Archive | February 2015

Citizen Police Academy – Week 5

Carol Stream CPA3

First let me say – female police officers kick ASS. Literally! Last night’s class was on Use of Force and Arrest Procedures. It was taught by Officers Julie Johnson and Amanda Taylor. They are both the instructors for the entire police department on these topics, plus Defensive Tactics. They were both very nice women, but boy, are they tough! 🙂

We started with Use of Force, which is a hot button issue, especially nowadays. I truly wish everyone in the U.S. could take a class like this. To truly understand the point of view of the police themselves. NOT the media and the unreliable/outright lying witnesses. Because of the media and their narrow view the first instinct is to ALWAYS blame the police. And 99% of the time they are absolutely justified in their use of force.

One complaint people have when they get pulled over for a traffic stop is that the officer was not friendly, looked at them suspiciously, etc. Well guess what? THEY DON’T KNOW YOU. You could’ve committed a bank robbery five minutes earlier and you have a gun. 18% of officer deaths each year are from traffic stops. The videos we saw of officers getting killed as they walked up to a car was chilling and horrifying. Do you blame them for constantly being on their guard? So please people, STOP and THINK the next time you have an interaction with a police officer. They are CONSTANTLY thinking about how you might harm them.

Here’s something else that will help you try and understand what physically happens to an officer when they’re in a use of force situation: 85% reported diminished sound (blocking out everything around them), 80% reported tunnel vision, 74% reported an automatic pilot feeling (when their training kicks in), 65% reported slow motion time, 51% reported memory loss for parts of the event. The amount of adrenaline coursing through their system is crazy insane.

We watched several more videos from patrol car dash-cams that made it appear that the police were shooting and killing unarmed people. Then we watched the other POV from the other patrol car dash-cam which clearly showed a weapon in their hands. Everyone nowadays is screaming for police to wear body-cams. Well guess what? This was a prime example of why they’re not effective tools – they, too, only show ONE narrow point of view. Tunnel vision. Especially if there is only one officer on the scene and there is no other camera catching the action as well. You can’t see what the officer sees out of the corner of his eye, etc.

This is a topic that I feel very strongly about. I’m tired of the police being made out to be the villain because people don’t stop and think about the SPLIT SECOND an officer has to make a decision about use of force. It’s just easier to say the police are evil and kill people whenever they feel like it without justification. Makes me sick.

To go along with that split second decision making, we had a demonstration on what’s called the “reactionary gap”. This is why the police do not want you standing any closer than five feet from them.  Why? Because YOU will win if you come at them with a gun or a knife simply because the officer cannot draw their weapon fast enough. Our officers have “Level 3 holsters”. This means they have a “hood” that flips up over the top of the gun and also a release button they have to press. It’s good and bad. Good because if someone tries to take their weapon in a struggle they’re not going to be able to. Bad, because like I just said, they have three steps to take to draw their weapon, slowing their reaction time. But people are always, “the police were mean to me!” when they’re told to stop and not come any closer.

How would you like to have a job where you ALWAYS have to think that someone might want to hurt or kill you? People need to give that some thought before passing instant judgement on the police.

Next topic was Arrest Procedures. You will be handcuffed if you’re under arrest, an escape risk or you’re a danger to yourself or others. Unlike being placed under arrest, which requires probable cause, you may be detained if the officer has reasonable suspicion you’ve committed a crime.

Every suspect is searched twice – once at the scene and again at the station prior to being booked. There are different kinds of searches: frisk/pat down, custodial/arrest, strip and body cavity. Officers never search or take anyone into custody by themselves. There is always another officer on scene.

We were shown examples of what look like everyday items that were taken off of suspects that were really weapons. There were knives hidden in belt buckles, combs, brushes, pens and even lipstick.

I mentioned this from another class, but you only need to be read your Miranda rights if you are in police custody or if you are under interrogation.

Next week’s class is being held at DuMeg, which is our county 911 dispatch center. Nearly all the towns around me no longer have 911 call centers at the police station. Because of budget cuts they’ve consolidated down to one central call center. And you can imagine how crazy it is there, taking calls from six towns. It should be a really interesting evening!

