In this episode Steve interviews Gary Steiner, retired Santa Monica PD. Gary had a long and incredible career with TONS of crazy stories! Please continue to support the show by going to www.thingspolicesee.com to donate!!
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this is things police see first-handaccounts with your oast Steve gold heyguys welcome to the podcast atinterviews active and retired policeofficers but their most intense bizarreand sometimes humorous moments on thejob I am Steve Gould thank you forjoining us ladies and gentlemen this isepisode number 54 I believe before weget started this one take a moment tothank everybody thank you so much forthe all the five-star reviews thank youso much for the the donations thatreally helps a lot just um just to paythe little expenses that come withrunning a podcast and yeah we’re justgetting a lot of great feedback a lot ofgreat emailsI really really appreciate that justjust so you know I’ve said this beforein the past but we do have a couple ofdifferent email addresses the main oneis Steve at things please see com or youcan get there through things please seedykon website you can contact us thatway if you send something and I hadn’tresponded it has like an overlyaggressive filter and it gets a lot oftimes it gets sent into junk so I kindof have to go in there and call thoseout once in awhile so just be patient Iwill respond I promise and I appreciateall the all the messages we’ve beengetting without further ado I want tobring on our guest for today GarySteiner Gary started his police careerin the mid-1970s and he went all the waythrough to 2008 so it’s 30-plus yearsbeing a police officer for Santa MonicaPolice Department so he was patrol hedid detectives and they all and heretired I believe a sergeant and he’salso recognized court recognized experton confession evidence which i think ispretty interesting so excited to haveGary on Santa Monica the city is insaneto me anyways I’ve been there a handfulof times with my family and it justseems like it’s a good non-stop partyand seems like it would be probably funand also a could get annoying to policeafter a while I don’t know it just seemslikea drunk partygoers all the time so allright let me let me dial in Gary yeahwell Gary welcome to the podcast thankyou for coming on man thanks Steve goodto be here how are you I’m very wellthank you I just I just did a littleintro here and I was saying how you didyou know 30 plus years at Santa MonicaPolice Department which to me just musthave been nuts cuz I’ve visited thatcity a handful of times with my familyand it’s just as like seems like there’salways a party happeningthere’s always sandy feet and handcuffsgoing on if you know what I mean thecops are walking out the beach peopleare partying it’s just non-stop thereit’s a crazy place but you know I guessthat’s what you’d have to expect since Iattend dumps out over there and theyhave so much tourismI actually didn’t start with SantaMonica I started in the city of SanFernando which is pretty small comparedto a city that compared to LA isn’t verybig San Fernando is only 2.42 squaremiles but that’s where I started my lawenforcement careerwow that’s tiny I think when I worked atum backgrounds I think I called up therefor a guy who was transferring or tryingto get on LAPD and I was surprised athow small it was it sounded like I’m notfrom here but when you hear San Fernandoyou think San Fernando Valley I thoughtit’d be some big department but itwasn’t was teeny yeah when I was workingthere I started there as a communityservice officer and although the job issimilar to what the non-sworn CommunityService officers that work full-time forSanta Monica and other agencies is therequirements and the duties there Henleyminor crime reports and trafficcollisions and parking tickets a CSO inSan Fernando was a student workerso I’d worked 20 hours a week doingthose uniform but non-sworn type dutiesand I’d have to carry a full-time classload at the college that I was attendingand I started there at age 20 and thenwhen I hit 21 I became a reserve officerwith San Fernando and I worked there asa reserve for two years before I went toSanta Monica as a reserve and then fromthere ultimately as a full-time officerand that’s where I retired from in 2008as a sergeant it’s got a pretty good repthat department I know I hear the wordon the street is they pay pretty well aswell they have a pretty good retentionand I know they i know la loses a goodamount of guys to that department wehired a lot of lateral transfers fromthe city of los angeles from the LosAngeles County Sheriff’s Department andother agencies we were in the top threein LA County as far as paying benefitswe’ve kind of always jockeying back andforth between our department Torranceand Beverly Hills gotcha yeah they itdefinitely has not slowed down since youleft there now that the there’s likemore public transit going there thetrain goes thereit’s it’s just always it’s like too busydown there now I think it’s I think thathaving that stopped for the where dothey call it that not the tea that’slike a Boston thing the transit theMetro yeah yeah actually that didn’texist when I retired and all the visiteda few times since retiring quite a fewtimes I’ve never actually seen thetransit system okay yeah probably passedit it’s nice but it definitely brings umit makes it easier for riffraff to pourin if you know what I mean oh yeah wellI mean I ten dumps out into Santa Monicaso people coming from virtually anywherein Los Angeles County or outlyingcounties that want to visit the beach assoon as they see that first Beacheach sign and get off i-10 when they hitPacific Coast Highway then they’re inSanta Monica so we had a real widevariety of different people that wouldcome they’re not just regular folks fromSouthern California or visitors fromother states or other countries andunfortunately we had a lot of peoplethat were therefore not necessarily suchthe purposes as visiting and tourism wehad a lot of gang members that wouldcome to Santa Monica and when you havethe conflicting guys that meet eachother in places like the beach parkinglot or up on the pier then you’re gonnahave friction yeah I could see that Imean I remember when we first moved toLA four years ago looking up crime mapsand I was shocked at the you know whenthe Sun Goes Down in Santa Monica howthe crime really really goes up I don’tI don’t think a lot of people realizethat because you go there during the dayand the sun’s out and there’s a pier andit’s you know it’s like a big party butuh it gets it gets pretty gritty atnighttime well it’s funny that youshould mention that because back when Istarted there in 1978 things were farbusier than they are right now I meanthe 70s and 80s were really like theroaring 20s we had as many as 24 murdersin a single year and that’s for a citythat’s a little over eight square mileswith a resident population of about ahundred thousand people Wow yeah Garytake us back to UM can you take us backto the the first hot call you canremember responding to in Santa Monicawell I have to go back to San Fernandoagain that’s where my roots were I was areserve for two years in San Fernando okfor the Santa Monica and I think theSheriff’s Department still does this butback when I went through the