Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Most PI’s do a lot of vehicle surveillances, but there will usually come a time when you’ll be out of a car and have to follow a subject on foot. The first thing to keep in mind is to dress according to the neighborhood. It’s wise to carry an extra set of clothes in your vehicle in case where you’re going doesn’t fit what you’re currently wearing. Try to wear comfortable walking shoes. I prefer black ones, because they can also pass for dress shoes if you have to go upscale. Wear neutral colored clothing. Don’t wear bright colors like red or orange that will make you stick out. I also like to wear dark colored baseball hats without a logo. You can take it off and stick it in your pocket for a different look. When following someone on foot, the most important thing is to know how the subject looks from behind. Rarely will you be in front of him/her to see their face. The next important thing is to pay attention to the subject’s walking gait, because that’s what you’ll be keying on, especially in a crowd. Don’t be too close to the subject. Remember that you can only have to see a small portion of the subject and still successfully follow him. I once followed an individual who was carrying a black gym bag in his hand on a busy downtown street. At times all I could see was a portion of the bag, yet I was able to follow him successfully.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Here are some of the actual surveillance tools you’ll need for your vehicle.. Have a small tape recorder available because you won’t have the time to be writing things down like license numbers, addresses or descriptions. Whether you’re parked or driving, you can dictate right into the recorder. Keep a pen and paper handy for when you have time to write things down. You need some type of binoculars for distance viewing. I like to have both binoculars and a monocular. I find the latter is great if you’re sitting in the front seat of your vehicle and you don’t want to be obvious by using binoculars. A monocular is small and used with one hand. Make sure you have a number of coins handy in case you have to use metered parking. Have a good video and single shot camera that you’re familiar with. For camera use, I suggest at least a 70-300 lens. It’s also a good idea to have a tri-pod that you can use for shots focused on one spot. This stabilizes the camera for better pictures. Be sure that you have charged the batteries on both your video and single shot camera. If you do a lot of surveillance work, you might want to think about getting a portable air conditioner that you can run off of the cigarette lighter in the vehicle. Sitting inside a vehicle with the windows closed, especially during the dog days of summer, can be brutal. Bring some pillows to prop up against the seat for extra comfort. Lastly, make sure you have a change of clothes and a baseball hat in case you need to change clothing and/or your appearance.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
As a brand new officer with the LAPD, I was fortunate to have as a training officer the best street cop I ever worked with, and I worked with a lot of them. This was the first night I ever worked with him. As it was getting close to End of Watch, we started the perennial circling pattern near the station so when the on-coming shift came down we’d get in quick. It was near midnight and we were driving in a residential neighborhood when we both noticed two men peering into the picture window of the corner house. Even though I had only a few months on the job, I knew something wasn’t right. My training officer stopped the car, and we both jumped out with our guns drawn. The two men both started walking away from the house in different directions. As we yelled for them to freeze, they both reached into their waistbands and tossed guns on us. After proning them out on the ground and calling for backup, they were taken into custody without further incident.
Once we got them back to the station, my training officer interviewed them separately with me just sitting there. One of them confessed that they were hit men sent out from the East Coast to kill the people who lived in that house. He was a parolee and had done a lot of prison time back east. My training officer asked him, what with his prior record, the fact that he was on parole and had a gun, and knowing he would go back to prison again for this, why didn’t he shoot it out with us. I will never forget what the suspect said. He told my partner, “You both came out of the police car with your guns out, and you were ready. I didn’t want to die!” My training officer then told him, “Your right. We’d of shot you down like a dog in the street.”
After we booked them, I talked to my training officer about that conversation. He told me that every time he got a gun off of a suspect, he would always ask them why they didn’t shoot it out and try to get away. Invariably they’d say something like you were ready, or it wasn’t worth it, but whatever the reason they’d initially give, they’d usually end by saying they didn’t want to die. He would give them that signature line about being shot down like a dog in the street to make an imprint on their mind. He told me, “Someday that guy may have the drop on some cop. I want him to think about the consequences and what’s going to happen to him if he kills a cop. I figure someday that will save a cop’s life.”
From that day on every time I got a gun off of a suspect, I had the same conversation and told him the same thing. I’m sure there’s more then one cop walking around alive today because a suspect who had a gun and had the drop on him hesitated when he thought of the consequences.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
One night while I was still a rookie police officer with the LAPD, my training officer and I made a felony arrest. In those days, in order to book an arrestee for a felony, you had to get booking approval from the night watch detective. On this particular night, our division night watch detective was on a day off, so we had to go to another division to get booking approval. When I handed their night watch detective the booking approval, I noticed he was looking at what appeared to be an identification card that had his photograph on it. Being naturally inquisitive, I asked him what the card was. He replied that it was his private investigative license. I was non-pulsed, to say the least. I asked him how a police officer could also be a private investigator. He told me that the department allowed you to work as a private investigator off-duty as long as you didn’t work any criminal cases or civil cases involving the City of Los Angeles. He added that you needed three years on the job before you could apply to the state and take the PI test. You also needed a work permit from the department after you received the license. I filed that away in my mind under things to do later, and thirteen years later I took the test and obtained my PI license. Another chance encounter, but one that would later have a large impact on my life.
PS-Some years after I retired, after a headline grabbing case, the LAPD rescinded their approval of allowing officers work off-duty as PIs.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I’m a big believer in Divine intervention. What I mean is that oftentimes we try to plan and calculate our important life decisions, but what usually happens it’s the chance encounter or the ‘lucky’ incident that dramatically affect our lives. Take my life, for instance. I became a Los Angeles police officer by what I think was divine intervention. I was still in the Marines and had returned from my first overseas deployment. I was stationed at a large naval base on the east coast. I had decided to leave the Marine Corps and go into law enforcement. I was due to be separated from the Corps in one week. I was late for chow and took a shortcut to get to the mess hall. Just by chance I ran into my old battalion Sergeant Major who I had served with overseas. Neither of us had known the other had been stationed at this base. After I advised him I was getting out of the Marine Corps, he asked me what I was going to do. I told him I wanted to go into law enforcement, and I was going to apply to either Philadelphia PD or NYPD. I also mentioned that they, like most police departments on the East Coast, had a one year residency requirement. The Sergeant Major then asked me if I had ever thought about the Los Angeles Police Department. He might as well have asked me if I had thought about a police department on the moon. When I brought up the fact that not only did I not know anyone in Los Angeles, I thought I might have a tough time finding a job there while I waited for the one year residency to kick in. He then floored me with the fact that not only did they not have a residency requirement; he had a high ranking contact on the department. One week later, I was an honorably discharged Marine and flying across the country to Los Angeles. I spent 22 years working as a police officer and later as a detective, and as they say, the rest is history.