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I highly recommend everyone schedule a ride-along, it will give you a greater appreciation of your police department. Any resident of OKC can do one, you don't have to attend the Citizen Police Academy. Just call the division briefing station of your choice during the shift you want to ride-along and tell them you'd like to schedule a ride-along. Shifts are 7am–5pm, 4pm–2am, and 9:30pm–7:30am. (You don't have to ride-along the entire shift unless you want to). You can see the briefing stations here, click the link beneath the one you’re interested in and it will bring up the address and phone number.
Ride-Along #1 – Officer Mike Callaway
September 3, 2014
I scheduled my first ride-along for Wednesday, September 3rd on the 4 pm to 2 am shift with the Hefner Division. The shift supervisor said to be there a few minutes early, so I arrived at 3:45 and within a few minutes a Lieutenant took me back to the briefing room. We stood there for a minute as he explained that the officers who were about to go on duty would have a roll call and be briefed on anything they needed to know before going out on patrol. A young officer walked out of the break room about that time with a bag of Fritos in his hand, mouth full, and the Lieutenant asked if he’d take me on a ride-along. I don’t think he had much of a choice with his timing and inability to speak at that moment, but he was very gracious and told me where he was sitting and that I could sit there.
The officer’s name is Mike Callaway, and he introduced me to the officers sitting near us, including Sgt. Jennifer Morris who was in the row behind us. I noticed there were only two female officers in the room, including Sgt. Morris. Officer Callaway brought me a simple waiver to sign, and then roll call began. The Captain called out last names and each one responded with a “here sir” or “yes” or one who said “Houston.” Then the Captain briefed the officers on the previous day’s events, which included Officer Callaway’s involvement in a huge drug bust. And then we were dismissed and everyone scattered, heading towards the parking lot in the back and their units.
Officer Callaway has one of the new police cars we learned about in the second session of the CPA (article coming in October). They are based on the newly re-designed Ford Taurus chassis, but the Ford Motor Company specifically designed these vehicles for law enforcement emergency police operations. The sedans are equipped with the 3.5 liter police interceptor engine, and that translates into POWER! I’ll talk more about that power below. Officer Callaway told me he just got it this year, and that last year he drove one of the older cars with no AC. Not only was this a sharp looking car with plenty of engine power, but it was really comfortable to ride in. I noticed the Corona Cherry air freshener cans (x2) on the dash and commented on it as it’s what I typically have in my car and my personal favorite. He said it overpowers the smell that usually comes from the back, and went on to tell me two of his arrests the day before peed in his back seat. Nice.
As we headed out, I asked Officer Callaway about his background. He’s 31, has been on patrol for three years, and prior to joining the OCPD he was in the Marines, serving two deployments in Iraq. He told me it was a natural progression for him to join the OCPD when he got back, and that the Academy was a breeze since he’d already been through Marine boot camp. He said he’s from OKC and all his family lives here so this area is his home.
|The calls come up on the laptop as dispatch generates them (watch for the article on 911 dispatch in December). Now I had never been on the inside of a police car until today and everything was interesting. The entire center console area between the seats holds a police radio and a platform for a laptop. It was quite amazing to watch Officer Callaway type and drive and talk on the radio and check calls…all while being completely safe (they are very well trained, don’t try this at home!). I never once felt unsafe, even though at one point I had reason to get a little frightened (read on…).
On our first call, Officer Callaway met one of the supervisors who had come upon a scene on NW Expressway near MacArthur – apparently a couple of toolboxes had bounced out of someone’s truck onto the roadway and a couple of guys had stopped to try and retrieve them. These guys were not the owners of the toolboxes, they just wanted them. So the supervisor confiscated them because, well, they didn’t belong to them! Officer Callaway retrieved them from the supervisor and transported them to the property room downtown.
The second call we went on was a traffic accident at 19th & Villa. A pickup truck was driving northbound when a woman blew the stop sign heading west on 19th. Both vehicles were totaled. The time we spent there was short, but after that Officer Callaway pulled into the parking lot at the old Shepherd Mall to write out the 5-page report, which he explained to me was a Highway Patrol report they use.
He then decided to assist on a high priority call that came in as a kidnapping, but just as he was about to put himself on the call he said, “I bet that’s a deal.” and he showed me the computer screen. I could see that the caller first said she was being kidnapped at gunpoint, then she wouldn’t talk to the police when they got there, then someone else who was supposedly involved said something else…he told me a “deal” is usually a pimp fighting over his prostitute or drug dealers fighting over drugs or guns. I said, “I bet it’s a pimp and a prostitute based on what’s coming up on the screen.” A few minutes later it came across the screen that a pimp had pulled a gun on his prostitute and was going to try and take her back to Texas. Wow. And they were stupid enough to call 911!
After that we drove to a neighborhood just to the west of Shepherd Mall to take a report on another traffic accident that had occurred on Friday (this was Wednesday). It seemed odd the caller waited six days to call, but upon talking to him we learned he was trying to have faith in the person who hit him to do the right thing…which he didn’t, so the guy finally had to generate a police report so that he could take it to court.
Next Officer Callaway decided to take another wreck call, and as we were going west on 23rd Street from Shepherd Mall an officer from the Santa Fe division called for assistance. I’ve heard the “start me some help” call from Trooper Betsy Randolph’s dashcam videos so I knew something bad was happening. Suddenly Officer Callaway went on high alert and called in on the radio that he was headed to the scene. He told me he couldn’t drive Code 3 (lights & sirens) all the way with a civilian in the car, but that he’d “clear” intersections. This meant that as we were traveling at high speed up 23rd Street, when he came to each intersection he slowed down, turned on his lights and siren, and went around cars to get through the intersection. It only took a few seconds to slow down and then get back up to high speed on the other side of the intersection. Here’s where that 3.5 liter police interceptor engine comes in, that puppy could move! It came over the radio that it was an officer involved shooting and we still didn’t know who got shot so he kept up the speed. Officer Callaway then said he recognized the address of the incident, it was the same drug house from which a woman he arrested the day before came.
As we flew up 23rd Street (imagine your speed on I-40 except you’re on city streets at rush hour!), I wasn’t scared, and I didn’t get an adrenaline rush, but I could tell by the way he was breathing that Officer Callaway was having a pretty good adrenaline rush. I asked him about it later and he said he was…it was the high speed combined with knowing, which we did at that point, that an officer had shot someone.
The area we were headed to was Melrose (just south of 10th) and Rockwell, and it seemed to take forever to get there from 23rd & Villa…I didn’t time it (I was too busy keeping my head glued to the headrest so Officer Callaway could see at the intersections), but I don’t think it actually took that long (not at that speed!). As we arrived on scene, officers were putting up yellow crime scene tape around the parking lot of a convenience store on the northeast corner of Melrose & Rockwell, and an EMSA van was leaving code 3. There’s a business complex on the southeast corner with a number of sheet metal buildings, and Officer Callaway planted his cruiser in one of the parking lots to keep people from driving through.
Officer Callaway's car blocking the parking lot, the convenience store is in the background.
We barely had parked when the media vans began arriving. Officer Callaway said I could get out of the car, so I did, but I spent much of my time trying to dodge the KFOR and News 9 cameras. I got caught on News 9, but thankfully it was only about a half a second blip! You can watch the video here.
Officer Callaway and I unsuccessfully trying to avoid the cameras.
