In this episode I sit down with retired Police Captain James Engen. Jim is a very likable and personable guy. He shares some calls that he had as a young copper that would make anyones hair stand up on end. Jim also shares some great advice for young people that are looking to get into police work.
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this is things police see first Annacomes with your host Steve goldhey guys welcome to the podcast in thisepisode I interview retired la palmacaptain jim ingen la palma is a cityjust outside of LA it was a really funinterview in gyms got some great and andcrazy experiences he we talked aboutresponding to LA riots chasing down bankrobbers dodging bullets and some reallyhumorous things tagging along with alocal fire department – some prettypretty hilariousmedical calls at the end of the episodeJim has some great advice for newrecruits and people looking to becomepolice officers you don’t want to missit it’s it’s just really good Jim’s it’sreally smart really wise guy I can seehow I can see how he made the rank ofcaptain if you would like to reach thepodcast or reach me you can do that at agmail account I set up its things pleasesee at gmail.com so again that’s thingsplease see at gmail.com go ahead andshoot me an emailI’ll get right back to you withoutfurther ado here’s my interview withretired captain Jim ingen I’m here withretired captain Jim ingen from La PalmaPolice Department La Palma is a what Iknow about La Palma is it’s a smallishcity outside Los Angeles yes which doesnot save you from anything in this inSouthern California because you’re stillgonna get all the same bad guys that’swhat I’ve learned the last year I’veI’ve lived here that would be correctjust because the agency is a smallagency right we’re not immune from theelements of crime that’s for sureso you were there for how long Jim yourwhole career my entire career I wasthere for 27 years I started my firstpiece of employment there as a reserveofficer for a year and then theremaining 26 I was an officer that Irose through the ranks up to Captainbefore I retiredokay that’s great so the idea of thepodcast is I’m gonna ask you a fewquestions and kind of let people seewhat police work is like kind of throughyour stories through your eyes you knowhow it affects you and what what it waslike having your experiences so can youtell me what it was like the first timeyou went on a like a really hot call thefirst call that you went on and you werelike oh my god you know I I was thinkingback to that and I couldn’t think ofreally one there’s as we get into thisthere’s going to be some other areaswhere I’m I’m a kind of dive into thesame call sure but I want to say thefirst ones were the LA riots in 1992after after the Rodney King verdictagencies throughout California andthrough other states Washington didn’twork in Nevada they had police they justcame here to LA and got sucked into itwe all got sucked into it so you talkabout not knowing what you’re gonna runinto on the next corner I can’t I can’twe watch that on the East Coast on TVand it was madness we thought people inthe East Coast like California was gonnaburn that was just over it was so crazythe images we saw yes and it all startedactually when I was in the Academy whenBrian King encounter with police at thattime but anyway we went to a briefingover at what is now the Coliseum USCokay we had our briefing and we weretold at that time that we are not tocontact anybody our job was to make surethat everybody was abiding by curfew nowyou may get shot at so make sure youhave your helmets on so that made mefeel real good yeah so anyway I couldtell you that a few times I was out ofthe car we did hear shots and I heard afew whizzes yeah we took cover do youhave a helmet I could wear over my wholebody that’s for sure but we were told ifwe have to return fire we are to do soand if we did have to return fire and ifwe hit somebody we were to not approachwe were to go report back to the commandcenterand give them the time approximatelocation and approximately how manypeople were down and they would lookinto it later as that was the holepretty much scenario those were ourmarching orders because it was all aboutprotecting the copsthat’s unreal so that’s almost likethat’s almost like wartime engagementit’s like just get out of there and getif you engage get out and they just wellthe apply didn’t have the resources toeven attend to injured people absolutelyso that was that was pretty sketchy yeahbut there was a call where we had areport of a possible gang-relatedshooting in the city of Cyprus which isjust south of our border there a littlebit bigger of a city department abouttwice the size and we didn’t have muchof the vehicle description and I pulledinto this parking lot I make a u-turnand I see a car pull up to a stoplightmake sure you keep the mic close sorryto interrupt you sorry about the othersensitive is that okay that’s good sokeep it close like that yeah okay soanyway I saw a car pulling up to thisstoplight and I’m looking I look at himand they kind of look at me and thenthey look away and I thought wow this iskind of weird so I got behind himand I said I started following him and Isaid I have possible P G or what we callP G ours in a vehicle approximately fiveand I am northbound on Carmenita waitingfor backup well my back my backup wasprobably three miles away so I’m justfollowing this car and I don’t even knowwhat I haveso as I’m continued to follow the car Ihave my amber lights on in the