Academyboth as a reserve and then a coupleyears later as a full-time sworn policeofficer we had to do trainingit’s while we were still in the Academyand although it didn’t start out as ahot call I had one of my first prettyexciting experiences as a police officerwhen my training officer and I with aanother unit that had one of myclassmates and his training officer weredetailed to assistant Narcotics Unitthat was on a stakeout outside asuspected drug house and theinvestigators just wanted us to do atraffic stop on someone that was goingto be leaving there soon and although wethought it was a pretty routine thing tostart the subject that we wanted to stopdidn’t want to stop and turned into apursuit nice and we jumped up on thefreeway got on the 118 freeway and wechased them south onto the Golden Statefreeway ago on 80 100 miles an hour ormore and you got to remember that thingswere very different back in the 70s ifyou can believe it San Fernando at thetime they did not have a written pursuitpolicy they didn’t have a written use ofdeadly force policy they went by thePenal Code back then they didn’t havepit maneuver what they did was theyrammed people if they didn’t stop and inthis case we chased this guy I was inthe secondary unit calling out thepursuit and my classmate was thepassenger in the primary vehicle in thepursuit they chased them south ontoScott Road and went through a anindustrial area Burbank that bordered onGlendale pulled the car up alongside thesuspect vehicle my classmate stuck the12-gauge shotgun out the window and heshot the tires off the caroh man you don’t you don’t see that muchthedays no head back down again I theydidn’t even have a use of deadly forcepolicy it was strictly by penal codechases and pursuit intervention wasstrictly through the vehicle code and Idon’t even recall if there was any kindof a report that was done at theconclusion of this other than the arrestreports Wowso I mean you blow the tires out thenwhat well eventually figured he’s gonnahave to stop he’s not sure to be able tokeep speeding I think he he had lostboth the left front and left rear tiredo the shotgun shells and we have bythen an LAPD air unit that was on thescene and we get a typical felony stopgot the guy out in custody and it was apretty common occurrence back thenthings are pretty crazy back in the 70sand 80s I like it let’s see it’s like abrute show of force you know what I meanthe UM now you said you clear this upfor me your classmate shot the tireswere there three of you in this car wasthis a different car he was in theprimary yeah oh okaysure I was in the secondary vehiclebehind their car calling the pursuit outon the radio wow that’s awesome and I’msure they once they weren’t rollinganymore after having your shot your tireshot up by shotgun you’re probably notgoing to give too much resistance withthe program it was it was pretty routineafter that point but there’s prettyexciting thing you’ve got a million copcars you’ve got the air unit overheadwith a spotlight on and again this wasjust one of our earliest training ridesWow and for you I mean I’m sure yourheart was pounding at that point youreyes were like tea saucers were did thiscement it for you this kind of called melike this is exciting this is what Iwant to do oh yeah yeahI knew I wanted to get into lawenforcement shortly after I took myfirst classin police science at Los Angeles ValleyCollege and I never looked back it waswhat I really love doing I thought thatit was challenging on so many differentlevels he had to know so many no onedeveloped so many different types ofskills different types of knowledgegroups how to deal with people how todeal with the laws how to deal withcriminal law civil law administrativelaw it’s something I don’t think thatthere’s really any other occupation outthere that requires such a vast skillset yeah yeah you’re absolutely rightthere um I get messages you know frompeople actually who listened pack asmall around the world and they got onefrom my guy from Germany a cop and Iwanted him to come on the podcast youknow especially to talk about trainingdifferences because I thought that’d beinteresting you know and he said firstof all he can’t come on because that’sjust not allowed they’re very verystrict over there with sharing any kindof information that from on duty and hesaid that he went to school for fouryears you go to that your police academyover there was you leave with like abachelor’s degree I was like oh my goodI mean yeah I guess you can pull thatoff in Germany cuz it’s tiny over thereyou know but uh it’s very common inEurope to go through that type oftraining their educational system theirupper level educational systems aren’tlike ours they’re really guild towardsspecific types of career paths right areyou familiar with the InternationalPolice Association not really no it’sit’s really big in Europe we have anumber of different regions here in theUnited States that has memberships butin Europe it’s really big it’s afraternal type of an organization andsince I’ve retired 2008 I’ve done a lotof travelingand met a lot of people through ITA I’vegot a very good Dutch friend that worksin their equivalent to the SecretService regards members of parliament inthe royal family when I do thesevacation trips with my wife I alwaysmake it a point to check out what thelaw enforcement agencies are like lastyear I rode along with a police officerin Iceland for a while I met a homicideinvestigator in Belfast and if you canbelieve itBelfast Northern Ireland the peoplethere that I talked to including the theI think he was that the Chief ofDetectivesthey were really interested in how crazythings are in the United States andparticularly Southern California andthey were astounded by how much we makedo was so little in terms of resourceswhen I worked the Santa Monica RobberyHomicide Unit we had six investigatorsand we really paired up with one otherinvestigator as the handle and then theassistant handle when we had a homicideto work on and when I told that to thischief of detectives he just couldn’tbelieve itthat you only have six people and I saidwell we’d have six people to work theactive scene but after a week or two ifwe didn’t have any search warrants to beserved or anything real active going onthe case we just have the twoinvestigators working the case untilsuch time that we needed other peoplebecause they had their other things todo sure if they had a homicide inBelfast they might have as many as 50 or60 people trying to work it holy cow Iguess that’s so all those agencies overthere like are nationally based right sothey have a full frame of federalgovernment they are in termsof working a particular city therethey’re pretty autonomous in terms ofthe response investigativeresponsibilities on a city level butwhen something happens and they bringpeople and from all over the region wowthat’s crazy yeah and you know you hearabout how things were like during theTroubles where they had the problemsbetween the the Catholic population andthe Protestant population and all thebombings yespatience and you think while things musthave really been nuts there but thepeople that I was talking with that I’dmet they were kind of in awe of workingin Southern California because even withthe level of activity that they dealtwith