Welcome to the Officer Friendly Blog!

Hello, and welcome to my blog. I am Officer Friendly, an active duty police officer in the state of Texas, and I started this blog in order to do what I can to prevent crime, prevent needless suffering & tragedy, and to reduce negative experiences with the police, by sharing with the public what I know as an officer. If you have any questions about the law, crime, safety, or just something that you’d like an officer’s perspective on, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail through my contact page. And in case you’re wondering, I shoot for a PG-13 in my writing. I don’t want to be too offensive, but who wants to read the bland advice you’d get if I kept it PG? Thank you for visiting!

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End of Watch

After much deliberation, I have decided to stop publishing this blog. While I may resume blogging at sometime in the future, I have found myself diverting too much time and mental energy away from my family, which is my top priority in life.

To all of those who have read my posts, I thank you for lending me your ears (or eyes as it were), and I hope that you have found my words somehow helpful, or at least mildly interesting or amusing.

Thank you, and be safe!

-Officer Friendly

Are Tasers Good For Self-Defense?

 
As an officer, I often hear civilians talk about the Taser as a non-leathal alternative to guns for personal defense. While I believe Tasers are a wonderful tool for law enforcement, I think they are a terrible idea for self defense. Here’s why:

Deterrence is Taser’s True Strength
For officers, the best part about Tasers is that people know we have it, we will use it, it will hurt, and they will go to jail with little to show for their trouble, so it prevents many more fights than it ends. Unfortunately, that’s not going to help you, because in most cases the bad guy you’re trying to defend against isn’t going to know you have a Taser, and isn’t likely to warn you before he attacks, so you won’t have the opportunity to deter him by displaying your Taser.

Tasers Are Hard To Use Effectively
Whereas a single last-second “oh crap!” gunshot from the hip to an assainant’s center mass can drop him just as well as a carefully aimed shot at 30 yards, Tasers are really only effective at a range of 2-5 yards, and aim is essential. Anything closer than 2 yards, and your probe spread will be so close that you probably won’t get the incapacitation effect you want, while anything further than 5 yards, or not carefully aimed, will likely miss with one of the probes, rendering the tool no different than an old-school stun gun. It’ll hurt, but so will the bad guy’s fists extracting revenge.

In order for the Taser to be effective, you must hit the target in not one, but two locations, with a single shot. Tasers come with a laser sight that tells you where the top probe will probably go, but there is no indicator for the second probe, which is fired diagonally below the point where the red dot appears. Basically the targeting of the second probe is a guessing game, where you aim as high as possible, in the hope that the second probe doesn’t miss low.

This targeting problem is further complicated by Taser’s insistence that you avoid targeting the chest, to reduce the probability of possible cardiac issues triggered by the Taser’s neuromuscular incapcitation effect. But wait! Don’t crush a testicle with that lower probe! Basically, you are expected to fire the top probe into their belly, and the lower probe into one of their legs, as they attack you. Good luck with that!

You Only Get One Shot With a Taser
Unlike a gun which has a magazine carrying many additional rounds, with each new round automatically chambered, and ready for use with a simple pull of the trigger, as it stands, the version of the Taser available to the public is a single shot device. That means that if you don’t get both probes into the target the first time, you’re SOL! You could carry additional cartridges, but the bad guy probably won’t give you the opportunity to reload.

You Probably Don’t Want to Carry an Arsenal
Unlike a uniformed officer, who has a small arsenal on his belt, to fall back on in case the Taser doesn’t work, you probably don’t want to carry more than one tool for self-defense as you go about your daily business. A small handgun can deter or even stop an attack in progress through nothing more than it’s mention or display, but it can also give you multiple opportunities to stop an attack at basically any distance through the application of force to almost any part of the attacker’s body, if necessary. Hit his pinky, no problem with a gun! Many attackers will beg you to stop after losing their wittle piggy!

