October 26, 2004 > Interview with Matthew Snelson
Interview with Matthew Snelson
TCV: Did you feel that returning to the swing shift was a letdown after working on investigations?
Snelson: No, not at all! In my last two weeks on swing shift with Officer [Kevin] Gott, we had one unfortunate incident when we assisted a midnight officer who was tracking down a family of someone killed in a traffic accident. We went to a house to tell the victim's sister about the accident. As far as I know, the accident was just that - the driver was following the speed limit and following all the rules of the road. That was tough!
I had a good time in investigations, but it was fun coming back to swing. When you are on patrol, there is no time to get into things as deeply as investigations. However, when you are on patrol, you are in it - it is happening! Investigations unit is sometimes a bit more removed, but you are able to pick up the ball and run with it and handle things in more depth.
TCV: Does the investigating officer tell the next-of-kin or is a specialist used for this?
Snelson: It is the officer who does this. We want whoever needs to be notified to hear the information from us. We also need to get an ID as well. In this case, there was no identification on the body except a hat that was issued by her place of employment. We had to backtrack to find out who she was. The manager of the business was new and confused her with another employee. We ended up going to another residence first and found ourselves with the named victim answering the door. It turned out that this person roomed with the victim and was able to help identify her.
TCV: Are you trained to talk with survivors?
Snelson: Not really. We become very sensitive to the situation. In this particular instance, the person we were talking to didn't speak English well and we brought another officer in to help communicate. It is hard enough to tell someone their loved one died without having to overcome a language barrier too. This was the second time I have had to do this. The first time was a suicide and in that case, I did the notification of the family. Since we talk with people every day, it becomes a matter of sensitivity. It isn't something anyone likes to do. You have to do it - it's part of the job.
TCV: Anything else?
I have worked on a lot of accidents. We dealt with the rain for the first time on this shift. I ended up directing traffic at Niles Canyon and Mission for about three hours. The lights went out and it was crazy! 99% of the people do very well, but every once in a while, people are not paying attention even with flares, flashing police lights and I am in the middle of the intersection! It only takes one exception to create an accident. We were trying to keep on our toes.
Another experience this last week was watching the K-9 competition held in the area. There were about 40 dogs competing. One of our officers, Jason Davison and his dog, Kanto, took second place overall. Bobby Davila and his dog, Tuffy, took a few awards as a rookie canine officer.
I am just continuing to learn. The other night was my last shift with Officer Gott, my second Field Training Officer (FTO). My last day, I made a few mistakes and walked away feeling like I wanted one more day so I could end with a good feeling. In my view, it was not a good day. This is an officer that I respect and wanted to leave this part of training on a positive note.
TCV: Have you learned more about light management?
Snelson: Yes! I am much better with that!
TCV: What's next?
Snelson: I have traffic for a week with Officer [Dennis] Madsen. I want experience in writing reports on accidents. Then I go to "mids."
The thing that has really hit me is the amount of discretion we have as police officers. When we are working with people on a situation, the outcome can often depend on how people react and assist with our investigation of what happened. There are instances where something can be viewed in several ways and we have to decide how to approach the circumstances. We had a case where someone hit a fence and left the scene. There were no injuries or anyone else involved. When we found the driver, it could have been written as property damage but his attitude and other circumstances resulted in a citation for hit and run instead.
Officer Gott made a comment that I remember when we were at a traffic accident and had to make a decision of what would be done. A man was driving with a suspended license. We allowed him to take his tools out of the truck before it was towed and impounded since these were his livelihood. We could have impounded the tools in the truck as well. He said that our goal is not to destroy people, rather make them aware of when they are breaking the law.