and still deal with to some degreetoday they just think that working inthe United States has got to be prettycrazy in Southern California inparticular one of the crazier areas yeahthe other right it is absolutely oh manGary can you tell us about the strangestmost bizarre thing you dealt on with onduty oh you have a lot of experiencejust being out there and doing thingsbut I did have an incident that hasalways really stuck with ya rather earlyin my career I kind of got into the areaof behavioral analysis based interviewinterrogation I started doing it as apatrol officer after attending ahomicide for a control officer classthat was put on down in San Diego wherewe had a full day of training anoverview put on by John Reed associatesso after getting really involved in thatsubject matter I went to a number ofcourses on behavioral analysis and usingthat andorder to get people to give you credibleinformation not just scare people intotelling you what you want to hear and Iwas working detectives this is before Iwent to robbery-homicide I was actuallyworking the unit that handled auto theftand it was called the Autodesk becausewe would also handle things likehit-and-run investigations and I had afelony hit-and-run manslaughter casewhere late at night there was a homelessman that was crossing an intersection ina crosswalk and one car in the numberone lane had stopped to let him pass byand as pedestrian walk past the front ofthe car into the number two lanesomebody had passed the stop car andslams into this guy with so much forceit knocked a leg off his body oh and thedriver pulled over the people in theother carseeing him continuing through theintersection but then pulling over droveover to him thinking that they weregonna stand by with him until police andfire department showed up and while theywere standing there before they calledfor help another car is driving down theroad it didn’t see the subject layingdown the road it drove over him oh yeahdriver in the first carcried out said something about I can’ttake this jumped in his car and he droveoff and left the scene and because ofthat it became a felony hit-and-run thesubject was pronounced dead I think assoon as the paramedics arrived I gotcalled in from home to investigate itand I just finished a advanced course ona behavioral analysis basedinterrogation where we had some trainingon what’s called a cognitive interviewand it isn’t hypnosis but you try to putthe person that you’re questioning thewitness or the victim thatquestioning into a relaxed state just tokind of calm him down you have themclose your eyes and tell you aboutthings that they had seen kind of afree-form method where you’re toughletting them talk and you’reinterrupting them as little as possibleinteresting see you and tell them toclose their eyes Gary oh yeah oh yeahinteresting and you’ll have them putthemselves in a position other thanwhere they first were like maybe as ifthey’re floating overhead or if they’reat a different place in the intersectionthan where they saw this and maybeyou’ll even have them recite whatoccurred from the end of the incident toback to the forward the beginning of theincident and I got some good informationfrom both of them but one of thesubjects in particular was able to giveme a license plate five out of sevendigits on the license plate the numbersand letters they don’t recall which thetwo were missing but he was veryspecific about the order and it was uhit was good lead yeah and I worked thisuntil quite late and went home to getsome sleep to come back and work on itsome more in the morning and when Ireturned a little later in the dayabout noon I got a phone call from thesuspects attorney and the affair he toldme that his client had contacted himsaid that he been in some sort of acollision the night before that hethinks he may have hit someone that heleft the scene and he left his vehiclebut he felt bad about what he wanted todo and he want to turn himself in wellthis is over twelve hours after theincident so obviously if this guy had ablood-alcohol level and that thecollision happenedsometime after 2:00 a.m. of the bar isit closedif he’d been drinking that night it wasgonna be pretty rough to show how muchhe had to drink by the time he came inwith his lawyer which was in theafternoon right but he came in he gaveme a statement he acted remorseful andI’m gonna say acted because actually hewas an actor he had just gotten intoacting as a paying job and he had hopedthat he would replace the work that he’dbeen doing up until then which was hewas a sports book and you probably knowwho this guy is and he’s dead now Idon’t know if I could mention his nameor not since he’s dead dead you canmention it right so we’re so good – hisname was Joe Vitali and if you ever sawthe movie analyzed this or analyzed thatwith Al Pacino yeah he played jelly AlPacino’s number-one henchman oh wow andyou look at him he’s got a real puffyface huge red nose he was also in amovie with Tom Cruise I think it’scalled the client where he played agangster and little off the subject butI got to tell you I would I got reallyupset at the disposition of this thingbecause although he was supposed to havedone a year in custody as part of theultimate plea they dragged this thingout because of this movie role that hehad with with Tom Cruise and I listenedas he was being interviewed on a radioshow where he was told what a greatactor he was because he sounded so muchlike and looks so much acted so well asbeing a gangster and he was asked by thehost of the radio show hey Joey have youever really killed anyone and Joe justkind of hungno no and actually he had yeah any atleast he didn’t go yeah I did yeah shewasn’t happy about it yeah he passedaway to natural causes some years agowhich is why I don’t feel uncomfortabletalking about him now oh I just lookedhim up Gary he also was people mightknow him as the UM the father in themovie Shallow Hal so he was in that tooyeah I don’t think I saw that movie veryrecognizable face he was in a client hewas with trying to remember his namehe’s a character accurate playsgangsters a lot that was supposed to behis partner in the movie and theyprobably come to me anyhow what was sostrange about this was is I interviewedhim for an hour two hours and he told mewhere the car wasI had a eunuch ride down to Venice wherehe left it and there was still physicalevidence on the car indicating that thatwas the car that was that was used inthe in the traffic incident the licenseplates didn’t match up at all with theplate information that I gotten from thewitness and I thought it was kind ofstrange but you know things happen rightand we we had to book him so of course Iran him for any kind of other warrantsor wants that he may have had in thesystem for him and he came up with acouple warrants for traffic violationsone of those traffic violation warrantshad an entirely different vehicle thanthe one that was used in the crime inthe license plate number on that carmatched the plate that the witness hadprovided me interestingyou know I thought about it a lot overthe years and the the most sense that Ican make out of it is that Joe at thetime like I said he hadn’t really gottenhis big acting gig until this movie theclient came up but what he was doing tomake money was he was a sports