Sunday, September 30, 2007

Here's a big "Thank You!" to Fort Lauderdale P.D.'s Aviation Unit - It is long overdue!

Here's one of my recent posts from
(Infinity Publishing created for people who like to write)

From our favorite t.v. cop shows, and action flicks at the movies, most people do know that helicopters are routinely used by the various law enforcement agencies around the country. Heck, who could ever forget that dramatic low-speed pursuit with O.J. and the white Bronco. And, thanks to the many helicopters that were overhead, we all got to watch this drama unfold in real-time on our t.v. sets.

But, I bet most people don’t know that even before helicopters became the favorite high-priced toy of the police, some departments experimented and used single-engine fixed-wing aircraft for patrol and surveillance duty. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, in Florida, was one of these. In fact, I believe Fort Lauderdale P.D. was one of the very first in Florida, if not the nation, to do this. Fort Lauderdale’s plane was a single-engine Cessna and “Aerial 1” was its radio call sign.

In the mid-1970s there was a dramatic increase in violent crime in Fort Lauderdale. One of the things the police department did to combat this was to create a special tactical unit, called the Tactical Impact Unit (T.I.U.). Thanks to a federal grant, this unit was equipped with some of the newest and most sophisticated equipment available (see my previous post under the “Guns” Forum which tells about the .22 cal. laser-sighted machine gun).

In the mid-1970s T.I.U. was involved in a couple of major surveillances. These surveillances, which lasted for many weeks, also involved the Department’s Aviation Unit (“Aerial 1”). In fact, without the assistance of this unit, and its dedicated pilots and observers who were all sworn F.L.P.D. officers, it is highly doubtful these surveillances would have succeeded, as they eventually did. T.I.U. received most of the glory and the accolades, but the Aviation Unit really deserved much of the credit.

For anyone interested in these events, they are described in detail in my book published by Infinity in August of 2006. If you like stories about true crime, guns and aviation themes, with lots of action, then I believe you’ll enjoy reading my book. My book is titled: Badge 149 – “Shots Fired!”

Sadly, Fort Lauderdale P.D. no longer has an Aviation Unit. Thanks to modern budget considerations, declining manpower, or what have you, F.L.P.D. did away with its Aviation Unit (which did eventually use helicopters), and now they rely solely on the Broward County Sheriff’s Department for aerial support. Fort Lauderdale’s Aviation Unit is just a fond memory for those of us who worked and served with its proud members. It is now just a piece of law enforcement and aviation history.

Here is a brief excerpt from my book’s Epilogue:

“On August 3, 1981, ‘Aerial 1’ crashed while on routine patrol over the southwest section of the City. Kenneth Petersen, one of the original members of our department’s Aviation Unit, and another officer pilot/observer, John Alexander, were both killed instantly.

Joe Gerwens, one of my sergeants from my old T.I.U. days became Chief of Police of Fort Lauderdale P.D. in 1987. Unfortunately, Joe also had to endure the unthinkable during his tenure as Chief and on May 25, 1989, tragedy again struck F.L.P.D. when ‘Aerial 1’ crashed during a return flight from the City of Tallahassee. Both the pilot, Officer Frank Mastrangelo Jr., and his passenger, Detective Norman Eddy, were killed.”

* * * * * * * *

If any readers of this post are ex-officers who worked in an Aviation Unit during the mid-1970s, I would love to hear back from you. Or, even if you were not in law enforcement yourself, if you know of a specific law enforcement agency that employed single-engine fixed-wing aircraft in the 1970s, I’d like to hear from you too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Are these people just stupid, or what?

Let me see if I have this weird story straight:

A 19-year old college student went to Boston's Logan International Airport to meet her boyfriend who was arriving there. This student, Star Simpson, is a sophomore at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology
. I don't know that much about MIT, but I do believe you have to be at least a little bit smart to go there. According to the attorney who was appointed to represent her, Ms. Simpson is a graduate of the Hawaii Preparatory Academy, a private boarding school, and she is now the secretary of MIT's Electrical Research Society. She has also won school prizes for chemistry and leadership and has even received a Congressional citation for her work in robotics. So, MIT is definitely not a school for the intellectually challenged.

