Questions and Answers from Readers and Fans

Q: "I was trying to do a search for sex offenders in my neighborhood, (since i have a young nephew that lives down the block) and where do they reside? I cannot locate a site this provides this information without paying for it? I thought this kind of information was privy to everyone?"

A: Megan's Law, enacted by Congress a few years ago, gives everyone access to sex offender information. In Illinois, the Sex Offender Registry is maintained by the state police (www.isp.state.il.us/sor/). Other states may have different agencies providing the information but, if you Google "sex offender information" and the name of your state, county or town, I'll bet you'll find a link.

Q: "What was the scariest situation you faced as a police officer?"

A: I was on my way home one Saturday night and stopped to check out Lieutenant Kip's brand new squad car that he was driving for the first time. It contained a new style light bar, lights to see inside cars he stopped, lights to check doors on both sides of an alley at once, even lights on the console to see the controls for the other lights, great electronic siren and everything else a modern copper could want. We sat in a strip mall parking lot so he could show me all his gadgets. About halfway through his demo, an armed robbery call came out a mile or so away. I was always an alert police person, so when a Chevrolet Camaro matching the description of the getaway vehicle came charging out from behind a club across the street, I uttered the words Lieutenant Kip reminds me of to this very day:
"Gee, that looks like the suspect vehicle in that armed robbery!"
We pulled in behind it. I called in the license plate (on the brand new Motorola radio) but, before the dispatcher could even respond, the guy ran a red light right in front of us. Kip lit him up (turned on his new light bar) hit the new siren and...the guy took off.
We chased him. Down streets. Through alleys. Into a mall parking lot where a club was just closing and people scattered screaming in all directions and the bad guy sideswiped another squad but kept going. Over the curb on the mall perimeter, into traffic, through two red lights, three red lights and then onto a four-lane divided highway where he revved it up to 100 miles per hour.
Three miles ahead of us, the state troopers blocked the road.
Now to this point, it was sort of exciting and fun. When the guy cut across the median, turned around and headed back our way, however, I started to get a little concerned. The terror began when Lieutenant Kip also cut across the median and attempted to run the guy off the road (remember, we believed they were armed) by heading straight toward him.
Only the Bad Guy didn't chicken out.
Needless to say, the head-on crash could have killed us all.
Fortunately, we turned slightly just before impact and the front tip of the squad's hood only came through the windshield far enough to give me a nice black eye and some cuts and scratches. I realized later the bruise on my belly came from the nifty new Motorola unit when it tore loose from the front console and buried itself in the buckle of my gunbelt.
Lieutenant Kip learned what having a steering wheel hammered into the chest feels like. His Kevlar vest protected him (but he still has back problems).
The Camaro, however, kept running. The driver took it back across the median and over a set of railroad tracks where he got stuck and the troopers caught up to him. Two days later in court, the passenger still had the nice round imprint from the mouth of a 12 gauge shotgun dented into the right side of his head.
Lieutenant Kip's brand new squad car, lights and all, was DOA.
I think he's still pissed about that, twenty-five years later.
Especially since the two guys weren't the armed robbery suspects after all, just a couple of liquored up teenagers who had misdemeanor warrants out for them.

Q: I got pulled over and stopped by two Chicago cops who were not in uniform and who had their guns out the whoele time. What's up with that?

A: You don't say where the stop happened or what it was for so I'll just have to hazard a guess. They could have been detectives but that would be an unusual situation. More likely you were stopped by a couple of tactical officers. Chicago deploys tactical(tac) squads in all 25 of its police districts. Depending on their mission, or assignment, the tac cops are allowed to wear plainclothes and drive unmarked cars. In high crime areas, or when checking out known offenders, all officers uniform or plainclothes, regularly make vehicle stops with their weapons drawn. It's completely within department policy and a matter of officer safety. When I've been on ride-alongs where car stops were made, the officers kept their weapons at their sides, fingers off the trigger unless they had reason to do otherwise. If it wasn't a traffic violation, they probably pulled you over because (a) you were driving through a known drug or prostitution area, (b) your vehicle matched the description of one they had a flash (radio broadcast) alert about or (c) something you did made them suspicious.
While we're on the subject, here's some advice on how to behave in a circumstance such as you describe. Be respectful but make certain plainclothes officers have appropriate identification. Most will wear their star displayed either on a lanyard around their neck or attached to their belt. Keep your hands in plain sight at all times. Leaving them on the steering wheel is a good practice. If you need to reach into your clothes, a purse or anywhere in the car for your ID, ask permission FIRST. If you see they have their guns drawn, do not try to get out of your car or make any sudden moves. Car stops are stressful for the officers. Remember, they don't know you're a law-abiding person who may have just gotten lost in a bad neighborhood. They have to assume the worst. Follow their directions exactly and, as long as you aren't a drug mule carrying several pounds of Mexican tar heroin in your back seat, you'll probably be on your way in no time.

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Comment by Doug M. Cummings on April 4, 2008 at 9:06am
I have not but I certainly will! Thanks. I sure like this site by the way. Good place.

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