book andhe would go from bar to bar collectingor paying off debts that his gamblerclients had waged and the two witnessesthat were in the the car that hadstopped for the victim and that actuallyhad the conversation with mr. vitarelliboth of them were active in a and it’sspeculation but I was thinking maybe atsome point in their drinking days beforethey got into a that they dealt with Joeand one of those local bars and it maybeseen him outside that car and somewheredeep in the recesses of that onewitness’s mind he’d remembered thatplate but it was it was a really strangething to to experience because again thecar that was actually used in the hitrun it didn’t have that license platenumber the plates that belong down itwere there when we recovered the carthere was physical evidence that tiedthe the car to the crime and it’s theonly that’s the only type of sense I canmake out of it how do you come up withfive out of seven numbers and lettersthat’s really that yeven haven’t matchedhis other car really car similar lookingat all very different and the platesweren’t similar at all wow there’s aweird weird experience I haven’t hadanything else like that come up when Iwas doing interviews and interrogationsandI mentioned it to a couple othertrainers that I’ve dealt with in thatarea and I don’t know I don’t I don’tknow how it happened but it was it wasbizarre but you have things like thatthat do happen I was doing a searchwarrant one time where the suspects wereactually a whole family of RussianArmenians who were involved inprofessional auto theftwhere they had members of the familythat would steal the carmembers of the family that would run theChop Shop and would strip the car ofcomponents and then use those componentsto rebuild strip Salvage that waspurchasedthey’d have other members of the familythen that would have the rebuilt carwith the stolen parts registered intheir name and after a couple ofregistration washes they’d alternatelysell the car to the innocent third partypurchasers so they work together as afamily and I learned that RussianArmenians can be it can be prettysuperstitious and I was talking with oneof these suspects in the garage while wewere finishing up the search warrant andI noticed a pair of dice that weresitting on a table and I picked up thedice and I said well let’s let’s throwthem and see see how you’re gonna do onthis because he seemed to be animpression that he wasn’t gonna get anyreal jail time I said I’ve got nonsnake-eyes for you and he just kind oflaughed and I throw the dice down andcame up with their ones and he freakedout he absolutely freaked out it took mea little bit by surprise but yeah heended up doing some time out of itthat’s funnyGary can you tell us about your mostintense or terrifying call you wonwell it’s pretty easy to rememberbecause I graduated from the reserveAcademy in April of 1977 and this was onone of my earliest rides in San Fernandoin June of that year and my partner andI just got in-service we were only acouple blocks away from the policestation in addition to the regular radioequipment that San Fernando PD had intheir cars at the time we had scannersbecause the city of San Fernando wascompletely surrounded by the city of LosAngelesso when incidents occurred in LA therewas always a good possibility that thesuspect would be coming through SanFernando itself either to return home orto get to someplace on the other side ofthe city a few years later a friend ofmine and co-worker Dennis Webb wasactually murdered in the line of duty inSan Fernando by a suspect that hestopped to investigate for an armedrobbery that occurred in the foothilldivision of LAPD mm-hmm and in thisparticular incident we’ve gone a fewblocks when we heard the alert tone thethree D fuller tone advising that therewas a hot call coming out in West ValleyDivision of LAPD and of course when youhear the three beeps your ears perked upwhat’s it going to be and it was ashooting in progress call at my own homeI had a younger brother it was 17 and Ihad suspected they’d been involved innarcotics usage and I tried talking tohim about itand I talked to my dad about itand several weeks after we had theseconversations my dad picked up the phoneand he overheard my brother talking witha friend of his about how he just scoredfour hits of LSD he’d taken two and heplanned on telling the other two and myfather had confronted him they plannedon going on a cross-country trip as partof my father’s sabbatical and my fatherhad lost his temper he’d told him howthe trip was off he couldn’t see sittingin a car with the drug dealermy brother said are you done you haveanything else to say he said no and mybrother said well I’m going to bed andhe went in the next room and he shothimself to death oh my goodness youdon’t expect to hear something like thaton the radio obviously it was realtraumatic and I I got on the radio andhad the San Fernando dispatcher call myhome by the time we’d arrived back atthe stationmy dad was on the phone I listened hisLAPD entered the house thrown him out afew minutes later the LA officer got onthe phone told me that my brother wasgone and I told him what my father hadsaid and he been interviewing my dad andat that point one of the other SanFernando PD reserves the guy I’ve got togive a shout-out to he passed away lastyear and California really lost a hellof a good cop a good man who devoted hiswhole life to law enforcement his namewas Vito scoot a glia and Vito was areserve with San Fernando for over 40years and his full-time job was he was acriminal investigator for the CaliforniaDepartment of Motor Vehicles in fact Ithink he was the chief investigator foralsoCalifornia Wow and you know was workingthat night and you went with me to thehouse he helped me get someone a friendof my father’s who was also a doctor toresponded a house get my dad away fromtherewell I had to deal with things and wasrough it was real rough it was roughdealing with the situation as far as theother police officers and seeing copsshowing up basically just to belooky-loos mm-hmm it was tough waitingfor the coroner’s investigator it wastough you got to remember back in thesedays although we carried semi-automaticpistols in San Fernando in Los Angeleseverybody there carried a revolver andmy brother shot himself with asemi-automatic pistol to have thesupervisor at the scene ask if you couldunload the town he’d used because noneof their personnel knew how to do thatoh wow very rough when they clean up thescene afterwards Gary did it was thereany did anybody offered to relieve youor did you know well a lot of peopledon’t know this but even today thepolice department doesn’t have anythingto do with crime scene clean-up that’sleft to the fam families devices rightand though I see what you’re saying yeahin this case my co reserve you knowhelped me with it I had to notify my momby phone my folks were divorced what hadhappened and talked to my brother who Ihave a younger brother that was muchcloser to my brother that was dead thenI was and he was involved in the samesort of groupsthat were using drugs and I was prettypissed off about that because I thoughthe had a big influence on what happenedit was tough it was real tough but Ikind of made up my mind while this wasgoing on that I wasn’t gonna let thingsget out of