I was expecting to get my Volunteer credentials and gear last night but the sergeant came up to me and said that the photos he took of me last week were blurry and he has to take them again! ARGH!

But to end on a good note – my ride along is TOMORROW! I’ll be on patrol from 8:00 pm until 2:00 am. Wish me luck for an exciting night!

Citizen Police Academy – Week 4

Carol Stream CPA3

First let me start off with the good news that my volunteer application was accepted! I got finger printed and my photo taken for my official credentials last night. I also got sized for my official clothing. It’s a good thing I look good in red! I just missed out on taking part in a prisoner search training exercise that will be taking place this Sunday. Rats! But I’m now on the list and will await my first volunteer assignment. I’m totally excited!

So, last night’s topics were the SWAT team and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

Officer Schneider from the SWAT team started us off, dressed in his uniform and with all of his equipment that he carries with him at all times displayed on the table at the front of the room. His personal catchphrase is “icky, bad”. As in “We’re called in when it’s an icky, bad situation”. I swear he must’ve said that phrase about ten times during class. 🙂

Our SWAT team was formed in 1979 and then merged with the county SWAT team about 10 years ago. They currently have 22 members but are in the process of hiring 8 more. (There has never been a woman on the team, which I was disappointed to hear).

If you don’t already know, SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. They are broken down into teams – Shield Team, Perimeter Team, Entry Team, React Team and Forward Observer Team (these are the snipers). They are also assisted by three other special ops teams – Negotiating Team, Intelligence Team and Communications Team.

SWAT’s main missions are: barricaded suspects, hostage rescue, high risk arrest warrants, drug raids, crowd control and VIP security.

Their code is: Speed, Surprise and the Violence of Action.

Besides standard building/house training they also train on buses, planes and trains. These are called “tubular assaults”.  For building/house assaults they have Dynamic Entry (which is when they literally break down the doors, go in through windows, and are yelling loudly) and Stealth Entry (which is exactly what you think it is – sneaking in quietly to take the suspects unawares).

We saw several training videos where they fire live rounds called “simunitions”. These are bullets that have a hard rubber tip that bursts open upon contact and sprays colored detergent. Many years ago in a different CPA class I took, we got to use these. Let me tell you, these are no paintballs. These suckers hurt if you get hit, which is the point, really. I actually still have a spent round from that class I kept as a souvenir. 🙂

Officer Schneider then took us through a few missions he’d been on, showed us photographs from them and then went over all of his equipment, which he passed around to all of us. I got to handle a wicked AR-15 rifle with the coolest laser scope I’d ever seen, a massive less-than-lethal rifle that fires these huge rubber bullets (or gas canisters), a .45 pistol and the breast plate from his vest. Holy crap was that heavy. He said that when he’s got everything on it’s an additional forty pounds!

At the end of his presentation I was again bitten by the same plot bunny I had a few months ago, about the SWAT sniper and the police psychologist. Hmmm…

Then Officer Cleuver took us through Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. Yes, it’s an exciting a topic as you think it would be! LOL!  But it’s actually really important for our town. We have a massive industrial base and we’ve got trucks of all shapes and sizes rolling through 24 hours a day. So making sure these vehicles are not overweight and obey all safety regulations is really important. We’ve had several fatal traffic accidents because of trucks which is now down to just one in the last five years. Mainly because of Officer Cleuver. This is his mission and he’s amazing at it. The stories he told us and photos he showed us of trucks were unbelievable. Some were overweight by 46,000 pounds! It was an $18,000 fine! And I have to give kudos – he took a very boring topic and made it fun. He’s so high energy and was making jokes and talking a million miles a minute. I really liked him. And we’ll have him back in a few weeks talking about traffic stops.

Next week the entire class is on Use of Force. Taught by two <i>female</i> officers, who run the entire program for the police department. Female power! I’m excited to meet them.

Citizen Police Academy – Week 3

Carol Stream CPA3

Last night’s topic was Investigations. We spent the entire 3 hours of class examining a rape/homicide case from 2002 of a 14 year-old local girl step by step, from the time she was reported missing until her body was found. The case is historic because it’s the first documented incident of two complete strangers meeting online who plot to rape and murder a child and then actually commit the crime.