Both KFOR and News 9 did stories on the incident, and I didn’t actually find out what happened until I read their updates on my iPhone. As it turned out, plainclothes officers saw a drug deal go down in the parking lot of the convenience store on the NE corner of Melrose & Rockwell and approached the subjects. One of the male subjects jumped in a car and the driver, a woman, then hit one of the detectives with the car as she tried to get away. The detective shot the woman (to save his life – car vs. pedestrian never works out for the pedestrian) and it turned out to be a fatal shot (indicates good training on the part of the detective – I’ll talk about this in the October article). In the KFOR video you can see Officer Callaway’s cruiser where he planted it to block cars from driving through the scene. Read the report on OCPD Citizen Alert here.
|Officer Callaway left his cruiser parked where it was, but he was going behind the crime scene tape where I couldn’t go so I moved over to Sgt. Morris’ car – she was parked at another drive location to, again, keep people from driving through…here’s a hint, if you see a bunch of police cars with lights going, and yellow crime scene tape, don’t drive through there!! At this point, many of the officers present were simply securing the crime scene, which, Sgt. Morris explained, was particularly important because it was an officer involved shooting. She said there were 24 units out there, including CSI, supervisors, patrol officers, and plainclothes detectives (I saw them all).
|Officer Callaway and Sgt. Morris
I learned that Sgt. Morris has been an officer for 10 years and that she’s an FTO (Field Training Officer). She told me she teaches a lot of in-service classes (required yearly for sworn officers as I’ll discuss in my October article), and that she was teaching one in the morning so instead of staying until 2 am, she’d be leaving at 9 pm. Just before 9 pm Officer Callaway came back to her cruiser and told me that he was going to be there the entire shift as one of the officers guarding the crime scene. He said I was welcome to stay, but that it would be really boring because he’d literally be sitting there in his cruiser in the parking lot. Since Sgt. Morris was heading back to the briefing station where my car was, I decided to ride back with her and head home for the night.
Sgt. Morris told me she really encourages citizens to do ride-alongs so they can see what it’s actually like for the officers. I found out at this week’s CPA that any citizen can do a ride-along, you don’t have to be in the CPA – attending the CPA simply makes scheduling faster as they've already done the required background check. I too would encourage everyone to do a ride-along, it’s very eye opening and will give you a real appreciation for the work these fine men and women do. I have nothing but the highest regard for all of the officers I met and saw in action. And since I didn’t get to stay the entire shift (until 4 am), I’m going to call and schedule another ride-along, probably this weekend, probably in a different division. And I’ll probably reschedule one with Officer Callaway next week when he comes back on duty (today is his Friday) so I can finish the shift with him.
By the way, I asked Officer Callaway what his most bizarre call was and he told me about going to a call where two men were fighting over a Barbie doll (I’m not kidding, grown men, Barbie doll); while he was trying to de-escalate them, a call came over the radio that a shooting was occurring nearby. He got irritated and yelled at them that while he was trying to resolve this fight over a Barbie doll with two grown men, he was really needed elsewhere. They got upset and said, "Well if you don’t want to help us, then leave!" "So,” he said, “I left.”
Normal people have no idea what police officers deal with. Really, schedule a ride-along. All you have to do is call the division briefing station of your choice during the shift you want to ride-along (7am-5pm, 4pm-2am, 9:30pm-7:30am), tell them you’d like to schedule a ride-along and they’ll connect you with a shift supervisor. You can see the briefing stations here, click the link beneath the one you’re interested in and it will bring up the address and phone number.
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Ride-Along #2 – Officer Justin Eikel
September 10, 2014
I scheduled my 2nd ride-along on Wednesday September 10th in the Santa Fe Division on the 4 pm to 2 am shift. Each division has it’s own unique Briefing Station, and Santa Fe looked larger to me than Hefner…it may have been the 2-story glass façade on the front which provided a large open reception area. I arrived a few minutes early, and told the lady at the front counter who I was and why I was there. A lieutenant came to the window and asked my name and DOB, which he wrote down on a Post-It, and then the receptionist brought me back behind the glass. She showed me where the briefing room was and said I could have a seat. One of the first things you’ll notice when you do a ride-along is when you walk into a room full of uniformed police officers you feel like you really stand out (I even wore a camouflage tie-dye so I wouldn’t stick out quite so much). Still, they were all very polite and nice so I didn’t feel too awkward.
At 4:00 the Captain went to the podium and went over some of the things the shift needed to be on the lookout for. I counted 20 patrol officers in the room and only two of them were women. There were also four lieutenants standing at the back of the room. The officers were dismissed and they all scattered. I wasn’t sure yet what to do so I stood up, and then a young officer from across the room said, “I’ll be right with you.” So I sat down and waited. Apparently the Lieutenant had given him the Post-It and he was the officer I was riding with. Within a few minutes he came over to me and introduced himself as Justin Eikel. We went out the back to his patrol car just as it was starting to rain and headed to our first call.
I told Justin why I was there (see my article on the first CPA session) and asked if he minded if I took notes, explaining that I was writing articles for my newsletter. As he drove toward the first call, he said, “People get a bad perception of officers, in part due to social media, they think we overstep our bounds. The deal is police officers are normal people, and when you’re an agency hiring 1000 people it’s hard to pick 1000 good ones. The important thing is being safe and going home to my family.” This hit home with me because it’s something I say frequently to my students, LEOs are people just like us who want to go home to their family at the end of the day.
Our first call was at an apartment complex, a woman was upset because her 15-year-old daughter was dating a 23-year-old man. I asked him what he could do about that and he said not much except to take a report and give it to the detectives, which is what he anticipated doing. However, if there’s one thing I quickly learned on ride-alongs it’s that nothing is quite what it seems until you actually get there and sort it out. He told me the mother was Spanish-speaking and he knows very little Spanish…he said he asked an officer at the Briefing Station who is fluent in Spanish if he would take the call but there was something wrong with his car and he couldn’t go.
We arrived and started searching for the apartment without much luck until we saw a woman standing outside who waved at him. I know even less Spanish than Officer Eikel and I could only pick up a few words. He kept referring to his iPhone to understand what she was saying and find words to say to her. It was a struggle for him to communicate with her, but he was very patient as was she. In fact, it was amazing to me as I observed him how patient and respectful he was being with her…it indicates good training + professionalism + excellence & integrity on his part.
I heard the mom say “cuatro” and make a motion with her hands over her stomach. After that we went back to the patrol car, and he told me he was going to call the Spanish-speaking officer to come over there and interpret. He had deciphered from the mother that her 15-year-old daughter was four months pregnant by the 23-year-old man. "That’s a crime," he explained, "because it’s rape." So they needed to get a complete report, which is why he called the Spanish-speaking officer. Because the girl was a minor he could not speak to her, only to the mother, but once the report was filed detectives in the sex crimes unit would take the case and they’d interview the daughter.
It took several minutes for the other officer to arrive and while we were waiting in the cruiser – pulled forward in the parking space – a car started to back in right next to his patrol car on my side. Officer Eikel immediately backed his cruiser straight back into a space on the other side of the parking lot saying, “I don’t know who this guy is.” I realized what a precarious situation it could be with him pulled straight in and a car backing in next to him. The guy in the other car didn’t do anything nefarious, but it was a wise precaution on Officer Eikel’s part.
Once the other officers arrived (the Spanish-speaking officer got a ride with another officer), the three of them went back to the mom and completed the report. I stayed in the car at that point. It was not a fast process between the initial contact, Officer Eikel struggling to communicate with her, waiting for the interpreter to arrive, and finally completing the report. Officer Eikel said it was especially important to get everything right because it will be a rape investigation on a minor, so he simply took all the time that was needed. It gave me an appreciation for the time it actually takes for a call. If you ever have to call the police, please be patient with the officers!
The next call came in as two people fighting over a parking space. It turned out to be a man and a woman at a nearby CVS. The woman’s car was parked a little crooked in the space next to the man, apparently he didn’t like it and was complaining. Their exchange of words carried into the store and back outside. The man then called 911. She was pretty upset when we got out of the car, he was calm, but it seemed overkill to me that he called 911. Officer Eikel asked the man what he wanted to do and when he had little to say he suggested he just drive away. He also told the woman he recommended next time she doesn’t let someone get to her like that.
After that he pulled into a parking lot and spent several minutes entering notes from the first report into the computer. He told me because of the nature of the case it was really important to get all the details right. While there, a call came in of a hit and run at the Briefing Station so we headed back there. It turned out to be a custody exchange and apparently the ex-wife freaked out, hit her ex-husband’s car, then left the scene. This is a bad idea in a police station parking lot with cameras recording the entire incident! As he took that report, he learned the dad and step-mom were very concerned about the child who went with the ex-wife due to her erratic behavior in the parking lot, so Officer Eikel decided a child welfare check was in order. He called another officer to go with him because of the location, which he said was a really bad part of town.