Taser is Not a Cure-All
The Taser is a wonderful tool for law enforcement, as it allows officers the opportunity to overcome physical resistance to arrest with much less risk of injury to officers and suspects alike, by preventing the suspect from fighting, just long enough for officers to close the distance gap and restrain him more effectively. By contrast, I believe that the Taser is a foolish choice for civilian self-defense, as it is an intermediate force option, that really needs to be supported by higher-level force options, just as demands for rogue nations to comply with international law need the threat of war to be an effective tool.

What what do you think? Am I misrepresenting the Taser somehow? Have you ever been hit by a Taser? Have you ever fired a Taser into someone? Do you know anyone who has? Tell us about your Taser experiences!

Mothers Against Police Brutality is an Accountability Group Gone Wrong

MAPB

While a number of the recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police covered in the news have in fact been illegitimate, or at least questionable, and the calls for accountability are very justified, some are showing signs of foaming at the mouth. I recently discovered one such group, Mothers Against Police Brutality, who painted a tragic but legitimate use of police force in Dallas as illegitimate, and contrary to their stated mission, are increasing the probability of unnecessary deadly force encounters between police and citizens.

See the video from one of officer’s body cameras here.

Loving Eyes Can Never See
As a parent, I understand that nothing could be more painful than to have your child killed by the actions of another, and I understand the desperate need to believe that your child is good. I do not blame parents for getting angry with officers who hurt their children, even when their child was responsible for the escalation. It is the very nature of a parent to protect their children above all else. And at least in the beginning, it is natural to assume that their child had valid reasons for their actions, and to mourn the loss of their child’s potential to become the person they hoped they might be someday. The problem is when those left behind continue to allow their love for their lost child to blind them to the truth long after their death.

Sometimes Life or Death Choices are Death or Death Choices
On June 14 of 2014 Dallas police officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins shot and killed Jason Harrison, a mentally ill black man, when Harrison lunged at one of the officers at very close range with a screwdriver. The wording on MAPB’s website clearly places 100% of the blame on the officers, and paints them as cold-blooded murders. The truth of the matter is that the shooting death of Harrison was a tragedy, and the officers handled it as close to ideally as could be expected of human beings. Mentally ill or not, Harrison forced the officers into the position of deciding in a split-second whether to shoot Harrison, or allow Harrison to continue his charge towards them with a screwdriver in hand, possibly inflicting serious bodily injury or death upon them. Under the circumstances, the officers could only choose who died, not if they died.

Tasers are NOT Appropriate for Sudden Deadly Force Situations
MAPB and many news stories covering the shooting emphasize how quickly the officers shot Harris after his appearance in the doorway, as if that was evidence of their callousness, and many suggested that the officers should have used a Taser to subdue Harrison. In reality, The speed at which the incident unfolded is exactly the reason that non-leathal options like a Taser were not a realistic option in that situation. While it is true that had one of the officers had immediately drawn their Taser and successfully shot Harrison with both probes, Harrison’s story might have ended much better. However, had the officer fired and missed with one of the two probes needed to incapacitate him, they would have been completely vulnerable to a deadly stabbing attack by Harrison. Had Harrison stayed in the doorway for a while longer, or retreated into the house, the officers might have managed to get past the immediate adrenaline dump, and coordinated an effort to have one officer use their Taser, while the other maintained deadly force coverage with their handgun, in case the Taser failed to incapacitate Harrison.

The Officers Wanted Video of the Shooting
Contrary to MAPB’s description of the video, not only were the officers who shot Harrison justified in inflicting the injuries which ended Harrison’s life, they can be heard in the video clearly talking about their awareness and relief that one officer’s body cam recorded the incident. Why? Because they were acting in good conscience and didn’t want to harm anyone, but probably understood that without that video, no matter how justified his actions were, they would no doubt be painted as just another cracker cop executing innocent black men for shits and giggles.

