By Mark Riddering.
For whatever reason I am going to share a few short stories about a few things encountered during time as just a regular old police officer in the street. If my memory is a bit off please feel free to write your view. Just remember a variety of folks will be reading this …..extra points for humor or examples of good old fashion police work.
I began the journey to get into law enforcement in 1976 in Port Hueneme PD. (Actually I always had the hope to be a police officer even as a young lad). At that time the process to be a reserve officer was mainly a ‘stress oral’. Three very tough cops, at least one very ugly, were pumped to apply pressure by firing interesting, no win, stress provoking questions. Such as….If while your arresting someone, say the guy your arresting spits on you what would you do? I said, I’d wipe the spit off with a handkerchief. The largest of the bunch got in my face and laughed as he told me rather forcibly that this very thing happened to him last week and he busted the guys teeth out, and asked what I thought about that? I acknowledged his technique was also effective. In truth I was very intimidated. I stuttered through my other answers somehow. My head was spinning. They yelled for me to go sit in the police lobby. I honestly thought I blew it, and in fact wondered if I was going to be arrested I did so poorly. However, they surprised me saying I passed and was a PHPD reserve officer pending a background investigation. A couple weeks later they called me in and issued me a badge, gun, and a box of equipment. On the job training to follow —no academy. Pretty cool! The good Lord was allowing me an opportunity— a great adventure.
My first night in a police car was wonderful. The rather large officer in the oral exam was my first FTO–field training officer. He helped get my gear looking right then showed me a few handcuffing technique, how to choke someone, and a little about the shot gun and away we went. We wrote a few tickets and he explained allot of basic stuff, including report writing. Get this…….we stopped at a red light at a busy intersection when a hippy guy, with long dirty looking hair, about 25 years old rode up and stopped next to my door and spit on the fender of the police car. He then called me a pig. I was about to exit but my FTO yelled I should stay put that he’d handle this. For a big man the FTO moved quickly. He grabbed the hippy and picked him up and then wiped the hippy over the fender. After cleaning the fender the FTO threw the hippy quite distance and gave him a little pep talk. Wow….a front row seat to police work. We drove off no arrest no harm no foul I guess. At the end of my first night the FTO drove behind a closed shopping center. As he puffed hard on a cigarette he asked me , “your a Christian aren’t you”? He said I think you should quit tonight. He said he was once like me but warned if I became a cop I’d be like him. He described himself as a divorced man that drank and smoked too much. He wouldn’t eat in restaurants because drug addicts cooked in them. He trusted only a few cops and liked very few people. I told him I couldn’t quit the first night. He laughed and agreed to try to make me a good cop. Interestingly a few years later I saw this FTO at a medal of valor dinner. He approached me and picked me up in a bear hug. He whispered to me, “youâ€™re a good cop and youâ€™re not like me, I’m proud of you”. He had tears in his eyes. It meant allot to have gained his respect and relationship. I continue to pray for him today. I had other Great FTO’s at PHPD but as Paul Harvey says, “that’s page two or the rest of the story”.
I attended Ventura County Police and Sheriffs academy in 1977. I began my career as a paid police officer at PHPD. The first week was Memorial Day weekend. I was assigned to drive a 4wheel drive police truck up the beach for the day. The people using the beach was a mixture of nice families with criminal types sprinkled all about. It was a beautiful sunny day. I was really enjoying my new job. I was waved down by some people by the shore near a long pier. They pointed towards the end of the pier and explained a man was drowning. There was no life guard. No one was going to help. I was wearing a wool uniform. I was in good shape having just graduated from the police academy and I swam and played water polo in HS. So carefully I locked my uniform and gun belt in the truck and asked an elderly man to hold my keys. Fortunately but yet embarrassingly I was clad only in boxer shorts now, and yes they were clean. I ran out threw the surf but my foot hit something. Later I found a broken beer bottle was in the water and I’d run over it. The problem for swimmers that day was serious rip tides. Matter of fact a person had drowned there just days before. The rescue went well until the end. The victim was a large 60 year old man. When we got back towards shore the victim thanked me profoundly saying he’d cramped up and almost went down. Things changed when we saw a pretty large crowd waiting for us. As we walked towards shore the victim pushed me and yelled he didn’t need my help and then jogged away from me. I walked through the crowd in my underwear to the police truck. The tide had risen and the waves were closing in on the truck. Then I saw a concerned supervisor, my new FTO…..John Hopkins. He asked where the keys were but I couldn’t find the older gentleman I’d given them too. John wasn’t happy with me as we walked to his car in the beach parking lot. Once seated inside I tried to explain what happened. A pool of blood formed on Johns clean floor. The glass cut a hole on my foot about 12 stitches worth. Then the best of all the elderly man appeared. He handed us the keys and warmly congratulated us. It made up for everything. A decent man who knew the truth and liked cops. Another good thing was a doctor saying no work for 10 days. Sue was vacationing with family in Catalina. So limping onto a fishing boat while getting paid was extra nice. Only in America …….one week of work— two weeks off. Doesn’t happen very often — Unless youâ€™re a fireman, but that’s another story.