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October 12, 2004 > A Brief Look at Investigations

A Brief Look at Investigations

In this segment of a series of articles following the field training of three new police officers with the Fremont Police Department. TCV has been following rookies Matthew Bocage, Matthew Snelson and Ramin Mahboobi. Officers Bocage and Mahboobi who have continued training on the swing shift (4 p.m. - 3 a.m.) were unavailable for this session but Matt Snelson recounted his experiences in the last two weeks including a brief look at investigations.

TCV: What has been happening during the last two weeks?

Snelson: I am back on "swing" now, but last week I was with the investigative unit. I worked two days with Crimes Against Property and two with Crimes Against Persons. It was really interesting. I worked with Detective [James] Larkin on the Crimes Against Property to begin and the first day, we served a couple of warrants on a case he has been working on - a person burned their car. It looks like they purchased the car that was a little "over their head" and decided it was smarter to torch it and collect the money from insurance. Detective Larkin was on this pretty much from the beginning. The situation didn't seem right as a stolen vehicle. There were three people involved and we went to their homes to serve search warrants - one outside the City of Fremont.

Shortly after we visited the second door with a search, the suspects called the District Attorney and indicated they wanted to "plea out." They admitted to the crime and wanted Detective Larkin off their back!

TCV: What is the protocol when working within another city?

Snelson: When the search warrant was written, it states that any police officer can serve this warrant. The judge has jurisdiction over California, so when they say that you now have permission to search this house they can give permission outside our city. We let the other police force know that we are there.

In this instance, we requested a uniformed police officer for two reasons. First, it becomes obvious that we are police. We wear our vests, badges and guns, but a full uniform is that much more conspicuous. We need them for presence. Also, if somebody runs, they know all the streets in the area and would take over any pursuit.

This was the second time I went outside Fremont and in the first instance, I was working with Officer [Donald] Martinez who was working a case of someone who was using many different identities. Officer Martinez did a lot of legwork and figured out where this guy was. We went to where he was expected to be and called the local police who provided five officers, and caught this guy hiding in his closet. Although we were in full police uniform, we contacted the local police because they know the area.

TCV: There must also be the courtesy of letting the other police force know you are operating in their city, right?

Snelson: Definitely!

TCV: When working on investigations, are you in plain clothes?

Snelson: When I was with property, we were a little more dressed up because we were doing search warrants during those days. My days with Crimes Against Persons, we conducted interviews and need to look professional.

TCV: Did it appear that the Crimes Against Property was less volatile than Crimes Against Persons?

Snelson: I was only in each department for two days, so I really don't know. However, in one case that I worked on when in Crimes Against Property was a juvenile who had stolen a gun from a friend's brother's house, then tried to sell it to a firearms dealer. The dealer realized it was a stolen gun by the serial number and because he had sold it a year before to the victim. He bought the gun from the kid just to get it off the street and then called the police. We were able to ID him from a photo lineup by the victim and the gun dealer. We served a search warrant on his house and plan to get the suspect's statement on what happened.

So, you can be dealing with situations where you go to a house on a search warrant and not know if there are more stolen guns around. It can be volatile in that respect. Of course, when dealing with crimes versus persons, the victim(s) and victim's family is just that much more irate because it involves an assault on a person.

TCV: When working with the Crimes Against Persons, what did you see?

Snelson: I worked with Detective [Jeremy] Miskella who handles sex registrants for Fremont. I was there when he registered a few "PC 290" (Penal Code 290) registrants. That was an interesting process to see. I briefly helped him with the paperwork. The Department of Justice sends him a list of people who may have not registered. He does some background work to see if they have registered and may be stuck in the system or have not registered and need to be found. He was very tenacious about it and I think he is doing a great job.

I also worked with Detective [Mark] Dang who was getting a juvenile warrant signed from the stolen gun that I spoke about previously.

TCV: Did you see any overlap between Crimes Against Property and Crimes Against Persons?

Snelson: I didn't see a lot of overlap when I was there, but remember it was only a few days. There is probably overlap when we get big cases. I don't know who it is handled when that does happen.

TCV: What is the caseload like in these departments?