Harrison’s Death was NOT a Failure of Police Tactics or Training
While MAPB decried the incident as “Murder” and an “unnecessary, preventable homicide,” the only way it could have been prevented was to not involve the police, or for the police to treat Harrision as a significant threat from the outset. Since I don’t know the history of Harrison’s interactions with DPD, I don’t know if they would have had any reason to believe him to be a serious threat. If they did, then it is possible that the officers may have been too complacent in their approach, but unless they ordered Harrison out of the house over the phone or PA system, they couldn’t have maintained a safer distance, and had they taken such precautions, the response would most likely have been decried as embarrassing to the Harrison family, and as needlessly stigmatizing the mentally ill.

Basically, Harrison threw feces at the fan, and the officers did the only thing they could do to avoid getting hit by it.

What do you think? Was there something wrong with how the officers handled the confrontation? What would you have done in their place? How can we use this incident to prevent future incidents?

Slager’s Shooting of Scott was Murder

While the video of the Scott shooting itself is pretty damning, I thought I should offer my professional perspective on why Slager SHOULD be convicted of murder.

Scott’s Shooting Was Illegal Even Before Tennessee v. Garner

Until 1985 the law allowed officers to shoot fleeing felons, to prevent their escape, and by extension deter flight and encourage peaceful surrender by said felons. Even under this near blank death warrant, Slager couldn’t justify shooting Scott, as the only offense he knew Scott to have comitted was a petty equipment violation, and evading arrest on foot, which is a misdemeanor included in the statute for resisting arrest under South Carolina law. As far as Slager knew, Scott was not a fleeing felon.

Following Tennessee v. Garner, the law required that an officer have a reasonable belief that even a known fleeing felon pose a significant theat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or others, before deadly force can be used to prevent escape. Without a deadly weapon in hand, a suspect basically has to be an undisputed threat to those around him, like a know mass murderer, serial killer, etc, where it is reasonable to believe that the suspect will almost certainly seriously harm others as soon as they obtain a weapon to do it with. Even if Scott’s warrant was a felony Slager clearly didn’t believe that about Scott.

Escape Was Highly Unlikely
Even if Scott was a known dangerous felon, Slager would still have to reasonably believe that failure to shoot Scott would lead to his escape. Slager caught Scott, despite Scott’s primal fear of arrest fueling his flight, Scott’s head start, and Slager’s patrol gear slowing him down. That is clear evidence that Scott’s turkey was cooked! All Slager had to do was chase Scott a few more seconds, so he could guide his fresh backup to Scott’s general location, and the game would have been over! In fact, in the video of the shooting, Slager has a second officer at Scott’s body less than one minute after the shooting.

Slager’s Taser Was Not a Deadly Weapon
Even if Scott still had the Taser that Slager claimed he tried to take, it was almost certainly not a deadly weapon in it’s condition at the time of the shooting. Slager’s dash cam audio recorded him shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!”, followed by the telltale sparking sound, telling us that Slager fired the Taser, but that he did not successfully complete the circuit through Scott’s body meaning that Scott would not have been incapacitated. This is confirmed, shortly after, when Slager starts shouting “get on the ground!” and his DVR microphone auidio breaks up then stops, suggesting that Slager (and Scott) moved too far from the patrol car for the microphone to transmit.

Now, Slager may have had a reload for his Taser, but unless Slager reloaded his Taser then Scott managed to grab the newly reloaded Taser before Slager fired it again, or the Taser had a handle-mounted reload that Scott knew how to load, both of which are highly improbable, there would not be an unfired cartridge available to Scott, even if he did get Slager’s Taser. Without an unfired cartridge, all Scott could do with the Taser is inflict pain, with a “drive stun,” not incapacite Slager, and Slager would have learned that in basic Taser training.

Tasers Are Hard to Use Effectively
Now let’s look at the most Slager-friendly scenario left. Let’s assume that Scott did get full control of Slager’s Taser, with an unfired cartridge loaded and ready to fire. Contrary to popular belief, the Taser is not easy to use effectively.