Anyway this girl Star (I hope she doesn't mind me calling her Star), she apparently approached an information counter at the airport's arrivals terminal around 8:00 a.m. At least one of the counter people noted her unusual attire, which consisted of an object strapped to her body (chest), that looked like a possible bomb. It was a white circuit board measuring roughly 2 inches by 6 inches, with protruding wires, lights and a nine-volt battery. The device, whatever it was, apparently was functioning because the nine lights were flashing. Oh, she also reportedly was carrying a lump of something that was either modeling clay or Play-Doh. For those who might not be that familiar with explosives, plastic explosives (like C-4) is
a relatively stable, solid explosive that has a consistency similar to Play-Doh and/or modeling clay.

Because I'm talking about plastic explosives, I guess I should also mention the nut Richard Reid, a member of al-Qaeda, who tried to blow up American Airlines Flight #63 on December 22, 2001, just a few short months after 9/11. Reid is the so-called "shoe bomber" and that's because the plastic explosive he used (PETN) was hidden in the lining of his shoes. Flight #63 was headed from Paris to Miami, but when Reid's actions were interrupted the plane was quickly diverted to Boston's Logan International Airport.

After Star inquired about the arriving flight, she walked back outside the terminal. The person manning the information booth inside the terminal notified a nearby trooper. That trooper, along with other law enforcement officers with machine guns, confronted Star in front of the terminal. According to Major Scott Pare, Logan Airport's commanding officer of law enforcement, "She was immediately told to stop, to raise her hands and not to make any movement, so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to trip any type of device." Major Pare then noted that had she not followed instructions, and had she done something unusual, deadly force could have resulted. "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue," Major Pare reportedly said. Amen to that! I can just visualize what would have happened if the poor girl had decided to put the Play-Doh in her pocket.

Because Star was arrested outside of the terminal airport operations were not affected. The terminal was not evacuated and no flights were affected either. Authorities quickly determined that the device she wore was not a real bomb. And, even though Star said it was just a piece of "art" she had created, they did charge her with possession of a hoax device and she was eventually released on a $750.00 bond. The prosecutor reportedly wanted a much higher bond ($5,000.00), but didn't get it. Even though the "hoax" bomb charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, I seriously doubt she will be sentenced to any jail time. That is, of course, if she's even found guilty. I say "if" because nothing is certain in this sometimes crazy Post-9/11 world we live in.

Speaking of 9/11, some of the news sources I read said the authorities were amazed that someone would wear such an odd looking device after the tragic events of September 11 (2001). Two of the jets hijacked that dreadful day took off from Logan Airport. American Airlines Flight #11, bound for Los Angeles, struck the World Trade Center's North Tower; United Airlines Flight #175, also bound for L.A., hit the Trade Center's South Tower. Both of these planes departed Logan Airport. "I'm shocked and appalled that someone would wear this type of device to an airport," Major Pare stated. I would have to agree with him.

Although I do feel that Star used some very poor judgment, I also believe she did not really intend to cause a problem at Logan Airport. In my opinion, she's probably naive and immature, just like so many other young people her age and she really didn't have a clue that what she was doing could turn out so wrong. Young people often don't think about the possible negative ramifications of their actions. I know when I was 19, many years ago, I didn't. Now, I often wonder how I managed to survive. As a teenager I did some incredibly stupid things. I'm sure we ALL did. Then, even after I became a police officer, when I turned 21, I was still immature and didn't have a clue about the real world. Unfortunately, I think that's what Star's problem was too. So, I think a mere $750.00 bond was definitely appropriate. I don't see her as being a risk to either repeat this experience, or to flee.

Even though I can sympathize (a little) with Star, I still feel it is disgusting that her court appointed attorney (Ross Schreiber) is so quick to blame the police for what happened. In the news articles I read it indicated the attorney used words like "overreaction" and "off base" to describe the charges Star now faced. He also reportedly said,
"I would characterize it as almost being paranoid at this point." According to the attorney, Star was at the airport for "legitimate purposes." In his argument before the court, I imagine to get the bond lowered (as it was), the attorney said that Star did not act in a suspicious manner and she even told the person at the information counter that the device was just her "art" project she created.

Once piece I read said that when Star was originally asked about the device she was wearing, she didn't even answer and turned and walked back outside the terminal. I don't know if that's true. But, let's go ahead and suppose she DID answer and told the person what she had on was her "art" work. So, Star says the device she's wearing is just art, and the person who first saw her is supposed to take her at her word? Give me a break! It's to bad that someone at Logan wasn't a little "paranoid" back on 9/11! I read that 3 of the 5 hijackers of American Airlines Flight #11 were selected for further screening by CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System). So, apparently the computer was at least a little "paranoid" about these three. It's to bad someone human wasn't "paranoid" too.

