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September 26, 2004 > Rookies Face A New Set of Challenges

Rookies Face A New Set of Challenges

TCV has been following rookie Fremont Police officers Matthew Bocage, Ramin Mahboobi and Matthew Snelson since graduation from police academy last summer. In this segment, all three officers talk about their past few weeks of experiences as they rotate through different departments and work shifts.TCV: How has your last week been?

Mahboobi: It has been a busy week for me. This week was investigations week. My first day was pretty slow, following up on a lot of cases. The next day was okay with a couple of good cases and interviews. I interviewed children who were victims of crimes and learned a lot from that. Later that day, we had a homicide occur around 4 p.m. It was in progress and the suspect was still "on scene." A page said "all officers return to duty!" Even those who were off duty and on their way home at that point had to report.

I showed up with Detective Sergeant [Dean]Cobet. Our lead homicide detectives were in the middle of things. A command center was set up and we then tried to bring the victim to safety. We knew that we had an armed suspect in an apartment complex. We had the victim transported to Eden Trauma Center but unfortunately, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. There was a standoff with the suspect. I got to see first-hand, one of the most serious situations we can encounter. There are hostages with an armed suspect and a potential for more casualties. There was the possibility of more than one firearm in the apartment.

In a case like this, it is generally the Special Unit's jurisdiction until there is some resolution. Then the detectives take over the case and do the investigation. We had called out for SWAT who was in charge to control the situation and hopefully prevent further injuries. It was fascinating to see this in operation. You see movies about this sort of thing and have ideas about what goes on. At academy, we studied these scenarios, but to have it happen in front of you is something else!

I thought about all the different scenarios that could transpire. The hostage negotiating team was on scene. We evacuated other apartments and tried to keep curious bystanders out of harm's way. Some people wanted to come into the area because they wanted to go home or see what was going on irrespective of the danger. There were people just walking through the scene without any sense of danger even though there are a lot of police, a SWAT team in full protective gear and big guns and obviously something serious going on.

I did a little bit of everything. I went with the detective who interviewed the victim's wife. It is a very emotional time and you need to be sensitive to their state of mind. You need the facts to determine what has happened and what might happen, but understand that this person is in a traumatic state of mind. I stopped to think about how devastating this must be. The detective and officer talking with her were doing an excellent job. It was overwhelming to see how much is going on. We found other family members and decided to get them away from the chaos so we could interview them in a calm, quiet environment.

Once we found out that the victim was pronounced dead, it was the hardest thing I have seen for the relatives to be informed. Witnessing this was so difficult; it's hard to imagine doing it. It is so hard for both ends.

TCV: Are the police who are holding the perimeter relieved as others come on duty?

Mahboobi: You hold your position. In this case, the suspect would not be able to leave the apartment without greeting an officer. Everyone is at a post until relieved.

Snelson: At the academy, they taught us that when the situation is stabilized without threats of further violence, time is on your side. You are concerned, but there is nothing saying there is imminent danger. At that point, you want time to go by so the person will wear down and can be talked out.

Mahboobi: In this situation, we were making phone contact with him. We were never at a comfort level to think we could just sit back and wait. Finally, two hostages were released, but the suspect's wife was still with him. We were constantly going over different scenarios. The hostage negotiator, Officer Crandall, did a great job and when the suspect finally surrendered, the first thing he said was, "Where's Gregg." A personal bond formed between the negotiator and the suspect.

TCV: Are all officers trained in hostage negotiation?

Mahboobi: To some extent, but that is post academy training. We are trained to know how to approach people and when to use different approaches to a situation.

Snelson: Every shift has an officer designated as "HNT," a hostage negotiator. Most likely we may be the first officer on a scene. Our job is to establish control, balance the situation as much as we can until the advanced resources get to the scene. We have to know how to try to stabilize the situation and get people out of harm's way including a victim.

TCV: When did the detectives start to do their work?

Mahboobi: Once the house was cleared of any further danger. Then the crime scene is "locked down" and the investigators go to work. I authored a search warrant, even though we could have received permission from the wife. All possible items that we want to search for needed to be listed as well as a detailed description of the residence to be searched and the areas to be searched. I called a judge to let him know that I was working on the warrant. It took three hours to fill out the search warrant and then I came by his house a little after midnight and the judge reviewed and signed it. I was told that I was to be in charge of the search. It was a little strange to be telling all these veteran officers what to do! It was amazing how they worked with me. Here I am a rookie and veterans were telling me to "take charge." It's amazing! Every action is documented. Also, everyone involved needed to be interviewed and all this information is put together for legal proceedings.

I came back to work the next day and continued my work on the case. At the same time, I was scheduled to work with the Secret Service so I was involved with that too. This was after five hours sleep! It was very interesting to observe their work.

Back to the homicide investigation and through more reports and briefings where we check out everything that needs to be done so the case is followed up as tightly as possible. There is no chance of anything going undocumented. It is very organized and I was very impressed.

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