Mike Davis grew up in eastern Oregon riding dirt bikes, hunting, fishing, and attempting to avoid the Oregon State Police. It was not until after a stint in the US Marines, however, that Davis joined the very department he once tried to evade and realized his long-held dream of arresting bad guys. He soon learned that there were citizens who did not respect law enforcement-and some who wanted to kill anyone in uniform.
As Davis chronicles his diverse law enforcement experiences from 1977 until 2004, he provides a glimpse into a career path that led him from recruit school to stints as a patrol officer, detective, and SWAT team member specially trained in explosive disposal and breaching, weapons of mass destruction, arson investigations, and narcotics infiltrations. While sharing raw details from risky encounters that led him from arresting intoxicated citizens to heading undercover drug operations to posing as a hit man, Davis provides eye-opening insight into how a naïve country boy transformed himself into a hardened hunter of men.
Hunting Men shares the compelling story of an Oregon state police officer's twenty-eight-year journey through law enforcement, facing many challenges along the way to uphold his oath to protect and serve the citizens of his state.
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The Career of an Oregon State Police Detective
By Mike Davis
Abbott PressCopyright © 2014 Mike Davis
All rights reserved.
LIFE WITH A COACH
Everything you experience in your career and life transforms you into who you ultimately become and how you react to similar experiences in the future.
In 1977 I started my career with the Oregon State Police (OSP) in Eugene. When OSP assigns coaches at the academy, it is with great anticipation. All of the state police officers I knew were intimidating. When my coach, Don, was introduced, I was shocked. Here was this skinny guy wearing horn-rimmed glasses and smoking a cigarette. He looked like a schoolteacher. In fact he had been a firefighter for several years, and the Oregon State Police had hired him when he was forty years old. We were oil and water. I wanted a young, badass coach who wanted to tear up the world; instead I got Don. As it turned out, Don was the best coach I could have asked for. He was mature and grounded. The verdict was still out on me.
My inexperience got Don into his first fight. I stopped what I thought was a decent guy, who told me he did not have his license with him, so I gave him a warning. Don asked when I got back to the car if I had checked his drivers status. I had not, and of course his driving privileges were suspended for a felony so he should have gone to jail. I found him a short time later at home. I guess he thought once he was home he was safe. Needless to say he did not go to jail willingly. Don was not happy with me. He was smooth and had always been able to talk guys into the car. This was unfortunately not Don's last fight while I was with him.
Don suggested I write the office average of seven tickets per day and then go do police work. It was easy to get seven tickets in a couple of hours in an area like Eugene. By profiling drivers I could get two or three uninsured motorists a day without trying, then I could head off the freeway for some police work. I primarily worked east of Eugene up Highway 58 near Dexter and Lowell. I seemed to run into a lot of people I could take to jail.
Don taught me to interview suspects regarding criminal investigations. We got most of our suspects to confess. We had a criminal division in Eugene that handled the more complicated cases, but we were allowed to follow up on our own cases. I realized early on that I could not write speeding tickets to "mom and pop" my whole career. The department soured me on writing speeding tickets when the federal government forced us to enforce fuel conservation speeds.
During your recruit time, you ride a week with the detectives and a week with the fish and wildlife officers. On the first day with the fish and wildlife officer, we were driving out through the woods when he asked me how good I was with my revolver. I told him I was a good shot. He said, "Good. You have any bucks on the right. I'll take the ones on the left." At first I thought it was a test, but he was serious. Back then the fish and wildlife officers could shoot a deer, go off duty to process the deer, and then go back on duty. At first glance it seemed like the dream job.
After you have been with your coach for a couple months, you are thrown out on your own. The supervisors don't really trust you at this point, so you can only work days. I don't think they are protecting you from the bad guys; there are just more supervisors around to chew your ass during the day.
To start our day out right the other recruit, Ron Wampole, and I found out we could go through the file where OSP kept arrest warrants and search for suspects with outstanding warrants. We selected warrants with a bail higher than $5,000, so they could not pay and we could take them to jail.
The first time we went out with an arrest warrant, the guy opened the door before he realized Ron and I were there. When he saw us, he threw the door at us and ran into the house. We both hit him at the same time sending us all over a couch, we were hooked
I went to advanced recruit school and took a final physical fitness test; my old recruit school roommate and former marine, Cal, and I had a perfect score on the fitness test, so the superintendent came over to congratulate us on our performance and asked what we thought of the department. I told him that the fuel conservation speed enforcement on the freeway was isolating us from the citizens. While working the rural areas around Eugene, local residents were thanking me for patrolling their area. I told him I had been thirty miles out in the country when the dispatcher called me back to work Interstate 5. Six patrol cars were lined up in front of a supervisor who was calling out speeds five miles per hour over the speed limit. The superintendent thanked me for my opinion and walked away. I felt great the boss had recognized me and listened to what I had to say.
About a week later I was called into the station commander's, Ernie's, office. He proceeded to rip me a new one, asking if I was unhappy working the road and whether I wanted to work fish and wildlife or what. I said I had thought about it but had decided that the Fish and Wildlife Division was too chicken shit for me.
Ernie finally realized I had no idea why I was called into his office. Ernie said the superintendent told him that I had criticized the speed enforcement program on the freeway. I said that was true. Ernie said, "I don't tell the superintendent what I think." He said the speed enforcement on the freeway was the superintendent's idea, and I had infuriated him. Another lesson learned is to keep your mouth shut, even when asked your opinion. As a recruit I could be fired for cause, as there were no unions or associations to offer protection at that time.CHAPTER 2
High-speed chases were common; even my mild-mannered coach could stand on a gas pedal. The first week with Don we were traveling south on I-5; I had my head down and was writing in my notebook, when we passed a car on the side of road. I started to ask Don if we were going to check the vehicle when I realized we were in the fast lane traveling at 130 miles per hour. The car was probably traveling at sixty-five, so at a glance it looked like it was standing still.
