then make sure both is knee caps are broken, stuff him under his own trailer, and come back to check on him in a couple of days to see how he thinks it feels.

This is where the composure part comes into play. I can't let what's going through my head and gut show on my face. As much as I believe that I would be morally justified in administering the aforementioned beat down, I know it's not going to happen, and can't let my own desire for moral justice, make me prod this guy into a fight. So I keep a leash on myself, make sure the other agent stays calm, and we wait while Animal Control comes, writes the guy a citation because they'd come out two days ago and ordered him to get medical attention for his pets, and take not only the injured dogs, but all dogs at the residence away.

I swear, abuse of animals and kids are the hardest things to see, especially as an LEO, because you can't do what you want to do, but have to enforce what the law says should be done. Composure is a difficult thing to maintain in such situations, but it's something you absolutely have to do.

My hat's off to all you regular patrol guys, who have to deal with crap like this on a daily basis. I don't know how you do it. I'm sure I would step across the line in short order if I had to see and deal with this kind of thing regularly.

Well, I'm off to see if a beer or three can't help me forget the look in that pups eye, when it licked my hand as we loaded it into the truck for transport to a vet. It was just heart-breaking.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jumpin' Jesus on a Pogo Stick!!

I mean seriously...what a guy to do? I keep coming up with interesting things(at least to me) that I'd like to post about, and then, as I walk outside to let the dogs out for one last time before they're in for the night, what do I see but...

Ayep! Another frikkin Copperhead!!! I don't understand where the bloody things are coming from. I mean I kill every single one I see. I killed this one's kith and kin two nights ago for the love of Pete! By the way, that's my Heritage Arms Rough Rider, single action .22 LR in the picture there with it. This one measure out to about 22 inches. An inch or so shorter than his brother/cousin/whatever the other night, an way shorter than the great grand-daddy I killed a couple of months ago.

I just don't understand what these things are doing in my front yard. My cat generally prowls around during the day out there, and the front yard isn't overgrown like the back yard. There's about a forty foot wide strip of woods between my yard, and the nearest neighbor's yard, but I don't ever hear them complaining about snakes.

I swear, it's like I'm cursed or something, with some sort of magnetism for snakes. Which wouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that the ones that most often come calling, are frikkin poisonous!! Poisonous snakes just give me the willies.

Of course, with two snakes, each almost two feet long, in three nights, my wife is hinting at handbags, shoes, gloves, etc., that could be made from there skins. That just ain't gonna happen though. Even dead, they still give me the willies. I swear, I could go to start skinning one of them, and that thing would turn and bit the crap out of me. Leastways, that's the way it plays out in my head...

I live out in the sticks, which I like, but I just can't seem to get away from the poisonous snakes. Does anyone know of any way to get rid of them without clear-cutting my land and paving it over? It's to the point where I'm almost contemplating going out and purchasing a few King Snakes, and releasing them near my house so that they can deal with the Copperheads. I just worry about how they might interact with the Black Rat snakes in the area, of which I know I have two, one 4.5 feet, and the other about 3 feet. Though I haven't seen the 7 foot long one in a few years, I'm willing to bet it might still be around as well. Anyone know how Black snakes and King snakes get along?


PS- And to add insult to injury, I'm now down to 4 CCI shot shells for my .22 . I'll have to see if I can find any for sale at a reasonable price locally. From the way things have been going, it looks like I'm going to need quite a few more this summer....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Threat Assessment

To set the stage, I live in a house on the side of a mountain. Not a big mountain by any means, but big enough to where any flat spots in my yard are cut back into the mountain, and have a retaining wall holding up what was not cut away. You may also remember that several months ago, I had sort of a snake infestation. It didn't seem that I could walk out of my front door without tripping over a Black Rat Snake, or espying a Copperhead. The copperheads are poisonous, and I kil and dispose of them, while I just try to shoo off any snakes that aren't poisonous. Usually the Black Rate Snake. This weekend, I saw an interesting Red-Bellied Snake. I see them occasionally in the yard, along with Ring-Necked snakes, and Worm snakes. Those three are all small, usually a twelve inches or less, and not even as big around as a number two pencil.

Anyway, I see this snake lying at the foot of the steps in the driveway. It has no real discernible pattern on it, just a dark grey with faint, darker lines running the length of it's body. I notice a slight tan discoloration to either side of its neck, just behind the head. After doing some research, it turns out the the Red-Bellied snake, and the Ring-Necked snaked, will sometimes cross-breed, producing a critter like what is before me. Interesting. Must be the hyphens that let them get along so well :)

Anyway, after not seeing any snaked for a month or two, I was happy that this one was small, and innocuous. Then, last night, as I step out front for a last smoke( ja vu anyone?) I get about halfway out the door when I notice something slithering along the top of the four foot retaining wall, about fourteen feet in front of me.

