frazgo goes for a ride, Car 64 where are you…

flickrcar64hdrtmvp.jpgI asked, you answered my question “what pet peeves do you want to ask a cop”. I got an ear full, and even dipped into Markland’s “64 Things I hate about you” for more ideas then proceeded to get some answers.

Arcadia PD’s Sergeant Tom Le Veque had contacted me and offered me a ride along.  I took him up on the offer and he was the first officer in the line of fire with my questions.  Nice guy, certainly a good sport with the wide range of questions you all came up with. 

He paired me with officer Phil Pierce for the ride along.  Turns out that Officer Pierce is a local Monrovia man who had some great insights into the area as well as his own philosophy on life and policing.  Turns out we even crossed paths many years ago as he played ball with my neighbors two boys. 

A large part of the ride along was just listening and understanding.  I’ve had a lot of interaction with the police over the years.  Like many my contacts have varied,  some were where I initiated the contact, and others where I was stopped because of some boneheaded stunt.  The questions here fell into the same variety, some of it driving, others really dealing with the social, economic realities of life here in Metro LA.

I don’t know what I expected out of the evening other than better insights into my area and policing in general.  What I didn’t expect is the amount of tedious detail work and record keeping was involved.  The calls we answered were pretty inane, false alarms at warehouses, evidence pick-up at Macy’s from an earlier shop lifting arrest and just basic patrolling.  Not a whole lot of shoot ’em up excitement, just good conversation.  Getting to know these men as individuals and understanding the why’s of what they do made it one of the more interesting meanders I have taken.

Driving Rants and General Questions

pubwalkingbeathdrtmvp.jpgThe answers  are really pretty specific for the Arcadia PD,  could apply to how other Police Agencies will handle as well.  This should set of more than a few rants to the answers but here goes:

1) Nathan asked about enforcing the DEQ or emission controls and obvious gross polluters.  Kint chimed in with a link to the CHP for reporting them.  I upped the ante to include modifications in general as many we see on the cars isn’t factory issued, supported and even came from webs and out of boxes “not legal for street use” or “not legal for use in CA” on the boxes.  The officers responses:

“There is a great deal of training being offered for “Street Racing Enforcement” that targets illegal smog modifications.  Most modifications are not CARB certified and any device or alteration that allows the performance of the engine to be adjusted, i.e. cam or fuel intake is also illegal.  An expensive ticket with mandatory fines and a trip to the smog referee.  Not just a fix it ticket.

The illegal mods such as spoilers, lowered too much or too high are addressed in the Motor Vehicle Code.  We know what is factory spec and within the codes.  Do we stop them all? No.  We don’t have the time to deal with everyone we see.  Those that are doing other infractions that get our attention then it is included in that ticket if it makes sense.

Front license plates are the law.  Not all the dealers order the cars with the plate holder but they are only encouraging the breaking of the law.  A lot of people don’t put the plate on but we don’t have the time to ticket everyone that breaks that law either.  If its not on when we stopped them for another reason we have the descretion add it, but it isn’t something we pursue.  If we had photo-radar or intersection cameras where we needed it for identification then enforcement would be more important.”

2) Kint and Travis asked “More than anything, why don’t they ever enforce the “slower traffic move right” law?? Especially on the 110..”

“Ideally, a question for the CHP (on the freeways).  If a vehicle is travelling less than a posted limit and impeding, signs need not be posted and it may be a violation of the California Vehicle Code.   Also remember, there is no ‘flow of traffic”.  It is simply the posted max speed on the freeway.  If they are creating a noticeable hazard by impeding traffic we can give a ticket, not all situations warrant it.”

3)  Michael#1 wrote on Markland’s post “2-64. People who don’t pull out into the intersection when making a left hand turn.”  I’ll toss in the “does a yellow mean left turns go or are yielded too?” as that is a common rant.

“The motor vehicle code is clear you don’t pull into the intersection if there are obstructions like other traffic.  At best you are violating a gridlock law or ordinance, at worst you are obstructing the intersection.

A yellow light does not mean a left turn may proceed.  A left turn always yields to oncoming traffic.”

4) berta asked “Tinted windows – they’re not legal or maybe I just don’t know the guide lines…Are they not illegal! (?).

“The motor vehicle code is clear regarding tint darkness and where you can apply it.  You cannot apply it to the front windows where it could obstruct a a drivers vision.  2 door cars are not exempt.  We can issue a fix it ticket which involves the tint having to be removed.  It doesn’t stop them from putting it on again next week after the fix-it ticket is signed off.

