Real life experiences from Maryland
As most rookies joining the police force, I was very excited to be able to pursue a chosen field of law enforcement. My beginning was interrupted at first, before I even had a chance to get on the road and wear the uniform. During the last few weeks in the police academy, my class were at the emergency vehicle operations course, learning how to maneuver a cruiser at high speeds. Well, at the end of one class one day, as everybody was leaving the parking lot, I got to my car and noticed that I had a voice message. Once I got into my voice message and heard my team leader in my National Guard unit telling me to contact him ASAP after I get this message, my heart basically dropped as if I already knew what the call was about. It was about mid-June in 2003 when this happened, and instead of me calling back my team leader, I decided to head straight to the armory to find out myself what was going on. It was at this point that I was told that our unit was being deployed out of the country, to an unknown location, near mid-July. The horrible news that it was to me, I was more concerned about not having enough time to get things in order and to having to drop out of the police academy early. However, when I looked at the date of our deployment and when we were supposed to meet up at the armory, it was on my mother’s birthday, the same day we were due to graduate from the police academy. Needless to say, I was not able to graduate with my fellow classmates, and neither could my command staff allow me to join them later at Ft. Dix. Of course, my concern was that I may have to do the academy all over again, but it was brought to my attention months later, that I would be able to be plugged right back in with another class. Then by May or June 2004 I ended up finally graduating from the police academy getting my new career started.
Although I was given more time to finish my FTP (Field Training Program) due to my absence for nearly a year, it wasn’t needed, but that didn’t mean it was easy for me going through the process. I ended up with a FTO who was very particular in his set of ways, health and fit nut and demanded perfection, at least attempt to do your best and not slacking. Throughout the entire FTO process, except near the end when it was time for me to be cut loose, we butted heads a lot, but of course, my arguments were always overruled by either him or the squad sergeant. So a lot of times I kept to myself, and even at times I knew the answer to certain questions, but was afraid to get it wrong due to being castrated by my FTO for not knowing it. However, through all the frustrations I had with the process I ended up gaining a nickname of “Eye of the Storm” all because I would stir up trouble, even on Sundays, when it was nice and quiet. Time and time again I lived up to that name, and in this one particular incident that nickname would become nearly branded for life. Not sure what night it was, but I remember it was while we were working evening shift, sometime near ten o’clock, and my FTO was in the passenger seat looking out his window. As I drove passed one of the parking lots on campus, he motioned to me to turn the vehicle around and enter into the parking lot. It was like clockwork when we entered the parking lot, because the two suspects, who were trying to break into another car, saw us and drove off.
Now, if you are trying to escape from the police in a car, your best bet is not to use your getaway vehicle as a Dodge Caravan. It was the old version Dodge Caravan, the model that would normally have the engine smoke and leak oil! This was their getaway vehicle as we were in a police package Crown Victoria, fully marked and lighted up. Once we made a U-turn in the parking lot to pursue the suspects, they left the parking lot and campus, and back on to the road we just came from. I quickly sped up and caught up to them within a few seconds, but before I could even get my hand on the radio mic, my FTO grabbed by habit he said. Immediately, after he called out the registration plate, which I believe was a D.C. tag, and it came back stolen, I turned on my blue and red lights. Well, after my lights were turned on, the driver stomped on the gas and attempted to elude me in a DODGE CARAVAN! By this time the pursuit was called out over the radio by my FTO as I was just concentrating on driving behind the van and not lose it, HAHAHA! The van made a right turn at the second light in front of us, and then took a merge lane on to the four lane highway that cuts through the city and by campus. Maybe within a minute after getting on the four lane highway, another one of our cruisers pulled up to join the chase, which had two sergeants in it.
They stayed behind me, to me left, as I stayed with the van doing approximately 70-80mph. At this point I am excited and my adrenaline is pumping in thinking that they will keep straight for another few miles, hit the D.C. Beltway and it would really be on. That part of the excitement was short-lived when they turned back on to campus and came to a complete stop about 200 feet past the entrance. After a second, all four of us got out of our cruisers, weapons pointed at the van, and ordering the driver to exit the vehicle as we were conducting a felony stop. The most bizarre thing happened, and caught all of us off guard, when the driver jumped out, facing us with his hands up and the passenger jumped in the driver seat, closed the door and took off in the van. Here I am, with my FTO and two other sergeants with our weapons pointed at a guy standing about six and a half feet tall looking at each other as to figure out our next move. My FTO finally said to the two sergeants to go after the van as we take care of this suspect we have now. They both jumped back in the car and pursued after the van as I was giving my suspect orders to get on the ground to be arrested. Unknown to me, there was another cruiser coming up behind my cruiser as I was leaning over to search my suspect, and the next thing I remember was seeing a silver streak, bright headlights and a quick shot of a yellow parking light going by my head. I thank God for the quick reaction that officer had in avoiding taking my head off as I was conducting an arrest on my suspect. I can only imagine that it would not feel good, number one, and number two that explanation could get very sticky.
A few minutes later the van ended up crashing somewhere down in the city, and second suspect caught. However, that second suspect was only cited and released I believe, since I had the main one in custody. I was so excited that I made an arrest, especially off of a high speed chase, that I was ignorant to the paperwork that followed. The processing of all the charges and paperwork included, even with help, took another eight hours of my life that I can never get back. During the processing though I found out that the suspect was not only in possession of a stolen tag and vehicle, but also he was drunk, had an open warrant, violated a trespass notification, had burglary tools in his possession, marijuana and a suspended license. Not even some of the experienced officers there at that time had accomplished something like that, so the ones helping me had to learn as well, but were well adverse in the system still. I was due to get off work at 0230hrs, but didn’t get off work until close to 0700 or 0800hrs. OMG! It was a lot of work for me to do and learn, but the great thing about the whole thing was that I ended up knocking out maybe a dozen or so objectives that I needed to complete in order to get off FTO. That was the awesome thing about the whole chase and the processing, but believe it or not we were not done completely by 0700. We came in the following day, on our regular evening shift, and had to do some touch up on the report and other officers’ supplemental reports, and other paperwork that had to be completed.
The messed up part about all of this was, as I learned about how justice works in the county, that the suspect that I arrested only got off doing 18 months unsupervised probation, and the other guy never showed up to court. Apparently, the other suspect that we caught that night of the chase gave a false name, which ended up having the state’s attorney subpoena going to an older guy, who was not charged for obvious reasons. That night was an awesome night in the adrenaline rush, charging someone with eight or more different charges and clearing out much needed objectives, however, it sucked on the paperwork aspect of the job though. Since that night I don’t remember having another kind of chase or night like that, although I have had plenty of busy nights working in a college town, which comes without saying I think. It was at this point that I started to see how the justice system is in general, not just towards black men, but how they prosecute certain crimes and which ones they decide to go after. This kind of work of the justice system really makes our job tougher to enforce certain laws and rules when we know that people will only get off anyway, as my suspect did in court with 18 months unsupervised probation. Yet, they want you to do more enforcement, but it is never or rarely explained of how they want that to happen. Years past and one of the sergeants that was on the chase is now a major, and the other one left to go elsewhere, but heard she might be home now being a mother. My FTO left the agency some months or years later, and is now living in Georgia, married and happy with a child. I hope to never forget my experiences during that time, while on FTO, and I suppose that is why I am writing about them now so I don’t. Smart move in my book.