Let’s give a big high five to MSW Guest Blogger Kathy Bennett! (Cheers! Applauses! Laughs!) … Kathy is no stranger to murder and mayhem! She’s a retired cop from LAPD, which gives intense realism and authenticity to her crime novels. You can check out her booklist at her website (plus read her full bio and excerpts!) What I love about Kathy is that she understands both cops, criminals, and even better … writers! I remember three years ago, I’d emailed Kathy with some rather bizarre questions. I’d been writing CARNAL SIN, the second in my Seven Deadly Sins series, and needed to understand how LAPD was structured and what a detective might (or might not!) do under very different circumstances. Because Kathy has an imagination, she could play along with my “what if” scenario and lend authenticity to my urban fantasy, while understanding that I was also dealing with demons and dark magic. Kathy is a writer who gives back, which makes me doubly happy to have her as our guest today. So now … please welcome … Kathy!
We’re in Pursuit!
I’m so excited to be here today at Murder She Writes! Thank you, ladies, for having me.
When considering a blog topic, I wanted something exciting, something thrilling, and something that would get you revved up. So, I asked myself, what better to get the reader’s motor running than police pursuits?
There are few things that will get a police officer’s adrenaline going like a vehicle pursuit. A pursuit is the epitome of “chasing down the bad guy.” However, a car chase is one of the most dangerous things police officers do. They’re not just dangerous to the officer and person being pursued, but to the public, as well. I’m sure each of you can recall a news broadcast where an innocent victim lost their life or was seriously injured while officers pursued a criminal.
Last week, in Los Angeles, there was a pursuit you may have seen on your local news. The pursuit involved suspects who allegedly robbed a bank, then were spotted by the police. A pursuit ensued. In this incident, the suspects drove to South Los Angeles where they began to throw money out of the rear window of their vehicle. As you might imagine, with tens, twenties and hundred-dollar bills raining through the air, chaos developed in the streets. People who’d been watching the pursuit on the news ran out of their homes, businesses and cars and into the street to try and grab the cash.
Can you put yourself in the place of a police officer driving a patrol car and pursuing armed bank robbers under those circumstances? The pursuit ended and the suspects were taken into custody when traffic blocked the suspect’s progress. Was the traffic jam a result of their money-throwing stunt? I sure hope so.
A more common reason a suspect might run from the police is because they’re driving a stolen vehicle. The officers will usually request back-up officers and an air unit before attempting to pull over a stolen vehicle. But sometimes, the suspects know they’ve been seen, and suddenly take off or pull to the curb and flee on foot. Sometimes they’ll even jump from a moving vehicle.
As the driving officer in a pursuit, you’re focused on following the suspect, while at the same time, driving as safely as possible.
In a pursuit, the passenger officer is busy. He has to broadcast his unit’s location, description of the vehicle and suspects, how many suspects are in the vehicle, and any traffic violations the suspects commit. The reason for broadcasting traffic violations is to document the suspect’s driving. If the suspect commits numerous traffic violations, the disregard for public safety makes his evasion a felony no matter why he was originally being chased.
In addition to handling the radio, the passenger officer is “clearing” the intersections for the driver. What that means is, the passenger is looking to his right and left as they approach an intersection and will yell out “clear!” if no traffic is approaching. If the intersection isn’t clear, he will yell “traffic!”
I have to tell you, I’ve been involved in a pursuit while working alone. I was a report-writing unit that evening, which meant my role was to take crime reports where the suspect had already fled. With me taking ‘routine’ reports, other patrol cars staffed with two officers wouldn’t be tied up, and could respond to emergencies.
So, that night, a couple of gang members robbed a drive-thru dairy. The first officers on the scene put out a crime broadcast over the police radio. They provided the suspect and vehicle description, the direction they’d fled, along with the info the suspects were armed with a handgun.
I’d heard the robbery call come out, and responded to a route I thought the crooks might take as they escaped. And guess what? I was right. The chase was on!
It’s not easy to be alone driving in a pursuit, but I stayed with them, racing down surface streets, careening around corners and broadcasting my location until another two-officer unit joined the pursuit. Per LAPD policy, I dropped back and the two-officer unit took the lead in the pursuit with me as the secondary unit.
The initial pursuit, (where I was alone,) was extremely stressful, but it turned out fine with the bad guys going to jail and no one getting hurt.
Whew! Is your heart racing? Mine is!
So, tell me, if you were walking on the sidewalk and a vehicle drove by with someone throwing a lot of money out of the window, what would you do?