Snelson: It is hard for me to know since I was only working with these departments for a short time. I know there is quite a bit going on. There was an armed robbery when I was working with the Crimes Against Persons unit and Detective Dang took a part of that. We spent time on PC (Probable Cause) Declarations. The perpetrators were arrested on Thursday night and were going to be held over the weekend. The law says they have to see a judge within 48 hours or you have to have PC Declarations signed by a judge saying that the person or people can be held over the weekend and see the judge on Monday. That was a "spur of the moment thing" so since it happened on a Thursday night, Detective Dang needed to drop everything to get the declarations done on Friday.

I didn't get into the prioritizing of cases, but I saw stacks of folders with different pieces of work that needed to be done for investigations.

TCV: You are now back to patrol during the swing shift. Do you revisit investigations or was this experience designed to give you a quick look at another facet of the force?

Snelson: I think the idea is to give me a brief look at these departments. It is good that this is happening after I have been in training at the street level for a while. Now I understand how the reports taken on street being elevated to a full-blown investigation by a detective. The better the work on the street, the better it is for the detective to be able to "pick up the ball and run." This helped me to get a bird's eye view and see how the system works.

TCV: Did this experience open your eyes to additional possibilities that you might pursue later in your career?

Snelson: It is a different pace. You are reading reports and meeting with other detectives to try to get your mind around a picture of what happened and seeing what can be done to prosecute those who have committed these crimes. You have a little more time to focus on cases. I am sure that I will want to spend some time in investigations during my career.

I was able to write a search warrant and an arrest warrant in the two days I spent with Crimes Against Property and that is invaluable experience. This is another tool in your toolbox as a Fremont Police officer and, as we have talked about previously, the training goal is to train officers who are not just "niche" officers, but have experience in a broad range of areas. I want to learn as much as possible in different areas.

TCV: How are you doing so far?

Snelson: It is going really well. Coming back on swing shift, we had a "in progress" burglary. Some guys had set off the internal motion detector at a stereo store and the alarm company had microphones in their system, so we were listening to the guys talking as they were robbing the place. We brought one guy from the south side, a K-9 unit first on scene from the north and my car came in third before we engaged the suspects. It was the first time that I have been involved in that type of situation. We are able to sneak up on the suspect outside loading the van. We went in along with the K-9. A suspect took some steps to flee and realized the K-9 was running at him and jumped into the van and to the roof, but his leg was dangling and the dog grabbed his leg and yanked him off. We cuffed the suspect and put him in another car that showed up.

We secured the perimeter of the location and Officer [Richard] Zemlok heard footsteps on the roof and "called it out." Sergeant [Patrick] Epps talked the guy off the roof. We yelled into the building that we were going to send a dog in at least six times, suspecting that there was at least one more suspect. We cut the lock to the rollup door and opened it and sent the dog in. Another suspect was found hiding behind a display model. It was a good experience. The group of officers did a great job communicating with each other and setting up a perimeter. Sergeant Epps was the commanding sergeant on scene. He let everyone know that, after securing the perimeter, time was on our side and we could wait for the proper time and equipment - CHP helicopter, etc. - to ensure safety.

TCV: The K-9 units are quite an asset.

Snelson: Huge! They are very smart and I am amazed at how controlled they are. Officer [Jason] Davison's dog, Kanto, obeys every command! A Huge asset! These units are often used when there is a possibility of someone hiding or running. That night, about 1 a.m., we had a number of officers that could respond. In another recent situation, we had a call from someone saying that a man in the house had outstanding warrants. We did a check and one of them was for evading police. We know him as someone who runs. With a total of four officers - I am counted as one even though there are actually two of us, my Field Training Officer and myself - we went to the house and it would have been better with more officers since he saw us and fled before the K-9 arrived. That is a sign of the times - we don't have enough police officers on the street. We are currently operating at minimums because of budget constraints.

TCV: Are you still enjoying the training?

Snelson: Yes! I have learned that my FTO is always right. I will think that I have "this one figured out" and find out that I should do something else. I am currently with my second FTO, Officer [Kevin] Gott, a 20+ year veteran. If my FTO's are an example of all the trainers that Fremont has, we have some excellent trainers! It must be difficult for them since I am moving at 1 mile per hour when they are used to working at Mach 1! They are very patient.

 
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