control I was going tocompartmentalize as best I couldbut I was also gonna try and learnsomething out of this that maybe couldhelp me down the road and you know it’shard to believe that you can ever getanything positive experience like thatit was the roughest night of my lifebelieve it but got to say that I didhave something positive that came out ofit while I was there on the sideinvestigator from LAPD showed up andhe’d gotten the information from theuniformed people I don’t recall now thishappened back in 77 I don’t recall if hetalked to my father or not he knew thatI was the reserve officer and while wewere waiting for the coroner’s to showup to take my brother’s body I wassitting on a wall that ran alongside thedriveway of the house and he’s got up onthe wall next to me and I I don’t wantto use any obscenities if they can beavoided but he said I hate this effingplace I want to retire and get out of LAso bad I’ve seen so much of this andI’ve got a couple kids of my own thatare coming up on your brother’s age Idon’t want to see them be involved inthe same kind of things that yourbrother was involved in and I was I wasa newbie you know I met some of theinvestigators at San Fernando and I’dbeen working with them as a CSO and thenas a reserve forthere’s about two years at that pointbut I think the thing that reallyimpressed me was is that um this coptook off the the cop mask the so many ofus put on to let me see what he wasreally like and what he was reallyfeeling mm-hmm and it really did providesome degree comfort and he sent a hellof a good example for me and like anynew cop what did I want to do I mean Iwanted to get in the action you know inuniformI was thinking down the road maybe I canwork as an investigator that I could bea dope cop I mean every cop in the worldwants to work dope at one point in theircareerI actually now the Academy but I knewtalking with this guy that I wanted towork homicides and even though ourcontact wasn’t for very long maybe 10minutes 15 minutes it left a lastingimpression on me and it was somethingthat I carried with me for the rest ofmy career in that he I think he byshowing me some of himself that he couldprovide some honest empathy rather thanjust mouthing the words sure yeahtried to do that throughout my careeryeah let his guard down a little bitthat’s um well Gary that’s a good thingfor cops to do sure we were a littledifferent in Santa Monica than LosAngeles and a lot of other agencies youknow if you you read LAPD police reportsyeswith one states blah blah blah Iresponded to the location contacted byreporting party we years before Istarted working in Santa Monica we had astudy that was done in Santa Monica bygreater Minds than mine that determinedthat if you write police reports in thatstilted third party type of a formatwhere you’re referring to people thatyou know by name is such that one orwitness one a reporting party thatyou’re gonna do the same thing when youget on the stand and it enable a makesthe journey from you and I’ve seen thata lot over the years so what we did waswhen we wrote our police reporteverything was in simple languagefirst-person narrative I received aradio call to such-and-such address andI met the reporting party Joe Smith mr.Smith said this mr. Smith said that Iasked him this he told me that and whenwe got on the stand we do the same thingand it it seems to make a big differencewhen you’re addressing the court whenyou’re dressing people on calls just aspeople and I think that experience thatI had in 77 that that carried throughwith me in 78 when I went to SantaMonica as a reserve and I think it mademe more effective not just because Iwanted to get the facts and I I would beable to get more facts from people if Icould get them to cooperate with me butbecause I put people at ease that neededto be put at ease it seems like deathscenes and believe me I went to a lot ofthose I worked over six years in arobbery/homicide detail and if you’refamiliar with working in homicides youknow that you handle a lot of a lot ofcases of suicides and I had I’d learnedthat night who might have well probablydid sell the drugs to my brother and youhave these you know impulsive thoughtsof going and doing something but Iwasn’t an impulsive personand again what what good would it be doyou know to ruin your life as well asseeing your brother’s life taken yeahexactlyI tried to do something positive out ofa really really horrible experience andI think that I think I did get somethingpositive out of it and when we go on alittle bit more in our conversation Ithink you’ll understand why I tell you astory another story and that is that isone I mean that’s maybe the most intense/ terrifying call I’ve heard that isthat’s every cops worst nightmare theradio goes on it’s your address and thento walk into something like you did holycow Gary that’s um well I’m glad itdidn’t dissuade you I’m glad it had theopposite effect it did I’m glad that youat least like you said the silver liningyou spoke with that homicide detectiveand kind of solidified that that’s thedirection you wanted to go in and thenyou went on from there to have a youknow 30-plus successful career so wellI’m sure you could say the same thingall of us have bad experiences alongwith good all of us do and when you’reworking a job that requires so much fromyou in terms of decision decision-makingas law enforcement does you’re gonnahave that experiences you’re going tomake mistakes it’s something peopledon’t really want to even talk abouttoday with all that’s going on with theLM movement and everything else butpolice officers do make mistakes andlearning from those mistakes andcarrying on rather than just beingconsidered expendable you can make somemake for some really good things downthe road and I know that happened withme you know my my time in lawenforcement was not perfectbut you know I I learned from the thingsthat I did wrong and I improved on themand well in one case it resulted insaving someone’s life it’s it’s just thenature of living people are not perfectright and that’s I think you’re rightthat’s part of the danger with everybodywith the idealistic ideas of how societyshould be where it will never get tothat you can’t not force people to bethat well you know I’ll tell ya it wasan LAPD officer that said this to me ina I think it was a class on issuesinvolving race and bigotry and profilingand all the rest and he said the biggestproblem with law enforcement is aradical problem we have to hire from thehuman race it doesn’t matter what you’redoing we’re not robots out there andpeople are going to make mistakeshopefully they’ll make a lot lessmistakes than they will do the rightthings but you know you saw show mesomeone that’s perfect and I’ll show youa police manager that’s been a minimumamount of time out the fieldabsolutelyGary can you tell us about A+ or dare Isay heartwarming experience on the jobwell it’s something that I just kind ofhinted at before it involved the suicideI was working Robbery Homicide and Ijust been notified that I was promotingand going to patrol as a sergeant wedon’t have what they called the Jacobsclamp that LA has where you can promotewithin yourassignment and investigativeinvestigations in Santa Monicabeing a detective while we get anadditional pay step we were stillconsidered