This is where the threat assessment part comes in. I mention it because it seems so odd to me. I did not identify the snake as a Copperhead, and therefore a threat. I did not identify the snake as poisonous, and therefore a threat. What I did, as I backpedaled into the house, was identify the snake slithering along the wall as "not a black snake". I was already grabbing the Rough Rider, loaded with shot, out of the holster, and heading back towards the front door, when it finally clicked in my head that the pattern I saw in the scales as it slithered along meant that it was in fact a Copperhead, and about twenty-three inches long judging from the distance it was stretched along the wall.

I step back out side, and of course, it's gone. However, I saw where it was going, and it wasn't moving fast, so I thumbed the hammer back, and stepped up within a couple of feet of the retaining wall, just forward of where I last saw the snake. The light from the porch caught the snakes eye as it lifted its head towards me to assess what I was, and I was able to draw a bead on it, and dispatch it quite easily. Still got a case of the willies when disposing of the carcass, as even though the head was so much mush, the body was still responding to touch, and trying to curl around the rake I was using to pick it up.

The thing that got me thinking was about how I assessed the threat in my head. As I mentioned, I did not immediately identify it as a poisonous snake, and therefore a threat. What I did, mentally, was identify it is not a black snake, which I know is benign, and therefore a possible threat to be identified after I had something in hand to kill it with. My brain caught up with itself such that I had identified it before I got back to it, but it was interested that i first determined that it was not immediately benign, and therefore a potential threat, to be identified at gun point.

I don't know if that's something I do normally, or only with snakes, as this was the first time I realized the thought process going on. I'll have to pay more attention to the thought process when engaged in job related activities where threats are of the two-legged variety, and see if I can recall how I assess things. If it follows along the same lines as what happened last night, then I would assume, that I would immediately identify Friendly and Not-Friendly. With the Not-Friendly designation not necessarily being a threat, or an Unfriendly, but needing futher examination to make that determination.

Hope you had a good weekend.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Heritage? Hate? Or just plain Ignorance?

So I saw a post debating heritage or hate in regards to the 'rebel' flag. This just happens to be a pet peeve of mine, so I decided to make a post about it, and see if I couldn't spread the word just a little bit. I'm going to use some images gathered from around teh web, as I can't seem to find my own image files for flags, but will credit them where linked.

This was the first 'Official' flag of the Confederacy. It was called the Stars and Bars, for what I assume are obvious reasons. In some battles, it became difficult to distinguish between Union troops and Confederate troops based solely on the flags flying above the units because of the similarity between the Stars and Stripes, and the Stars and Bars. Hence the need was felt to design a new flag that did not so closely resemble the flag of the Union armies.

This flag, which was the second 'Official' flag of the Confederacy, was called the Stainless. Because of the great expanse of pure white cloth(hence the name) it was sometimes confused with a flag of parley or surrender on the battlefield, especially when there was no wind blowing, and the flag would hang limp. This was also thought to be a bad thing, and so it was decided to alter the design a bit to prevent that confusion.

This flag, was meant to be the third 'official' flag of the confederacy, but was never ratified and adopted by the Confederate congress, the war having ended before such resolution could be brought to the floor for a vote.

Those are the only flags of the Confederacy, in the big sense. There were other flags, that people try to point to as Confederate flags, but in reality, while they may have been flags of confederate units, they were not flags of the Confederacy.

I'm sure you all recognize this one. No, it's not the flag of the Confederacy, but is in fact, the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The colors are a bit off in this jpeg. The red should be darker, more blood-like, almost a burgundy color. If my research is correct, this flag was always limned(out-lined) either with a white border for battlefield use, or with fancy gold for presentations.

Now this is the one that causes so much controversy. The colors here are, once again, a bit off. The blue is about right, but could be a tad lighter, and the red should have a more orange tone to it. This flag is, also, not the Confederate Flag, however, it was a Confederate Naval Jack. So it was a small flag, for a unit of the Confederacy, not the flag for everyone. I have seen a reference that states a flag of this design and proportion, scaled up to about a three by five foot size, and using the colors of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, was flown by a single regiment based out of Tennessee, in the last days of the Civil War. I've not been able to track down any more specific information, but then again, I don't spend a lot of time looking either :p

So, the flag people are yelling is heritage not hate, is probably not a whole lot of heritage. Unless of course, you happen to be descended from a veteran of the Confederate Navy. It has definitely been used as a symbol of hate in the past, and some still try to use it for that purpose today. However, it's mainly just a symbol of ignorance, because in this day and age, it shouldn't take anyone more than about two minutes to determine that it is not, and has never been, the Flag of the Confederacy.

If you truly want to honor Confederate heritage, then fly the Stars and Bars, or the Stainless, but waiving around an oversized naval jack is just ignorant.


PS - All jpegs came from