The area was around South Penn and 15th Street at an old apartment complex. As we drove into the complex the two police cars were obviously out of place, everyone turned to stare and it felt like we were going into enemy territory. Officer Eikel said he doubted LEOs ever came there except at least in twos. He parked his cruiser a few feet away from the apartment, as did the other officer, and they got out to go to the door. I stayed in the car and Officer Eikel hit the door lock twice when he got out…I knew he felt the danger there as did I. Her car wasn’t there and she didn’t answer the door, so they had no choice but to leave. I felt so relieved when the officers got back into their cars, and even more relieved when we cleared that complex…the oppression was so strong it was palpable.
After that we decided we were both starving so he headed back to Santa Fe Division (we had gone into another division on the child welfare check) and pulled into Popeyes. As he was waiting in the drive through line a house alarm call came in, it was very close to us so he took the call. He said I could get out of the car with him but to stay behind him in case there was a suspect in the house. I stayed a few feet behind him as he checked the garage door, then the front door, then one of the stockade fence gates, then the other gate. The gate had a “beware of dog” sign on it so he whistled a couple times to see if he got a response and then decided to open the gate. It was locked and too high to get over so that was that. Apparently house alarms going off are fairly common. He said they could actually ticket people for that but he didn’t mind checking so he wasn’t going to give any ticket.
Then we headed back to Popeyes and he ordered us each a chicken strip dinner with mashed potatoes and a Dr. Pepper, and pulled off in the parking lot so we could eat. I don’t know if it was how hungry I was or that he bought my dinner, but it was the most delicious dinner I’d had in a long time! He worked on reports in between bites and several minutes later took our fourth call of the evening, a group of people in a parking lot threatening to fight.
By now it was fully dark and I wasn’t sure what to expect so I stayed in the car when he pulled into the apartment parking lot and stopped near some people. I could see a woman at the front of the car, a young man on a balcony above and to the left of where she was, and another man standing to the right of her. Officer Eikel was talking to the woman and then all of a sudden he put handcuffs on her and started leading her around to the driver’s side back seat. That was when I could see how drunk she was because she couldn’t even walk, it was more like guided careening to get her there. I could hear her yelling “why did you do this to me?” which seemed to be aimed at the young man on the balcony who I later learned was her son. Apparently she’d gotten very drunk and was threatening to beat up her husband (I’m pretty sure she could have done it!). That was the group of people fighting in the parking lot…I was happy it wasn’t worse as I knew we were in gang territory.
In my article about CPA session two I mentioned the Public Inebriate Alternative, a place where officers take persons who are publicly drunk but aren’t committing a crime. They’re not arrested but they are detained for a 10-hour period so they can basically sleep it off. We were headed to the PIA, or as he called it, detox. On the way she started talking…we couldn’t understand what she was saying, and she wasn’t actually talking to us (she was talking to herself or someone who wasn’t there), so he turned up KLOVE on the radio and we continued to visit on the way there. Once we arrived it took him a very long time to get her out of the back seat. He told me later he had a feeling she was going to start kicking so he was trying to avoid presenting her that opportunity because if she kicked him, it was an automatic trip to jail. He was so patient and kind to her, talking to her with respectful tones and words. He finally got her out of the back seat and the guided careening resumed to get her to the door.
The first thing that hit me when the doors opened was the terrible smell (apparently really drunk people have a hard time holding their bodily functions). There was a man and an officer standing at a counter and a woman behind the counter talking to them, she was checking the man in. Behind her were two large rooms, side-by-side but separated by a wall. The top of the front of each room was glass, and the woman behind the counter was barking an order at a man to “get back from the glass.” He was hitting the glass with his hands and yelling. I’ve learned OCPD personnel can really multi-task and she never missed a beat checking in the person on the other side of the counter. I could see a row of cots on opposite sides of each room. The one on the right had a number of men in it, on the left was the women’s side and I didn’t see anyone in there but Officer Eikel told me when he placed his person in the room he saw another woman in there sleeping on a cot. Off to each side of the counter were individual isolation rooms with glass-topped doors. The one on the right held a young white bald-headed man who was just standing there at the window staring at everyone. My NQR was going off big-time and I had the feeling the guy was a serial killer or something really bad…I was hoping they didn’t get him out while I was there (they didn’t). On the left was an older black man who, at first, was making quite a lot of noise yelling. One of the other officers who was there when we arrived asked Officer Eikel if he would transport the older black man to jail. He said he would after he finished checking in his person.
Officer Eikel took the woman he brought in into the large room on the left and just as he got inside she collapsed on the floor (she was all out of careening) and the door shut behind him. The doors are one way, once you’re in someone has to let you out, so I walked to the door to open it for him. He started motioning and two police officers ran into the room as I opened the door. She had been cooperative but was starting to get a little combative. He told me later that she came really close to having to go to jail at that point.
You see, Oklahoma has specific laws regarding assault & battery. I teach students in both SDA and my Gun Law Class what assault & battery means in terms of civilian self-defense. Police officers are also protected against A&B. If a person hits, kicks, bites, or spits on a police officer it’s an automatic arrest (reference Title 21 § 649 – Assault, battery or assault, and battery upon police officer). So when you see the cell phone video of someone allegedly being mistreated by the police, why don’t you think about their rights to be protected and give the officers the benefit of the doubt? If you really want to know what happened there are legitimate ways to research, such as by getting the police report or reading the Citizen Alert. As for those who judge officers based on news or social media: 1. you weren’t there and even if you were you don’t know the whole story, 2. you don’t know the laws as thoroughly as police officers, 3. you haven’t trained professionally to deal with a combative person so you don’t know the procedures, and 4. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! Thank God we here in the United States have law enforcement because people have acted up as long as there have been people on earth! So unless you’re prepared to deal with people who act up – from a homeless guy on OU Campus looking up college girl’s skirts (reference the recent cell phone video of the man screaming for help when officers tried to detain him) to a criminal gang member with a gun – I recommend you support the men and women who are dealing with it!
Officer Eikel retrieved the older black man and we headed to his patrol car. The man complained all the way to the car, and all the way to jail (a short distance that seemed to take a long time), and all the time he was being checked in, that Officer Eikel was going to cost him his job because he was taking him to jail. Officer Eikel calmly explained that he didn’t know what had transpired prior to his arrival but that detox staff told him he needed to be transported to jail so that’s what was going to happen. The man kept asking him to let him go and he kept explaining he couldn’t do that. On the short/long trip to jail, the man said various things such as that Officer Eikel didn’t care at all about him, that he (Officer Eikel) didn’t care if he lost his job because after all he (Officer Eikel) had a job, that he was being mean and was enjoying taking him to jail, why are you doing this to me? etc., etc. Of course it was all Officer Eikel’s fault, not the 12 pack of beer the man drank that landed him in detox, and the fight that earned him a trip to jail.
And then we got to the county jail, which looks nice from the outside but let me tell you, it is a place you never, ever want to go as a guest. It would be worth never committing any crime just to stay away from that place.
Officer Eikel had patted the man down at detox before he put him in his car. When we arrived at the jail and he got him out of the car, he patted him down again very thoroughly. Then he walked him through the sliding door into the first booking area where we were greeted by a jailer who looked like a fullback on a football team. He frisked the man very thoroughly and ran a metal detector wand all over him. He removed everything from his pockets (he found some change with the wand) and the man had to take off his shoes, socks, and belt. The jailer frisked him again, including what looked like giving him a major wedgie to see if anything showed up or fell out. He finished that process and the man moved to the next area where a nurse checked all his vitals and asked him questions he had difficulty answering like are you on any medication, were you in a wreck, did you hit your head, do you use drugs…he had difficulty answering because he was falling down drunk, not because they were hard questions!