officers and if we wanted topromote to sergeant or above and thatusually meant that after we took thecivil service test and we did wellenough and achieved ictus using the rule3 then we’d end up going back to patrolas the junior sergeant lousy days offetc right but I believe I just beennotified that I’d done very well on thesergeant’s test and I’d been in RobberyHomicide for six years and at this pointI think I was the senior officer andRobbery Homicide there were a coupleofficers that were senior to me that hadretired six months or a year or previousto this and a case that they hadinvolved a young woman that hadpsychological problems and she’d alsohad too much to drink was on Main Streetcausing some sort of a disturbance whenone of our officers had arrested her forbeing drunk in public he brought herinto the station the butcher as usualthey asked her the typical questionsregarding her physical and psychologicalhistory I don’t think that there wasanything that was said that indicatedthat she was suffering from depressionbut while she was in custodyshe’d hung herself in her cell and ifyou’re familiar with in custody deathsthere are a very big deal yeah in thisparticular case these two investigatorshandled it just like they would ahomicide investigation everything wasfloated graph that was documentedjailers were interviewed she’d done thisbetween jail checks which we did quiteregularly andone of the tools that we had at SantaMonica PD and I think most custodyfacilities have now is we had videosystems in the jail and there was videorecordings of the jail not actually inthe cell itself but in the cellblockarea and I wasn’t involved in thisinvestigation because as I statedearlier we would when we had a homicideor a suspicious death that weinvestigated we’d be working in pairs inthese two particular detectives werenear retirement and they were workingtogether as a teamwhen this incident occurred and I can’tspeak for one of them I know that theother one had told me he was kind ofburnt out he just wanted to you knowfinish up his last few months get out ofthere there was in addition to policemanagement we had the people from riskmanagement and the city that wereinvolved in this and there were a numberof exchanges that were going on betweenrepresentatives of city management andthe mother of the decedent and again Iwas not involved in the investigationbut after these two detectives hadretired phone call came in this wasmaybe a year after the incident phonecall came in to detectives by the motherand she wanted to find out about gettingour property released and because I wasthe senior detective working at thattime that call was directed to me andthe first thing that I told her when Ianswered the phone and she told me asshe was as I said I was very sorry forher lossI said I could never imagine what itwould be like for the parent to lose achild like that but that I had lost abrother to suicide and that I justwanted to tell her how bad I felt forher and the phone was silent for a whileand then she spoke up and she asked formy name againand she said Detective Steiner she saidyou’re the first person from the policedepartment that told me that they feltbad about my daughter’s death and Iexplained to her that we docompartmentalize our feelings and itisn’t because we want to be cruel butsometimes it’s very hard for us to wantto let that mask of professionalism dropaway for a while and we spoke for a fewminutes and the reason that she calledwas she wanted her daughter’s belongingsback and I said that I’d do what I couldget those things released to her and Iasked if there was anything else I coulddo and she told me that he said she justwanted to have this all cleared up shewant to know what really occurred to herdaughter and I I had some advantages Ithink over those other two detectives Ithink that I think that either afterthat they had retired or while they werethere but they didn’t have theopportunity to go to the class Iattended a full eight hour school onhandling death notifications that wasput on by the Los Angeles Countycoroner’s office and representativesfrom Mothers Against Drunk Driving andone of the things that I found veryinteresting and I did apply upworking was that people do the grievingprocess very differently you or I mightthink it would be horrible to see thebody of a loved one at a scene wherethings were real messy mmmbut there’s actually some family membersthat find comfort in that and we weretaught that you’ve got to do what thefamily member wants to do to the best ofyour ability to accommodate them inorder for them to deal with grief intheir own unique way right so you’re notpinning off the air and holding themback and keeping them from doing with itsometimes that’s their instinct you knowyeah you you have to preserve the crimescene but there’s other times when youknow it’s like a traffic collision sceneor a suicide or some other non criminaltype event where you can let them writeactual of Dwan and they encouraged us todo what the family member wanted to doand when the woman was telling me thatshe just wanted answers I knew just fromword of mouth that she had alreadygotten attorneys looking at this as awrongful death issue that al sharptonwas involved the the decedent dinnermother were both african-american thatal Sharpton had made statements to thepress that they believe this was amurder it wasn’t a suicide just becauseof the lack of communication by thepolice department and when the womansaid she wanted answers I did somethingkind of independent but that was againthat was something that Santa Monica PDencouraged officers due to a prettylarge degree of fact independently and Iasked her if she had seen the videotapefrom the jail and she said she hadn’teven heard there wasone and I told her I didn’t know whatwas on it but I knew that we had a videosystem there and that if that’s whatwould bring her some comfort I talked tomy supervisors and risk management andsee what we could do for and that’s whatI didnot long after we’d had this exchange Iwent to I went to Patroland several months later I got a phonecall in the wash commander’s office andit was the woman and she called just tothank me for what I’d done for and totell me that she had a meeting I thinkwas with risk management maybe the chiefand that they played the video and thatyou could actually see her daughter’shands reaching out between the bars andtying the noose to the bars that shekilled herself with hmm and she saidthat it put her mind at ease that therewasn’t anything being hidden from herthat there wasn’t any foul playshe told Al Sharpton to get lost and shefired her attorney and she just wantedto thank me and that was the only reasonshe called was to thank me for the helpI provided and I was kind of choking upyeah I just wanted that the truth shewanted to see herself on it that’s allshe wanted she had you know Sharptonspitting venom in her ear I’m sure ohhe’s a demagogue and he doesn’t hedoesn’t really care about her he doesn’tcare about look I’m to say my ownpersonal opinion here I’ve never dealtwith a guy but from what I’ve seen whatI’ve read about the things that he’sbeen involved with and done I don’tthink he’s hears about these people he’sdealing with he’s just used him for hisown personal advancement in profit but Ifelt