An ugly job, but it’s a living

The Job

Bizarro Chicago

Maybe the times have changed, or maybe Chicago is really located in Bizarro World.   But there is definitely some serious weirdness going on when the Chief of Police has a summit with the leaders of the city’s gangs.

CHICAGO — The idea seemed simple though bold: Call reputed gang leaders to a meeting with top police and federal prosecutors and deliver an ultimatum to end killings in the nation’s third-largest city.

My college professors will be offended when I say that I really don’t think that members of a criminal gang are legitimate stakeholders when it comes to public safety.  If we have to stick labels on people, let’s call them, the enemy.  That might just be my insensitivity shining through, or perhaps I really am a dinosaur.

“What are we doing negotiating or having a sit-down with urban terrorists who are killing with guns and drugs on the streets?” Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti said. “Gangs are not to be coddled.”

Hey Bob, you and me are on the same wavelength.

The only thing you negotiate with an enemy are the conditions of surrender.

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Nerves of steel

Here in the U.S. a SWAT guy or gal would have taken a shot from a distance.  In China, we does it differently.

I’m not going to comment on her technique, but I admire the guts it took to pull this one off.


Cat – the other white meat?

The day I started the police academy was filled with speeches.  It was a media event  which lured the Mayor, half the City Council, the Chief, and a number of other self-aggrandizing community organizers leaders.   There were many, many speeches, the freaking mother-lode of speeches.

In my life I’ve suffered through a lot of speeches, most of which I forgot before they were over.  But from all the speechifying on that day I remember two quotes.   Both are ingrained in my memory because they turned out to be extremely accurate predictions about my police career.

The first, from our class Sergeant – in a speech that he gave after all the politicians had left.

If you don’t like the way we do things here, don’t let the door slap you in the ass on the way out.

I think he shocked a few people with those words, but they needed to be said on the very first day.  Just because you’ve been chosen to help feed the chow to the big criminal justice machine doesn’t make you immune from getting hurt if you get caught up in the moving parts.  Of the 75 cadets that started that class, only 36 made it off probation a year later.  Several more fell over the years, some in spectacular front-page news stories, others just fired and moved on.  The blue machine is a harsh mistress and she demands much.

But the other quote – that came from the Chief.   Well over six feet tall, he had grown up in the SCPD of old when it was a law unto itself and answerable to nobody.  A former-Marine with the vocabulary of a thesaurus, he could match verbal wits with just about anyone.   A political insider, he had stabbed more than a few adversaries in the back on the  way up the ladder.    The media hated interviewing him because he embarrassed them when they couldn’t understand the words he tossed out in his answers.    He was hated by many from within and without the department, but few people dared to get in his way.

Anyway, I remember him standing at the lectern and saying these words:

You’ve just bought yourself a ticket to the greatest show on earth.

Getting that badge is like getting a tour behind the scenery at Disney World – except this tour is backstage of the real world.   Everybody hides something behind a mask, or locked away in a trunk.   Everybody – you, me, your spouse, your kids, and even your mom – has some little secret that they don’t want the world to see.   When the shit goes bad and the cops are called, that’s when the masks are pulled away and the hidden trunks are drug out and opened wide.

To a baby police officer this is some heady stuff, but we soon learn that everybody is a little twisted.  We also learn that there is not a lot of new stuff under the sun – that freakiness you’ve been fervently hiding all of these years is duplicated millions of times over in the secret lives of others just like you.  We’ve probably already seen your special weirdness ten times this week.

Yet every now and then we do get surprised.  A real show-stopper comes along once in a while that makes even the most jaded cop want to reach for the blue ribbon to award the “Craziest Bastard of the Year”.

When Ferry-Fillmore District officers pulled over a car driven by Gary L. Korkuc on Sunday night during a traffic stop, they said they heard a cat crying from inside the trunk and investigated.

What they found has left animal lovers at the SPCA Serving Erie County in shock.