Then he had to walk through a large metal detector like you see at the airport or courthouse and Officer Eikel led him to the next area where a jailer started the process of entering information into the computer and taking the man’s fingerprints. At this point Officer Eikel was finished, so we headed for the exit. We passed two holding cells, both full of men in various conditions – some with shirts off, some laying on the floor, some sitting, some apparent gang members, some seemingly drunk, some really scary looking, others bewildered. Along the outside walls were benches with poles like they have beside the commodes in handicap restrooms affixed to the wall parallel above the benches. There were lots of people sitting on those benches, handcuffed with a chain around the pole connecting each wrist on opposite sides of the pole. Off to one side I saw a man who was, I thought, having DTs as he was shaking profusely, and I saw a couple of women bawling their eyes out.
I understood why Officer Eikel worked so hard to keep the drunk woman from going there.
When we first walked in, I noticed the various jailers really looked at me…I finally realized they thought I was being booked in because I was a civilian wearing civilian clothes (my cammo tie-dye wasn’t hiding me enough). Shortly after we arrived, Officer Eikel walked around the corner to get some paperwork and I stood off to the side to wait for him near another officer whom we’d seen at detox (he brought in the man who was hitting the glass). His prisoner tried to talk to me and I ignored him, not making eye contact. The officer said, “She doesn’t want to talk to you.” He tried again. The officer said more firmly, “Back off, she doesn’t want to talk to you!” When Officer Eikel’s guy came into the second area, I said to a couple officers “I’m with him,” pointing at Officer Eikel. Officer Eikel’s prisoner said, “What? You’re with me?” Officer Eikel replied, “She’s not talking to you.” It would have been funny if I wasn’t slightly paranoid that they were gonna mistake me for someone who needed booked in.
As soon as the sliding door opened and we stepped outside it was as if we both inhaled freedom deeply and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. When he unlocked the car doors, Officer Eikel did something I had seen him do when we first got in the car at the Briefing Station which was he lifted up the entire back bench seat and looked under it with his high-powered flashlight. I realized then why he did it and I asked, “Are you checking for weapons?” He told me he was, and that he always checks. In fact, he always takes extra precautions on everything, like frisking everyone several times, handcuffing everyone he puts in the back seat, always checking under the bench seat, and always locking his car doors immediately. He told me people have actually tried to open his car doors. Now there’s a stupid bad guy, try to car-jack a cop!
At this point he headed back to Santa Fe district, stopping off at a 7-11 to go to the bathroom and get something to drink. This is something I bet you don’t think about as a civilian, police officers have to find someplace to go to the bathroom while they’re at work because they’re out driving around. Sgt. Morris, a female officer I met on my first ride-along, told me she knows where all the clean restrooms are in her patrol area (onCue and hotel lobbies). I took the opportunity to go to the bathroom and get a white caramel cappuccino. He then found another parking lot so he could finish filling out the paperwork on some of the previous calls. It was our last stop before end of shift paperwork back at the Briefing Station.
In my time with him, I learned that Officer Eikel has been with the OCPD for a year. He told me he was with a smaller police department prior to that for five years. Being an officer with OCPD was his dream since childhood, so when he had the opportunity he left the smaller department (which actually paid a little more) to attend OCPD Academy. He got through all the training successfully, but struggled with a driving test where they had to maneuver through cones. He kept knocking down one of the cones and having to redo the test. He was on the last chance to take the test, and it would mean either moving on as an OCPD officer or being out of a job. Justin is a person of faith, and he told me he had been praying all the way through the Academy. When he got to this last test and had one more chance, he turned it over once again to God. He went through the course without a single problem…and he thanked God! But then the instructor said, “Do it again just to be sure.” I pictured an unseen scene where angels were sitting on the edge of their seats, watching to see what was gonna happen. Justin held firm in his faith and he ran the course again, flawlessly. I could see how God had strengthened his faith even in that situation. It helped prepare him for his service as an Oklahoma City Police Officer.
|He and his wife have a beautiful (I saw pictures!) two-month-old baby girl. His wife is a teacher, so they both chose jobs that serve the public. He told me he’s mainly worked in the Santa Fe Division but he feels a brotherhood citywide with fellow officers. He started the Academy with 55 recruits but only 35 of them made it through. He said, “When you all go through the same stuff, there’s a bond.” I witnessed that bond as we encountered other officers from other divisions at detox and the jail. He told me, “There’s a lot of pride in working for the Oklahoma City Police Department. It’s the best job there is.”
We talked about defense tools and training, and he told me he trains a lot. He does strength training, cardio, and practices jiu-jitsu five days a week. He told me about a time on his previous job where he got in a foot pursuit with a prison escapee, and he quickly realized he wasn’t prepared to deal with someone who “wasn’t going back to prison.” They got in a close quarter (hand-to-hand) fight and the guy was quite a lot bigger than he. After running on foot chasing the guy he was already spent and it was really hard fighting someone who had nothing to lose. And that’s why he trains so much.
Officer Justin Eikel and his beautiful wife, Danielle
He said, “A lot of the officers just haven’t met that person yet. Somewhere out there is someone training when I’m not, and when we meet he will win. That one thing changed me, and I’m never gonna let that happen again. There are some really big, bad people out there.” He finished the thought by saying, “Really, I just love my wife and daughter.”
He asked me if I thought being aware of your surroundings played a part in self-defense and I told him about my Defensive Awareness and Between the Threat and the Bang classes, and that I teach women to spot a potential threat and stop it before it can become an attack. He said he feels that is key to protecting yourself. He got his conceal carry license and carried before he became a police officer, and he has no problem with a citizen who’s educated lawfully carrying a gun. He does, however, believe more education and training are needed beyond just the SDA class – I agreed and told him that’s why I do what I do with OPD.
Because his childhood dream was to become an OCPD officer he said he really “bugged” all the police officers he met as a boy. He told me they were always very kind and patient to answer all of his questions, and so he wants to be really nice to those who support law enforcement (like those who go on ride-alongs). He was certainly nice to me.
One of the things I noticed early on is that Officer Eikel carries his firearm on his right side but he writes with his left hand. I asked him if he was ambidextrous and he told me that when he was a boy his dad taught him to throw a baseball with his right hand before he realized he was left handed. Being able to shoot with either hand is a very helpful skill to have!
We were talking about tools I teach my students to use and got on the topic of guns and pepper spray. He told me about a Facebook post where a man said women should use pepper spray and not a gun because basically they couldn’t handle a gun. He was very offended by that and pointed out that with the proper education, women can handle guns as well or better than men! He told me, “There’s a reason cops carry both pepper spray and guns. Pepper spray doesn’t work on every bad guy, but a gun works on everybody!”
He told me one of the scariest calls he ever had was a guy had purchased a shotgun at Academy at Walker & 240, he took the dowel rod out of the magazine tube so he could fully load it, and he was standing outside of LifeChurch (next to Academy) loading it shortly before church let out. Officer Eikel and other officers rolled up and drew down on him, but he had seen them coming and unloaded the shotgun. He then carried on about how he had a right to be there with an unloaded shotgun. They did a background check on him and he had made threats about doing a mass shooting so he felt they stopped a church shooting before it could occur.
Justin told me his favorite Bible verse is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:39) He said he tries to live by that scripture in his life and his job. I saw it in action all through the shift as I witnessed him being kind and compassionate, diffusing several potentially bad situations with his words and actions, and never talking down to anybody even when they started talking bad to him. We met people from the bottom of the barrel to middle class, and encountered four different races of persons…he treated all of them equally, with dignity and respect.
He asked me toward the end of our time together if the ride-alongs have given me any different perspective. The truth is, yes, they have helped me to really appreciate police officers as people. The ones I’ve spent time with are very fine individuals and I have been both blessed and honored to have had that time. My hope is that every one of you reading this will schedule a ride-along with your police department so you can see what I’m talking about. You might even make some new friends!
