What is it like to be a police officer? Citizens can find out a lot by doing a one shift ride-a-long, but it actually takes a trained professional law enforcement officer 3 – 5 years before the officer has seen and experienced almost everything and finally can answer the question, “What is it like to be a police officer?”
The thing that is routine about a police officer’s day is there is no day that is ever routine. Every day, every call and every contact can be and is typically different.
On about May 10, 2016, during “routine” patrol, one of our Lakewood Police officers discovered a one car versus fence collision. The car had plowed into a section of McChord Air Force Base (JBLM) perimeter fence.
During the officer’s contact with the driver he observed a semi-auto handgun with an extended magazine inside the vehicle. The word observed is a key word and important function for police officers, because often the act of observing, including the tiniest details, can help the officer stay alive and observing can often help solve crimes.
The last sentence above just caused me to flash back to an incident at the old Lakewood Mall when I served as a Lakewood Police officer. During a suspicious person contact, I observed a homicide victim’s name on a stolen checkbook. That tiny detail got the investigation ball rolling ultimately solving of a homicide with several suspects going to prison.
Back to my original story. It is specifically against the law for a felon to possess a firearm.
The driver had a criminal history that included Assault II and narcotics convictions.
The end result of this officer accident-victim contact was the arrest of the driver for the firearm and driving violations.
The arresting officer also had knowledge of a recent shooting incident near Ward’s Lake Park related to a Hill Top Crip funeral. Police call this, “knowing your beat”. The vehicle that struck the fence matched the description of the vehicle seen leaving the Wards Lake Park shooting scene with an armed male inside.
Based on that, the vehicle was towed to what police often call the cage to await a judge’s signature on a search warrant. The cage is a locked and secure windowless space covered on all sides, top and bottom in which something as large as a vehicle can be stored. Access to the cage is controlled including the keys to the cage. A record is made of any and all individuals who access the cage where the evidence is stored. The doors and trunk are secured with crime tape including a date and lead officer’s initials.
When the officer returns to execute the search warrant, his first step is to confirm that none of the tape seals have been disturbed.
It is all about the legal principle, chain of custody. If done properly, a defense lawyer will find it difficult to impossible to make a defense claim that someone planted evidence in his client’s vehicle.
It reminds me of the time I impounded a car for a search warrant related to a barn burglary… I think I better save that story for another time.
I would call the Lakewood officer’s actions excellent police work. Remember, the officer was not dispatched to the scene by a 911 call. The officer carved this entire crime solving phenomenon out of the thin air, starting with nothing.
The Lakewood officer observed the collision. He investigated the scene and observed the firearm. He connected the dots bringing together two separate criminal incidents, giving him probable cause for the subject’s arrest and the confiscation of the subject’s vehicle as evidence for purposes of requesting a search warrant.
Another “routine” day in the life of a Lakewood police officer.
Check this out. The officer’s actions described above relate to each and every of the five listed elements in the Lakewood Police Department’s Mission Statement, especially, Reduce Crime and Protect Life and Property.
Well done Lakewood Police.