What the hell was he thinking?

The other night I was talking to one of my best friends who happens to be Chief of Police of a major California agency. His name and location will remain confidential for obvious reasons. This gentleman worked with us going back to the days of Mr. Sinatra and Miss. Peggy Lee. At the time, a young police officer, a kid you could tell was wired right, and the rest, as they say, is history.


With all this insanity and ill will towards those who make it possible for us to enjoy our homes and businesses and sleep soundly at night in our beds, cops! Granted, it does seem that a few officer’s behaviors have given even me some wonder as to what were they thinking? The criminal in Minneapolis with the cop who should have gotten off his neck once under control, what was he thinking? He was obviously in a black community and was being recorded. Once the criminal was under control, I was trained to get the arrestee up and sitting on his butt or placed in the back of my patrol car. Once that was done, it was all about preparing to transport to the jail for booking. Why would you just remain with the knee still on his neck, he was no longer a threat, and he is now dead, and the officer is facing murder charges, lives taken and destroyed! People were standing there yelling loud and clear to try and get you to stop what you were doing; your prisoner was in distress, and you did nothing! None of us were ever trained to act in such a manner.


As I watched in disbelief, the behavior of this officer in Minneapolis and then a week later, the two white officers in Atlanta who ended up shooting the 27-year-old after that young man decided to grab a taser and run. The initial response is to “chase and apprehend.” “He can’t run, I just placed him under arrest, and he has my taser!” When that young man turned and tried to fire the taser, he sealed his fate (before the new flood of appeasements) and was shot. I get it, and I understand it. What might I have done? Well, I have a little story to share, from the old days of me being a police officer. Of course, I do.


A young Officer Nazarian

Back in the late ’80s, I happened to be a street cop in a California Police Department. Not only was I a police officer working my regular beat, I was also a gang officer and ran the juvenile division of the city where I worked. Many, many times, I was sometimes the only officer on duty from 0300 to 0800 hrs, and my closest back up was the CHP off the 5 that ran across the state of California and through the Central Valley.


One night as things got quiet, I got a call from dispatch that a reserve officer that was working that night needed help with “several non-compliant subjects.” Well, being the diligent officer that I was, I responded to that location as I was the only other option; this was my world, and the reserve officer was visiting it!


As I rolled up, I noticed 3-4 young black males who I was very familiar with as the local family who did hay baling. Those big gigantic machines that take the hay into the big angry opening and pop out a compressed and tied bale of hay at the other end. Tough work, long hours and only tough men did that work, this group of young muscular young black men did that job! My “reserve officer” drove a bakery truck during the day, delivering bread! You feeling me here? I cannot recall the reserve officer’s name at this time, but if I close my eyes, I can see him. He was tall, white with blond hair, and he looked like a bakery truck driver only second to delivering milk!


The first thing I told him was to put this weapon away and to relax; we were not going to shoot these young men. The oldest brother looked at me and asked, “What’s up, John? “He knew me from the juvenile work that I did and greeted me friendly enough, but we had a “police issue here.” Could we shoot everyone? Why? These young men were job security, and frankly, I got a kick out of them during most of my interactions with them. They worked hard and had good family values, and I had the answer to my problem. The monsters who baled hay and I chatted, and I was grateful to have made a deal with them that they would stop drinking and shut the noise down, and all would be discussed later. I told the oldest brother to have his mother call me the next day at the station. The boys’ mother was a teacher, a good woman. Someone else that I worked within the course of my work as a juvenile officer.


The next day I received a message that mom had called, and I called her back and discussed the issues I had. Mom brought all her sons down to the police department, and we discussed the night before. The manner in which she handled these 4 young men was more than I could have ever done with a ticket book or, god forbid, a bullet.


First, I was not going to fight with them physically as they would have hurt me, and for what? Drinking and making noise? Was I a lazy police officer? Absolutely not, I was as aggressive as they came back in the day. I will not give my detractors any ammunition to attack me as to how I did my job as an officer of the law. The job got done, people got arrested and at the appropriate time, went to prison or the county jail. Fair and square, all on the “up and up.” The only thing I ever shot as an officer of the law was a dog that was attacking myself and a female prisoner.


That gun is an unforgivable piece of equipment; I knew dam right what I could and could not do. You can always change your mind, turn right instead of left, but once you discharge that lead projectile, it is over. I also understood my authority very clearly every time I wore that uniform, a unique job for sure. I had the power and authority to take a humans’ right to liberty and, if necessary, their life!


God Bless our brave men and women in law enforcement. I will always defend them. Today’s world of policing is not the world I worked in the late ’70s, and when I got on the job, my job was not the same as the previous ’50s and 60’s men and women who had come before me.


By John Nazarian
Straight Talk with John J. Nazarian, Private Investigator
July 4, 2020
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

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