First, to get the incapacitating effect that Taser’s are famous for, you must hit two different parts of the target’s body at the same time. All Tasers have a laser sight to mark where the top probe should impact the target, but there’s no second laser to tell you where the lower probe should impact, and that probe fires diagonally down at an angle, making it increasingly difficult to hit with both probes as the target gets further away.

The maximum range of the Taser cartridges used by most law enforcement agencies is 21′, which is the length of the wires in the cartridge. However, at that range, the probe spread is about 3′, which means that unless the target is over 6′ tall, standing perfectly still, you’ve got a rock-solid arm, you perfectly place the top probe at the base of the target’s neck, with your Taser perfectly vertical, you are about as likely to win Powerball as hit with both probes. Hitting a moving target following a foot chase and struggle, you’ll be lucky to get a hit at arm’s length.

In other words, even if you believed Slager’s story, Slager had no legitimate reason to fear for his life, unless Scott was right on top of him (facing towards him) at the time of the shooting, which clearly was far from reality.

Slager Murdered Scott
While definitions vary from state to state, the concept is the same. Slager knowingly and intentionally fired eight rounds at Scott, as he fled, knowing that he had no legitimate reason to fear that Scott would escape, nor that failure to prevent Scott’s escape would result in serious injury or death to anyone. Slager had absolutely no justification in shooting Scott.

What do you think? Is something being missed in the discussion? Do you think the PD intended to cover for Slager, if the video of the shooting hadn’t been released to the media?

Dumb ways to die

In this line of work, you hear about all crazy different ways people end up dead, but the following are a few of the more common ones that average folks probably don’t think much about.

Crossing the Street at the Wrong Time and Place
Most of the pedestrians killed by cars are killed trying to cross major streets and highways away from intersections, where drivers don’t expect to see pedestrians. This happens simply because they’re too lazy to walk to the nearest intersection. Jaywalking is particularly stupid and night, because in addition to crossing where no one expects to see pedestrians, you’re hard to see too further increasing the chances of a fatal injury.

Getting Shot by an “Empty” Gun
A large percentage of people who are killed or seriously injured in accidental shootings are shot with guns they thought were unloaded. That’s why safety rule number one for firearms is to treat all firearms as if they are loaded at all times, followed by the semi-redundant rule to point firearms in a safe direction (where no one will get shot if it discharges) at all times.

Accidentally Overdosing
While some drugs cancel-out the effects of others, but many drugs have a multiplying effect, when combined. That is why so many prescription medications have warning labels, saying not to take them with alcohol. If you take prescription meds and drink alcohol, or self-medicate with your own Rx cocktail, there’s a good chance that you will end up in the hospital drinking oh so tasty charcoal jelly designed to absorb your idiot cocktail, if not dead.

Likewise, it is critically important to your survival that you make sure that any doctor prescribing medication is aware of all medications today, as you might not be able to tell the paramedics when they come to save you from the adverse effects your meds have when combined.

Hanging Out with Hoodlums
Sadly, most of our gang-bangers are not great shots, so when they try to shoot someone, which is usually another young pillar of society, they usually miss their target, and often hit an (at least relatively) innocent bystander. Being the bastard that Murphy is, it’s usually the least deserving person around. So, don’t associate with young thugs, if you value your life, because if you’re reading this, you’re probably at the top of Murphy’s hit list.

Know anyone who fits one of these? What are some dumb ways you’ve heard of people meeting an untimely demise?

Shut Down The F&€k Barrel!


Comedian John Oliver satired municipal violations this week, and he made a very valid point. Much of what law enforcement does is counterproductive and leads to a vicious cycle for the poor which he dubbed the “F&€k Barrel.” While I have always tried to consider the ultimate outcome of my actions, and the avoided placing people in the F&€k Barrel, I must admit that his piece caused me to reconsider some of the things I do every day at work. I do believe there is more that I and my cohorts can do to better match our actions to our oaths.