back Idon’t want them to think that you knowI’m actually following them right aboutten miles into it I finally see the redlights coming up from behind me so assoon as I see them they shut them offand we get two additional officers we goahead and light them up turn on ourlights and then we see guns flying outthe window so now we are in a territoryor an area where we are not familiarwith so they’re ditching their gunsthey’re ditching their guns okay theythey drive into this neighborhood but itwas an Norwalk and the neighborhood waswas called Carmela’s the Carmela’s gangand it was just one officer and myselfthe car stops there was a three-year-oldinside the car oohand everybody inside the car withexception of this one female takes offwell the next thing we know we have ahostile crowd this neighborhood was notpolice friendly oohso I had my partner covering my backwith a 12-gauge shotgun and I’m justfocused on the car and we were there for20 minutes not knowing what’s gonnahappen to us because we were not able wedid not know the street that we were onthat’s unreal man I mean yeah I don’tthink people have a good idea of whatit’s like to have people just not likeyou because of your job like you thatyou’re doing the right thing you’retrying to stop a crime you’re trying toenforce the law and immediately peoplejust they do something like I’ll showyou show you hate yes I mean and thenyou’re stuck there and we’re and we’restuck there now it all ended up good wegot our bad guyand he went to jail and he is servingtime for murder Wowso that’s that I would say if those twothings those were very early on I wasyoung I was green you hear about youhear about the term tunnel vision yeahlots of tunnel vision just lot lots ofjust just a narrow sight and justthinking hey I just want to go home tomy familyyeah I bet yeah and that’s probably whenyou realize this job this is for realthis is yeah absolutelybefore that all’s you have is you knowstories and the movies and TV you knowcorrectright you have a do you have a call thatyou can think of that would be you wouldconsider their strangest or most bizarrething you ran into well I could I couldthink of a number of them that might notbe for purposes of the this interview Imight not want to mention however don’thold back on my account go ahead and saywhat’s your pick whichever you likeokay well this is kind of a funny one Imean this this is for all audiences okaythe brand new officer I was I had goneto crime scene investigator school seatwith small departments the policeofficers they they write cold casereports all all crime reports theyconduct their own crime sceneinvestigation they collect their ownevidence and all that so in a lot ofways you’re getting a more well-roundedofficer yes okay that’s that’s thethat’s the positive things about youknow a small Police Department is is youget to learn all aspects of the jobyou’re not you’re not confined to justone area sure or one aspect of the workso anyway I go to CSI school and Ilearned how to take fingerprints nowfingerprints if anybody does if you wantto know what fingerprint powder isreally nothing but sit that’s all it isit’s a carbon it’s like carbon okay okayso right out of briefing I get a I get acall to go to this residential burglaryand it was a crazy burger it was aransack what we call a ransack where allthe rooms have been gone through all thedrawers were open and they had quite abit of quite a bit of items stolen wellI’m a young rookie cop and I’m gonna gothere and I’m gonna find my fingerprintsright so I get over there and I’m youknow go through all the rooms dustingthe rooms for prints and I dug on and Igot those prints those prints that Iwanted to get so then I complete thatjob and as I was going back to thestation to regroup I got a call foranother residential burglary so a coupleblocks away probably the same peoplewell I get there and no knock on thedoor the resident answered youa nice nice woman in and she looked atme and she says I and I said I’m here totake I’m here to take reportyou know I guess your house wasburglarized and she said yes it was shegoes would you like to come in I said itsure so we go in the kitchen we sit downand she goes you know can I get you aglass of water I said no I’m I’m finefor some reason and I don’t take anyprints there I didn’t think there wasgonna be any evidence so I chose not totake prints and plus I wanted to get outof there anyway so I finished that upand as I’m leaving I give her mybusiness card and she does I’m sure youdon’t need a glass of water I said noI’m fine so I get in the car I go driveback to the station and I go in thelocker room to wash my hands and I haveblack soot all over my face coming outof my nostrils in my teeth and all Icould think it was this poor woman isthis who we are hiring as policeofficers this is my Police Departmentthis idiot does know yes yes yeah I’msure she was horrified oh so we got akind of a kick out of it so that’s kindof a funny story I like to tell butthere was a there was one where womancalled up and because we would respondnot only would we respond to crimes weresponded medical aids because we’refirst responders we are trained in basicly it’s the same my town I came from wedo the same thing yesso medical aid female frantic I thinksomething’s wrong with my boyfriend sowe respond to the scene code 3 and weget there and the boyfriends in bed andhe’s just screaming bloody murder I meanhe is in pain and he’s in pain in thegroin area so the EMTs get there theyload them on the gurney