Class was led by Detective Lally, who was the lead investigator on the rape/murder. The victim was a 14 year-old high school student named Nassim Davoodi. Nassim was of Indian descent and was also Muslim. Her parents were intensely strict. She basically couldn’t go anywhere except school. She was not to leave the house to go to the mall without being accompanied by her mother or older brother. She was not allowed over at any friend’s houses. She was not allowed any internet access. She was not allowed to speak on the phone past 9:00 pm (this was before smart phones, too, remember, so texting didn’t exist). Needless to say she lived a very sheltered, naive life thanks to her parents.

The suspects were Skyler Chambers and Turner Reeves. Both were 21 years old and African American. Skyler was from Hayward, CA and Turner was a local Chicago man. They met innocently enough online in a chat room about computer software. Over the next two years they somehow went from talking about video games to the rape/murder fantasies they both had, all centered on the fetish they had for Hispanic women. Things just escalated between the two of them until they hatched the plan for Skyler to come to Chicago and stay at Turner’s house and they would then pick out a young Hispanic girl and rape and murder her.

So Skyler arrives from California and Turner enlists the help of his 18 year old high school cousin Jarrett Curtis. Jarrett takes them to the high school parking lot (in Turner’s tan car) where Skyler and Turner watch the students for two days. On the third day they both see Nassim and say that she’s the one. (Please note that neither of them were smart enough to realize that Nassim was NOT Hispanic, but Indian). Jarrett somehow knows Nassim, so he calls her over and introduces her to Skyler and Turner and then leaves. Skyler and Turner offer to give Nassim a ride home.

Now put yourself in Nassim’s shoes. She’s controlled every minute of her life by her parents. Not allowed to have friends and certainly not a boyfriend. And suddenly these two older guys are taking an interest in her, want to get to know her. So what does she do? She takes the opportunity to rebel against her parents and gets in the car with them. Unfortunately that was the last decision she ever made.

Skyler and Turner go back to Turner’s house where they pull the car in the garage, close the door and proceed to rape and then murder Nassim. They take her body about an hour away to a secluded spot of woods that Turner knows about. They drag her body through fields and over fences before digging a very shallow grave and then leave her body there.

Detective Lally took us through the entire investigation after her parents reported her missing that evening. I’ll just share the highlights that broke the case in just seven days:

Through interviews at the schools the suspicious tan car was reported. Jarrett was linked to it and admits it’s his cousin’s car. Police interview Turner (and Skyler, too, since he was staying at Turner’s house). They both say the same story they’d already rehearsed – yes, they were at the school, just picking up Jarrett both days. They saw Nassim get into a white car with two Hispanic men and then Jarrett says he heard she was at a Latin King’s party (gang party) later that night.

That was the start of their undoing, that they knew nothing about Nassim’s personal life, that she would never have been at a party like that. So a wire tap is put on Jarrett’s phone. Through that they find out that Jarrett was in on it the whole time, that he knew what Turner and Skyler were planning on doing with the girl. He says that he told the police the rehearsed story about the Latin Kings, etc. and know that they told the story about the two Hispanic men.

Turner and Skyler are arrested at this point and Turner’s home searched. They take his computer where they find EVERY online chat log the two had had for the past two years. Hundreds and hundreds of pages, describing the rape/murder they planned to commit. The keyword “rape” showed up 23,000 times in documents on his computer. There were dozens and dozens of rape videos and webpages saved on how to dispose of a dead body.

Turner is put through a lie detector test which he fails spectacularly. Under interrogation afterwards he breaks and admits Nassim was raped and killed at his house. He takes police to her body. During the autopsy both his DNA and Skyler’s DNA are found inside Nassim’s body. There was evidence she was strangled unconscious repeatedly before finally being suffocated to death with a pillow.

Both men are charged with first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and concealment of a homicidal death. They were eligible for the death penalty. It takes five years before they go to trial. They’re convicted on all counts. But because the judge couldn’t determine without a doubt which one of them actually suffocated her they both got life without parole instead of the death penalty.

It think one of the worst parts was finding out that Nassim’s older brother’s fiancee lived directly across the street from Turner. He was there at her house while his sister was being killed right across the street and didn’t know it. That just broke my heart.

