Learning to Fight Like a Cop

Learning to Fight Like a Cop
By Mark Riddering.

I remember wrestling quite often with my brother and others growing up. We took on the names of the great wrestlers of the day. I was “Haystack Calhoun” and my brother was “Bobo Brazil”. However, Fighting in the streets cop style is another matter all together…

Something I value greatly is the excellent teachers I’ve had as a police officer along the way and the high amount of activity exposed to so as to hone the skills. In the 1970’s in Port Hueneme /Oxnard area there was plenty of wild people and violence all about. PHPD hired people six feet or taller or if you were smaller, and there wasn’t many, you were a pretty bad dude. A police officer was largely evaluated on how well they could hold their own in a fight. Not a job for the faint of heart to be sure. Its not a normal fight either because at least one person has a gun and CANNOT lose the battle– period! The battle stops when the arresting party stops or is controlled. A police officer cannot expect the same mercy or values. PH had plenty of ‘dive’ type bar fights and many home party brawls. There’s the usual suspects –gangs and drugs, robberies, burglaries, murders, but PH had a fair sized prostitution area, as well as a large Navy -Seabee base (plenty of drunken sailors), and longshoremen.

During my first months on the job I was on patrol with a police reserve partner. We were in a poor neighborhood made up of small wooden houses located between the shipping docks and the naval base. We passed a corner home where a women in her late 20’s was seen crying. She had several noticeable biker type tattoos on her. We stopped and asked her if she needed help. She nervously said there’s someone terribly hurt in the house behind her. The door opened and a large biker man exited cursing us and the woman who was talking to us. Another biker girl exited and pulled the crying girl in the house. We followed asking all the parties to calm down and explain what was the issue. The biker guy was completely obnoxious. The 2nd woman threatened the 1st crying woman to say nothing further to us or “else”. The 1st woman recanted what she had just a moment earlier told us. The biker guy tried to shut us out by closing the front door. The 2nd woman was now also holding the collar of a lunging pit bull dog. Everyone denied that anyone was injured in the house.

Not seeing anyone injured in the front living room I announced we were coming in to check. The biker guy squared off and threatened us. He was taller than me and did I say he was obnoxious. There was a closed bedroom door to my left. The reserve officer immediately became occupied dealing with both women and the dog. I think he had the worst part of this situation. As I opened the bedroom door the biker grabbed my arm with one hand and was beginning a swing his other fist towards me. I had a metal flashlight in my other hand and began a swing with it towards his head. A red light in my brain flashed. In my police academy the FBI taught a course about civil rights violations and gave an example of hitting someone in the head with a metal flashlight. The FBI seemed pretty determined bad things would happen if you used the flashlight like a weapon. I stopped but the biker slugged my eye. My plan B was to take this biker to the ground. As I wrestled him down he socked me twice more in the same eye. As I wrestled to handcuff my biker friend began reaching to grab my holstered gun. The reserve officer was fully occupied with the two women and the dog. Fortunately, the Calvary arrived and helped us arrest the biker. The blows had swollen my eye shut. My sergeant was angry I looked worse than the biker. Now get this….about a week later I arrested another biker type for drug violations. During the booking process this biker asked if I was the cop that fought last week with the first biker. Privately this biker shared that the guy I arrested and another biker were robbing drug dealers. They tried to rob one and the drug dealer shot one of the bikers. Crooks vs Crooks ya gotta love um’. The injured crook was in a bedroom of the house I was at and this guy was ready to shoot the police when they came in to the room. The Good Lord protected us so thoroughly that day. Makes you wonder how many times a day He does so and were unaware. Eventually detectives arrested all the right people. I learned justice is Gods and there was a lot I needed to learn.