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Ride-Along #3 – Sgt. Chris Lambert
October 9, 2014
My goal was to do a ride-along in each Division on each shift – that means a total of four Divisions and three different shifts. I’m also working on scheduling a ride-along with a K-9 Unit, and though I didn’t win the helicopter ride-along (my friend did so I hope to interview her about it and write an article about it) I will at the very least go talk to the Air-1 Unit and write about it…I’m glad my friend won it because I’m not sure with my tremendous fear of heights that I could have gone up in a helicopter!
So, I did my third ride-along on Thursday October 9th in the Springlake Division on the 7 am to 5 pm shift. This was the most difficult shift for me because I’m a night person and in order for me to get there a few minutes early (for roll call) I had to get up at 4:30 am…that gave me equal parts of wake time and getting ready, and then 45-50 minutes (depending on traffic) for the drive. A hot shower and good cup of coffee from Panera helped me wake up, and when I got off I-35 about 10 minutes away from the briefing station excitement brought me fully awake. What can I say, I really enjoy ride-alongs!
The Springlake Briefing Station is shared by the OKC Fire Department so it’s probably a larger building overall. Lt. Jennifer Rodgers had set the appointment with me and she told me the front wouldn’t be open when I arrived so to call when I got there. I did and the lieutenant who answered asked me to walk around to the side door and he’d meet me by the gate…there’s a security gate where officers input a code and it opens so they can drive through and park their personal vehicles and pick up their cruisers at each briefing station. So I walked around and almost hidden by some bushes was a door and the lieutenant was standing there waiting for me. The door opened right into the briefing room, which was a large room with several rows of rectangular tables much like the other briefing stations. Around the outside of the room were seven office doors – on the south wall were three offices with a sign above them that said Shift 1, Shift 2, Shift 3 and a fourth office said Impact. On the west wall there were three offices, each with a captain’s name above the door. At roll call I counted a total of 16 uniformed officers, two were women. Of the two women, one was Lt. Rodgers and there were three male lieutenants as well. There were two plain clothes men in the ranks whom I figured were officers of some sort – I later learned that one of them was my ride-along’s usual partner but he was at the station taking calls because of a knee injury. Also in the room was a priest, I thought he looked Greek Orthodox.
One of the lieutenants went to the podium at 7:00 sharp and began the briefing. He talked about the shootout the night before and named the two officers who had been shot, saying they were both okay. Their names had not yet been released to the media so I didn’t know who was shot, but when I first heard the news the day before I texted Officer Eikel and asked if he was okay because it was in his division (he was, thank God). The lieutenant also talked about arrests on the previous day shift and what officers needed to watch out for on this shift. Then he asked the priest if he wanted to say anything and he came forward and said a prayer for the officer’s safety and protection. Shortly thereafter, the officers were dismissed and Sgt. Chris Lambert came over and introduced himself to me and told me I’d be riding with him.
After a couple of minutes taking care of paperwork we headed out the back door into the parking lot toward his cruiser. His car is one of the older Crown Vics, and it was in really great condition. It had a Plexiglas divider between the front and back seat so subjects in the back couldn’t make any kind of contact with the officer in front except to talk. I noticed the push bars on the front of the car and I asked him later in the day if all the patrol cars have them. He told me they do, so I asked if he ever used them and he said, “All the time,” and he explained he’s had to push many cars out of the way with them.
I told Sgt. Lambert I have an academy for women’s personal defense and I’m doing ride-alongs as a part of the OCPD Citizen Police Academy and writing articles about my experiences because I want to put a face on police officers for the general public. All of the officers I’ve ridden with seemed appreciative of citizens wanting to get to know them, and Sgt. Lambert was no exception.
Sgt. Lambert told me our call sign was 1-Charlie-18. I had learned from Officer Callaway in my first ride-along that each division is identified as follows: Southwest is Adam, Hefner is Baker, Springlake is Charlie, and Santa Fe is Delta. I listen to the OCPD police scanner on my iPhone through an app called 5-0 Radio Pro so I can tell which division is talking when I hear “Baker 100” or “Delta 75.” I learned from Officer Eikel on my second ride-along that the officers within a division have their own area they patrol. Sgt. Lambert explained his area is Charlie 1, and during the shift he also showed me a little bit of Charlie 2 and we went to an accident with injury in Charlie 4. Whenever a call would come on the screen for Sgt. Lambert I would see “1C18” and when he’d respond to a radio call he’d identify himself as “1-Charlie-18.”
On our first call, a neighbor had called 911 after hearing a woman screaming inside her house. The first officer on the scene was 1C24, Sgt. Mark Solano, and I heard him say over the radio that he was waiting for backup. After two officers were shot through a door answering a domestic disturbance call the day before, Sgt. Solano wasn’t taking any chances and had called for backup, and Sgt. Lambert had answered the call. This was one of those “get there fast” calls, which I had been on during my first ride-along when there was an officer involved shooting and we flew up 23rd Street. During that call, Officer Callaway explained he couldn’t go Code 3 (lights & sirens) all the way with a civilian in the car, but he “cleared the intersections” which meant as we got to each intersection he slowed down, put on his lights, and did short bursts of the siren to try to get the attention of drivers. Sgt. Lambert did the same. It was a little after 7 am so there was a lot of traffic on NE 36th Street and as we came to the intersection at Western, Sgt. Lambert put on his lights and did several bursts of the siren – VERY obviously alerting drivers there was a police emergency – and three cars didn’t even stop but went right on through the intersection (making him wait)…apparently they thought their getting somewhere was more important than a police emergency. I hope no one does that to them if they ever need to call 911!
|Sgt. Lambert pointed out an orange block on the top right of his laptop screen that said “Emergency” and a red button on the radio panel in the console. He said if something happened I should push one of the two buttons, preferably the computer button – I realized it was like the red “panic” button officers have on the top of their radio. It was comforting to know I had a way to call for help if it was needed. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed!
Before we arrived on scene Sgt. Solano radioed that the male suspect had run off, and gave a description of what he looked like and what he was wearing, stating that the female had no visible marks on her, she wasn’t pressing charges and she was being very uncooperative. Sgt. Lambert and I talked about how typical this is in a domestic abuse situation – the woman gets beaten up, the man cries and says he’s sorry, and she doesn’t press charges. Usually this cycles on indefinitely or until he finally kills her, but unfortunately there’s absolutely nothing an officer can do unless he sees visible marks on the victim and he’s able to locate the suspect. We drove around the neighborhood, which was full of trees and bushes, and it was impossible to see in many areas. Sgt. Lambert said, “He could be hiding anywhere, and this is daylight!”
I asked him if Oklahoma is like some states, such as Florida and California, where a domestic call is an automatic arrest for the offender. He explained that officers try to determine who the primary aggressor is, and they make an arrest when there are visible injuries. He went on to say, “Even though the law is there, we need to factor in common sense.” We talked about situations where two adults were fighting and no harm was really done and there wasn’t a true call for an arrest.
From there he pulled into an abandoned gas station to watch a school zone for speeders. I got to see how the radar works – the canister looking thing on the dashboard is the actual radar and it’s connected to a display screen that shows the speed of cars passing by. A hand held remote is connected to that so he can lock in a speed. Still being rush hour, there were lots of cars in both lanes of each direction of traffic. There were different pitch sounds coming from the unit, and he explained that the higher the pitch the faster the speed, so he could be looking down filling out reports and still recognize when someone was speeding. He told me he was typically somewhat lenient with speeders except when it came to the school zones because, he said, “No child needs to get hit.” As I looked at all the cars I couldn’t tell which ones were speeding, but he picked them out right away. He told me it comes from lots of experience.