Believe it or not this was the condensed version of all that was discussed last night. It was fascinating how one little statement from one person leads to another lead which leads to another which finally led right to both killers. Kudos to all of the detectives who worked non-stop for seven days to catch these two psychopaths. It’s so sad that because Nassim’s parents kept her so tightly under their thumb, trying to…protect her from life, that it’s what ultimately led to her death.

Next week we talk about Overweight Truck Enforcement (we have a large industrial base in the town that I live in) and more importantly – SWAT!

I also turned in my Volunteer application so I’ve started the process on that. 🙂

Dreamspinner Press 25% OFF SALE!


Now’s your chance to pick up a copy of my book “Memory’s Prisoner” for only $3.75!

Detectives Mitchell Reid and Joseph Valentino of the Chicago Police Department have finally moved from friends to lovers, partners on the job and off. Then an escaped bank robber with a thirst for vengeance shatters their world. The police tactical raid to recapture the convict goes horribly wrong, leaving Mitch severely wounded and Joey with a devastating head injury. They both survive, but Joey’s long-term coma and memory loss will change their lives—and love—forever.

Beyond the Book with Jamie Lynn Miller


Ever wonder what kind of research an author does for one of their books? Stop by Talia Carmichael’s blog and learn about the 14 days I spent with my local fire department doing hands-on research for Burnin’ for You. Complete with photos of “Fireman Jamie” in action!

Citizen Police Academy – Week 2

Carol Stream CPA3

We covered three topics in class last night – Interrogation, Social Services and Special Operations.

Detective Chacon was first, talking about Interrogation. First did you know the difference between an “interview” and an “interrogation”? Most people think the terms are interchangeable but they’re not. An interview in an informal conversation before you are placed under arrest. You do not have to be read your Miranda rights for an interview. An interrogation is an official conversation after you’ve been formally charged and arrested and read your Miranda rights.

He went through the basic steps of any interrogation: General questioning – Fact Finding – Time for suspect to do the talking – Time for detective to listen and develop rapport and determine baseline behavior – Time for detective to be very confident and take control of the conversation. 90% of all communication is non-verbal, aka body language, and detectives become masters at reading this.

During all of this the detective becomes a chameleon. They turn into a sympathetic ear, a friend, a priest, a brother, a sister – change into anything that the suspect will relate to and thereby open up to you and confess. Most times the detectives feel so filthy afterwards because they’ve pretended to sympathize with the suspect (mostly after talking with peodophiles) that they want to take a shower afterwards.

From all of the examples he gave of cases he’s worked on, this sounds like the most mentally draining job ever. Having to constantly put up a facade and pretend to become friends with rapists and murderers…their performances would rival any Hollywood actor.

Next was social worker Kathleen McNamarra talking about Social Services. Her talk was fairly brief but very detailed about the work her department does, as liaisons between the person in distress and the police. I’m actually very impressed at the number of programs my village has in place for senior citizens, children and most especially domestic violence.

Sergeant Harker was last, talking about Special Operations, the division that he runs. I had no idea how many things fall under Special Ops that relate to the community:
Community Problem Oriented Policing (CPOP), School Resource Officers (SRO), the DARE and GREAT programs (anti-drug and anti-gang), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Home and Business security surveys and the Volunteer Program.
Then there are the police focused aspects of Special Ops:
Tactical Patrol, Knock and Talks (door-to-door conversations), Search Warrants, DuMeg Liaison (undercover narcotics unit), Informant (aka snitch) Management, Asset Forfeitures of vehicles, money, property

The Volunteer program sounded really interesting so I stayed after class and talked to Sgt. Harker about it. Not only would you work at community events (like the 4th of July and summer concert series) but you could also help direct traffic at DUI roadblocks, drive the squad cars to get their oil changed, be “extras” in tactical operation drills and a whole bunch of other really cool stuff. Harker was glad I was so interested and he’s bringing me an application next week to fill out. I’ll have to go through another background check and this time be fingerprinted since I would be issued official police department credentials and a volunteer “uniform”. I’m really excited about this!

Next week the entire 3 hour class will be on Investigations. Apparently we’re going to be focusing on one infamous local case from start to finish. Sounds great to me!