If you haven’t seen the video, watch it here.

Stop Enforcing Petty Laws
As I noted above, there are a number of laws, which criminalize things that really hurt no one other than the person being cited. These range from jaywalking to vehicle registration violations, and chances are, if the officer looks hard enough, he can find just about anyone in violation of something. If some dude gets his legs broken by a car, when he’s jaywalking, isn’t that punishment enough? Sure, stop people and tell them about such violations, and if your agency allows it, write them a written warning, to document your efforts, but leave it at that.

Don’t Arrest On Warrants For Fines
While not writing new tickets for petty violations will help reduce the depth of the hole people must claw their way out of, letting arrest warrants for unpaid fines sit unserved is equally important. As Oliver pointed-out in his piece, taking people to jail for unpaid fines is really no different than resurrecting the long abolished debtor’s prisons of old. Even though the original citation might have been class-neutral, arrest warrants for law violations described as “fine-only” are effectively for the poor only. Let’s leave the  to the “fine-only” stuff to the debt collectors.

Publicize Resistance to Your Efforts
Ask just about any officer, and they will tell you that they hate writing tickets, because they’d rather be looking for real criminals (which is why we especially hate getting that lecture from citizens). So if you take a stand on fine only offenses, and you get negative pressure from your supervisors, publicize it. If you see it coming, record it, but if not, you can always document conversations with your cohorts, and use them as evidence of your supervisors actions. After all, even if you’re not taking a stand, most supervisors pressure their officers to write more tickets anyway, and that’s close enough.

Are Petty Citations Classist or Racist?
The last thing any department wants is public attention to the parts of their activities which do not serve the public interest, especially if it smacks of discrimination. Even if your department and officers do not discriminate against people based on their appearances, the fact of the matter is that people of color are disproportionately represented among the lower income levels, and a story about disparate impact on the poor is sure to be turned into a debate about indirect racial discrimination.

Thank You Mr. Oliver!
As I stated in the beginning, I am far from innocent here. I thank Mr. Oliver for opening my eyes to the unintended consequences of our actions, and I vow to do my best to fight injustice, wherever it might be found.

What do you think? Is there something else officers do that is discriminatory in effect? Is there something else officers could do to reduce unjustified negative impact on citizens?

How to Handle a Car Crash

Almost all of us will be involved in a car crash at some point in our lives, but very few of us are confident as to what we should do immediately following the crash. Here is what officers want you to do.

Get Off of the Road!
The absolute first thing an officer will do is determine if anyone needs an ambulance, But then he’ll try to get everyone off of the road. First and foremost, this reduces the probability that someone else will get hurt by yet another car crash. Second, this reduces the physical impediment to traffic flow. Third, it reduces the visibility of the crash, and thereby the likelihood of secondary crashes caused by rubberneckers.

As for where to go, a nearby parking lot is ideal, a lesser side street isn’t bad, and the shoulder or median will do in a pinch. The idea is to minimize your chances of getting injured or killed by a secondary crash, so don’t worry about damaging your car in the effort. Your rims are probably shot anyway, and your life is more valuable either way!

If you are worried about the other driver leaving, by all means, use your smart phone to photograph their license plate, write it down, or call 911 and read it to the call taker immediately. Other than that, you’re just endangering yourself needlessly.

Don’t Worry About Documenting the Crash Scene
Police officers and insurance adjusters have plenty of experience with investigating car crashes, and are generally able to figure out how the crash happen, just by looking at the damage to the cars, the crash location, and talking to the parties involved. We have plenty of experience in figuring when the stories don’t match the facts, so let them lie, it’ll just make us want to hit them harder.

