Get-away gone awry

Proper decision making is clearly missing from all criminal endeavours.

Take today.

Two men plan and commit a robbery. They grab their loot, create complete chaos, and make their escape.

But here’s where it goes terribly wrong, at least from the crook’s perspective: instead of having a get-away car, they rely on public transit.

Bless them.

Officers apprehended the suspects within a few minutes and recovered all the loot.




Double Take

In 2005, another officer and I were each paired with young, prospective police dogs Hondo and Knight, litter mates from overseas.

The other officer and I spent the next several weeks testing and getting to know the new dogs to see if they would make the cut. They both did, and we all entered training together.

Once training was complete, PSD Knight and his handler were assigned to one shift rotation while PSD Hondo and I were assigned to another. This meant that even though we saw one another on a regular basis and attended various events and training courses together, we never worked together.

Today, seven years after we entered training, PSD Knight and his handler worked their first shift with and PSD Hondo and I.

Litter mates, indeed.

Are you able figure out which of these dogs is Hondo and the other, Knight? (double click to make the photo bigger)


Knight’s handler and I can tell them apart in every aspect other than their barks, which sound identical.

I almost got into the wrong work truck today after thinking the barking dog was Hondo.

That would have been interesting…


He should thank his roommate

Last night was a busy summer Saturday night – downtown was jammed, there was an event at Roger’s Arena, and backyards were host to a multitude of BBQ parties (including one apparently epic game of beer pong that included an entire street of neighbours – no complaints there, thank goodness, even though I do wonder how those pong players are feeling today).

Also typical for a summer night were the number of domestic dispute calls. Hot weather makes people lose their sense of reason, and patrol units were kept busy all shift.

At the end of the night, just as the sun was thinking about making her debut on the Eastern horizon, the call I was waiting for came in – a break and enter in progress. A neighbour called 911 to report a man had climbed up a ledge and was trying to access a second floor balcony in Vancouver’s West End.

(Don’t think for a second that you can leave your sliding door open if you live on an upper floor. Residents frequently report break and enters to apartment buildings where access was gained from the patio after the thief scaled a wall.)

PSD Hondo and I were the first at the scene, and we quietly moved into position to see what the potential break and enter suspect was doing.

There he was – balanced on a wall and trying to climb up to a second floor balcony with a partially open sliding glass door. He kept trying to pull himself up while grasping the railing, but he wasn’t quite strong enough.

Turns out he wasn’t sober enough, either.

This ‘break and enter suspect’ had it all wrong. Usually, when trying to break into someone’s residence or business, a suspect will use whatever he can to his advantage – the cover of darkness, an empty house while the owners are at work, or being shielded by vegeatation – but this guy was using NONE of it.

Instead, he hung from the bottom railing and swung his body in an attempt to gain momentum, but he only swung far enough to lose his footing on the ledge and he ended up having to scramble back up to safety. Then, in an animated stage whisper, he tried to get the attention of someone inside the apartment by calling out, “Hey! I’m sorry. Come on!”

At first, I thought the ‘suspect’ was making a last ditch attempt at a late night booty call, and figured the woman ignoring him was a smart lady. But then a young man flicked an interior light on and walked towards the patio, closely followed by his girlfriend.

Turns out the ‘suspect’ hanging from the railing in a poor rendition of Spider Man was his room mate.

The ‘suspect’ had come home in all his drunken bliss some time before, gone into the apartment and thrown his roommate’s fast food meal off the patio in what he thought was an act of hilarity. The roommate got the ‘suspect’ to exit the apartment to retrieve the food, but promptly locked him out and went to bed.


The roommate finally took pity on the ‘suspect’ didn’t want the ‘suspect’ to wake the neighbourhood up with his increasingly loud pleas to be let back in, so he came down to the door a few moments after the police arrived and was greeted not only by his drunk buddy, but by PSD Hondo and I, where I explained what can happen when someone is breaking into an apartment.

The roommate apologized for his drunk buddy’s behaviour, corralled him inside and piled him into the elevator.

As the other officers and I walked back to our cars, the ‘suspect’ popped out on the balcony to wish us a good night, and thanked us for not hauling him off to jail. I’m sure he would have continued his monologue had it not been for the roommate yanking him back inside and bolting the door shut.

And that’s what friends are for – they make you acknowledge your inappropriate actions, but come to your aid when those actions are close to getting you in trouble.



Guest Post – Surviving Your Relationships


Sgt. Betsy Branter Smith originally posted this article on The topic of how law enforcement officers interact with their family and friends outside of work needs to be taken seriously by officers if they want to have a long and fulfilling career. This job is demanding and without a solid and supportive network of loved ones, this job can wreck havoc on even the most resilient officer.

Sgt. Betsy Branter Smith responded immediately with a resounding “Yes!” when I asked her permission to guest post this article. In case you have not heard of her, here is her bi-line from

Sergeant Betsy Smith has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience and recently retired as a patrol supervisor in a Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command, Betsy is a police trainer, author and instructor for the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. Visit Betsy’s website at


Surviving you relationships by Sgt. Betsy Branter Smith

Cops have a notoriously high divorce rate, but divorce statistics are only part of the story. Think about all the engagements, live-in boyfriend/girlfriend situations, or same-sex partnerships that don’t work out either.  Let’s face it, we tend to be lousy at intimate relationships.In the Street Survivalseminar, we talk about surviving this job not only physically and tactically, but emotionally, and a large part of our survival is dependant upon the success of our personal relationships. I can’t tell you how many officers have come up to me after a seminar and said “All this time, I thought it was all my wife’s fault that we don’t get along, but now I’m beginning to understand that it might just be me.”

The majority of the research and writings on this topic tend to focus on what our spouses can do to make our marriages better. If only our partners would change their attitudes, be more understanding, learn to communicate better, and deal more successfully with the day-to-day stressors that “we,” the cops, face we’d all be happier.

I’m suggesting that those of us with the badge look in the mirror, look into our hearts, and try to figure out what we can do to improve our relationships; here are a few suggestions:


  • Watch how you talk to and treat those you love. Do you give orders or make requests when you get home? Do you work your tail off to help out a citizen while you’re on duty but when you get home it’s just too much trouble to help fold the laundry or take out the garbage?  Sometimes we treat strangers, our co-workers, or the citizens better than we do our own families.  I had a revelation a few years ago during a heated argument with my husband, a former police lieutenant. He said to me “Don’t talk to me like one of your officers!” And I spontaneously shot back with “I would never talk to my officers the way I talk to you!”  Holy cow!  I really like the guys who work for me, but I adore my husband, and yet here I was, talking to him like some incompetent rookie that was about to get terminated. Take a good, hard look at how you communicate with your loved ones. Pay attention not only to your words, but your gestures, your tone of voice, your general demeanor.  Do you talk to them like the precious people they are, or do you need to do some work on your communication skills at home?


  • Have a “going home” ritual.  It can be hard to transition from crimefighter to spouse, partner, or parent. I used to come home immediately after a twelve hour shift to my family who was waiting to have dinner with me.  My husband would cook a great meal, hand me a glass of wine as I walked in the door, and ask me about my day. Sounds perfect, right?  In reality, it drove me nuts. I’d arrive home still in “cop mode,” either wired or exhausted, and more than a little surly. All I wanted was to go through the mail, wolf down something to eat, and enjoy my glass of wine in total silence and solitude…not exactly the happy homecoming that my family kept anticipating night after night. I had to develop a new “going home ritual” before I no longer was welcome in my own home!  Now, a couple of nights a week after work I go to the gym and on the other nights I at least take a shower at the police department and change into my favorite sweats before I drive home. I get a home a little later, but my family agrees that I’m a whole lot more pleasant to be around, and I’m much more engaged from the time I walk in the door.


  • Don’t get too caught up in your own self-importance.  On average, less than two out of every one hundred police applicants actually get hired, so by the time we get “on the job” we already feel like we’re pretty darn special. Add to that the public’s fascination with our profession, the danger factor, and the power and authority, and it’s easy for us to lose perspective. After all, how can anyone’s day compare to yours? So what if your spouse had to deal with 25 second graders on a field trip today, or your partner had an argument with her boss, or your teenage son got turned down for the freshman dance by his not-so-secret crush? That stuff is petty compared to the traffic crashes, the suicides, the child molesters, and domestic violence calls you went to today! Obviously, the family needs to get a little perspective! Or maybe you do?  It’s easy for your family members’ trials and triumphs to get overshadowed by the serious nature of your profession. In fact, they may begin to trivialize their own issues because they don’t want to “bother”  you with them.  Take the time to find out about their day, truly listen to what they have to say, ask questions, show empathy, make them feel valued. They’ll be much more ready to listen when you’re ready to talk about your day, which brings me to my next point.


  • Bring your family in to “your” world. Very often cops hide what we really do from our families. We don’twant to worry them or frighten them or make them cynical or paranoid, plus sometimes we just don’t feel like talking. But it’s a mistake to keep your family at arm’s length. Tell your spouse about your frustration with that battered wife who just won’t let her husband be arrested; bend your partner’s ear about why your sergeant was such a jerk today, but try to find something positive to talk about too. Tell them how great it felt to find that lost little girl or finally solve those string of residential burglaries. And don’t forget your kids. Sharing your day with them in an age-appropriate manner can result in some great parent/child bonding. I use my work “stories” as teachable moments for my kids. In fact, my youngest daughter and I have developed a routine as we’re getting ready for bed when I tell her “Tales of Stupid Decisions by Teenage Girls.” I get to vent, she learns how to stay out of trouble, and we both understand each other’s world a little better.


  • When you make a commitment to spend time with your family, honor it. Treat it like a court subpoena, a call-in for overtime, in-service training; or whatever mental game you have to play with yourself to make family time “mandatory.” Yeah, you might be tired; sure, you’ve got a lot going on; but if it was the department telling you that you have to come in and do something, you’d do it. Consistently make your family a priority. Cops tend to put off family time until “tomorrow” or “my days off” or “when I’m on vacation” or even “when I retire,” and sometimes by then, it’s too late. Given the precarious nature of our job,  time with your loved ones should rarely be put off until some other time!


  • Keep in touch. A “thanks for packing me a lunch” note left on the kitchen table, a brief text message to say “I miss you” or a quick phone call to say “We’re really busy out here tonight but I can’t wait to see you and the kids in the morning” are short, simple ways to stay in touch with your family even while you’re out fighting crime. Our families worry about us and miss us when we’re on duty, and it only takes a few seconds to let them know that you’re okay and that you miss them, appreciate them, love them, and can’t wait to get back home to see them!


  • Don’t be afraid to get help. Years of poor communication, job stress, resentment toward the agency or maybe even each other can leave a relationship badly damaged. The writings and teachings of both Dr. Ellen Kirschman and Dr. Kevin Gillmartin are excellent resources for police officers and their families looking to improve their relationships. And before you join the ranks of the 75% of us who gave up on a marriage, give counseling a try. You spend your time at work helping others, so let a professional therapist or your minister or your department’s employee assistance personnel give you a hand.


Just like officer survival training has been instrumental in reducing police officer injuries and deaths, relationship survival can help our profession reduce that high divorce rate.  Train for your relationships like you train for your survival, because both are worth fighting for!

Posted in A Day in the Life by Sandra. 5 Comments

On the Eve

It’s been 100 years since the Vancouver Police Department hired the first police woman.

The Vancouver Police Museum will be releasing their interactive exhibit on June 30, 2012.

100 years of women in policing.

1912 to 2012 – how cool is that?

There are a couple of big events planned for the coming months, including the exhibit at the museum, and yes, I’ll be talking (and Tweeting) about them more as they come closer.

Until then, here is a post from May 2010, titled Women in Policing, where a prospective police applicant asked about the obstacles faced by women trying to get in to law enforcement.

My response was par for course, so what I’d like to draw your attention to are the comments left by several readers, many of whom are current serving officers with agencies from across North America.

What would you add?