I felt real good that I broughtsome piece of that woman and it didn’ttake a lot of effort on my part to do soabsolutely absolutely Gary Gary do youhave any advice forofficers coming on the job or people whoare candidates applying to be policeofficers I do and I hope I’m not theytake too long saying this but I’ve got alife experience on this that I thinkreally helpsyeah they and the listeners really lovethis question so please diesel you knowelaborate as much as you need okay 1977I graduated from the reserve Academy wewere in the middle of a recession it itwas only a few years after at the end ofthe Vietnam War she had a lot of vetsyou had a lot of vets that decided theywanted to become cops and I was not avetI was relatively young the way that Isaw as being the path to becoming afull-time cop was to become a reserveboxer where I had the same basictraining but the hours that I put in andI worked at least ten and usually 20hours a week I did it for nothing Ididn’t get paid at all I think when Iwent to Santa Monica Zarr Reserve in 78you were supposed to get a dollar a yearbut I don’t I don’t think I ever evengot that and I looked at it as aninvestment in my future just like I’dlooked at getting my college educationin administration justice as being aninvestment and something happened in 77early 78 that was a real setback for meand that was I’d taken a test called thepork test where you had a written examin an oral board and the results of theeligibility list were then utilized bysomething like eight different SouthernCalifornia law enforcement agencies inwould Manhattan Beach Redondo Beachbeverly hills torrance Gardena Redondo Isay Redondo Beach anyhow it’s a numberof different lawsagencies I think there were around 3,000people that took that the two tests andI came out number 24 and I thought wowthis is gonna be my I’m gonna I’m gonnaget hired off this list and one of thoseagencies was Culver City and they alongwith two or three other departments werereally rushing to get me processed usingtheir people for physical backgroundinvestigation site Poly’s things likethat and I went in for the physical forCulver City and they took x-rays of myback as part of that process and thedoctor gave me a note says bring this toyour background investigator good luck Igave it to my background investigatorand the background investigator informedme that I had an asymptomatic conditioncalled spondylolisthesis which basicallymeans you have one vertebra that’sslightly off from the rest and I didn’tknow much about it at the time but Iwent and saw a number of specialists andI was ensured that unless you’d hadproblems with your back statisticallythere really wasn’t any greaterprobability that you could sustainedinjury that would end a career abouthaving this condition ahead of time thanif you didn’t happen it was usuallytrauma that caused back problems topolice officers that led to retirementpremature retirements well sounds greatto listen to it from the doctorstandpoint but all those agencies that Ihad applied for it and that I’d done sowell in the testing process for we’renow closing their doors even SanFernando when I tested to go full-timewith them they responded that they justdidn’t want to take a chance and hire mewhen they could take a look at somebodyelse that had as good or betterqualifications than me but didn’t havethis backissue so I was striking out all over theplace and when I went through theAcademy in the sheriff’s Academy as areserve in addition to people from SanFernando in LASD there were a lot ofpeople that were attending in our classfor other agencies including I think itwas about ten from Santa Monica and oneof my classmates from Santa Monica and Iwere good friends and he said you knowwhat you gotta try to come over to SantaMonica PD he says the only people wehire are people we know people that havecome on the department in a civiliancapacity like our cadets people thatwere explorers people that were reservesespecially so we’ve had an opportunityto see how they do and our doctors don’tbelieve that this situation that you’vegot should be disqualified because theydon’t even take back x-rays in SantaMonica so after after being rejected bya number of departments I applied tolateral over to Santa Monica PD as areserve officer and the chief at thetime a guy by the name of George skillsis very forward-thinking he’s done anumber of things to make Santa Monica amore desirable place to workthe one in had an interview with himafter my background investigation wascompleted and chief tell said Gary ifyou can do the job as a reserve I’llhire you as a regular the doctors sayyou’re okay as a reserve it’s exactlythe same qualifications we use for fulltime so lateraled over as a reservepolice officer in October of 1978 thefour I’d had six months on the jobwell actually I was a little over sixmonths on the job in in July of 1979 Iwas actually hired full-time by anotheragency the Los Angeles Community CollegeDistrict had its own Police Departmentbut a what they call a special lawenforcement provider like this you’renot a peace officer 24 hours a dayyou’re only a peace officer during theeight hours a day that you’re workingand when they told me that they weregonna hire me as a police officer insentiments in a college police I askedif it would be okay if I continue beinga reserve in Santa Monica and they saidI could so I went through the Academy asecond time this time for the collegedistrict and after I graduated from theAcademy I continued working as a reservefor Santa Monica my off-duty hoursexcuse me the second so I gave thecollege district a shot but I knew thatthis was not the kind of law enforcementjob I wanted I wanted to work full-timein Santa Monica and after after workingfull-time for the College District for ayear I became post certified and Iapplied to lateral or a Santa Monica PDas a full-time officer from the CollegeDistrict and what was nice about thatwas that I had the retirement sameretirement system with the collegepolice as I would with Santa Monica andthat’s CalPERS well all well and good Iwas told by my background investigatorin Santa Monica that they knew about theback situation wasn’t going to be anissue that my background investigationeverything looked good on it and it wasjust a matter of getting approval fromthe chief but it wasn’t the same chiefshe’s told she’d gone to the name of thecityyeah we’re just Anaheim Anaheim PD andthe new chief that come up from theranks and the new chief after looking atmy package announced that he didn’t wantto takechanson hiring full-time because toomany people had taken fake injured onduty retirements involving back problemsoh my goodness so that was 1980 and forthe next six months or so I continuedtrying to get hired by other agenciesbut now in addition to the issue withthe asymptomatic back condition now Ihad department saying well wait a secondif your own department that you’d workfor now for two years doesn’t want totake a chance and hire you because itsback situation well why should we takethe chance when there’s plenty of otherqualified applicants and I thought I wasdoing yeah that’s a depressingpredicament it was very depressing andthen one afternoon I got a phone calland I got to give a shout out now okayif I just sergeant by the name of JohnBailey