Tag Archives: gun

Moments with the Badge: Pregnant Drunks, Presidents, and Poorly Thought-out Suicide Attempts

I’m frequently asked if I draw upon my experiences in law enforcement for my writing.  I do, but rarely do I use any specific incidents.  The reason I avoid doing this is that I want my work to feel authentic to the reader and sometimes law enforcement is actually stranger than fiction.  I’m often concerned that if I refer to an actual event when writing a novel, the retelling of the real story will end up feeling too unrealistic – even for fiction.  However, I do try to take bits and pieces from my past and integrate those experiences into my books.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of some of these moments and I came up with 10 which I think demonstrate how the profession of law enforcement is unlike any other.  Some of the events were absurd.  Some were enlightening to me at the time.  Some involved coincidences that are difficult to believe.  All of them show why we should never assume what a “normal” day might be for a person carrying the badge.

1.  As a patrol officer, once I was dispatched to drive my patrol car past a spot where someone was shooting at cars that were traveling past that spot.  Think about that for a moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2.  Several years ago, I was part of a major manhunt for an individual believed to be in Washington, D.C.  We had a one hour briefing and a dozen agents were tasked to methodically check various parts of the large city.  We had maps.  We had equipment.  We had detailed plans.  We were prepared for long days of scouring the streets for this needle in a haystack.  At the conclusion of the briefing, I drove out of the office parking garage and immediately spotted the individual who happened to be walking past our building.

3.  I had to write a report about the Vice President shooting his hunting partner in the face.  Oddly, this event only happened once in my career.

4.  The first time I tried to kick in a door, I bounced right off.  The same thing happened the second and third times.  I came to the conclusion that cop shows on TV might be a tad bit unrealistic.

5.  During a foot pursuit through a Virginia shopping mall, a suspect ended up on a ledge and threatened to jump.  I said, “Go ahead.”  He jumped.  He had been 6 feet off the ground.  Shockingly, he lived.

jump

6.  As a rookie agent at the 2000 Democratic Convention in L.A., I was instructed not to let any of the scheduled greeters onto the airport tarmac until the White House staff showed up with a verification list.  The staff member did not show up until Air Force One was landing, so I couldn’t allow the greeters to meet the plane.  President Clinton exited the plane (expecting greeters) and began waiving to an empty runway.  It was an embarrassing moment for the White House and I had to explain to a supervisor that I had followed procedure.  I had followed the rules, but it was an uncomfortable situation for a new agent.  At the time, I thought I might be in big trouble.  Years later, an officer with the Secret Service Uniform Division in D.C. (who had no idea I had been in L.A. for the convention) told me the story of one of the “strangest moments he had seen in his twenty years on the job”.  He then recounted the incident on the tarmac in 2000.  I just nodded and said, “Yeah.  That sounds weird.”

7.  I once worked a case in which I interviewed a counterfeiter in Richmond, VA.  We knew the suspect had been using counterfeit money to buy drugs, but did not have enough evidence for an arrest.  I told the suspect that law enforcement was the least of his worries if he continued to rip-off drug dealers.  He responded with some unkind words.  A few months later he was murdered in a field outside Richmond.  Years later, I was having dinner at a restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA (344 miles from Richmond) when the waiter decided to make small talk.  It turned out he was from Richmond and had been friends with the murdered counterfeiter.  I never went back to that restaurant.

8.  The only time I had to fire my weapon in the line of duty was at a rabid raccoon.  It did not bite me.

9.  I was once assulted in the line of duty by a drunk, pregnant lady.  She bit me.

teeth

10.  I once chased a guy down a busy D.C. street.  He had a shirt hanging off one arm, making it appear that he was wearing a cape.  The radio traffic from one of the other agents came out, “Hensley is chasing some guy with a cape.”  The response from one agent on the radio was, “Why is Hensley wearing a cape?????”

