Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Report to Homicide Division

When I was a young police officer with only a couple of years experience, being told to report to the office hardly ever meant you’d done a great job. “Report to Homicide Division”, goodness, what did I screw up this time? I’d gotten back from vacation and the note was waiting the minute I stepped in the door.

Upon arrival, (that’s standard cop talk you’ll find in most incident reports), upon arrival in Homicide a detective wanted to know why a very specific Colt 357 Magnum pistol, a pistol with my initials and badge number scratched inside the handle had shown up at a double homicide. There was no doubt about the pistol having been marked as evidence; the scratches were exactly where police officers were trained to place them as a way to identify them in court; that was my handy work, I may have smiled for half a moment.

You might ask how I remembered that pistol or the details of the incident so easily; it was an unforgettable kind of day, the kind you see on television shows except it was real.

It happened on a gray Sunday afternoon in front of the Green Hornet Lounge; which just happened to be across the street from the Black Panther’s headquarters. My partner and I, using our patrol car as cover, had to square off on a fellow when he threatened to shoot; he stood at the entrance of the bar while a light rain fell.  All manner of excited people had been jumping out of windows to avoid being shot moments earlier followed by a second exodus when other shots rang out inside the place. I won’t list all the details; let’s just say it took my partner and I the better part of four hours to complete the reports after booking two suspects.

It was a beautiful pistol, the best I’d ever tagged into the property room. Most other pistols I’d taken away from folks fell into the ‘Saturday Night Special’ category; that pistol stood head and shoulders above any I’d ever recovered.

The detective wanted to know why there was no record of that pistol having been logged into the property room or why there was no incident report in records division showing that pistol by serial number. He had lots of questions which he needed answered; but I’d been on vacation in Colorado up in the mountains and unavailable; hence, “Report to Homicide Division”. Mostly he wanted to know how it was used in a double homicide instead of being in the property room since it sure looked like it was marked as evidence.

Do you remember the Arlo Guthrie tune, Alice’s Restaurant? The singer goes on and on about getting arrested for littering in a small town. Eight or so minutes into the song he explains that the tune isn’t about Alice’s Restaurant; it’s really an anti-war movement song.

“You can get anything you want
at Alice’s Restaurant…
You can get anything you want..
at Alice’s….Restaurant…”

Today’s article really isn’t about an old homicide investigation; but it might take some time to get there. Arlo said it best after the fifth of sixth chorus had gone by, “I’m not tired…..or proud...”, as he started another set.

One senior police officer involved in my training preached “keep good records”. If you make a report involving an arrest or place items of evidence into the property room keep a copy in your files. He explained how that report along with any notes taken at the scene of a crime would be part of the court process and it would make remembering details much easier a year or so down the road.

I was grateful to have followed his advice as I called home from there in the Homicide Division. Lucy picked up and I explained how my file system worked and that I needed an incident report which nobody else seemed able to locate. A few minutes later she was reading the information; incident number, date, location, arrested suspects names, evidence tagged and so on. The report I’d kept and filed away also had copies of the original dispatch slip, property receipts for the two pistols recovered and supplement reports for both pistols which had previously been reported stolen. I breathed a sigh of relief and was told to bring everything back to Homicide. I’d done a good job and wasn’t in trouble; somebody else was in big trouble, not me.

A couple of days ago one of my car dealerships called and needed a key for a 2007 Nissan Maxima, the kind that uses a ‘Smart Key’. You’d think after being a locksmith all these years I’d feel comfortable about such an endeavor; you’d be mistaken, I hadn’t done a Maxima in quite some time and had recently upgraded from an older style key programming computer to one which I was less familiar with.

There have been so many changes in the way keys are made and programmed I keep the manufacture’s manual handy each and every time. The directions were fairly clear and very complete; except the instructions work on the assumption that each step taken results in a positive result and that all reported successful steps actually were successful.

If you’re not familiar with the newer lock systems, Nissan has a proximity by pass which tells the car when an authorized “Smart fob” is present which permits starting the vehicle without the use of a key; just turn the knob or push a button depending on which model is involved. Once the mechanical key was completed the information was copied onto the expensive transponder key with its matching “Smart fob”; kind of a sword and scabbard set up.

An interesting part of programming a 2007 Maxima was that a properly cut key will not turn the ignition switch until part of the programming is completed, the part that unlocks the ignition turning knob via the computer. There were five steps which had to be done precisely and I was doing the operation for my first time on equipment which I was still learning about; a painfully slow process of learning.

“You can get anything you want
at Alice’s Restaurant…
You can get anything you want..
at Alice’s….Restaurant…

I found out that just because my programming computer displayed “successful” didn’t necessarily mean it was so. I’d programmed the transponder key; but when it wouldn’t turn the ignition switch knob I began to doubt so I repeated that part of the procedure; it refused to turn and the afternoon heat was becoming unbearable.

I called technical support and explained what wasn’t working and a simple piece of information was given, one which was not in the manual. If for any reason a failure presents itself the entire process must be repeated, to include steps which had previously been completed successfully and which didn’t seem to make sense repeating.

The new information was correct and the job was completed. The first thing I did was write notes in the manual. It might be a year or so before another 2007 Maxima has need of my skills; it will be so much easier next time. Keep good notes; a great lesson I learned long ago and continue to use.

“You can get anything you want
at Alice’s Restaurant…
You can get anything you want..
at Alice’s….Restaurant…”

Remember Alice, and the restaurant? This article isn’t about Alice or the restaurant. It’s not an anti-war movement piece or even about an old homicide investigation. I’ll go a step further; it isn’t about making keys for a 2007 Nissan Maxima either.

This is about the State of Texas mandating locksmith continuing education hours so a journeyman locksmith can continue to make a living doing what he/she’s been doing for years. This is about individuals being subjects of the state; a far cry from consent of the governed.

I just completed an eight hour block of mandated continuing education instruction on Morals, Ethics, Rules and Regulations for the sole purpose of renewing my locksmith license, my right to work in what’s supposed to be a free market system. If you believe the free market system exists I have some water front property just outside of Waco.

Some pencil pushing bureaucrats in Austin think locksmiths are a threat to society either through incompetence or lack of character. The mandates include eight hours of continuing education, with at least one hour of Ethics training each time the calendar turns over. The other courses can be anything security industry related regardless of your special skills or application within the locksmith industry. Four hours of an approved course I took were geared toward security guards; but since the Department of Public Safety/ Private Security Bureau has one tent to cover a wide and varied set of industries the subject matter and questions asked on the test apply equally to guard dog handlers and locksmiths.

The State of Texas has no method for crediting time spent actually improving locksmith skills, On Job Training if you will, time spent learning how to operate new key machines, programming computers or taking into consideration how each new vehicle differs as compared with prior models. It has been my experience that such skills require weeks or even months to acquire; multiple opportunities to reinforce information which cannot be gained on one or two attempts. Locksmiths face a wide range of challenges; pencil pushing bureaucrats in Austin shouldn’t be one of them.

“You can get anything you want
at Alice’s Restaurant…
You can get anything you want..
at Alice’s….Restaurant…

Walk right in
It’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad tracks...”

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.


Anonymous said...

All roads lead to Rome. 堅持自己所選!..................................................................

Starsplash said...

It is amusing to me how many times in apparent coincedence a need I have just incurred is answered when someone whom I believe I could trust has an answer to a question I have just came upon.


T. F. Stern said...

Ron, Either you visited the Japanese porn site advertised in the first comment or something in my article amused you...

MK said...

Always a good idea to keep notes, learn from experience.