Do I have the time to stop everyone doing it?  No.  Will I stop someone, yes if they are doing something that caught my attention that would make me believe it was interfering with their safe driving.  It is an equipment violation…priorities of enforcement.” 

5)  Frequent commenter discarted had a couple.  First was “I’m really interested in knowing how you were able to get the ride along…”  His other, ” I would like you to ask the cop what is their problem/bad attitude towards photographers when we photograph them on the street.” 

I can answer the first, he saw my flickr page and followed links to Metroblogging from comments I left on other blogs.  He told me my images got his attention first, the offer came as he was interested in what I had to say.  Their normal policy is generally there needs to a valid reason such as potential recruit, a specific school project to permit the ride along.

We did discuss photographers in general and he understands that if it “takes place in public there is a right to photograph it.” His comment on the question as posted:

“I don’t have a problem with photographers taking pictures of a crime scene.  I have had them at many of our investigations.  The only time I ask them to move aside is when they are trying to cross behind the yellow tape or are putting themselves in harms way.  They are welcome to be at a safe distance and take their pictures.  If it is an active situation we have to protect them from harm as much as any others not involved in the area.”

6) Marshall asked “I’d love to know why they seem unwilling or unable to use their turn signals like other drivers do?”  My own observation, I don’t recall officer Pierce not using his signals while I was with him.  The response from officer Le Veque:

“I use mine…should they?  In general, yes”

7) Travis dropped this final bit in her question “…Given that there’s no Dunkin’ Donuts in LA, where is the best runner up?”  Officer Pierce offered up his own answer “I don’t know, I don’t eat donuts.”

8) Finally good old Sarbal out  in the IE posed this : “Ask about the cheesy facial hair. Do these guys really think the Magnum PI mustache adds an allure of bad ass? And then go one further, What is with the mandatory cop mustache, firefighter foo man cho facial hair? I just don’t get it.”  In touring the  APD station I noted only a few moustaches.  Officer Pierce is clean shaven.  Officer Le Veque had a nicely trimmed ‘stache, his response “My wife likes it…”

Socio-economic questions.

This is where things got interesting, many questions.  Many too general to answer with any specifics.  Some with so much depth that if there were an answer, well we just wouldn’t need police anymore.

1) berta you asked “I’ve always wondered if race was considered when filling positions for patrol officers in the communities that they serve? … A female officer is brought to a site when a female offender is involved due to the possible legal ramifications (I assume) & so I’m wondering if it applies in each angle?”

“We have no hiring guidelines as to race or ethnicity.  Recruiting efforts can always be tailored toward women, or a particular minority just based on how or where you advertise.  We actively advertise in a variety of the Asian newspapers in our area as our population is over 40% Asian.  We recruit the best we can find.

As far as gender, yes, you will see a female used when possible if the detainee is female.  Legally, anyone can search for safety reasons, but it is preferred to have the same sex.

As far as matching ethnicity or race and the officer; As long as the officers are familiar with cultures and customs of their community, that should not be an issue.  Our community has a large Asian population.  We have had several cultural diversity trainings in recent years. 

Where language is an issue we have access to the ATT Language line and can have a translator available quickly on the phone to help with the question and answer gathering.”

2) doran, you asked many questions.  In terms of where they live officers generally don’t tell you where they live as they have families and certainly don’t want the bad guys they have met over the years to know where they live.  Both are in the area, but in areas they can afford to live as the average price of a home in Arcadia is over $700K.  Do their kids attend public schools? Yes. 

Your bigger questions ” If they’re local cops, I’d like to know how they think the average person sees them? Is there an feeling of “us versus them”? Where do they notice racism? Or class issues? Does it play a part within the department? Does immigration status play any part in their interaction with the community?

“Us vs Them? Not at all.  Unfortunately, most contacts with officers are negative; the person may have been a victim reporting a crime, a witness to some possible criminal activity, someone involved in a collision, the recipient of a citation, you name it.  I think that the vast majority of the people support the police.  We all have perceptions of things and those perceptions may vary from one end of the spectrum to the other.  There are a very small percentage of folks than can not stand the police.  There again, I believe that is the extreme.

I do not see racism within our Department.  Does it exist?  Certainly, depending upon the beliefs of the individual that you are dealing with, we are all different.  I have seen instances of it in field activity.  Not common place by any means, but I have had citizens that will make blatant racial comments or statements regarding a person or persons to me while in uniform.

We do not currently refer to ICE.  The only exception would be if there was an existing fugitive warrant in the system.