Law enforcement officers are just like everyone else on this planet; they're human, and they have to rely on their senses, training and experience to influence their decision-making. Sorry Mr. attorney, but police officers are NOT mind readers! I wish we were. It would be nice to be able to read a person's mind and instantaneously know what they're thinking, and what their intentions are. But, unfortunately, we don't have that ability, so we have to reply on our own good common sense. So, it would have been nice for Star's attorney to have talked about her lack of serious intent, rather than blame the cops for what transpired. He did a huge disservice to the men and women who were out there on the front lines trying to do their jobs and protect the public.

One of these days, I'm sad to say, I do expect that there will be a suicide bombing somewhere here in America. There are so many of these lunatics and fanatics out there, that to me, it almost seems inevitable. Remember homegrown American terrorist Timothy McVeigh? Back on April 19, 1995, this nut coldly and deliberately killed 168 innocent men, women and children in Oklahoma City. I'm not sure if this is true, but I seem to remember McVeigh once saying (after he'd been caught) that if he had been approached by anyone, including a police officer, when he left that Ryder Truck in front of the Federal Building, he was prepared to blow himself up with the truck, just to make sure his plans succeeded.

Unfortunately, if that day does come, and a suicide bombing does eventually occur here in America, there is also a very good possibility that some of the people killed will probably be law enforcement officers trying to stop it.
Paranoid? You bet! Only a fool doesn't worry about these nuts and what they might do someday.

I guess the best thing I ever heard was something
Henry Kissinger supposedly once said:

"Even a paranoid can have enemies."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unruly college student meets the Taser

Well, I'm sure we've all at least heard about that poor innocent 21-year old college student who got introduced to a police taser the hard way. I also know that many of us have viewed the various videos of this incident. One article I read said that as of Tuesday afternoon the videos of the arrest had been viewed more than 400,000 times on YouTube.

Monday's incident started when the University of Florida student refused to leave the microphone after his allotted time was up. Most of the original videos that were shown only showed the confrontation with the campus police and not what led up to it. But, on the web site there are two (2) different videos, taken from different angels. One of these two videos even shows Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) on stage as he calls on the student in question. But, instead of asking a specific question, the student makes a speech and he even recommends a book that Kerry should read. Kerry says he has. This is when the campus police officers first try to talk with him.

You can't really hear or see what the officers are saying, but it seems they are telling the student to either ask a specific question, or telling him that his time is up. Instead of being co-operative he is rude, obnoxious and confrontational. It is obvious he could care less what the officers have to say. They are bothering him and they are interfering with his own personal agenda. "I'll ask my question!" the student says forcefully, apparently not intending to be denied this moment in the spotlight. He pretty much just dismisses them and it seemed very apparent to me, from watching this video, that this student has absolutely no respect at all for the police.

Shortly before the microphone is cut off, the student says something like, "I'm gonna inform people and then I'm gonna ask you my question." Kerry can be heard in the background, but I'm not sure what he's saying. He may have asked the student to go ahead and ask his question. When the officers apparently try to intervene again, he says something like, "I'm not even done yet and I have two more questions." Shortly after this is when he asks Kerry about the secret organization at Yale (Skull and Bones) and did he and President Bush belong to it. The microphone cuts off shortly after that.

The student is clearly agitated that the microphone has been turned off and he obviously blames the police. I'd bet money the police officers didn't cut it off themselves and someone with the event probably did. Maybe the Tech-guy. "Thank you for cutting my mike. Thank you," he says disgustedly at the officers. They try to escort him away from the area and that's when he really becomes unruly. At one point the audience applauds, but we don't know if this is because of a remark Kerry has just made, or because the officers were taking this disruptive and disorderly individual away. Or, maybe they were applauding the actions of the student and letting him know they were behind him. We don't know. For the most part, the audience just sat there and watched the incident in silence. The only person really heard is the disorderly student as he yelled at the officers, and the crowd too.

At one point in the altercation, in the main audience area near the microphone stand, one officer is standing there and pointing what looks like a Taser at the student, while other officers are trying to control him. I think it's important to note, I don't believe they used the Taser then, and they were able to remove him from the audience area to the back lobby area by physical force alone. This shows me that the officers didn't want to use a Taser if they didn't have to.

It took up to four officers to remove the student from the main audience area to the back lobby-like area. As he was being pushed backwards he continued to scream for help as he tried to break away from the officers. His arms were flailing at them and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them had been struck by the student. As the officers tried to force him to the floor so they could handcuff him, they ordered him to stop resisting.