We weren’t there very long before a call came in of an accident with injury and he went to assist another officer in Charlie 4. It was a three-car wreck in the eastbound center lane of NW Expressway near Blackwelder. When we arrived, a fire department ladder truck and another Springlake officer whom I’d seen at roll call was there. Firemen from the ladder truck were taking the vitals of the three drivers, and the officers began taking reports from the drivers. The first car was a Nissan Rogue, it had some scuff marks
| on the back bumper but no visible damage – no broken fiberglass, nothing seemed amiss except for the scuff marks. That driver was able to drive away after all the information was gathered. The second car was a small 4-door Honda, I couldn’t see the model but I guessed it was an older Civic. It was crunched, the front end was heavily damaged and the hood was bent and broken, the trunk was just a jagged piece of metal hanging off the back seat. That driver was standing when we arrived, but asked to be taken to the hospital so EMSA came on scene and took him away. The third car in the mix was a fairly new Nissan Altima, it wasn’t badly damaged but the hood was bent and a chunk was broken out of it. Both the driver and passenger airbag deployed in the Altima. The driver was a woman about my height (short) and I figured it probably hurt to get hit in the face by that airbag (she seemed a little dazed). The Honda and Altima had to be towed, but as I said the Rogue drove away…it almost looked to me like she could buff out the scuffs with some Meguiar’s ScratchX from O’Reilly’s!
After several minutes, I noticed the first officer on the scene was sitting in his patrol car while Sgt. Lambert was standing with the last driver…the first driver drove away, second driver was taken off in the ambulance, and the third driver was waiting for a ride and for her car to be picked up by the tow truck. I asked Sgt. Lambert if the other officer was filling out the report and he said, “Yes, and a three car accident is a lengthy 8-page report.” He explained that the first officer on the scene fills out the report and he was getting started on it because with other calls it could take him all day to complete it. I asked why the report was so lengthy and he told me the government and insurance companies dictate the required information for a traffic collision report.
As I was observing the scene, I was able for the first time to get a look at Sgt. Lambert’s duty weapon, which I recognized as a Sig Sauer (I can tell by the grip what brand a gun is). I asked him what caliber it is and he said, “.45, and it’s a handful!” He told me about a time he had to use it after getting his head cracked open by a suspect, he emptied an entire magazine in the guy and he was just standing there looking at him. This is why I emphasize stopping power versus smaller caliber that may have very little effect on an attacker – the suspect had mental issues and was not taking his meds, several .45 rounds in him did enough damage to stop him from attacking (after he bashed open Sgt. Lambert’s head and was trying to kill Lambert’s partner) but it didn’t kill him. I’ll talk more about this incident later.
Sgt. Lambert told me he’s an only child who lived at home in OKC until he was 24, and then he told his parents he was moving to Ft. Smith, Arkansas to be a police officer there. Needless to say, his mother wasn’t too crazy about the idea. He was with the Ft. Smith PD for six years before coming back home to Oklahoma City. He told me he liked Ft. Smith because it was big enough to get some good experience, but not too big to be overwhelming, and he enjoyed learning from different experiences on patrol there (such as one of the things he did was bike patrol). He’s been with the OCPD for the last 14 years and is coming up on his 20th year in law enforcement.
Our next call was another domestic, two people were arguing over a car title. As we arrived at each call, I asked Sgt. Lambert if he wanted me to stay in the car – on this one he did. A man was sitting on a ledge right by the front door of a little house, and a woman was leaning up against a car on the street. I knew a backup unit was on the way, but Sgt. Lambert didn’t wait and got out and started talking to the woman. Then he went over to talk to the man. I was watching everything closely because I knew there was a reason he told me to stay in the car (I figured he had a gut feeling). As he walked up to the man, the man put his hand in his pocket and began pulling something out – this made me super nervous, but Sgt. Lambert stayed cool as a cucumber…it turned out to be keys, but I felt on edge after yesterday’s shooting of two officers. As he was talking to the man, the backup officer arrived and began talking to the woman. At one point the man put the keys in the doorknob, opened the door and stepped into the house, then he immediately came back out. Sgt. Lambert told me later that he told the man to shut the door and come back out there. I understood what he went on to explain, which was who knows what the man is going toward or doing inside the house, he could be reaching for a firearm or anything. Then Sgt. Lambert had the two come closer together and he talked to each one – I pictured a dad chewing out a couple of unruly kids. After this each of them got in separate vehicles and drove off, and Sgt. Lambert got back in the patrol car. He told me the man and woman had been boyfriend and girlfriend and the man had bought the car (a piece of junk not really worth arguing over) for her when she “got out of prison.” Apparently she kept coming around every month asking for the car title. It took him a few minutes to input info about the call into the computer and as we drove off, here they both came back to the house to start it up again. He said it was like babysitting because it was two adults acting like children.
I asked him if it was difficult after two officers got shot through a door when they answered a call to not be edgy the next day. He replied, “You’re a little more vigilant, it brings it close to home because a couple fellow officers got shot, and it reminds you to be extra safe.” It made me really nervous when the man opened the door to the house, but Sgt. Lambert said he just diplomatically told the man to close the door and he did. He said, “We have to operate with that balance of self-protection and dealing with someone with dignity.” From my point of view, he did that very well!
Our next call was about a man who was exposing himself on a woman’s porch at an apartment complex. A suspect description of a man with long white hair wearing a purple jersey with a number on it came across the radio. As we drove on the south side of the complex I saw an older looking man with a purple jersey sitting in a little cubbyhole where there were some steps. I said, “there he is.” and Sgt. Lambert pulled his car over and got out, grabbing a pair of purple Nitrile gloves on the way. He walked over to the man and motioned for him to come over to him as he put the gloves on. Right then 1C24, Sgt. Solano, arrived as backup. Sgt. Lambert brought the man’s hands behind his back and held them there while Sgt. Solano (also wearing purple Nitrile gloves) patted him down. He handed Sgt. Lambert a pair of handcuffs and Sgt. Lambert hooked him up. After this Sgt. Solano checked all his pockets, turning them inside out, and patted him down further.
Sgt. Lambert then came back to the car as Sgt. Solano was starting to look through the man’s backpack. The man had given him his name, which Sgt. Lambert entered into the computer.
His name came up along with a very long list of offenses – public drunkenness, public indecency, arson – the man was a registered sex offender. This was a bad guy, a pervert who needed to be locked up. Sgt. Lambert was pretty sure this arrest would get him sent back to prison.
As Sgt. Solano emptied the contents of the man’s backpack, I could see a brown paper wrapper with a glass bottle with a twist lid sticking out of the top (his liquor). Sgt. Solano then placed the man in the back of Sgt. Lambert’s patrol car while he went to interview the woman who had called. I braced myself, but thankfully he didn’t stink!
Sgt. Lambert explained to me that a woman had opened her front door, saw the man sitting in her chair on her porch “with his business out, playing with himself.” She closed the door and called 911. I was so glad to hear she was smart about it and didn’t run out there and try to confront the man (it happens all the time and women get assaulted as a result!). Sgt. Lambert later told me he had been on a call to that very apartment previously when the woman’s 12-year-old granddaughter was there; he said, “It could have been her that opened the door and saw that.”
The man didn’t have an address and didn’t have any ID (he was homeless) so Sgt. Lambert asked him where he stays and he said at a homeless camp near Reno and Western.
My experience with police officers is that they are way more tolerant of people than most of us ever would be, but I have learned that LEOs are really disgusted with perverts. Though Sgt. Lambert wasn’t ugly, he didn’t mince any words with this guy. The man started asking from the back seat if he was being arrested and what were the charges, Sgt. Lambert answered, “for exposing yourself,” and then the man would ask again, saying things like “I don’t know what I did wrong,” “I didn’t do anything wrong,” “I was just looking for my backpack,” “I wasn’t on anybody’s porch,” etc. Finally Sgt. Lambert had enough and said, “You are under arrest for public indecency, and if this is the kind of thing you do, I suggest you go someplace else because every time we get a call on you, we’re gonna charge you with anything and everything possible. Hopefully this violates your sex offender registry and they’ll put you back in prison.” Sgt. Lambert maintained his professionalism but I could tell he was just disgusted with this guy. He was filling out the report, and Sgt. Solano was still interviewing the woman, and then the man said, “Do we have to sit here all day?” Sgt. Lambert said, “You are under arrest and will go to jail when I’m good and ready, you’re not in charge here!” Shortly after this, Sgt. Lambert asked the man his age and he said, “I got nothing to say to you.” Oh, so now the pervert is disgusted (because he couldn’t push Sgt. Lambert around)!