“Is there anything obvious which the community needs?  Patience! We are all in too big of a hurry.”

3)  Doran you also posed “Bonus question:Should private citizens carry a Taser?”  So what is our bonus is our question back to you.

From Sergeant Le Veque, “Only if they practice with it, have been through personal safety courses and understand all ramifications of not only use for protection, but also improper application.”

From Officer Pierce, “It would be no different than someone applying for a concealed weapon permit.  If you can pass the safety tests, the felony screening and want it to protect your person or family, not property I don’t see why not”.

Arrt, you asked so many general questions it is hard to answer with any specifics.  Is it what these officers have seen, experienced or participated in? The short answer is no.  Is that your reality, yes and they don’t challenge your assertions nor did they negate them.  It is your reality and outside of what their realm of experiences includes.  Both officers had their own thoughts which I will give to you.

From Sergeant Le Veque “Arrt talks of one item that is sraight out of “Community Policing”teachings.  The broken windows therory is taught when discussing topics related to community policing.  This type of “policing” has its place and has been proven to be effective in certain applications.  Sometimes, the community and police will too often try to solve an issue by labeling it a “community policing” project.  This type of strategy is only as effective as the buy in from the local community, the police officers assigned to that area, and everyone involved.  It is a partnership. If anyone fails to hold up their end of the bargain the food faith efforts are lost.  If the efforts are abandoned after the initial “fixes” then the project has failed.

If I could answer each of his questions to his satisfaction, I would be a very rich man.  That can not be done in one paragraph.  I believe that I do my best each day as an officer.  I know that each person that I deal with may not be totally satisfied  or happy with my actions, however, I make every attempt to act professionally and property in each circumstance.  As I said before, we all have perceptions of how things are or appear to be and how people act.  None of is always right and that includes police officers.  We are all human.

During Phil’s lunch break I let him read Arrt’s comments and questions directly.  The impact of his words were visible.  Phil understood that to be Arrt’s reality but it didn’t follow with his experiences as an officer.  We talked a bit and I asked him how does he react, or feel when stopping someone and they make the accusation “you stopped me because (insert your own cultural marker)…”.

“I can’t deny it bothers me.  It isn’t the reason for the stop, there were many flags that were present when I made the stop.  The time of day, car they are driving even tinted windows mask the cultural difference, I make the stop as there was a hazard or violation taking place that warranted it.

I didn’t take this job to be rich, I took this job as I felt I could make a difference.  I like my job as I have the feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day that I did make a difference for someone. 

Arrt makes many assertions and generalizations that are his experience or told to him by others.  I have heard them too before, they just are not my experiences.  I can’t answer him as that is not where I work and live.

Besides it being wrong, and or illegal to violate someones rights, I wouldn’t, couldn’t do something that would put my family and my future at risk.”

A busy evening.  Yes, learned a little on some things.  Other topics I learned a whole lot more.  I didn’t get my answer as to how to reach those so disenfranchised they don’t want to change the cycle of violence.  Maybe there isn’t one, but then again I do always put more faith in people than I should.

All pics by me.  They will get bigger a with a quick stroke.  For you techie nerds I shot them bracketed and then generated HDR files with Photomatix, tone-mapped them and then ran them for a final processing in Virtual Photographer.

11 Replies to “frazgo goes for a ride, Car 64 where are you…”

  1. I enjoyed ‘being along with you on your patrol ride’ through this cyber site! Thanks for addressing each of our questions. Seems like the comments were fair and even honest! What strikes me even more is your own comment, where you make note * “put more faith in people than I should” that’s a beautiful quality that should be cherished;life can some times beat that out of us but when and if it does is when we’ve lost a piece of ourselves!

  2. I’m so jealous! This sounds like it was a great time. Kudos to you for honoring the questions that were asked…even Arrt’s. I wondered how you would tactfully handle that since his questions were so intense.

    Great article!

  3. Great reporting of a very interesting experience. Thanks, Fraz.

    I have a friend who works LAPD, and has arranged a couple of ride-alongs for me over the years, in Rampart division and 77th (south central.) It sounds like your experience was pretty consistent with mine. There are a few important things that everyone can take away from this:

    1.) We all (myself included) have those pet peeves that make us think, “Where’s a cop when you need one?” Or, “It’s the law! Why aren’t they enforcing it?” The simple fact is, they have to prioritize. If they stopped all the slow drivers in the left lane, all the tinted windows, or loud stereos/exhausts, they would all be out of the car when the call came for serious crime.