John Miele was working ourpersonnel and training section and heput his job on the line for me and whathe said was Gary he says I know whatyou’ve been doing since you came overhere as a reserve won’t you did beforethat other people here and seen the kindof work you do and we want to see youget hired he says you didn’t get thisfrom me okay he says but I want you tolook into title two of the CaliforniaAdministrative Code specificallyregarding handicapped persons becauseaccording the Administrative Code if youcan perform your job over a reasonableperiod of time without presenting aimmediate threat to your safety or thesafety of others and you have acondition that you’ve been rejected foryou’re considered not just to behandicapped because of thatphysical rejection because of thephysical issue which are considered tobe a qualified handicapped person and Ithink if you call post that they’llconfirm this and you’ll probably knowwhere to take it from here so Icontacted the Commission on peaceofficer standards and training I learnedthat my condition was not consideredautomatically disqualifying as far asthe state was concerned I got the caselaw regarding hidden handicaps anddiscrimination against people withhandicaps hidden handicaps I put apackage together and I submitted itthrough team commanded the chief and mycontact in administration this sergeantadvised me that there was a staffmeeting where the chief brought up myissue and the state of the laws I’dpresented and he said quote I makedecisions every day I can get sued foryeah if he wants the job that baddieconsuming for it oh nice guywell it turned out he won that nice of aguyyeah not seeing any other out I filed aprivate lawsuit using the lawyer thathad previously been the city attorneyfor the city of Santa MonicaI found complaints with the federalgovernment as far as EEOC and I filed acomplaint with the California Departmentof Fair Employment and housing and thenext time I ran into the chief when Iwas working as the reserve it was not apretty sight the things he yelled andscreamed to me in the hallway I canrepeat to you verbatim but he didn’tcome around to seeing my side but healso knew that to terminate myrelationship with the city as a reserveofficer after having filed thesecomplaints would clearly be retaliationyeah for the next three years I did thatjob for free for twoat least two days a week ten hours a dayon top of my forty hour plus workweekfor the college police and in 1983 I wasnearing the point where we were going tohave the hearing before the department’sFair Employment Housing Commission and Ihad to get witnesses that were willingto testify on my behalf from policeofficers I’d worked with in Santa Monicaand I had a list of over 30 people fromthe rank of officer all the way throughlieutenant they were willing to testifyon my behalf and against the city Wowand ultimately I think it was May 23rdof 1983 they gave me the job I had todrop all my claim for back pay andretroactive seniority but because I wasgoing to a CalPERS agency from thecollege police that was also CalPERS myseniority in the retirement system wasmaintained I I just wanted the job and Igot it and the chief was not my friendhe still didn’t treat me particularlywell have a couple interesting run-inswith him that we don’t have time todiscuss but in any case I I worked thenext eight years hoping that I wouldeventually be able to prove myselfworthy of going into detectives and sixmonths after he retired and we got a newchief James pots from Inglewood I foundmyself in detectives as an auto theftinvestigator and I I worked at SantaMonica for a total of 25 years full timeon top of the little more than fiveyears I’ve been a reserve and had a veryrewarding and an enjoyable careerthere’s a lot of very interestingexperiences so again going back to yourinitial question about advice to newpolice officer candidates if this job isreally for you then you don’t quit youdon’t ever quit and it may mean thatyou’re gonna have to make some bigsacrifices and time and effort in stressthat you have to deal with and you mayhave to change some directions in termsof how you’re gonna get that job orwhere you’re gonna be working but if itmeans that much to you if you have apassion for the job then I say youfollow it and that attitude about neverquitting it’s as important on the streetin terms of survival and doing the rightthing and especially with the thingsthat cops are dealing with today as itis I’m getting the job in the firstplaceabsolutely perseverance that’s amazingWow awesome Gary I really appreciatecoming on the show and sharing thesestories with this man um I’m gonna haveto gonna have to have you back on therecuz I know you got more yeah I know onein particular I want to hearI think people absolutely love but areyou are you open to that idea ohabsolutely absolutelyI I’m looking at it not just as tellingmore stories which I always love to hearwhat I was coming into the job but itisn’t just entertainment value I thinkthat there’s a lot of education you canget just the experiential aspects of itand yeah sure I’d love to come backthat’s awesome yeah you know I sometimesI’m beside myself with some of theemails I get from veteran officerslisten and people just getting into thejob and they really appreciate hearingother cops tell their stories andexperiences and they even veterans aresaying there they’re learning stuff fromhere and you guys tell about your yourhistories and it’s just awesome it’sexactly what I wanted the podcast to dowhen I when I first started it and Ijust feel so blessed and luckythat all you guys are out therelistening and that people like like youGary you step up to come on the show andtake an hour you know out of your out ofyour night to stuff pleasure it’s mypleasure and honestly you’re doing thepublic a great service because I thinkthat’s one of the reasons why there aregroups out there that want to shut downcops from talking about their personalexperiences or people viewing them onshows like live DD these same groupstell people they shouldn’t go for ridealongs and I’ve always supportedride-along programs because look thepeople are the customers out there andthey hear a lot of things in the news orhear a lot of things from demagogues andthey hear a lot of things from cops thatare filtered if you actually see whathappens out there in the street yourselfin person or presented with the uncutvideo I think that you get a better ideawhat you’re getting for your tax dollarsand I’d be happy to come back and sharesome more experiences if you thinkthey’d like to hear themabsolutely I know they would my manthank you so much and I just want to sayum you know to everybody out there ifyou’re if you’re listening and you’re inlaw enforcement and you’d like to comeon the show go to things police see calmand that you can just fill up a littlequick blurb there to to apply to be onthe show and if you if you love the showand you want to if you want to supportit I would encourage you to click thedonate button and even even a couplebucks goes a long way we’re justsupporting the expenses the show has soGary thank you so much for coming on myman and I look forward to having youback thanks for having me Steve I’mlooking forward to hearing from you soontake careYouTubeyou[Music]English (auto-generated)