At the back of the audience area the student momentarily breaks away from the officers trying to control him and he backs up away from them and he even seems to take up a fighting stance. He also yells angrily, "Get away from me man! Get away from me!" I'm sure the officers felt that he was going to continue to struggle and he may even attack them with his fists and/or legs. He almost looked as if he was ready to kick out at the officers, but then they quickly took him down to the floor. On the floor, as the officers tried to handcuff him, he yelled, "Get off of me!" It wasn't until the student was on the floor, still struggling to get free, that they used the Taser. And, I believe they verbally warned him that if he didn't stop his resisting, they would do this.

Was this an unnecessary and/or an excessive use of force? To be honest, I don't know. There is no doubt in my mind that the subject was fighting the officers and resisting arrest. No doubt! I have been, and most officers have been too, in numerous incidents just like this. Years ago, before we had Tasers, we had Mace. So, in a similar incident years ago, would I have used Mace? Maybe. The only reason I might not would have been my concern for the crowd, and how the Mace might effect them. But, with a Taser, you don't have those same concerns. It's a one-on-one weapon. And, that's why they give nightsticks, Mace, and yes, even Tasers, to police officers. When an individual resists arrest an officer can use whatever force he needs to overcome that resistance. If the individual increases his resisting, then the officer increases the level of force he needs to use.

But, was the use of a Taser in this instance, when the subject was on the floor, with 3-4 officers trying to control him, and HIM still struggling to get free, was the use of the Taser justified? Could be. The college, the police department and F.D.L.E. (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) will all look at this incident and investigate it. I would suggest before anyone rushes to judgment, they give these reviews a chance. I looked at a number of different videos and each showed me something different. On one video it even sounds like, just before the microphone is turned off, that the student said the word "Blowjob." Did he? Is that why the mike was turned off, because he used profanity? I don't know, but it sure sounded like he said that Clinton got impeached for a "Blowjob." He was asking Kerry why he wouldn't impeach President Bush. I looked at a few of the other videos and I didn't hear this offensive word. Maybe the offending word was deleted before the video was turned over to the media. That's one possibility. A review of all available video should be done and this will, and should, take some time.

I listened to the Sean Hannity radio show today and he was very pro-police and his opinions and comments very much mirrored my own. All this student had to do, to avoid the incident he caused, was to obey the rules and when his time at the microphone was up, his time was up! What made HIM so special that he could stay there at the microphone and continue to make a speech and monopolize Senator Kerry's time? After all, the audience didn't come to hear the student spout off, they came to hear John Kerry. As usual, I wasn't disappointed by Sean Hannity's insightful reasoning and his good common sense logic. I am still a fan!

But then, later today I stumbled upon the Michael Savage radio program and I was really appalled by some of his harsh criticism. In fact, I couldn't believe some of the things he said. And, in addition to him personally verbally attacking these campus police officers from the University of Florida, when a caller called in and tried to defend them, Mr. Savage verbally attacked the caller. Perhaps what bothered me the most about Mr. Savage's tirade was the fact he was so wrong in some of the things he said. He said the officers involved in this incident with the student were not really certified police officers and I think he even referred to them as rent-a-cops. Well, the University of Florida has its own nationally accredited law enforcement department and all they do is protect and serve the University. Yes, Mr. Savage, they are real cops and according to the department's web site there are approximately 89 of them. If you're going to state something as fact, how about first getting your facts straight?

I went to the web site of Mr. Savage, hoping to send him an e-mail telling him how wrong he was about the rent-a-cops he had verbally attacked. Well, on his web site I found the following disgusting and offensive title:


Wow! Like I said, I'm still a huge fan of Sean Hannity. What about Michael Savage and the Savage Nation? Will I ever listen to him again? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Thank you!" Sheriff Ken Jenne

I would just like to say "Thank you!" to Broward County (Florida) Sheriff Ken Jenne. According to news reports Sheriff Jenne resigned Tuesday after he finally agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and federal tax evasion charges. Sheriff Jenne will reportedly plead guilty to one (1) count of mail fraud and three (3) counts of tax evasion. Jenne faced a possible grand jury indictment on more serious charges, which even included money-laundering, and his plea agreement apparently helps him avoid these other charges. Jenne won't get off lightly though, and the once powerful Democrat, because of federal sentencing guidelines, will more than likely go to prison for up to two years.. The guilty plea also means that Jenne will probably be barred from holding any future public office and he will likely lose his license to practice law in Florida. His State of Florida pension could also be adversely effected too.