At one point Sgt. Solano came back to Sgt. Lambert’s car and told him the woman would ID him from a distance, so Sgt. Lambert got the man out of his backseat and told him to stand at the back of his car. Apparently the woman was standing in the shadows (she didn’t want to come face to face with this guy, and who could blame her!) and she identified him as the man on her porch. Sgt. Lambert put him back in his patrol car, and went over to talk to Sgt. Solano, leaving me alone in the car with Mr. Pervert.
I thought, “I hope he doesn’t try to talk to me,” but I planned to A. ignore him or B. jump out of the car and tattle on him to one of the officers, who were so disgusted by him I was sure they’d put him in his place and tell him to shut up. He never spoke, though. I could feel the contempt from the back seat, this was a sicko that didn’t like women and I could feel it.
Sgt. Lambert got back in his car and resumed inputting information. He told me he was helping Sgt. Solano with the report to speed up the process. I could see 1C24 coming across the screen along with various information as Sgt. Solano entered info into his laptop from his patrol car. Sgt. Solano was filling out a Probable Cause Affidavit, and Sgt. Lambert was filling out the charges. Shortly, Lt. Rodgers arrived on scene, and Sgt. Lambert later told me a supervisor has to sign off on the PC Affidavit as it’s department policy for checks & balances. Once the information was input, Sgt. Lambert moved Mr. Pervert over to Sgt. Solano’s car to be taken to the jail (I was really glad not to go to the jail again – see Ride-Along 2 for info on that).
Our next call was a simple one, which was refreshing after the pervert call. A woman’s backyard storage building had been broken into. It turned out to be one of those fiberglass boxes with a place for a padlock. The padlock had been pried off and set on top of the box, and her golf clubs had been stolen. The backyard was completely fenced in and as we went through the privacy gate she said, “Don’t let that gate close.” I was the last one through so I made sure it was wide open and the wind wasn’t moving it so that it would stay open. Sure enough, when we came back it had closed and we were locked inside. We walked around to the other side of this communal backyard, which was shared with another duplex type house until we found a gate we could get through. It occurred to me the bad guys would have had the same problem, and you couldn’t see the storage box from outside of the yard, and only the golf clubs had been stolen…so whoever stole them probably knew what was there and how to slip in and get them and slip back out. When we talked about it later, Sgt. Lambert said it was probably someone she knew that she thought she could trust…I suggested it could have been a friend she told who told someone else – this is why I tell my students not to advertise their belongings, your friend may not steal them but they may tell someone who will! It’s also a good reason not to leave your garage door open so people can’t see in and see what you have to steal.
We made our way back to the front of the house where the patrol car was parked and Sgt. Lambert got a few more details from the woman. As we left she said to him, “Thank you for your time, I know it’s valuable.” When we got back in the car, I asked if he gets thanked very much and he said hardly ever. I thought it was really decent of her to do that.
Charlie 1 goes from Classen to Penn, and NE 36th south to NE 10th Street. This is the area we drove around for the most part. We went past a 7-11 near 10th & Western and he told me it was a hotbed for transients but at that time we didn’t see anyone. We made our first pit stop at a Circle K where he said, “The restrooms are clean and always locked.” As we went in and picked up the restroom keys, he added, “To keep people like the man we just picked up out.”
I learned that Sgt. Lambert met his wife, Maria, in high school and she was a police officer with him at the Ft. Smith PD for five years. Maria has been a forensic interviewer for the last 14 years – she interviews children, ages three to sixteen, who have been sexually or physically abused. She decided to create her own non-profit organization, Oklahoma Interviewing Services, to fill the gaps where services are needed. For example, large departments like OCPD have various victim services available, but many of the smaller departments do not. Maria travels all over OKC and Oklahoma helping abused children. Sgt. Lambert told me, “It’s a service that everybody needs but nobody wants to pay for.”
He told me he worked nights for 10 years with OCPD, then moved to the day shift, which he likes much better. He said his kids were getting older and he wanted to hang out with them so he moved to days. He told me his kids, ages 13 and 17, are more aware of what’s going on in the world than the typical teen – I can see why considering what both their parents do! I asked him if his kids wanted to go into law enforcement when they grow up. He said they both enjoy the sport of shooting, but they haven’t yet decided what they want to do in life. I have a feeling it’ll be something in service to others.
When I asked Sgt. Lambert what his favorite part of the job is he replied, “The satisfaction of getting that person off the streets that’s a plague to society.” This is the same sentiment “Jack” expressed (see above article) when he talked about child predators (LEOs have a real problem with anyone who hurts children). He told me it’s really frustrating when they (the officers) arrest a bad guy and the bad guy gets let out. I thought back to Mr. Pervert, from what I could see on the laptop when Sgt. Lambert pulled up his record he had at least two pages of previous sex crimes…this guy should not have been out on the streets.
In addition to his Sig .45, Sgt. Lambert had two spare magazines, two pairs of handcuffs, OC, an Asp Triad 120 lumens flashlight, an Asp baton, a taser, and a cell phone on his belt. He told me his duty belt weighs 21 pounds. I carry a full size M&P .40 and a spare magazine on my belt, plus a folder, tactical flashlight, kubotan and sometimes OC (pepper spray) in my pockets…my pants don’t weigh 21 pounds and I can’t imagine carrying around that much weight on my belt/pants. Ya’ll, this makes going to the bathroom slightly inconvenient!
He told me about a domestic violence call he and his partner went on at an apartment complex a few years ago. When they arrived the woman met them outside, and they went to the apartment door and knocked in an attempt to talk to the suspect (her husband/boyfriend). A little kid opened the door, the suspect saw them and ran out the back. He grabbed the woman, put a nunchuk chain around her neck while holding a knife to her side and tried to drag her back into the apartment. As Sgt. Lambert and his partner were trying to negotiate with the suspect, he dropped the knife and tried to get back into the apartment at which time Sgt. Lambert’s partner bear hugged him in an attempt to stop him. The suspect’s right arm slipped out and he swung, hitting Sgt. Lambert in the head with the nunchuks. It didn’t cause him to fall down or pass out, but it was as if he blanked out for a moment and when he “came to” he saw the suspect beating his partner with the nunchuks. Sgt. Lambert gripped his Sig and cleared leather, rotated the barrel forward, and fired without ever raising his arm to sight in his target (his natural point of aim was left center – 7 shots through suspect’s left flank and 2 through his arm). He emptied his entire magazine of .45 caliber JHP bullets into the man and, “he was just standing there, looking at me.” As I said above, this is a lesson in why it’s so important to carry a stopping power caliber. Nine .45 bullets didn’t kill the suspect, but it certainly stopped him from killing Sgt. Lambert and his partner.
Sgt. Lambert had 14 staples in his head as a result of the attack, and he said even to this day he doesn’t remember the exact scene (it was 4 am in a dark apartment). The bad guy didn’t fare so well. He spent 43 days in ICU, and came away with permanent damage. The man was 22 years old with three little kids, and Sgt. Lambert said his 9-year-old was the best witness to the incident as he told investigators about how his daddy hit the police.
The suspect received a 20-year prison sentence, and Sgt. Lambert explained to me he’ll have to serve 85 percent of his sentence since it was a violent felony. Yes, that’s right, 85 percent is all it costs for trying to kill two cops! This is something I teach about in my Defensive Awareness class, “getting them off the streets” is almost meaningless. The average person has no idea what LEOs deal with. Sgt. Lambert told me that many of his fellow officers in Springlake have been involved in a police shooting.
A “Signal 76” came across the screen and I asked him what that was, “Car wreck,” he explained. In an upcoming CPA article I’ll be writing about Signal 30, which is fatality car wrecks. As it turned out, he only took the one accident call during my ride-along.
