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Month: December 2021

The Hokey Pokey

I mentioned the “Hokey Pokey” incident in a recent post about my past partners.  Since several people have asked me to elaborate, I’ll do so.  I’m pretty sure I posted this on Facebook earlier, but anyway…

 

In the late 1980s, I was working in Patrol out of the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department.  My partner at the time was Bill Brandner.

Our precinct adopted a bar as our own.  Charlies on Broadway, 217 Broadway Avenue East.

We frequented Charlies for coffee when we were working and for other libations when we were off duty.

The bar at Charlie’s was Cheers-like.  We knew all the regulars who went there and called each other by our first names.

There was Kevin, the Boston-born cab driver, and John, the recently divorced bank manager.  Both were great guys, and we had fun swapping stories whenever we were there.

Two guys at night tended the bar.  Dave Roduin, an aspiring writer who later went to work in the Starbucks corporate headquarters, and Tim Sweeny, a Vietnam veteran who flew spotter planes in the war, had a Master’s in finance but landed at Charlie’s.  Both great guys who became great friends to us and all the other East Precinct officers.

One night Bill and I were in the bar at closing, as we were wont to do.  Tim Sweeny spoke to me.

“Man,” he said. “I thought I was in trouble the other night.  I was driving home on the lake,” he lived near Seward Park near Lake Washington, “ and I was going a little fast.”

Lake Washington Boulevard follows the shores of the lake and is a very scenic drive.  The speed limit on the boulevard is 25 miles per hour.  Tim lived on a house just off the boulevard near Seward Park.

“I was cruising along after work,” Sweeny continued, “when I shot past a south-end car.”

Tim knew all the officers in the East Precinct, but didn’t know any in the precinct to the south.

“I saw him start out after me,” he continued, “and when I got to a curve, I turned the corner and shut my lights off.  I saw him fly past the street I was on.

“I’m afraid he’ll be waiting for me down there,” he said.

“You’d better be careful,” I said to him, laughing.

A few nights later, Bill and I were in Charlies at closing again.  It was a beautiful summer night.

“Tim,” I said.  “Are you going to take the lake home tonight?”

“Probably,” he said.

“We got a call,” I said, and we left.

I was driving.  Once we got to our car, I headed for Lake Washington Boulevard.

We were outside our precinct, but I backed into a spot near Mount Baker Park.  Then we waited.

About twenty minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sound of Tim’s MG convertible traveling down the boulevard well over the speed limit.

I waited until he passed and then took out after him.  I didn’t turn my headlights on until I was right behind him.  When I did, I heard his car slow by compression.  Then I turned on our red and blue lights. Again, his engine slowed as he pulled to the curb.

“Let’s let him sweat a minute,” I said to Bill.

After a moment, I switched on the PA system.

“Driver of the car,” I barked, “get your hands up where I can see them!”

Tim’s hands shot into the air, his convertible top down.

“Reach outside the car and open the door!” I ordered.

He did.

“Step out of the vehicle!”

Again, he did.

He looked over his shoulder at us.

“Look forward!” I commanded.

“Now, walk backward to the rear of your vehicle!”

He followed the instructions.

“Place your hands on the rear of the car!”

Again, he did.

“Step away from the vehicle!”

He complied.

“Now, put your right foot in!”

He did.

“Now, put your right foot out!”

Again, he complied.

“Now, put your right foot in!”

He did.

“Now, put your right foot out!”

Again, he did.

“Now, you shake it all about!”

By that time, Bill could take no more.  He laughed so hard he opened his door and fell on the ground.

Tim looked back at us, an incredulous look on his face until he finally realized it was us.

“You asshole!” he yelled, “ I thought you were going to shoot me!”

The story of the Hokey Pokey spread quickly.

I was at roll call a couple of weeks later.  The precinct captain, John Pirak was there.  It was an 8PM roll call. Captains aren’t usually there.

After roll call, Pirak approached me.

“Cloyd, can I see you in my office?”

Great, I thought.  I’m going to get jammed up over this. I was way out of my precinct.

I went into his office.  He was at his desk.

“Close the door,” he said.

I did and took a seat across from him.

His face broke out with a grin.

“Tell me the Hokey Pokey story.”

I guess that really is what it’s all about.

 

 

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Informants

In my book, Homicide: The View from Inside the Yellow Tape, I spoke of an informant I used many times.  I called him Paul in the book (not his real name). He’s still alive. I’ll still call him Paul in the interest of not altering that fact.

I first had contact with Paul when he called the homicide office.  He was an inmate in the downtown jail and had information about a murder.  I went to the jail to get him and bring him back to my office.

Paul was a white guy with slicked-back hair.  He looked like a mafioso type.  He told me details about a murder case that I knew to be true.

When an inmate calls from the jail telling you about a crime, you can’t assume they’re not lying to you. Is there some way they could have gotten the information?  Were they cellmates with your suspect and read court documents?  One has to be diligent.

One of the ways I check the veracity of someone giving me information is to ask probing questions.  If the person has an answer to everything, they are suspect.

Paul didn’t do that.  I asked him about several things he just said, “I don’t know.” That gives him credibility to me.  He isn’t making things up so I’ll believe him.

Paul had an extensive criminal history.  Nothing particularly violent.  Next, I had to ask myself what he wanted in exchange for the information.  I asked him.

“Nothing,” he said.  “I don’t like murderers.  My girlfriend was raped and murdered a few years ago.”  He told me about the case.  I remembered the murder.  He wasn’t making that up.

I followed up on what he told me.  He was telling the truth.  We made an arrest.

“I’ve spoken to other detectives,” he told me.  “They just blew me off.  You’re the only one who listened.”

Paul was a problem child in the jail. He got into fights when he was in custody most of the time.  For that reason, he was placed in Administrative Segregation.  In a cell on the 11th floor of the downtown jail by himself.  Twenty-three hours in his cell and one hour out every day.  The Ultra-Security prisoners were also housed on that floor: People facing severe consequences such as the death penalty or life without parole.

Though he wasn’t in direct contact with other inmates, they would communicate through gaps in the cells or when one was out and stood at another inmate’s door.  Little did the other inmates know when they talked about murder, Paul took copious notes on his yellow legal pad during the conversation.

Paul and I established a relationship.  He called me directly from then on, letting me know when he had information on a murder.

He always told me he would call me when he was out of custody.  He never did.  He was a severe alcoholic and drank himself into oblivion when he was out.  He also didn’t contact his probation officer, which was required, so there were always probation violation warrants for his arrest.

Every month or so he would be arrested.  About a week after he was booked, he called me.

I looked at his booking photos for a couple of years.  It reminded me of the Portrait of Dorian Gray.  Each image looked worse than the one before.

Finally, after giving me information on another murder, he asked for something.

“Would you call my mom and tell her I’m doing something good?” he asked.

He explained that he had always been a disappointment to his mother.

“Sure,” I said, and I did, speaking with his somewhat skeptical mother, who finally thanked me for telling her.

During our relationship, he gave me actionable information for about ten murders and two solicitation for murder cases, where someone tried to hire him as a hitman.

One morning after Paul had testified in a high-profile case I was working, I was getting readly for work in the morning.  I sipped coffee while the morning news was on. Suddenly Paul appeared on the news leaving the courtroom after testifying.  The caption on the screen said, [Paul’s real name], Police Informant.  I almost spit my coffee across the room. Thankfully, most murders don’t watch the morning news.

Paul explained to me once, “I tell you this stuff because you treat me with respect. Not like I’m a criminal,” though he was.

After I retired, my old partner Jason Kasner called me.

“Paul called looking for you today,” Jason said.  “I told him you retired.  There was a pause and then he said, ‘That guy is like a brother to me.’”

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Partners

I sat and looked back today at all the partners I had in my career at the Seattle Police Department.  Not counting the ones I worked with for a week or two, I had a lot of partners.  Many people saw the good, the funny, and the profoundly tragic things someone sees in a career as a police officer and detective in a large city in America.