In 1998, then-Governor Lawton Chiles appointed Jenne to be the sheriff of Broward County, Florida's second-most populous county. Jenne, who was a lawyer and a veteran politician, had no previous law enforcement experience. He replaced Ron Cochran, an ex-Chief of Police from Fort Lauderdale P.D. Sheriff Cochran died in office while he was the Broward County Sheriff. Jenne was re-elected in both 2000 and 2004 and he would eventually run a law enforcement agency that had over 6,000 employees and an annual budget of almost $700 million dollars.

Tuesday morning, after Jenne's resignation was official, in an e-mail to his employees he said, "Today, I'm retiring from public service." He went on to say, "I need to turn my attention to myself and my family." His e-mail ended with, "Stand tall. Stand proud. Stay safe." What a bunch of crap!!!!!!!

My "Thank you!" to Sheriff Jenne is, of course, a purely sarcastic comment. Sheriff Jenne, Broward County's top cop, disgraced himself, and his office. But, what is really pathetic is the fact that his deputies will now have to be the ones to continue on with Jenne's tainted legacy hanging over them. How many citizens in Broward County will lose some respect for the agency and the proud men and women who serve there, just because Ken Jenne could not tell right from wrong.

I'm confident the men and women of the B.S.O. will "Stand Tall" and they will "Stand proud." And, I'm sure they will prevail and eventually move on and outlive this disgrace that Jenne has brought upon the Office of the Sheriff of Broward County. But, because of his disruptive and demoralizing actions will they be able to "Stay safe" too. I hope so.

Prosecutors working the Jenne investigation were ready in mid-August to finalize the plea the sheriff would eventually offer, but then on August 10, 2007, B.S.O. Sergeant Chris Reyka was murdered and this delayed the entire process a little longer. It was felt that it would be inappropriate, and probably very disruptive, to remove the sheriff at such a critical moment, so Jenne was given a brief reprieve, albeit for just a few weeks.

The brutal murder of Sgt. Reyka was a crime that shocked the citizens of Broward County. The viciousness displayed by the killer as he gunned down the veteran officer was unusual, even by south Florida standards where brutal and cruel sometimes seemed almost routine. To this day, the crime still has not been solved and the reward for information about the suspect(s) responsible is well in excess of $250,000.

There is also a very touching video tribute to Sgt. Reyka and I would urge anyone who reads this blog to view it.

Ken Jenne and Sgt. Chris Reyka both belonged to a very fine law enforcement organization, the Broward County Sheriff's Office. One man, Jenne, disgraced himself and cast a cloud over this agency he managed; but the second man, Chris Reyka, stood for honor, integrity and duty. I'm almost ashamed to mention Sgt. Reyka in the same post as I do Ken Jenne, but unfortunately their stories and lives, though very much different, are indelibly interwoven. What is important is that we never forget the sacrifices that men, and women, like Chris Reyka make on our behalf. Their unselfish devotion to duty, sometimes even giving their lives in the process, can easily make me forget about the Ken Jenne's of this world.

"Thank You!" Sheriff Jenne. Yeah, thanks for nothing!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Introduction to my law enforcement blog

I have been a police officer for all of my adult life. I never really wanted to be anything else and my dream eventually became a reality. I've loved being a cop and overall I think I was a pretty good one too. I also think that most of the dedicated men and women in the law enforcement profession are here because they want to make a difference. They want to do something worthwhile and good. They want to help their fellow man and make this world a better place for all of us to live in.

I know there are some bad cops, the very few who dishonor us all and abuse the awesome power they've been entrusted with. But, these "rotten apples" are definitely in the minority and the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers try to do their difficult jobs the best way they can. Do some of them make mistakes along the way? Only those that never get involved in anything at all avoid the possibility they might do something wrong. Most, and I do include myself here too, can't help but make a mistake now and then. Unless you hide in your office every night, and never venture out onto the streets, occasionally making a few mistakes is almost unavoidable. The smart officers learn from their mistakes, and then never make the same mistake again. Others, and again I believe this is a relatively small number, don't learn a damn thing and they usually repeat the same mistake over and over again.

This blog is obviously about the law enforcement profession, the brave men and women in it, the bad guys they encounter, and the many other difficulties and challenges officers have to face on almost a daily basis. I am basically a very pro-police and patriotic individual, so this blog will usually be slanted in these directions, but if there is something negative that I feel needs to be said or pointed out, then I will do that too. I guess you could say that I hope this blog will be a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly.