I was working an "L" car (i.e., a single-officer unit) in our northeast area and entered my patrol district driving southbound on Figueroa St. As I approached Ave. 44, I noticed a gas station attendant waving his arms. He excitedly pointed toward the next intersection at Ave. 43. I acknowledged his signal and picked up speed.
Another man stood at the corner of Ave. 43 and Figueroa. He was also waving his arms, pointing east. I turned left on 43 and began scanning the street ahead.
After two blocks, I saw another man waving his arms. What was going on? This man was pointing south on Carlota Blvd. Following his directions, I turned right and finally got my answer: A uniformed gas station attendant was chasing another man. The fleeing suspect had both hands full of money.
I jumped out of my patrol car and joined the pursuit on foot. As I approached the suspect, he quickly spun toward me, threw the money to the ground and began pulling a metal object from his waistband. I assumed it was a gun or knife. I was closing in on him fast. Rather than pulling my gun, I struck him down. I later discovered his weapon was a large screwdriver he used to force open the cash box.
After hooking him up, I took him to my patrol car. The gas station attendant was doing his best to gather all the bills scattered by the wind. As I opened the back door, I heard the police dispatcher broadcasting, All units in the vicinity and 11L75 (that was me), a 484 till-tap just occurred at the gas station at Figueroa and Ave. 44. The suspect is being pursued by the victim. They were last seen running eastbound on Ave. 43 toward the Pasadena Freeway. The suspect is wearing black trousers and a red sweater. The man I was escorting into the back seat was wearing black trousers and a red sweater.
The dispatcher continued broadcasting. The suspect took more than $200 in miscellaneous bills. I reached over and grabbed the radio microphone. Interrupting the dispatcher s broadcast, I stated, 11L75 roger that. Suspect in custody. The dispatcher was incredulous. I had to repeat my broadcast several times before she finally accepted what had occurred.
Back at the gas station, I met the owner, the first man I saw waving his arms. He was excited and pacing, and said, It s amazing. It s unbelievable.
"What do you mean, sir?", I asked.
"I'm talking about this modern police department, with all of your scientific advances. I'd just hung up the phone and there you were."
I didn't have the heart to tell him exactly how it happened. Clearly, the arrest was not a result of planning or superior police work. I fell into that one.
Occasionally, that does happen, and we officers are pleased when it does. But most of our good arrests are a result of diligence, commitment and just plain hard work.
Looking for Luck
Early in my career, a wise sergeant told me, "Hard-working cops get lucky." He then went onto develop his philosophy of street police work. He said, "The more rocks you turn over, the more likely you are to find a snake."
There's a lot of validity in the Yogi Berra quip, "It is amazing what you can observe by just looking around." My sergeant believed in the concepts of initiative and diligence. He taught me to look, listen, probe and develop probable cause for further inquiry.
Once I was asked to attend a roll call where several officers would be recognized. I was there to congratulate a team of two officers for making 18 hot roller arrests in a month. Considering the number of days actually worked that month, however, it amounted to about one hot-roller arrest per day.
During the coffee and cake celebrating this occasion, I talked to the hot-roller specialists. They said it was simple. They constantly scanned the vehicles and drivers they passed while on patrol. The passenger officer queried the onboard computer, entering license numbers of vehicles fitting profiles developed by the crime-analysis unit. It was tedious and eye-straining, scanning hundreds of cars, but they felt it was worth the effort.
Here are some steps to increase your chances of stumbling into some good luck while on the job:
I've seen these principles validated time after time during my 37 years of police work. Hard working cops do get lucky—on point.