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

 

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Police and the Use of Force

Throughout the past few months, the topics of policing, racial relations, and rules regarding law enforcement use of force have taken center stage in what have often been emotional and contentious debates.  On many occasions, the conversation has been hijacked by opportunists looking to self-promote and media personalities seeking ratings.  I won’t attempt to dive deeply into the issues as they are complex and much too important to attempt to dissect in a simple blog post.  In this piece, I am not making any judgments regarding the most recent occurrences that have been played out in the press.  However, I would like to mention a few things to keep in mind when entering into conversations regarding the recent incidents in Missouri, New York, and Cleveland or even if addressing the issues in a broader sense.  Here are some things I hope everyone will try to remember:

 

  1. When police use force, we can’t assume race or economic is a factor

This has been an unfortunate leap many have taken, partially because some media outlets have linked the two together.  The fact of the matter is that stories dealing with race relations get more attention than some that do not.  Was race a factor in Ferguson, New York, or Cleveland?  I don’t know, but I’m not going to assume so.  As a law enforcement officer, I was involved in several physical altercations and I can honestly say the last thing on my mind was the other person’s skin color.  Call me selfish, but I was much more concerned about doing my job well which, in my mind anyway, included staying alive.

Are there racist cops?  Absolutely.  The same way there are racist computer programmers, airline pilots, and politicians.  Should racism be tolerated?  Of course not.  But, I’m not going to assume race is a factor even if racial tensions exist in particular town or neighborhood.  Police officers are human beings and every officer and incident needs to be evaluated objectively.

  1. Police use of force rules are widely misunderstood

Officers and agents are trained to abide by a use of force model, or continuum, that calls for the officer to escalate force only if necessary.  In most models, an officer’s mere presence is the first step followed by verbal direction, hand control techniques, non-lethal means (pepper spray, Taser, blunt impacts), and lethal force.  An officer or agent can leap over one or more steps if the situation calls for it.  If the officer believes that there is an imminent threat to life (the officer’s or another’s), lethal force may be used.

There are many, many misconceptions about the use of force, but allow me to focus on one.  The use of a firearm is always lethal force.  One of my pet peeves is the Hollywood depictions of an officer shooting an aggressor in the leg or arm as a means to stop him.  This is pure fiction.  Even if you ignore the fact the femoral artery runs through the leg and the brachial artery runs through the arm, bullets don’t often follow a straight path once they enter the body.  Bullets bounce around, they mushroom, and they leave fragments that cause severe damage.  The argument that an officer should have shot a person in a non-lethal way is invalid.  Can you imagine the following interaction between a lawyer and an officer involved in a shooting?

Lawyer:  “Officer, did you intend to kill Mr. Smith.”

Officer:  “No, I shot him in the leg.”

Lawyer:  “So lethal force was not necessary?”

Officer:  “No, that’s why I shot him in the leg.”

Lawyer:  “You shot a bullet into Mr. Smith and didn’t think that it might kill him?”

Officer:  “Right.”

It seems ridiculous because it is just that.  The officer would probably be prosecuted in criminal court and certainly be sued.  Just as ridiculous is the argument that an officer should have used non-lethal means if being confronted aggressively with a knife or other dangerous weapon.  Pepper spray, Tasers, and batons have a very limited range and are sometimes ineffective.  I have personally seen demonstrations where an attacker with a knife can reach an officer standing over 20 feet away before the officer can react appropriately.  These things happen in the blink of an eye and the speed and chaotic nature of assaults should be considered.

One last consideration regarding use of force – EVERY encounter an officer has involves a weapon because the officer is carrying one.  Every time an officer goes to the ground and has to wrestle a suspect, the suspect’s hand is only inches away from a gun.  All it takes is for an officer to lose consciousness or to be at a severe tactical or physical disadvantage for a suspect to obtain that weapon.

http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/officer-safety/use-of-force/Pages/continuum.aspx

 

3.  Video clips and sound bites are not thoughtful analysis

A few months ago a short video clip emerged from a gay rights parade in Pittsburgh.  The clip showed an officer punching a female participant in the parade and gave no other context.  Immediately, some individuals and entities latched on to the clip and claimed it was an example of police brutality.  Several days later, information came out that prior to the officer punching her the woman had attacked a parade protester and then had kicked the officer in the groin when he attempted to take her into custody for the assault.  None of that was shown on the video clip that had gone viral in a matter of hours.  This is an example of why it is so important to reserve judgment before all of the facts are available.

http://www.wtae.com/news/gay-pride-parade-arrestee-pleads-guilty/29274810

 

A Simple Test When Debating This Topic

Whether or not the individual you are talking with believes the police are evil; or that a particular race, socioeconomic group, or ethnicity is to blame; or members of a specific political party are at fault, just ask the person the question:  “All of them?”  If the person responds in the affirmative then you may be wasting your breath, but don’t give up.  Words can be polarizing, but they can also reverse the tide.

Have any thoughts?  Leave a comment!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology