Willowbrook Pursuit

                                                                                                                               By John Stacy



While I was assigned to the position of “Senior Training Officer” at Firestone Station, I was assigned trainees that were border line, or worse, in job performance at the end of their initial training period. It was my job to retrain them if necessary, and try to get them up to an acceptable level of performance, or make a recommendation that they be removed from the patrol assignment.


While working as a STO, I had been assigned a trainee who made a lot of serious mistakes and wasn’t meeting the standards of an Fpk patrol deputy. We had been working together for about two weeks when a pursuit incident occurred. Early one PM shift, around 1800 hours, we were working in Willowbrook, and came to a 4-way intersection, I looked across from me and I  observed a male adult driving a late model Porsche. At that time, I was unaware of the fact that LAPD had been pursuing him from San Pedro, and had just lost him in our area.


I made eye contact for a second with the driver and my sixth sense told me that he was probably driving a stolen car from the way his body tightened up, so I told my trainee, Ron, not to look at the driver when we passed each other because I was going to make a quick U-turn and come up behind him, as quick as possible. Of course, as the two cars came parallel with each other, he fell victim to human nature and turned his head and looked right at the driver. The suspect immediately accelerated the Porsche and started to flee. I broadcast that we were in pursuit, and I believe I called the trainee a few well-chosen “names,” and asked him why he couldn’t follow simple instructions.


We were in a Matador sedan and were having trouble closing the gap, as you would imagine, if you’re familiar with the vehicle. I instructed the trainee to broadcast the pursuit, since he badly needed experience in such matters. I followed the car westbound to Vermont Ave. where he turned right, heading north, in heavy traffic. I instructed the trainee to look to our right and let me know if the traffic was clear when we came to an intersection. The first time we came to a cross-street, I braked and asked him if it was clear right as I looked to our left, and he screamed, “Clear right!” I started to proceed through the intersection, and a vehicle sped across in front of us and almost took off our bumper.


I called him a few more well-known “names,” as I couldn’t help but notice that he was screaming into the microphone when he would give the RTO our pursuit information. I had previously told him how to use the radio during pursuits, etc., and I reminded him again in very distinctive and descriptive language (probably sounding like a Marine Corps drill instructor). After repeating the same process through two more intersections, and having very close calls each time, I told him if he didn’t pay attention and do things the right way and the safe way, I was going to injure him severely in the station parking lot when we got off work that night (I may have phrased it in somewhat more coarse language, but that was the point of my message).


 I also noticed that he was still screaming into the microphone despite my attempts to get him to calm down and take a deep breath. The RTO that was handling the pursuit asked him to back off from the microphone a number of times, but he never heard her because of his yelling.


At some point in the pursuit, the RTO asked us, per the Firestone Station Watch Commander, what was our speed? I was delicately coaxing 85-90 mph out of that piece of junk Matador, which was shaking like a World War II bomber being hit by flak. (I probably was also cursing the Sheriff for buying those junkers just because they were $25 cheaper per unit. I remember when Danny York drove out of the station parking lot one morning in one of the Matadors and there was a horrible shriek as the entire drive train fell out onto Compton Ave. Ask Station Mechanic George Ramos what he thought about those lovely Matadors, if you want to hear a vivid discourse!)


 I told the trainee to say we were doing 65-70 mph, but he, of course, being in his own little world, screamed, “We’re doing 90 mph!” Again, I made some forceful comments to him about following the instructions of his T.O., before saying anything.  


Shortly thereafter, as I approached Manchester Ave., I saw that the rush hour traffic was getting heavier, which was making it too dangerous for everyone involved, and especially since the trainee obviously was contributing to the danger, I told him to broadcast that we were discontinuing the pursuit for safety reasons.


We immediately received a radio message to return to Firestone Station and see the Watch Commander. So, all the way back, I was going over everything in my head, trying to figure out what we would have to explain, besides the trainee’s speed comment.


When I drove into the rear parking lot, about 10-15 deputies came out the back door and lined up and began pointing their fingers at me, while laughing uproariously. I asked them what was so funny, and they said I was funny because, whenever I said anything to the trainee, he kept his thumb on the “transmit” button during the entire incident. So everything I said to him (the name-calling, threats, etc.) was heard on the county-wide radio by everyone while the pursuit was in progress! Some of them began to repeat the colorful obscenities I called him, and my comment about the after-hours conference in the parking lot, as well as both of our responses to the W.C.’s question of our pursuit speed.


I sat there stunned for a few minutes and then crawled into the station to report to the Watch Commander, where even the secretaries, and probably the station trustees, were pointing and laughing at me. Of course, the station desk received a number of calls from around the county, with people making editorial comments on my training methods. Fortunately, the W/C and I were on good terms, (and we had previously discussed the trainee’s shortcomings) so I only received a moderate butt-chewing, but, of course, he got his laughs in, too, much to my embarrassment. You know I was super-careful on that so-and-so radio after that.