This is about my first real lesson learned while I was on probation at Northlake Police Department. Rookies take heed…
Now, when an officer passes FTO and is set on their own it is very exciting and “freeing.” You are free to pursue criminals and respond to calls in your own style. Even though you may be on your own, much still rides on the other officers you work as well as supervisors.
When I was a rookie, my FTO and a couple other fine and trustworthy officers advised me to find an officer or two that I trusted and only confide in them matters that could jeopardize my job/career. I should not trust everyone–boy is this true! I am not saying that i shouldn’t trust the other officers, I certainly trusted just about everyone I ever worked with as far as my safety was concerned. But when it came to internal matters such as union issues, personnel/management issues or anything that could get me or others in trouble, it was wise to only trust a select few. Almost 20 years later and these select few are still the ones that I would trust even though we all eventually went our separate ways (and still are in touch with,See Chief Dennis Koletsos).
After I was off FTO and was on the job approx. 9 months I experienced firsthand why I should not trust everyone, including and especially my supervisor. It is a shame that a rookie would have to experience what I did but it is stories like this that allows new officers to learn from others’ mistakes.
The supervisor I am talking about was a sergeant that had about 20 years experience and was a really nice guy. Funny, though, how once I person gets those stripes they forget who they were and turn into a literal jerk. This guy, I will call him John, was not a jerk to me but was to others. He talked about how we were lazy, etc.. when he didn’t do to much himself, to my knowledge. He did have lots of knowledge regarding the department and was bitter at the brass and politicians, but who isn’t.
One night, I believe it was 3-11 shift, I heard a stolen auto dispatch from another town next to ours. Shortly afterward I heard a veteran detective who was driving an unmarked car dispatch that he was following the vehicle. Well, needless to say I hauled ass to that location. When I was almost there I heard that a pursuit was starting. I arrived to join in my 1st pursuit just in time. Well, the pursuit proceeded to go into our town at which time I proceeded to take a street parallel to the offenders while the detective and the sergeant were behind them. The offenders then turned towards the street where I was and I turned directly at them. I just stopped and held on as they came at me. They turned through a yard at the last second–whew–and went back down the street that I had just came from with Sgt. John right behind them. I turned around and got behind Sgt. and we turned another corner when he cut off the offending vehicle and stopped in front of them. I stopped behind the offenders to box them in but they got around the Sgt. and started fleeing again.
Now, here is the fun part…. As I began to pull after them I saw that Sgt. John had exited his car and was pointing his revolver–back in 1990 lots of veteran officers still used revolvers–at the offenders. I hit the brakes as he got off a couple rounds. I saw that they were going to get away so I hit the gas as I went passed Sgt. John who was still shooting. I ducked my head as low as I could get since I was now between him and the offenders and heard some more rounds being fired right over my head. I chased the offenders down a dead end street where they drove over the embankment and into a creek. Other officers from surrounding towns, our detective, and Sgt John arrived as we took one offender into custody while the other offender got away across the creek somewhere.
Here is the critical time…As Sgt. John, our detective, and I talked about the situation Sgt. John made me the reporting officer, probably since I had captured the offender. As a rookie, and with nobody I totally trusted working with me that night, I trusted(had to?) that Sgt. John knew what he was doing. Discussing how I was to write the report–kind of a complicated one at this point in my career– Sgt. John proceeded to advise the facts to make sure I got in but failed to mention himself shooting his gun. I asked him about this and he stated that if nobody heard or saw the shots then they didn’t happen. I looked at the detective(I didn’t know him well but he ended up being the best officer I ever worked with) and he just made a gesture like he agreed.
I wrote out the report but failed to mention that Sgt. John fired his weapon without justification and had jeopardized my safety in doing so–although this did not cross my mind until days later. Well, a day or two later I get called into the Deputy Chief’s office. My former FTO was working and came in with me. It turned out that the lady whose car had been stolen had gotten it back from the tow company and had called to ask about the bullet holes that were in her bumper. As my report did not mention anything about this I was screwed. I looked at my former FTO, who knew what happened earlier in the day, and he told me to tell exactly what happened. After I explained the facts, Deputy Chief advised me that after they had notified Sgt. John about the lady’s inquiry he stated that he didn’t know why I didn’t mention the shooting in my report(even though he signed off on it) and he also turned in a Firearm’s Discharge Report to Deputy Chief–which he obviously back-dated.
Deputy Chief and Chief of Police both believed my version of the events and after being threatened with termination and loss of pension(I think this is what happened) Sgt. John cracked and gave up the boat and admitted back-dating the report, etc…. I thought I was history as I should have known better than to omit such a critical fact, even though I was told to do so. Turns out that Sgt. John got to ride the pine for a long time. Funny to see Mr. cool dispatching calls for so long. I got off with a written reprimand and a lesson well learned.