The cat, according to police, was in a cage “marinating” in a mixture of crushed red peppers, chili pepper, salt and oil.

If you look under Gary Korkuc’s furniture you will probably find those marbles he’s been looking far.  I mean, the man is most likely regular crazy as opposed to Anton Chigurh force-of-nature evil.  Whether he’s evil, crazy or both; Gary is not all that unusual.  And that’s why the nice police officer looks at you that way after stopping you for being a few miles over the limit.  You feel all nice and comfortable hiding whatever behind your mask, but we’ve seen too many masks pulled away to reveal the truth.

When a cop pulls you over, he might see the $50,000 car and the $1,000 suit, but in his mind’s eye he’s wondering what your freak flag looks like underneath all of those pinstripes…or if you have a calico marinating in the trunk.


Does your watch say it’s time to go to jail?

(Saved from the old blog – this was posted July 25, 2004 with the above title.)

At 4:30 Saturday morning I was knee deep in one of my collateral duties. It was one and a half hours into the operational phase, and we were in the process of arresting 75 drunks, drug dealers, prostitutes and other miscellaneous criminals at a Salvadoran bar. The street was full of police cars, as was the parking lot, in addition to a bus with “Some City Police” emblazoned across the sides. There were half a dozen cops in the parking lot and more coming from the club with handcuffed prisoners for the bus ride to jail.

Through the middle of this came Mr. Genius strolling down the sidewalk heading straight to the club. Six foot 2, and most definitely not a Salvadoran. I was talking with a couple of officers who their had their backs turned to him, but they saw the curious look on my face and turned around to see the dude.  Mr. Genius was called over and asked where he was going.

”In the club, man”

I was incredulous. Pointing to all of the police, police cars and the bus full of people going to jail, I asked him if he thought that his course was really all that wise.

“Man, I ain’t worried about that cause I’m not no criminal. I’m a good person.”

Sigh.

“No, you’re not. It’s 4:30 in the morning and the only people on the street at this time are paperboys, criminals and cops.  I don’t see any newspapers or a badge.

His criminal record and the judge who had signed a warrant for his arrest seemed to agree with me.

I would have liked to have seen the puzzled looks on the faces of the jail booking officers, who were expecting  the big load of prisoners that Vice was bringing in from a raid on an Hispanic club, only to see 75 Salvadorans got off the bus with Mr. Genius standing in the middle of them.


Exposing yourself

Get your mind out of the gutter please, we’re talking about cops who blog and the risks they assume when they do.  Or in this case, when they post on Facebook and somebody doesn’t like what they see.

Deyna Carabajal is a police officer in Houston and she’s riding a desk rather than working the streets while IAD investigates her work-related Facebook postings.   Another Facebook user complained that Carabajal’s page contained postings that were inappropriate.  Apparently she doesn’t like Hondurans, or more accurately she doesn’t like Hondurans who are illegal immigrants and otherwise find ways to break the law.

The postings on Facebook were discovered by a Honduran woman who was connected as a “friend” with the officer on the popular social networking site, allowing her to read the officer’s posts on the World Wide Web.”At first, they were offensive to me and I just thought she wasn’t doing her job,” said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”I just feel uncomfortable and, to be honest, she’s in law enforcement and they should protect and guide us to the right path,” said the woman, who has never met the officer in person.

Numerous postings by Officer Deyna Carabajal, 32, spelled out her dislike for Hondurans, including numerous posts where she suggested she would arrest them for various reasons.”Zero tolerance 4 yall today,” she wrote in one of her posts. “Y’all look at me wrong at all today — y’all riding,” she wrote. “Riding” is police lingo for taking a trip to jail.