Another example of my training initially was given by a Sgt Estrella (present chief of PHPD). He said I needed people of all kinds to share info with me concerning crime issues in the city. He suggested I make friends with neighborhood kids. When they grew older they would know a cop on a first name basis. A win-win situation. Near the police department was a housing project area on Willowbrook Circle. I spent a fair amount of time with the kids in the neighborhood. Giving out stickers, playing basketball, talking, buying ice cream etc………some jobs have its perks. However, one night I found a car badly weaving. The car didn’t stop for stop signs and wouldn’t yield to my red lights and siren. I followed the car to a house on Willowbrook. The car pulled into the driveway of a known Hispanic gang. Two older Hispanic males exited slowly. The driver was very intoxicated but spoke only Spanish. The passenger exited the car and began urinating just a few feet away. When you got to go you got to go I guess. When the passenger finished his activity I asked the English-speaking passenger if he’d translate a few questions for me? He told me to get off his property or he’d kill me. As I waited for more police to help the passenger continued his threat. A nearby back door opened and the wife of the passenger exited and began scolding her Hubbie. He was embarrassed, blew up, and ran for the door yelling he’s going to get his gun. Trying to avoid him arming himself I tried to stop him. He was so excited he pushed his wife off the back porch. He tried to help his wife up but grabbed her by the neck and was choking his wife dragging her towards the house. I grabbed the passenger and took him to the ground but his momentum took us onto his dark and filthy kitchen floor. There was no light on in the house. He tried to fight but I quickly slipped a chokehold on. People in the house came running in as he shouted for his family to kill me. About 6 people began hitting and punching from everywhere. For a moment I wondered if I’d get stabbed with a kitchen knife or worse. A voice inside said, “Get up”. Still with a choke on my prisoner, I didn’t want the instigator loose, I got to my feet and backed into a corner –And used the prisoner as an unwilling human shield to defend the blows. Saw this tactic in a John Wayne movie. Two teenage girls were holding the backdoor shut. I heard someone knocking so I gave a kick and pushed the girls out of the way. The back door opened. Hoping to see a friendly face coming to my aid. Instead the driver came barreling in and landed a punch or two and the door was shut again. More punching and kicking until I could hear sirens. I heard the jingle of police keys and yelling asking me where my location was. I shouted out and in seconds the back door came down. Two large athletic officers now stood in the doorway. I said everyone present had hit me at least once. Many policeman arrived. The two teenage girls attacked these officers –one received fingernail scrapes across the face. These police officers threw the people in the kitchen into the backyard, assembly line style, until the passenger and I were the only ones left. I ran out the backdoor and landed on top of my prisoner. The back and side yards were full of people fighting with officers and being arrested. A few nearby gang members—-brothers of kids I’d spent months befriending —-joined the brawl. Finally all the main suspects were taken to jail. At the police department I think I hugged, high five’d, and kissed each rescuing officer at least twice. My uniform was nearly ripped off but they didn’t get my badge. My head was badly lumped and I had a few cracked ribs. At the jail a police officer asked for a female officer to help. One of the 19 yr old girls had been wearing a tube type top. While fighting the top came partly down. A female dispatcher came to help the girl in the police car. A couple days later I was mending at home. John Hopkins, my supervisor, came by with news. All the arrestees were pleading guilty, but an issue came up. One of the girls claimed a police officer had fondled her during the melee. She was shown pictures of police officers that were involved with the arrest. The girl pointed me out of the line up. My supervisor liked the situation. The guy getting the stuffing knocked out of him in pitch darkness had a dying wish to touch a young lady. It was sorta funny but she sued the police department. The department settled paying the girls lawyer fees. Settling costs less than a trial. The American way… I get beat up and sued. Intro to the civil justice system. The kitchen we fought in had many kitchen knives, but none were used. God sustained me and the rescuing officers that night. He sustains us even now, and forever.
…….Remember who loves ya!

4 thoughts on “Learning to Fight Like a Cop”

  1. Mark,

    Love the stories – I can still remember them growing up. Hard to believe we’re adults now :)

    I think about you so often and pray for you non-stop.

    God Bless.

    Johanna

  2. Hey “Bro.” – Loved the story. Sounds like Port Hueneme was a lovely place to work in the day!
    Blessings, r

  3. Hey Mark I too remember the old Port Hueneme-a much different City then for sure. We all learned a lot and by the grace of God usually took the bad guys (and girls) to jail. Most of the new guys today really can’t relate but it is good to hear the stories and remember the good ‘ol days. Thanks for sharing and taking me back.

    Love ya

    Jerry

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