Why Community Guardian ?
I was working swing shift as an Los Angeles County deputy sheriff in a small community with houses that surrounded a golf course, similar to Terrace Lakes in Crouch. I received a call to meet with the golf course manager regarding someone shooting a possible bb gun at golfers. I contacted the manager and we rode out to a putting green on the far side of the golf course via golf cart.
I searched the woodline surrounding the green when a young man stood up and pointed a black semi auto handgun at me. I immediately drew my handgun and ordered him to drop the gun and stop. The young man quickly turned and climbed over a fence. I was able to watch him from my vantage point to the neighborhood where he ran. The manager drove me back to my radio car and I drove to the suspects neighborhood.
I contacted a neighbor in the area that I had previously met and asked him if he was aware of a young man running through the area. The neighbor discreetly indicated the house where the suspect was hiding. I knocked on the door and a middle aged mom answered. I introduced myself by first name and explained the situation. She immediately knew her son was the unknown suspect. He came to the door and the mom retrieved his gun.
The handgun was an airsoft Beretta 92F with a removable magazine and had no orange barrel safety tip. I safely unholstered my department issued Beretta 92F and showed the mom the two guns, side by side. Neither she nor I could easily identify the difference in the real gun and the airsoft gun. I explained to the mom that I could have shot her son because, he turned and pointed the gun at me. He also refused to stop as he was directed. The mom ordered her son back into the house, closed the door and told me her son's father recently left her. Her son had recently become very defiant and extremely arrogant.
From a law enforcement perspective: This young man had pointed what looked like a deadly weapon at me. He refused to comply and then ran from the scene. I did not shoot because of the young man's size, the report of a bb gun, and the fact that I was behind a group of trees (cover). The mom told me her son was only 12 years old. Multiple crimes were committed in this scenario, including a potential justified deadly force situation. I could have stopped here and made a legitimate juvenile arrest.
I explained to the mom the crimes her son had committed. She was very frustrated with his behavior and asked me if the Sheriff's Department could help her. I asked her what she believed would solve this issue with her son's arrogant, dangerous, and defiant behavior. I explained some alternatives, including arrest. We both agreed the best course of action would be to handcuff the juvenile, place him in the radio car and drive around the block, as though I am taking him to jail.
I handcuffed the juvenile in front of his mom and he started to laugh. I put him in the back of the car and his demeanor started to change. As I backed out of the driveway with the windows down, he started yelling for his mom. His mom agreed to stay at the front door and watch. She refused to respond to her son and continued to watch as we drove off. I stopped around the corner and explained to the juvenile that he is going to be booked in the juvenile gang module because of overflow issues at the jail. The juvenile starting crying in total desperation and kept asking for his mom. He apologized to me repeatedly while crying. I drove the juvenile back home and made a verbal handshake contract with him. I gave him my business card with my cell phone number. I un-handcuffed him and he returned to his mom with his head down. His mom scolded him with many choice words and then thanked me for helping her.
I checked on this young man about a month later to follow up on our verbal contract. His mom told me he had totally changed his behavior and their relationship has grown. Even his grades in school improved. I could not fix the divorce situation but, I did have the training, resources, and ability to effect a positive outcome.
Again, I credit the mentors I had and the comprehensive training I received for effectively solving this community problem. This call was another example of integrated community (golf course manager, mom, and neighbor) and law enforcement coming together to effectively solve a community problem without resorting to an unnecessary custodial arrest. Was being a community Guardian more effective than making a juvenile arrest?
I was a young Mohave County Sheriff deputy on patrol in a very rural district outside of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
I received a radio call to take a theft report. I responded to the lady's house and introduced myself by first name. She told me that she wanted her friend arrested for stealing some personal items. While talking to her she was very candid about being a habitual drug user. She was 28 years old, disheveled, and seemed angry at the world. I asked her why she was a habitual drug user.
She told me the following horrific story: She was previously married and had a six year old boy. Her ex-husband and her use to live in downtown Lake Havasu City. Two years prior to that night, her son was riding his bike in the front yard. They had a steep driveway and he rode straight down the driveway into the street. He was run over and instantly killed by the driver of a truck who did not see him. She witnessed this tragedy from her kitchen window.
She eventually told me she did not want file the theft report and thanked me for talking with her. I clearly remember leaving that call, wondering if there was something the Sheriff's Office or the community could have done to help her.
This young lady needed a community asset and a community Guardian. Unfortunately, the community and I failed to effectively provide a positive solution. Her drug abuse was clearly a symptom of her traumatic experience. This lady needed the communities help, mental health intervention, a sobriety sponsor, and a committed community Guardian. I found out about a year later she committed suicide by overdosing on drugs.
At that time D.O.J. funded Community Oriented Police Services were only tested in select target cities throughout the United States. While I built community relationships on my own initiative, the organizational support was fragmented. Mental health service availability was very limited. Sheriff and community resources were not as integrated nor was the training supported as it is today. Despite all this, this lady was part of a community and deserved to have an effective community Guardian problem solver.
In contrast, the first two stories had positive outcomes, while the last one did not. If I was an effective Guardian I may have made a difference in finding a community asset to get this lady help with mental health intervention, a community sponsor, and sobriety services.
What should we expect from law enforcement? We are already in the field on patrol and readily accessible. Should we be Warriors or community Guardians-who are vested, trained, stake holders in our communities and can make positive changes? Our Boise County communities deserve committed, trained and effective Guardian problem solvers.
Thank you for visiting my website.
On May 19th, 2020
Sheriff of Boise County