I’ve seen this before too many times, and I’ve discussed it in detail before: Staying Low And I’ve outlined my research on the legal issues as well as laying out my rules for cops who want to blog and stay out of trouble: Freedom of Speech and Internet Publishing for Da Pohleece. If you don’t want to read all of that – what you need to know is, don’t post work stuff where the general public can see it. Yes, you do have 1st Amendment rights like everyone else, but when it comes to publishing work related information your rights get limited. And, if you are going to post work stuff on the internet, you have to balance the public’s interest to be informed against your agency’s interest to run without being embarrassed by its employees.

If you’re wondering if Officer Carabajal is going to get zapped – the answer is almost certainly that she will.  If she’s lucky she gets to keep her job, but at the very least she’s going to get some form of discipline.

The first problem is that she publicly said that there is a nationality, Hondurans, that get no slack from her.  That is the sort of thing that makes police administrators’ jaws start clenching.

Chief McClelland said, “This is not the first time an individual, if that’s true …what you’re saying, have been disciplined for this type of behavior. It happens from time to time and we certainly have policies on the books to deal with that.”

That’s chief-speak for, “I already know what policy violations we’re going to cite her for”.

And to be fair you have to concede the man’s point here. While real cops are rolling around in the street wrestling crooks, guys like the chief spend their days talking with politicians and their uglier cousins, “community activists”. (I’ve played the police game both of those ways and I would rather ‘rassle a thief than swim in the shit with a politician any day of the week – the street cooks are more honest.) But chiefs of police have to listen to shit from the politicians, and they listen to the community activists. Plus, for every drunk, law-breaking Honduran that Officer Carabajal ever met, the chief has met Hondurans who are titled “Professor”, “Doctor”, or “His Excellency the Ambassador of Honduras”. When one of his officers publishes something that says all Hondurans are all crazy and have no regard for the law, it makes the chief’s life considerably less pleasant when dealing with Hondurans who aren’t crooks.

The other issue is a more practical one.  She has damaged her professional credibility.  Every criminal defense attorney in town will have this story in hand if they ever find themselves working a case in which Officer Carabajal is a witness.  The shysters love to twist things, but it just makes sense to attack the credibility of a witness who leaves themselves exposed like this.  If the defendant is a Honduran then the defense attorney is going to smell blood in the water.  And it won’t be limited to Hondurans, a good attorney will just throw this thing out there to see what damage he/she can do.   “Well, we know you hate Hondurans and discriminate against them.  How do we know what hatreds you harbor towards Pakistanis like my client?   The practical problem here is pretty easy to see – what good is a cop who can’t testify on the stand and be believed?

Watch your asses folks.

Original KPRC story here


Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

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One day, while I was in the police academy, we had to attend a speech by the Comandante del Policia of Mexico City. He was in town on some official visit and part of the giant dog and pony show was his speech to the cadets. He spoke about law enforcement being an honorable form of service.

A year later he was in prison after they discovered that he was one of the biggest crooks in Mexico.

It is a recurring theme:

McALLEN, Texas — A former Mexican police commander accused of playing an active role in guiding drug shipments served as a tax collector for the Gulf cartel, a witness testified Thursday in a federal drug smuggling case.Carlos “El Puma” Landin Martinez collected pisos, or tolls, from smaller drug gangs crossing through the cartel’s turf in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, said Daniel Zamorano Marchant, a Chilean restaurant manager who once smuggled marijuana and methamphetamine for the cartel.

Anyone wanting to run drugs or transport illegal immigrants between the Mexican cities of Diaz Ordaz, south of Sullivan City, and Rio Bravo, had to pay tolls to Landin, Zamorano said. Landin is accused of running a drug smuggling operation for the Gulf drug cartel while also working as the state police commander in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

There may be honest cops in Mexico, but I never actually met one.   The odds against an honest man making it to a position of authority in Mexican law enforcement are simply astronomical.


What kind of job did you think you were applying for?

nowhiring.jpg

My search for a decent blog written by a chief of police continues. Richard “The Most Idiotic Police Chief in Britain” Brunstrom was briefly in the running until the Cerberus Inc. crack research time found indications of severe stupidity, or blatant prevaricating, in one of his posts. I’m looking for one that is written with some style, appears to be the genuine words of the chief rather than one of his house cats, and exhibits more than a passing familiarity with common sense.