and as they’retape is there taking him out you knowwe’re trying to fit okay ma’am whathappened I mean was this some kind ofcrime Danna you know could this could bedomestic violence you know maybe theywere a fight and she kicked him in thegroin Lorena Bobbit Lorena Bobbitthowever no in fact they were actuallyengaged ina mutual intercourse right andapparently during the session hepositioned himself the wrong way andbroke a blood vessel in his scrotum ohso the EMTs in the and the paramedicswere just amazed they’re like you knowoh my god Wow somebody get a camera so Igot a camera so I go I gohey what’s going on what’s going on andthey’re going guys you have got to takea look at this and no kiddingthis poor guy his scrotum was blown uptoo literally half the size of abasketball oh my god but I can onlythink you know the girls horrified butsee police have a even fireman you knowwe all get along you know we we collectevidence they destroy evidence but nobecause they’re you know they’re in thebusiness of saving lives or are we butwe’re also in the business of predictingthe crime scene but at the end of theday we’re all on the same team but youknow there’s just something thatsometimes police have to do to exhausttheir stress and that is to find humorand just about everything at the expenseof this poor guy absolutely that’s greatso so yeah time and that’s one of manyoh I’m sure now switch gears a littlebit could you tell me about the mostintense and/or terrifying moment being apolice officer yes and again these are alot of times and police work you’ll hearof the term routine call and let me tellyou there’s no such thing as a routinecall absolutely I am driving back to thestation actually the sergeant had calledme in again I was a new officer andunfortunately the week prior I failed tolook at the schedule but I was assignedto work on I on a weekend day and offand I didn’t realize I was supposed towork so I actually missed a shift wellthat can get you fired absent withoutleave yeah absolutely well I’m onprobation so I thought oh boy this is itI got called into the station by thesergeant and as I get to the back lotbefore I could park the car dispatchcomes out and says 37 units becauselipoma were known as station 37 37 units211 Bank in progress at this Bank calledCapitol Bank and it was my beat so rightaway I’m thinking okay two lemons Robert211 is a robbery it’s an and and shesaid 211 armed so butch I meant was anarmed robbery this is something I’llnever forget the date September 21st1992 so it’s my beat it’s my callI’m the handling officer I had a seniorofficer who was my partnerand then we had the supervisor so I kneweverybody’s gonna start responding to itI get there I get to the location firstand as I’m getting there here’s whatyou’re thinking is ibly okay we need asuspect description we need a vehicledescription and very common in 211s thatthere’s two vehicles always involvedthere is they what they call a cultplated stolen and then their getawayvehicle try to throw us off well so Iget on scene and I’m already planningbecause I knew the layout of this ofwhere this Bank was it was a it was aminimum mini mall and there was a backalley there was a West alley in a Northalley so we were gonna cover both thosealleys I was gonna cover the north alleyMy partner was gonna cover the westalley to block any type of escapebecause we lipoma small we have anaverage two minute response time so weget there and my attention is divertedto the guy who actually called nine oneone who called in this armed robbery sohe he I focused my attention on him forthree seconds and he’s telling me thatpointing over at the bank well as he’sdoing that as I’m looking at the bankthe sergeantwho was the third officer to arrive onscene sees a black tinted windowCadillac Seville pulling out of theNorth Hawley way which was where I wasgoing well he gets behind that car wedon’t know if that’s them or not he getsbehind it and starts calling out hislocationI knowing that now I got my supervisorwho has a possible suspectI immediately pull you know drive out ofthe parking lot and get right behind himwell as we are behind him he calls outthe license plate over the radio ourlights aren’t on we’re just figuring outwhat’s the best place to stop them wellas soon as we he calls out the licenseplate the car immediately acceleratesawayso now lights are on in pursuit we getabout a half mile up the road the carcomes to a complete stop skids to a stopdoors go fly open so what are wethinking well here’s why you always sayroutine it’s always an assumptionsometimes you make those mistakes as acop you make those assumptions thatthey’re gonna get out on foot and runright but that wasn’t the case they gotout of the car and opened fire on us allI could see was they flash and the smokeand the pop-pop-popon the front hood of my car and thewindshield of my car well completelytook out the supervisors car they justcompletely disabled the car so now I’mby myself and I’m chasing them now andI’m calling out and Adrenaline’s hitelevision set in hard to control yourvoice in the radio hard to control thevoice in the radio and all I can thinkabout was don’t let these guys get awaythey’re not gonna get away I’m not andmy training kicked in an Academy tripand this is Academy train trainingkicked in moving car 9:30 in the morninglots of traffic don’t shoot that a carand disable it because someone elsemight get injured so keep them in mysights and chase them and don’t losethemright so I’m chasing them for a coupleof miles