My apologies to everyone who follows the blog regularly, April was a very busy month for me both at work and at home. I thought I’d compile a post with the highlights from the month.
We’ve got a recruit assigned to our platoon and we’ve had a good month for her to get some great experience before she heads back to the Academy. She took on a few of the impaired driver investigations that I had. I also got reports and evidence back from a large on going file that I’ve had for the past few months.
As I geared up for a nightshift I heard over the radio that day shift had been dispatched to a domestic assault. I grabbed my kit and a spare car and headed over to cover hoping to help the day shift platoon head home on time. As I arrived in the home it became immediately apparent there was more to this than originally reported. The home looked like it needed to be torn down. There were missing pieces on the ceiling on the main floor with black mould growing down. The toilet was constantly leaking and about 1/4 inch of standing water on the floor being blocked in the bathroom by a dam of dirty clothing. As we checked downstairs we came across live electrical cords sitting in standing water, and half the area had water dripping from many parts in what was left of the ceiling. A family with children live in this house. The father, who was arrested for assault, was intoxicated and said he’d just forgotten to tear the house down after moving in.
We had to do something for the safety of the family. Delta Fire & BC Hydro attended and declared it a fire hazard. EHS had attended to address an elderly person’s coughing attack. We also informed the Ministry of Child and Family Development that there were children living at risk.
As I led the father to my police car in handcuffs, I heard over the radio that there was a possible impaired driver only blocks away heading in our direction. I put the father into my car and noticed a car matching the description coming our way. So did one of the day shift members still on scene. I stepped into the road carefully and motioned for the driver to stop, he swerved towards me and then away and kept driving. Fortunately with 4 other police cars still on scene he was stopped very quickly. The driver was impaired and arrested.
The street was a flurry of activity with 2 police investigations, multiple ambulances and fire trucks. The gentleman I had in custody began to exhibit medical issues and before he was taken to cells I rode with him in an ambulance to hospital. Once treated and cleared we were picked up by a platoon mate, taken back to my car and I took him to cells. Our recruit and her field trainer took over the impaired investigation.
A couple had been drinking late into the evening and were having an argument when one of the two got up, took the car keys and left. The other ended up making a difficult call to police as they were concerned for their partner’s safety while driving impaired. Our recruit and her field trainer located the vehicle and driver as I spoke with the caller. The driver was issued a 90 Day driving prohibition and 30 day vehicle impound as a result of their decision to drive away. The couple had to be separated for the night, I spoke with the original caller for a little while as we waited for their taxi. I learnt about their recovery as a heroin addict and how their partner was instrumental in changing their life.
There will no doubt be a struggle in their relationship after the events that unfolded. It was brutally apparent that the phone call to Police was one of complete concern for the other’s well being.
I had a civilian ride along for a night shift, we were called to the scene of a potentially deadly collision. We spent 6 hours doing traffic control keeping the scene locked down while our collision investigation team measured and reconstructed the incident.
A car was making a left turn through an intersection on a green light and misjudged the speed of an approaching car and was struck in the middle of the intersection. The driver misjudged the distance as the approaching car was moving at twice the speed limit. The speeding car ended up sliding down the median taking out signs, across 2 lanes of on coming traffic, snapping 2 trees and a lamp post before coming to rest meters from an outdoor patio. We were all amazed no one else was hit and no one was critically injured.
As I was gearing up for another shift change, this time to relieve night shift a call came in with information that a female in an apartment had a knife, had cut herself, there were children in the apartment and the person who called 911 had locked herself in a bedroom, the dispatchers could hear a female outside the door banging on the door and screaming.
This was one of those calls that our training and access to specific equipment made a real difference. 3 of us were on scene right away and came across someone from the apartment in the hallway who said the female still had a knife. I was at the door first with 2 members from night shift right behind me, there was still a commotion inside so we made urgent entry into the apartment and started calling people out from the doorway. We have to balance our safety, everyone else’s safety and ensure our actions don’t escalate the situation as well. We make these decisions in split seconds.
We got to a point where the female with the knife was in the living room, there was blood all over the floor and we were told the kids were in a bedroom. The female was not cooperating and when I did see her, I could see blood all over her arms. My primary concern was the safety of the children in the bedroom. I didn’t want the female going to them, or them going towards her.
The female was obviously in crisis and needed help, the unfortunate reality is that she had my bean bag shotgun pointed at her and my cover officer’s pistols. We had to balance the children’s safety and ours with her crisis. I was able to establish a dialogue and made the decision to push into the apartment and create a physical block between her and the children. As mere feet separated her and I between the kitchen and living room my cover officers moved into the hallway to prevent her from going to the bedrooms. We began to talk and negotiate, she was still holding a knife and bleeding. I know my decision essentially cornered her but I also knew another officer was very quietly going into the bedroom to get the kids out while we spoke.
Given the distance and the fact that I was now more concerned for her safety in the event she tried to harm herself again, I’d slung my shotgun and transitioned to my taser. It can be difficult to de-escalate a situation when you’re speaking to someone and at the same time the red laser sight from a taser is hovering on them.
This exact situation is why our training is so important. We’re at the apartment for someone in crisis. In seconds we’ve made decisions to go through a door, pull people out and start negotiating with someone. We had to get info from people we pulled out, consider who was at risk, several possible scenarios and make decisions while trying to speak to someone at the same time. In a split second I made the decision to push in and corner someone in crisis because I decided it was more important to get the children out. My cover officers followed without hesitation and pushed in to the hallway, exactly where they needed to be. I know in my mind, my intention was to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
The difficult part of our job is knowing that if something goes wrong, everyone will have months and years to assess those split second decisions. If the female had lunged at me with the knife and got shot, it was my decision to push further into the apartment. Would I be responsible for that? If I hadn’t pushed in and one of the children came out of a bedroom and ran to the female and she hurt them, would I be responsible for not moving in? If she ran for a bedroom with the knife and we made the decision to shoot her with a bean bag or a pistol to prevent her from getting to the children, would I ultimately be responsible?
We don’t get to think about the details like that standing 5 feet from a person in crisis holding a knife and bleeding, trying to speak to them to negotiate and de-escalate, thinking about where our lines are in the sand and constantly re-assessing. We rely on training and practice. We rely on every call like this that we’ve been to before and debriefed.
After the children had been safely pulled out, it was myself pointing a taser, my cover officers in the hallway pointing a pistol and another bean bag shotgun at a lady in crisis holding a knife and bleeding. I was able to continue talking to her until she put the knife down and we took her into custody. Once hand cuffed and we all took a breath she looked at me and the first thing she said was “You know pointing a gun at someone in crisis is not going to help them, right?”. She was right. We had to in order to protect everyone else and ourselves. Once EHS got in, we found her heartbeat to be over 160 beats per minute (twice what a resting heart rate should be) and learned there was alcohol, energy drinks and cocaine involved with stress and depression. As we had a rapport, I took her to hospital to be assessed.
The psychiatric staff at hospital deemed her crisis not to be related to a mental health issue and after her wrists were treated she was released. I drove her back to the apartment where her mother arrived to pick her up. I apologized for having had to point guns at her and wished her well.
Instruction & Training
This month we had a tactical course running that I volunteered to help with on days off. I was also at the Justice Institute helping supervise a course for Qualified Technicians on the new breathalyzers that are rolling out across the Province.
I find supervising, instructing and acting as a role player all help keep my skills sharp and up to date. It’s additional time at work and away from my family that I balance with investing in my career and to some degree my safety.