It’s proving to be a tall order.

On one of the candidate’s blog I found a post about something his recruiting staff brought to his attention. They received a number of email requests for information about the hiring process, and from that they had amassed a list of the return email addresses of potential applicants that seemed to cast doubt on their character, intelligence and/or common sense:

metallicaboner17@
pleasurephantom@
copenhagenmam69@
spacydream@
cootiecakes@
spoilme5948@
poodonkey18@
tk_paddywacker@
squishycheerfish@
strokin_100@
babypies1@
thumperhard69@

and the one that really confused me…mytieisbroken@

According to the chief, the recruiters also have a collection of humorous voice mails.

My guess is that a lot of people have email addresses that express something that they want to convey to others. It doesn’t take too much guesswork as to what messages “thumperhard69” or “metallicaboner” are trying to send. But I think I’m also right in believing that most people also have an email address that presents a more refined, and less profane, public image. Common sense would seem to be conspicuously absent from those who choose their “fun” email address, as opposed to their “business” email, to send a job inquiry.

Unless I’m hiring clerks for the night shift at an adult bookstore, there is little chance that “tk_paddywhacker” or “strokin_100” are going to get a job offer from me. To be honest, I’m not sure I would hire them for that job either.

While it’s interesting to note what people inadvertently give away in their job seeking, it is absolutely astounding what can be learned about folks when you’re given a lot of leeway in the interview and hiring process.

I had one brief fling at a non-policing job in my career. A nine month stint in recruiting as a sergeant (it was an effort to gain some investigative experience, as tenuous as it was) which was ended by budget crisis that brought on a hiring freeze.

We saw, on average, roughly 1000 applicants each month. A small percentage of them would voluntarily withdraw their application at some point, but most would have their application suspended or rejected for cause, either permanently or temporarily, and a very small percentage would be favorable applicants who were offered a position in the academy as a cadet. We rejected at least 95% of all applicants for cause, and after a small percentage declined the offer by withdrawing their application, we were able to field a class of 70 every 2 months. Those figures are consistent with what most other police departments report.

My domain was over the preliminary processing unit, which handled the initial background interview of the 1000 folks that wandered in off the street each month. A huge chunk of that 95% rejection rate came from one of 15 people working for me who were doing those interviews based on a 30 page questionnaire. If the applicant answered the questions truthfully, the questionnaire would give us an accurate assessment of the applicant’s ability to meet most of the SCPD selection criteria. Those that lied were usually caught by a polygraph exam or a background investigation that sent investigators to physically verify the truth of everything they had said.

1,000 interviews a month, 30 pages of very detailed questions that hit a wide variety of details ranging from the mundane to the very personal – equals a regular supply of very bizarre responses by applicants.

About half of the interviewers were civilian HR professionals, and the rest were cops who were experienced background investigators. The latter took most of what they heard during interviews in stride, and would tell some of the funnier stories over a cup of coffee. But my civilians were a different story.

Police work is one of those occupations that give employees a degree of access to information, people, places and things that few other occupations approach. SCPD hiring practices reflect the degree of concern about who is hired that matches the degree of trust expected of the office holder. IBM won’t, and can’t, send a background investigator to every place you ever lived, worked or went to school to ask questions like: “Is he trustworthy?”, “would you say he is stable?”, or “how much does he drink?” Microsoft may ask a challenging question like “how would you weigh the moon?”, but SCPD will ask you to describe every drug you ever took, how much you drink and what criminal acts you committed – even if you were never caught, much less convicted. The questions and checks are all backed by a very expensive and exhaustive study to identify the bona-fide job qualifications for a beginning SCPD officer, but they are far beyond what most employers could legally pursue.

All of the civilian personnel officers had bachelor degrees, many had their masters, and a few were working on their doctorates. With the exception of one woman who was married to an officer, none of them had ever spent much time around cops or worked in a HR setting in which they were legally allowed to ask the kinds of questions we had them ask. Never did more than a couple of days pass when one of them didn’t come into my office, close the door, and say…

Sergeant Cerberus, you would not believe what this applicant just told me.

Actually, I would believe, because I had conducted a number of those same interviews, and I reviewed every completed questionnaire.

Some of the things people said were nonsensical. There was a young woman we rejected because of criminal activity and unfavorable employment history. She had been fired, that morning, after her boss at a greeting card store had found her stealing cash from the till. The card store was on the ground level of the office building where our offices were located. She must have walked straight out of her past employer’s place of business and jumped on the elevator to come visit us. I nicknamed her the “I need a job chick.”

Why is my application being rejected?

The fact that you were fired, today, for stealing from your employer puts you outside of our guidelines on criminal activity and employment history. If you can stay away from committing crimes and not get fired from a job, we will be glad to see you back here in 5 years to try again.

Yeah, but I need a job.

I understand that. But you can understand why we wouldn’t hire you to be a police officer, can’t you?

No, because I need a job and you’all are hiring, so why can’t we do this?

Let’s look at it this way. Being a police officer is not just a job. It’s a position of trust in the community. As an officer you could find yourself alone with other people’s property, or with other valuable items that are evidence at crime scenes. Given the fact that you were just fired from a position of your employer’s trust for stealing from her, wouldn’t it look pretty foolish for us to hire you for a position of even greater trust with less direct supervision?

Yeah, but I need a job.

That’s not going to happen here for you today. Maybe I can direct you to someplace else that might take a chance on you. Most of our applicants are interested in public service as a career, why did you apply with us?

I got fired this morning and I need a job.

Our questionnaire included a section on illegal and prescription drug use. When I first read “What type of medication are you currently taking, and why?”, I thought it was poorly worded. But the responses we got to the “why” part often generated some enlightening responses, and those included a smattering of goodies that were guaranteed to make you laugh. Almost weekly we got something along the lines of…

What type of medication are you taking, and why?: Birth Control Pills – I like to fuck.

On rarer occasions we got some scary responses to that question…

What type of medication are you taking, and why?: Haldol – My doctor prescribed this to keep me from hearing voices that tell me to do things I don’t want to do.

The questions on illegal sex acts caught a few really whacked out people. One of my folks, who was finishing his dissertation for a PhD., came in to my office one morning with a queasy look on his face. While I’m sure there are all sorts of young people who grow up on farms and ranches who never succumb to barnyard bestiality, there are some of them who find the temptation too great. About once a month there would be one who came in and answered the question about bestiality with forthright honesty.

The applicant in question was a regular expert in animal husbandry, and had described a number of critters around Old MacDonald’s farm with which he had carnal knowledge.

Yee-Eye-Yee-Eye-Oh – indeed!

The personnel officer said he was handling the interview well, until the applicant had mentioned a certain species of animal and a specific sex act.

As soon as he said that I thought he was just pulling some kind of joke. I imagined it was a like one of those radio show pranks when they wire a guy with a microphone and have him go into a business and do something stupid to see how people will react. So I called bullshit and told him that what he was talking about was impossible, and I swear to God, until just a few minutes ago, I really did think it was impossible.

So, what happened to change your mind?

He just gave me a ten minute explanation on how to get head from a cow. An extremely detailed explanation. Including how to select the right cow, what “lure” to use, how to keep from getting stomped on, or kicked, or bitten, and so on, to the point where I was ready to throw up. I’m telling you sergeant, I don’t think I can ever enjoy a cheeseburger again, and I know I will never drink another milkshake.

It’s not that more crazies, weirdos or criminals try to get jobs in law enforcement, we do get our fair share, it’s just that we get to ask the kind of questions that are supposed to identify them.

All of those people rejected get jobs somewhere. What do you really know about the people working with you?