getting closeshooting hitting the car backing offjust a little bit I’m shooting no no nono no no I’m not shooting you know youthink about it you know when you’reMonday Morning Quarterback yourself youthink oh yeah you know but this wasdefinitely not a Bonnie and Clyde thatwould be hard that that would be hard wedon’t train to shoot while we’re drivinga car right that’s not something welearn in the Academy but two miles intothe chase they make a u-turn and drivedirectly at me so now now I’m thinkingokay you’re not going to be eliminatedfrom this chase so I figure and this issomething that I thought about ifthey’re gonna shoot me and if I’m gonnabe hit I’m gonna be hit or at leastcounts and that’s going to be in thebutt I put my butt up against thedriver’s side door and I had my gun outready to go thinking if they shoot methey’re gonna shoot me in the butt forsome reason I just had that in my mindso how come they’re they turned aroundthey’re coming at you now yeah are youparked now no I’m basically stoppedright in the middle of an intersectionokaytrying to figure out because they’regonna be going the opposite way I weknew I knew that they were going for thefreeway gotcha so didn’t hit me and Iwas pretty happy about that so now thechase is back on againnow the Calvary starts to arrive butthey managed to make it on the freewayand they continued to shoot at us and Iwas I was actually the first car and I’mcalling this pursuit and I could tell asas it is it was progressing my tunnelvision began to widen and I started kindof regrouping knowing okay this is wherewe’re at hey you know just keep it updon’t give don’t give it don’t lose himyeah I thought about ramming him but Ithought then I thought I had the senseto think well if I Ram athen the airbag is gonna go off in mycar I’m gonna be out of the chase yeahso just stay on him so when it wasn’tworking shooting at uswe weren’t backing off then they startedshooting as they passed other vehiclesthey started shooting at those vehicleswe chased him into North Long Beach thepursuit lasts about 15 minutesthankfully no one was hit what ended uphappening that’s like a miracle yeahwhat ended up happening was the frontpassenger shot off his own thumb and sothey gave they knew how to give up sothey gave up we had an audience theywere in their hometownwe had the Sheriff’s Departmentassisting us I could tell you that wasnot very happy with these individualsof course I usually don’t you know use Iusually watch my tongue especially whenthere’s an audience but I think that atthat point I was just upset and what wasgoing through my mind at that time wasthey’re shooting at meI might get hit but I can’t lose him nomatter what you don’t lose him right andthe whole time I was a young I was about25 years old and I didn’t have a girl Ididn’t it wasn’t married didn’t have agirlfriend I just had my mom just my momand I just with we’re thinking if I endup losing my lifewhat’s gonna happen to my mom oh yeahand I kept thinking about my mom thewhole time I bet but anyway we wearrested him and then they they you knowthey ended up going to trial and theygot 25 to life one of them has was justrelief released from prison and is nowworking at Palos Verdes Estates at a gymand not a gym you attend not not a gym Iattendnow tell me this bought you some goodfavor with your supervisor well let metell you now at the end of this wholething I was thinking to myself and thisis why you had you have your seniorofficer there who happened to be myfield training officer before that and Iwent to him and I said Doron Tanai saidI’ve got a huge report I have to take Igot to go back and I got to go interviewthat bank tellers and I got to do thisbecause we’re a small Department when wedo everything sure and he put his handon my shoulder he said son I’m suresomebody else is gonna be taking thisreport he said you need to just sit downand just be thankful you’re alivedecompress and just decompressI was never treated with with moreunderstanding and compassion and it wasat that time when I knew that you knowwow you know he this is a very closeBrotherhood and it’s something like thatat our department didn’t happen everyday rightin fact that was probably the mostserious incident that my city you’veever experienced we’re very quietcommunity but again this goes to showyou that you’re not immune from theelements of course wow man that is Imean like you said the that guy gave youa break and which was the right thing todo because it stress you were justserved but they’re just you know they’reall fine they’re finding out now thatthese little like you know mini traumasthat cops go through it’s it’s it’s PTSDit said that stuff builds up in copsover the years correct now how do youfeeldealing with like bombardments of youknow negative negativity and dangerouscalls and and people in general justlike those people who surrounded you’vejust not just giving you shit all thetime when you’re trying to your job youknow that do you feel like it do youfeel like you successfully were able tofight off that them versus us mentalityor here’s something that you need toneed to remember we all andyou know law enforcement is a very smalltight-knit community we all becamepolice officers for a reason and that’swhy why because because we want to helpwe we want to make a difference we wewant to keep the quality of life highhere and we play a major part in thatbut she never T you want to make surethat you never take things personallyand I myself didn’t take thingspersonally and this