My first regular partner in the police department was Bob Alexander.  Bob and I came on about the same time, but he was from another world from me.

A young black man who grew up in Yakima, his and my experience in the world was different, though we worked well together, had a great time, and became close friends.

Next was my academy classmate, Steve Sparby.  An ex-Marine, stiff-collared, a few years older than me. We were often paired together during our academy days and gained the nickname “Husky and Starch.”  I wasn’t Starch.  We were great friends, and our families spent a lot of time together.  Several years later, I was near his bedside when he died, much too young, ignoring symptoms that could have saved his life had he sought treatment.  Our partnership ended when he left for the K-9 unit.

Ken Hooper was next.  Another great friend.  We had a lot of fun (and got into some trouble) together.   He lived near me and invited my wife and me to dinner at his house one night.   I stopped at the store and bought a bottle of Thunderbird enhanced wine.  When his wife, Pam, opened the door, I said, “I brought wine,” and handed her the bottle.  “Thanks,” she said, looking at the bottle for which I’d paid a dollar and a half, a bewildered look on her face.

Ken transferred to the K-9 unit too.  I began to see a pattern: I was being traded for dogs.

Later, after my transfer to the East Precinct, it was Bill Brandner.  Again, a lot of fun, including an incident involving the Hokey Pokey.

Finally to the detectives and partners like Gary Nelson (East Precinct detectives), Chris Lyon (Sex Crimes), and finally Homicide, where I had great partners including Sonny Davis (yes, even Sonny), John Nordlund, Donna O’Neal, Greg Mixsell, Mike Ciesysnki and finally Jason Kasner, my longest tenured partner from 2004 to 2016 when I retired.

I learned a lot from each of my partners.  I hope I taught them a thing or two as well.

 

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Prescott, AZ

In the late 2000s, I received a call from a detective in Prescott, Arizona.  They were investigating a series of murders of gay men there.  She had information that the man was in the Seattle area.

“Do you think you could help get this guy?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said.

She and her partner were going to fly up in the next week.  I told her we’d be ready for them.

Once they’d arrived and were settled, she filled me in.

“There have been a few gay men murdered in Prescott,” she said. “A guy was in jail and told two different inmates he’d done it, but the prosecutor wouldn’t charge based on that.”

Give me a break.  If you have two separate inmates telling you the same thing, and they don’t know about each other, you hook that guy up.  I understand being cautious, but some of my best arrests have been made through jailhouse snitches.  You have to corroborate the information they’re giving you and see if there is any way they could have gotten that information anywhere else.  If that works out, you’re good.

We formulated a plan. We’d approach this guy with an undercover detective and see if he’d talk about the crimes.

We looked for the guy for a few days but couldn’t locate him.  Finally, the detectives had to go back.

About a month later, I got another call from the Prescott detective.

“We have information the guy is in jail in Bellingham,” she told me. “Do you know anyone there you can refer me to?”

“Refer you?” I said. “Hell, no. We’ll still help.”

They made arrangements to fly back up.  In the meantime, I formulated a plan.  We would have two undercover detectives, in this case, Todd Jacobson and Dave Redeman, get booked into the Whatcom County Jail. We’d have them placed into the nurse’s area and then bring in the suspect.  They would start up a conversation and see what happened.

The day arrived, and we all went to Bellingham.  We went to Bellingham PD.  They transported Jacobson and Redeman separately to the jail, into the booking area, and book them.

Jacobson went first.  He arrived, was fingerprinted, and photographed like any other inmate.  Then he was put in a jail jumpsuit and taken to the nurse’s area.

Jacobsen wore a wire.  My partner and I were outside in a car.  We monitored the wire.

After a few minutes, the suspect was brought in. As we expected, the suspect initiated a conversation.

“What are you in for?” he asked Jacobson.

“A gay guy touched my nephew,” Jacobson said.  “I beat the fuck out of him.”

“I killed some f*gs in Arizona,” the suspect said.

I was stunned.  We got an admission in less than five minutes.

The Prescott detectives were very happy.  Jacobson went to Arizona and testified at the trial. The guy was convicted.

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