The next call we took was a possible break in. I’m not exactly sure where we were but I knew it was a really bad place. In fact, it was an old apartment complex where a dead body had been found several days prior, and Sgt. Lambert told me all the tenants were on edge. This place made me really nervous just walking up to it, then we entered a door and walked up a very narrow stairway to a very narrow landing with an apartment door on either side. Sgt. Lambert knocked on the RP’s (reporting party) door and a woman in her 30s answered. He only went partially in, and I stood on the landing with my back to the window, facing the stairway (no way I was putting my back to that stairway or the other apartment door). A man came out of the other apartment and stood there listening in on the conversation Sgt. Lambert was having with the occupant of the other apartment. She had found a screwdriver by her door and she believed someone had tried to break in. She said weird things had been going on there since the guy had been murdered, and she said, “How am I supposed to protect myself?” Sgt. Lambert tried to give her advice on how to protect herself, including, “Don’t walk alone by yourself,” and he finished by saying, “Maybe it’s time to go somewhere else.”
Part of Charlie 2’s area is Heritage Hills, and he drove me through some of the neighborhoods, a historic district with multi-million dollar homes. He told me about getting alarm calls to some of these homes and they have to go in and check it out. He said it’s an odd feeling walking through someone’s home, knowing they weren’t expecting a stranger to be there, and sometimes they never know the officers were in their house. Usually the alarm goes off because a door is left open, they go check it out and if they don’t find anything suspicious, lock the door behind them and leave. He told me about an alarm call he went on and as he went through the house, he heard a very large dog barking and growling – fortunately the dog was in a crate, but he said he has opened doors to pit bulls before. A lot of times it’s a false alarm, but that call was a legitimate break in, the suspect had broken a window to get in, cut himself, and left blood all over the house. The ferocious dog in a crate didn’t do much good.
I asked him if he’s had very many ride-alongs – he’s had a few, and he told me a friend of his is thinking about joining the force and will be doing a ride-along with him. He said the lieutenants (who schedule the ride-alongs) try to pair ride-alongs with officers who are outgoing so the ride-along has a good experience. The officers I’ve ridden with have been very friendly and have explained things very well to help me learn what goes on. Sgt. Lambert told me he had several ride-alongs in Ft. Smith.
Earlier in the day he pulled the chain that goes into his breast pocket and there was a key attached to it, it was to the door locks on his Crown Vic. He took the key off and gave it to me in case I needed to get in the car when he was dealing with something. Both Officer Callaway and Officer Eikel had done the same thing on my ride-alongs with them. I asked him if they all kept a key on the chain and he explained the chain was purely decoration but many of the officers keep a spare key on it.
He also had seatbelt extenders on both front seatbelts (like these). He told me they are vehicle specific, but they’re free from the manufacturer so he ordered one for each front seatbelt. He showed me how much easier it made it to reach his gun because the seatbelt release was a few inches above the grip, giving you clear access to the grip if you needed to draw the gun while buckled in. I decided this is a really great option for civilian carry as well.
Our next call was a VPO violation at a private hospital (that I didn’t know existed and still can’t remember the name of). A woman, who had taken out multiple VPOs on her abusive husband over the years, was in ICU (because of him) and he had driven there from Weatherford to try and see her. Hospital administrators told him to leave, and one of the male staff members walked him to the door. Sgt. Lambert met with these two female administrators who told him a higher up had told them they should try and detain the man. The women wisely said, “we weren’t going to try and hold him, we just wanted him to leave.” The two women were talking to Sgt. Lambert and at one point asked me if I was a detective…I just nodded “no” and inwardly chuckled at the idea of a “tie-dye detective.” The suspect had an extremely long history of physical and verbal abuse, and an OSBI agent had been there to interview the victim. One of the women said to Sgt. Lambert that she didn’t know how they were supposed to protect themselves if he came back because they weren’t allowed to carry guns at the hospital, and the other woman, with a sly grin, held her hand beside her mouth to shield it from view of the nurses behind the counter and mouthed the words, “I have a gun.” They didn’t need a tie-dye detective after all, but Sgt. Lambert told them to call 911 if he came back.
Sgt. Lambert told me there’s an act in Oklahoma allowing LEOs to take any VPO at face value…in other words, if a woman hands an officer a VPO that says her husband can’t be around her, they can arrest him if he comes around. He said, “At the end of the day, it’s just a piece of paper and ladies need to realize that.”
Sgt. Lambert told me he’s an instructor trainer for Asp, and that there are only 90 in the entire world. He will be doing an Asp baton and handcuffing training course for the Kansas Highway Patrol in the near future. Asp is well known for its premier batons, and they also make handcuffs and tactical flashlights. He said Asp provides the training to law enforcement agencies at no cost to them, but he’s paid by Asp as an instructor trainer (he trains law enforcement instructors to teach their officers baton tactics). He teaches body mechanics – how to swing, hold, maintain, strike with a baton – as well as handcuffing techniques (it’s not as easy as it looks!).
Our next call came in as someone wanting to go to the Crisis Center. This is when someone in a mental health crisis needs to be taken to a mental health facility. I’d heard about these type of calls in CPA – if there is no bed available in OKC, the responding officer and another officer (determined by the lieutenant) must transport the person wherever a bed is available, whether that’s in Ft. Smith or Tulsa. Sgt. Lambert told me he’d been to that address many times before and that the woman (in her 20s) was a known meth user. I got out of the car at first, but I heard her say something to him about not liking “that lady being there” so I used my key and got back in the cruiser. When we arrived, Lt. Rodgers was already there, and I saw the woman hold out her hand to Sgt. Lambert as if to shake his hand. He stayed out of her reach and refused her handshake. I asked him about it when he got back in the car and he said she was trying to buddy up to him because she wanted a ride…not to the Crisis Center (she didn’t need that according to her) but just wanted a ride.
Our last call was an alarm call at one of those Heritage Hills mansions. I stayed in the car because the responding officers would have to clear the house in case there actually was a suspect in the house. When we arrived, there were already several officers there and I noticed Sgt. Lambert stayed outside with three other officers. I wondered why he didn’t go inside, and then I saw several officers walking out, wearing gray shirts that said “Police” and black ball caps. I could tell they weren’t regular patrol officers, and Sgt. Lambert later explained they were Gang Unit officers. He told me that members of the Hoover gang had bought a house close by and the Gang Unit stayed on them until they finally moved (hooray!). On this day, several Gang Unit officers were at a nearby location when the alarm call came in and they all responded and cleared the house because they thought the Hoovers might be in the house. There were seven patrol cars total on scene, at least three of them were the Gang Unit (who travel in pairs) so there were at least six Gang Unit officers there, and they cleared the house while the patrol officers waited outside.
Bummer, I was hoping Sgt. Lambert would get to walk through one of those mansions!
I asked him if they ever answer an alarm call, walk in a house and find the homeowner there. He said, “Oh yeah, and everybody scares everybody!”
Sgt. Lambert told me that on calls he pays close attention to body language, and hands are red flags. He said, “You get a pretty good feel from the person’s posture, demeanor, and what they’re doing with their hands.” He went on to say, “It has an effect on you.” and explained that he’s always watching people and what they’re doing even when not on duty. I told him I am never off guard when out in public so I knew what he meant. He finished the thought by saying, “When you get out there in the public, you see how many people bring it on themselves.” I could see that over the course of three ride-alongs.
Sgt. Lambert headed back to the Springlake Briefing Station because, though it seemed like only a few minutes had gone by since the shift started, it was nearly time for the shift to end. He pulled into the front parking lot to let me out at my car, I gave him back his key, and we headed off in separate directions, me toward home and him toward the officer’s secured parking lot. I came away, once again, with a deep appreciation for the work law enforcement officers do. I could see throughout the day that parts of it were mundane, other parts were frustrating, and still other parts were very satisfying (like getting Mr. Pervert off the streets, this time hopefully for good). Through it all Sgt. Lambert was professional and patient, yet another excellent representation of law enforcement.
My closing thought is simply this…thank you, Chris, for your time and your service as a law enforcement professional!
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