was this wasinstilled in my mom in my brain throughmy training officer it’s good newsyou’re gonna be yelled at you’re gonnabe called names but see it’s out of lacklack of respect to the law but the thingis is that we apply the law the same toeverybody and you cannot take itpersonally so I immune myself from thatbecause I know hey if they really knewwho I was as a person right theyprobably wouldn’t be saying those thingsmaybe they had some bad experiences intheir life maybe they’re they’re taughtthat that you know police are you can’ttrust them because you know I mean Imean let’s face it if you ask if you aska member of the community you knowdepending on where it’s at especiallyhere in the size of LA that you know lala’ the size of it is in the populationwhat it is if you ask him about whatwere your experiences with police andthey’re gonna tell you well not goodnever know so so and sold my brother wasarrested my dad was arrested my mom wasthey caused us to have to go to courtand pay fines innocent at me well thenwhat about farmingwell farming different firemen they lookat firemen it helps us is they help usthey our house was burning and they cameand put the fire outor my mom had my dad had a heart attackand they came and and brought them backthat’s that’s a great example when I wasin police academy the instructor saidtell us a positive experience you’ve hadwith the police so everybody startsraising their hands and one kid goes Igot pulled over but he gave me a warningyou guys why do you think that’spositive he goes what let me ask youwhen you putlights on was pulling you over youafraid or were you nervous oh yeah yourbrain did not register that as apositive experienceyou were happy you didn’t get a ticketbut very few encounters please havepeople see as positive they’re usuallynegative 27 years being a police officerand if a police officer got behind meI’d get nervousoh shit I would get nervous yeah goodexample and that this is something thatthat maybe police officers with kidshave there was a there I had just gottenoff work I was off at 6:00 in themorning and we were on our way out tothe river at 8:00 and I’m in my truckand I’ve got my 13 year old son with meat the time I’m driving on i-15 goingtowards Vegas and I’m going about 85miles an hour one of the reasons I wantto get there quicker and you knoweverybody knows that cars usually drive85 miles an hour between Victorville onewrite Vegas nothing out there so nextthing I know I’ve got a chippy behind meand I’m getting pulled over and I lookedat my son Garrett and I said alrightbecause I was thinking myself okay nowwhat am I gonna do what kind of anexample am I gonna be right so I saidGarrett your dad was driving over thespeed limit and if your dad gets aticket your dad deserves it Wow goodform that’s gonna happen well luckily hewas making a double car stop in the carthat that was in front of me he wasdoing the same he was gonna stop thatcar so as I pulled over that car pullsover and then I see it it Shin forwardit Shin forward each and forward andthen takes off and the CHP officerpulled up right next to me and says it’syour lucky day buddy and he went out oneafter the other one so I think God waslooking over my shoulder at that one godsaw your moment of honesty but at leastmy son knew that his dad was gonnaaccept a ticket if I get a ticket I geta ticket so that’s great it’s one ofthose ethical issues absolutely one lastquestion for you Jim for wrap this upand the advice you’d give to newrecruits candidates getting into thepolice field now yes number onenever forget your tactics some of thebest tactics we see out in the field arefrom the officers who have are fresh outof the Academythey have great tactics you go to thenext person who’s been out of theAcademy for 20 years and they forget howto do how to properly control somebodyand properly handcuff somebodycomplacency some so complacency neverforget your tactics the other thing isnever take things personally you’regonna get yelled at you’re gonna getspit on you’re gonna be accused ofthings but at the end of the day you’rethe one in control so do it with thereason and do it behind that badge ofhonor do things right only use the forcenecessary and once that arrest is madeits Kings X it’s done it’s done so neverever take things personally justremember they’re yelling at the uniformnot at you Jim that’s some great adviceman I got a lot more if you want yeahabsolutely okay well okay don’t justkeep cops in law enforcement as yourfriends you want to have friends outsideof law enforcement because that keepsyou into perspectivenever hold things in when your wife orsignificant other wants to talk to youtalk to them don’t just feel like youhave to talk to a police officer talk toyour significant others always some ofthe things that police are new cops theycan get caught up in cliques don’t getyourself involved in a clique and mainstay stay with the right crowd there aresome police officers yeah who aredisgruntled who have been around for awhile don’t get yourself involved inthose clicks stay positive and rememberwhy you chose this profession soremember your oath and never compromiseit and just remember that no call is aroutine call there’s no such thing as aroutineoh great stuff Jim thank you so much forcoming onyou’re very welcome hey guys thanks forchecking out the podcast I hope youenjoyed this interview if you did andyou want to show some support for theshow please go to iTunes subscribe rateand review thank you so much and I’llsee you next time