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Job status update

I’ve been offered a full-time lab tech job at a private company that does extractive metallurgy. Barring any unforeseen issues, I’ll start on 15 August. I’m going to continue with the application process to two local law enforcement agencies, as well as to the self-sponsored academy at my local community college.

Today I took a written test for one of the law enforcement agencies. 65% of it was laughably easy. The rest was pure memorization, and not so easy for me. I can’t memorize any kind of “trivia” unless I drill myself on it for days. We were allowed to look at a drawing of a busy street scene for two minutes. Then there were 35 questions based on the information in that scene. I was confident on about 10 of those. For the rest I filled in answer “C”. Unfortunately, I was out to the car when I realized that 10 of those 35 memory test questions were true-false, of which I only knew the answers to two or three. But “true” and “false” corresponded to answers “A” and “B”; “C” was invalid. So I mistakenly cheated myself out of a 50% chance of getting the rest right.

Since the non-memorization part of the test was so easy, I’m betting that all the competition will be over the memorization part. We were told that the top 300 would be chosen from about 1,100 test-takers. I am not confident. In three weeks I’ll know how I did.

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The African plains

I just finished up two more police ride-alongs. My objective with all these is to sample the different kinds of agencies and duty shifts: big city police, county sheriff, university police, small town police, state police, day shift, night shift, and weekends. On Friday afternoon and evening, I rode with a metro municipality near my own (“Agency A”). Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning I was with the sheriff’s office for an adjacent county (“Agency B”). Agency A covers a small but rough city, with a per-capita crime rate that allegedly once exceeded that of Camden, New Jersey. Despite that, the night’s calls were mostly tame. Examples:

  • A teenager refuses his meds, hits everybody in his whole family and then runs away. The officer I was with had to fill out victim rights forms for the whole family.
  • Domestic violence battery. Drunk guy pounds on his girlfriend at a taxi stand. Drunk people are repetitive: he asked me for his house keys a dozen times while cuffed in the back seat.
  • Security call to a commercial building. Turns out the janitor tripped the alarm.
  • A car with expired tags that turned into a family brawl. Mom and dad are plowed, let son with no license drive. Son gets cited for no license, parents for letting him drive. Some people “flip the switch” when they find out their car is being impounded. Dad and son get into it with each other and the cops, both end up restrained against the patrol car.
  • Stolen vehicle recovery. Car reported stolen two weeks before. It turns up abandoned in a residential neighborhood with the thief’s vehicle registration and immigration documents in the glove box.
  • Disorderly conduct. Guy walks into a bodega, rips off his shirt, and demands cigarettes on credit. Then leaves, comes back, and does it again. He disappeared before we got to him.

This would be my first time really seeing a city at night outside public roads or “night life” areas, and it was an eye-opening experience. I never realized how many unattended dogs run around the city at night (one sergeant quipped to me that “it’s the African plains out here”).

Agency B covers a county north of the one I live in. The deputies had much more freedom, take-home cars, and better equipment than the city cops. This is typical, from what I understand. The beat I rode with did both rural and small-city policing. Examples:

  • A man walking around with a police scanner, peeking in backyards. When apprehended, he had drugs and pages of insane ramblings that he wrote. He claimed the papers were visions from God.
  • Late-night stakeout of an area that was experiencing a rash of burglaries. Did a “Terry stop” of some people exiting a liquor store at 1 am, but they turned out to be cool.
  • Agency assist call when the Border Patrol pulled over a drunk drug smuggler. He was booked for DUI (his BAC was over 0.2%!) and then handed back to BP. Note to drug lords: don’t use alcoholic illegal immigrants to run dope.
  • Suicide call. Not much happened when we got there; the guy just wanted psych help. But it took like 40 miles of “running code” (lights and sirens and speed) to get there. Fun!
  • Medical call. A handicapped old man fell and sliced his arm open. I actually got to walk into a private residence for this one.

If it’s not obvious, this stuff is fun. And scary. Any traffic stop is a potential homicide scene if the driver jumps out with (say) a rifle and an attitude. That’s why they make me sign a waiver. But it’s worth seeing anyway.

Next I have to do a small town PD and campus police, and then my exploration of state and local law enforcement will be complete.

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Law enforcement ride-alongs

As part of my law enforcement career exploration, I’ve been doing ride-alongs with local agencies. For those who are unfamiliar, this is where I ride in the passenger seat of a officer’s patrol car during their shift, watching everything. My most recent ride-along was with the highway patrol division of my state police, observing traffic violations.

The first was a man walking on the shoulder of an interstate highway (which is illegal). His car was broken down, and he was walking back to town for assistance. Turns out he also had a warrant out for his arrest, so he ended up getting a free ride to jail! A passing federal officer even stopped by to assist with the arrest. This was just as courtesy from one officer to another; the arrest was not a federal matter.

We did several stops for window tint (too dark), license plates (missing or expired), and seat belts (not buckled). A particularly amusing stop was an RV with absolutely no license plate. The driver went several miles with a marked highway patrol car running code on his ass, completely oblivions. He finally saw us when we pulled along side (a dangerous maneuver). The officer told me this was DWO: Driving While Old. Apparently the driver yelled at the officer for “almost giving him a heart attack”. Several other drivers we pulled over would see the lights right away, but then decide that they’d keep driving until they found a good spot to pull over. It didn’t go so well for those folks. Another guy tried to hide his too-dark window tint when he saw the patrol car, but we saw it and he got pulled over. It was amusing to listen to him argue with the officer over police procedure; he even claimed to be friends with the chief of police for the local big city. He got a ticket.

There were also non-violation stops like disabled motorists, abandoned vehicles, and debris on the highway. In fact, the most dangerous thing I saw was the officer dodging interstate traffic to pick up an exploded tire on the highway.

I had previously done a ride-along with my local municipal agency. After that, I realized that I made a mistake withdrawing my application to that agency, but this was before the whole Air Force thing came and went. After this second ride-along, I’m more convinced than ever that law enforcement is in my future. I’m now “sampling” the local agencies. Later this week I’ll pull a couple of swing shifts with another local municipality, and a county agency north of here. Watch these pages for more stories.

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The 500 kWh challenge

My local electric utility uses a tiered rate plan for standard residential service. The first 500 kWh after the start of a billing cycle are at one low rate, and everything above that through 3,500 kWh are at a higher rate. Beyond 3,500 kWh is yet a third rate, but I’ve never attained those lofty heights in a single billing cycle.

This has been the case since 2008, and I haven’t paid it much attention. But I just discovered that, compared to my next-door neighbor, my electric usage looks like this:

My usage vs. my neighbor's usage.

My actual bill is even worse than this shows, due to the tiered plan. Above the 500 kWh threshold (thin blue line) the rate is about 30% greater, punishing me for the higher usage. My neighbor’s condo unit is approximately the same size as mine, with an identical model climate control system, set to about the same settings. Of course I probably have more “things” plugged in running, but this is too disproportionate to be solely due to a few extra consumer electronics devices. The heavy seasonal fluctuation is the giveaway: this is due to climate control. The real mystery is why mine is so much more costly than my neighbor’s.

So, I’m now publicly proclaiming my “500 kWh challenge”. I want to bring my electricity usage down to 500 kWh or below, every billing cycle. My neighbor hasn’t even achieved that. To do this, I’m first going to focus on the air conditioner and furnace. I’ll be regularly blogging any new developments, and the results of any changes made.