By Mark Riddering.
In law enforcement you face many rules and policies. Once in awhile I got tangled in one or two. I was working Robbery Investigation’s out of central division in downtown Port Hueneme. It was a beautiful sunny day, a post card sort of day. It rolled around to lunchtime when a very talented police officer and friend, John Jenks, invited me to a restaurant 30 minutes away to the small City of Ojai. This violated the rule by just a little bit. When I returned I found someone had told my supervisor where I’d gone to lunch. He seemed very upset with me. He said he’d think on a good punishment for me.
We were presently working on a case where about a dozen career criminal types on parole were committing super market -take over style robberies. Approximately 10 similar robberies around Ventura County had been committed in various cites, and a small task force was set up. This group of robbers was skilled in their tradeâ€”learning by doing robberies and from prison. We hadn’t totally figured them out but received info that a robbery would take place that night. The psychology of armed robbery in general is… if someone is willing to take a gun to steal `they are prepared to kill. They not only have stealing in their heart but murder also.
At a scheduled briefing that late afternoon a strategy was discussed and assignments given out to each detective. My supervisor said he knew I wanted in on the take down team but because of my lunch problem earlier, he put me on the most outer edge of the perimeter. I was in “time out” phase. I was sent to outer Siberia. No police work for me. I had a position in downtown Oxnard but the officers were following the crooks all around Ventura a city away. It was rather lonely listening to the radios as dinnertime now rolled around. Fortunately the strip mall I was at had a pizza joint. Candle light dinner for one.
I listened to two radio frequencies, one monitoring the detectives surveying the crook and the other radio of the local cops in Oxnard/Port Hueneme. All of a sudden a call came out in Oxnard informing of an in progress super market robbery in Oxnard. I had poor reception but believed the detectives to be right on top of the action. I began moving to get closer and got onto Highway 1 just in case the escaping crooks made it to the highway for a getaway. As I listened I could hear my fellow detectives were far away following crooks but not the ones in the store now. The crooks were pretty tricky. They’d broken themselves into two groups. One team would go in the market and case or check out the place then drive away quite a ways. The first group would call for the second group to do the actual robbery. This tactic drew the detectives way out of position for this robbery. The radio now gave a description of a car fleeing the scene of the robbery and now getting away. I prayed they’d be led my way.
While south bound on Highway 1, I saw the car speed over the over pass at Pleasant Valley Rd. I turned my plain looking detective car around on the freeway and caught up with the crooks now north bound on Highway 1. I began coordinating assistance with patrol cars in Oxnard. Unfortunately my supervisor couldn’t hear anything about the robbery that had just occurred. He thought I’d fallen off my rocker trying to stop this car by myself for reasons unknown. He ordered me not to stop the car repeatedly and forcibly. He believed I was blowing the case. Knowing he didn’t have the facts I continued very cautiously knowing I’d be in big, BIG trouble if I openly disobeyed. After getting a small army of police cars we stopped the suspects car. The police dogs discouraged the suspects from running. Everything was there…guns, money, masks, crooks. When my supervisor arrived he launched into full attack mode. In mid attack the supervisors from the other departments began congratulating my supervisor. It finally hit him I’d stumbled into real police work. Success! His yelling turned into hugs – a real turn around. Out of the doghouse all in one day. Godâ€™s mercies are new every day.