That said, unless there’s an independent witness to back one side or the other, you have a dash cam that recorded the crash, or there’s clear physical evidence, a BS claim of innocence could make a difference. If both stories appear to fit the available evidence, we have to assume everyone was doing their best to follow the law, and someone just misjudged the other’s speed, distance, etc. This means fault will fall to whoever did not have the legal right-of-way. Either way, leaving your car in the road or taking pictures of it there won’t make a difference.

Don’t Get Out of Your Car on the Road
Unless there’s a fire, or some other clear danger posed by staying in your vehicle, there’s no compelling reason to get out of your car on the road. If your car won’t move, just call 911, then wait for officers to arrive. Your car is designed to take a hit from another car. Your body isn’t, and we’d all rather deal with mangled cars than mangled bodies!

If there is some greater danger posed by your vehicle, then get to the nearest parking lot, shoulder, or median (that’s a safe distance from your now dangerous car) on foot, and try to keep a barrier wall, guardrail, or thick tree between you and traffic, just in case someone else has a bad driving day. If traffic has large gaps (where you could cross casually, with no question of safety), by all means move to a safer location, when the opportunity presents itself.

Call a Tow Truck to Clear the Road
Once you’ve made yourself as safe as you can, if your vehicle is stuck in a lane of traffic, and officers are not there yet, call a tow truck. You can wait on calling for a tow, if you managed to legally park your car, but if it’s obstructing traffic, the officer’s next goal will be to clear the roadway, to reduce secondary crashes, and restore traffic flow to normal.

If officers get there before you get on the phone with a tow service, then don’t bother, because their wrecker will beat yours to the scene easily. For public safety reasons, the officer has the authority to tow your vehicle with their contractor, at your expense, if theirs gets there first.

Now You Can Exchange Info
Once everyone is safe, and arrangements have been made to clear the roadway, exchange information. That’s what the officer’s final task involving you will be, so you might as well handle it on your own, if he ain’t there.

Don’t bother arguing over who was at fault. Most people don’t believe that crashes are their fault, and both your insurance companies and officers will make their own decision anyway. Just exchange info.

Info to Exchange
Insurance company name
Insurance company phone number
Insurance policy number
Vehicle license plate state
Vehicle license plate number
Drivers license state
Drivers license number
Driver’s phone number

Verify Insurance Coverage
Don’t let the other driver leave until you call their insurance company to verify that the policy is a valid, regardless of what it says on the card. People without coverage will often apply for coverage in order to get cards, but then make no payments, or sometimes one payment, in order to save money while getting apparent proof of insurance to deceive you and any officers they might encounter.

Don’t Expect a Police Report
In Texas, the law does not require crashes resulting in at less than $1000 of damage to any one person’s property to be reported at all, unless there is physical injury or death, and it is the officer’s agency that determines the criteria for when an officer will investigate the crash & generate a report.

Basically, this means that unless someone’s car is too mangled to move, or the ambulance is giving someone a ride, it’s between you, the other guy, and maybe your insurance companies. Of course, if the damages are under $1,000, whoever the at-fault party is has an incentive to pay out-of-pocket, rather than involve insurance companies, to keep their premiums down.

In most urban areas an officer will do a report that meets the guidelines, but as long as you provide the info noted above to the other guy, the law allows the drivers cut out and self-report crashes meeting the $1,000 property damage or injury threshold. This is to prevent you for waiting 20 hours on the side of the road for Podunk PD to finish their homocide investigation to take your crash report.

Don’t Fake Injuries
There are few things that will inspire an officer to confirm on minor arrest warrants or find tickets to write than BS injury claims! Some people will fabricate or exaggerate injuries to force officers into making an offical crash report and/or to try and profit with a fraudulent lawsuit. These claims are usually pretty easy to spot, because the damage to the car doesn’t match the injuries claimed, and you get pretty good at spotting fake injuries after a few years. It’s like when you claimed a belly-ache to avoid school as a kid. Don’t do it!

What do you think? What questions did I leave unanswered? Have you experienced anything different? Tell us about your experience!