    2.) Many (if not most) times, our interaction with police comes at times with difficult/unpleasant circumstances. That tends to alter our perception of the interaction with the other participants (police.) Just because you’re not happy with the result, don’t assume that it was caused by “some a*hole cop.”

    3.) Most importantly, remember the words of Sgt. LeVeque. “…I took this job as I felt I could make a difference…We are all human.” Most police officers don’t take the job for the license to be an a*hole, but because they want to make a difference. Remember, though, that they are human. If someone ran from you, fought with you, called you a racist, shouted at you, refused to follow lawful orders, engaged in behavior that is unsafe for them, you, or anyone else…how would you react? Most officers I’ve known show tremendous patience and restraint…until some knucklehead takes that option away from them. Are there individual cops that are a*holes? Sure. Do even the best cops sometimes over-react to a given situation? Sadly, yes. On the whole, though, the overwhelming majority do a great job, and certainly exercise far more restraint than I could in the same situation.

  4. Thanks all. Burns good points and you hit what I felt most important.
    Helenbedd2, I couldn’t NOT ask about Arrt’s questions. His perspective is one of many in LA and just as deserving of attention as the other things that get going.

  5. Although my comments may have been intense, and represent a view that is non mainstream, it is prevalent amongst dozens (if not hundreds) of thousands of young working class men and women who live in communities where police overaggression is common.

    But let me also make clear that I do not view the police as bad or the enemy overall, I am related to/know about/have friends with many officers who took the job for positive reasons and contribute a lot to the community well being. I am a dad and live in a city with a dept. with aggressive police for that very reason, and have much more of an aversion to troublemakers and dysfunction than the vast majority of police. I just happen to also be a kid who grew up in projects with contentious police relations and work with a lot of you/in communities where this mindframe is prevalent, and have experienced it numerous times. Ive also experienced helpful positive police experiences numerous times as well, and in some negative encounters with police I blame my own foolish actions and behavior for the events that occurred.

    So please, dont categorize me as that dense to only view the police in a negative way, or even think that a large maountof them are jerks or treat minorities badly. I just htink that there is oftentimes a disconnect between policymakers, law enforcement and the communities they serve, as well as constructive methods of fixing crime problems. I believe in giving the cops as much tools to use in crime prevention as possible, and I also believe tha tthe “lock them up” style of addressing community issues is not a best management practice. Most cops think from my position that I have had negative experiences with cops (which I have) and thus judge them off of that, which i dont. I know most cops are cool, a few are dicks, and judge each officer/dept. on their own merits. As an employeeof a state agenicy I have been doing target analysis for high needs areas in LA and Orange county, and lately have frequently relied on police to give me a good community snapshot before I drive around. A few were really nice guys, a few were busy (which i understand), but several were real jerkoffs even after I had established i was a “good guy” working on their side. I have gotten that often from police and only after then consider that officer a jerk, and see police run reds with their lights on only to cross the intersection or just driving improperly at least once every 4 or 5 months. I wondered what the PD’s personal view on this was, and how they feel about the policies and actions I noted. Although I first really found out about broken windows theory from schoolbooks, i have spoken to officers who implement and personally practice/experience community informal policing a lot, and that is why i have those questions.

    Why am I and my motives always questioned or assumed about, when comments and ideas on the other side of the fence that are well more ignorant or biased are considered acceptable?

  6. Arrt, no offense was intended. Your pov and questions were intense and the way it was put forward it was worth sharing and getting opinions. They certainly reflect a part of the city and how they view things so it had merit. The intent was to respect your comments and offer them up for comment. I appreciate your sharing as absent that people don’t get a balance.

  7. Fraz, no need for apologies. My comments were more towards the cops’ assumptions about me as well as other curbsters. Lately I have been SOOO sick of people with little understanding of my community and background dismissing my comments because of their preconceived stereotypes or telling me why I think the way I do. I have a pretty solid background in psychology and cultural anthro, as well as a lifetime of being an overanalytical kid.

    Anyways, I was venting more than expecting you to ask the hudda (cops) the questions I presented, and give you mucho props for doing so. The officers seemed nice, and since I have no contradictory evidence about Arcadia PD (and I spend a lot of time there) I would assume you rode with a overall good department. Most departments have a strong majority of semi smart cool cops, its the jerks that ruin it for them (kind of like us mexicans, wink, wink).

    But again Fraz. Although we may come from different backgrounds I love your posts and think we have a lot in common, my annoyance is more at general society. If you ride with them again I have a few questions about Asian gangs in the city that are less controversial and more fact based.

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