Opinion: Terry Stops and Three Strikes Laws; Time to Revisit Them (Part IV, Self Initiated Activity or That Don’t Look Right)

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Jimmy Smits, left, and Dennis Franz pose in the press room at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

This is Part IV in a series on public safety and policing. Previously, we discussed some of the more critical components/techniques of successful policing, such as the Terry Stop, Three Strikes and Broken Windows policing. What makes these successful are two things, synergy and what’s known in police circles as, “self initiated activity.”

First of all, as I mentioned in Part III, there is no single, major silver bullet for success. However, when component parts work together, something magic does happen—synergy. The whole indeed becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

Let’s take the simple example of how Terry Stops, coupled with properly structured Three Strikes laws can have a hugely positive effect. For the purposes of this discussion, we will state that a “strike” counts as any violent felony or illegal firearm possession by an adjudicated violent felon. Coupling the the very real threat of lifetime incarceration with properly directed, focused and supervised Terry Stop policing in high crime areas, what happens is that illegal gun possession goes down while at the same time, the most violent felons are taken off the street, a twofer…or perhaps a three for if he’s put away for long enough.

However, for this to work, there is another, most critical component necessary. In fact, without this component almost all policing becomes ineffective. That component is called, “Self Initiated Activity.” it’s the part of boots on the ground policing that separates the good cops from the check cashers.


I did a brief 10 year stint as a Deputy Sheriff down in South Florida. However, the best description I ever heard of this very fundamental task, comes not from my Field Training officer, but from the crime drama NYPD Blue. There is one scene where Detective Andy Sipowicz is passing some street smarts on to his son Andy Jr, who wants to know about being a good cop. Sipowicz says the most important things for a beat cop to know are: People, places, the things they do and the times they do them. Here is that transcribed conversation in an article from Police One: (Note, if anyone has a legal tube link to that scene, please post in the comments so I can embed in the article).

Read: 4 things Andy Sipowicz taught me about being a beat cop

Andy: OK. You’re eatin’ your sandwich, you’ve got company, the weather’s fine, it’s the perfect time to tune out the job.

Andy Junior: Yeah.

Andy: But you don’t want to tune it out, ‘cause there’s too much you’ve got to learn. Here’s a story about being a uniformed cop. Years ago, it’s midnight, me and my partner [are] a couple of blocks from the precinct house, when I see two big Cadillacs turn into an alley. Cadillacs, I’m thinkin’ maybe they’re mob guys. So we get out, go into the alley, see what’s goin’ on. Well the Cadillacs are gone, but I keep on walkin’ and pretty soon I see two guys come out of a back door, and one of them’s got a machine gun. So I yell to my partner, “Hey, we got a guy back here with a machine gun!” I didn’t know he could move so fast. He runs behind a telephone pole, and I’m standing in the door with my gun pointed at the guy with the machine gun.

Junior: What’s goin’ on with that?

Andy: The building was a toy factory that made toy machine guns, and one of the guys was takin’ one home to his kid. I don’t think he knew how close I come to me shootin’ him.

Junior: But you didn’t.

Andy: I could’ve, and it would’ve been off not being prepared. This was my beat, and I should’ve known about the toy factory and what kinda toys they made, and knowing that, I shoulda figured, it’s midnight, graveyard shift is just getting off. I didn’t put it all together. So I came this close to shooting that man. People, places, the things they do, the times they do them. Say that.

Junior: People, places, the things they do, the times they do them.

Andy: A beat cop knows those four things, he’s ready to do his job… You’ll be OK.


When good cops spend time out and about on their beat, they learn things. They get familiar with people, places, the things they do and the times they do them. With experience they can easily recognize when all is not quite right in their patrol sector. Good cops, based on that experience, make many a preventive stop that sometimes results in a serious arrest. Why? Because they look at a familiar location and say to themselves, “That sh….er….stuff, don’t look right.” That’s where the self initiated activity begins. That’s when a good cop goes over to have a closer look. That’s where he begins the investigation. That’s where often his mere presence precludes something really bad from happening. That is where the real policing happens. That’s also where he gets to know the good citizens…and they tell him things.

This is ultimately what ANTIFA, BLM and all the other leftist organizations supported by morally preening White liberal women are trying to destroy—and they are succeeding. Police officers, being hung out to dry by their Mayors, are retiring in droves. The ones that stay, are responding to dispatched calls…and nothing more. Why would an officer risk his job, his pension and even perhaps his freedom in such an environment? Why would he do anything other than respond to dispatched calls?


Zone 6, corner of Avenue D and 25th Street, Ft Pierce, FL. The usual crowd is hanging out at the Wings Hut. The zone car is piloted by a 7 year veteran Deputy Sheriff who looks over and says to himself, “That ***t don’t look right.” Then he keeps on driving. It’s not worth the risk to his career, his paycheck or the civil suit that would award his savings and future earnings set aside for his daughter’s education to some thug, to step out and see what’s going on.

This is what the leftists want. They want to seperate the community from its would be defender, the beat cop that see’s something that “don’t look quite right” and who will take the immediate action to investigate further. Of course, this leaves the streets in full control by ANTIFA, BLM or merely the local thugs—which is just what the left wants.

Previous Articles in this Series:

Opinion: Terry Stops and Three Strikes Laws; Time to Revisit Them (Part I)

Opinion: Terry Stops and Three Strikes Laws; Time to Revisit Them (Part II)

Opinion: Terry Stops and Three Strikes Laws; Time to Revisit Them (Part III, Broken Windows Policing)


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