No wonder I drove so fast on patrol—I had a good teacher! If you went with the flow of traffic you looked at the same vehicles all the time, so it was necessary to go faster than the flow. I know the general public did not like you following them for miles from place to place, so everyone should have been happy that we were passing them. However you had the occasional asshole citizen who wanted to turn you in or make a citizen's arrest for speeding. I nipped that in the bud. If someone pulled in behind me and tried to follow, I would do a short frontal pace, pull over, and give them a ticket. We paced cars from the rear all the time it should have been no big deal pacing them from the front. As time passed the department did not like this practice.
After Don let me drive, I took full advantage of the high-speed driving. He told me I would crash a car someday. The only wreck I was in was when another patrol car hit me. The 1977 Pontiacs had a tendency of dying if you were at high speed and dynamited the brakes.
I came into an interchange at high speed and slammed on the brakes before the turn, and my car died. I had another marked unit following me, chasing the same call. I pulled onto the shoulder and coasted to a stop. It was dark and the other unit followed my taillights off the road hitting me from the rear.
* * *
I blew out a tire at over a hundred miles per hour. I had been dispatched to a man with a gun at the Oak Grove Rest Area. I was traveling at 135 miles per hour and had just slowed a bit to pass a truck in the Goshen curves south of Eugene, when the right rear tire blew. I held onto the wheel and let off the gas. I could see the trucker lock up his brakes. I was throwing rubber and molding all over the place. It took about a mile to stop, and I used both lanes of the freeway. I changed the tire as fast as I could but it was so hot I could barely touch it. It took me a while to get there, and I never did find a man with a gun.
* * *
I was chasing a guy on the freeway, when he crossed the median into oncoming traffic and turned out his headlight. Department policy said we should not chase someone on the wrong side of the freeway, but I knew oncoming traffic would not see him and someone would get killed. I crossed over behind him with my lights on high beam and overheads activated.
We were both traveling in excess of a hundred miles per hour. We came to a long downhill run where I knew I could pass him, so I did. That was when I realized I had made a huge mistake. The suspect started trying to run up on me and clip my bumper in an attempt to spin me out. About the second pass at my bumper I sped up and he lost control.
He shot over the median and crashed into the guard rail on the far side of the freeway. By the time I got to him other patrol cars involved in the pursuit had already begun to "educate" the suspect. All I was left with was an adrenaline rush.
* * *
Some high speed chases were not people attempting to elude us. I was assigned patrol duties west of Pendleton on I-84; the traffic was light, and it was a sunny day. I was watching traffic from off the freeway, when I saw a Ferrari traveling at high speed. It took me about ten miles to catch up with the car. I was able to pace the driver for about two miles and activated my overheads. After about a mile I pulled alongside him and got his attention. We were traveling between ninety-five to one hundred miles per hour.
I contacted the owner of the Ferrari and asked if he knew how fast he was going. He acknowledged that he did, he said he had just bought the car and was taking it for a spin. I took his information and handed him back his driver's license. I told him to have a nice day. He looked at me in astonishment expecting a ticket. I told him the next trooper may not be such a fan. He was diving in a safe manner, and the car was more than capable of handling such speeds. I sped everywhere I went, so I had a bit of a moral dilemma when it came to writing speeding tickets.
My dad loved to drive fast. He had raced cars at the Orange County speedway in California before he went to Korea. The family cars he bought were capable of high speeds. One time Dad and I were in an Olds Cutlass with a 454, headed to Portland on I-84 when I was a kid. The freeway was posted with a basic speed of seventy-five miles per hour, which meant it was a "suggested" speed. We were traveling somewhere north of one hundred miles per hour near Arlington, Oregon. A trooper stopped us and asked my dad if he knew how fast he was going. My dad said he did. The trooper walked around the car looked at the tires and told my dad to have a nice day, and then handed him back his driver's license.
I had a similar experience while driving back from a wrestling tournament with a carload of wrestlers. I was on I-84 near Hood River traveling over ninety miles per hour when a trooper stopped me. He asked what we were doing. I told him we were headed home from a wrestling tournament. He told me to take it easy and drove off.
I-84 was designed for high speed driving. The only reason we have a posted speed of sixty-five miles per hour is that the federal government threatened to take away funding if the Oregon State Police did not enforce a fuel conservation speed. This is also why I had a soft spot for speeders.
* * *
One sunny afternoon I saw a Corvette on the other side of the freeway traveling at an extremely high rate of speed. I cut across the median and took chase. I was starting to lose ground when I saw a cloud of dust and trucks pulling over. I pulled up in time to the Corvette rolling; both people had been ejected. As far as I could tell both the driver and passenger were dead, when the driver started convulsing.
I called Life Flight, who picked up the driver and was able to save him. A witness said he was in the right lane when the Corvette passed and changed lanes too hard. The driver lost control and spun around in the freeway. The Corvette ended up nose to nose with the witness going backward at an excessive speed. The Corvette started fish tailing, lost control, and rolled in the median numerous times. I never did find out why they were going so fast.
* * *
I quit chasing motorcycles early on in my career. If I could get close enough to identify their gear and get a license plate number, I let them go and called ahead. I had kids on motorcycles blow stop lights at over a hundred miles per hour while I was chasing them. I cited several at home at a later date.
* * *
While I was working narcotics, the OSP purchased pursuit vehicles. They bought some Camaros and Mustangs. One of the troopers let me take his car for a spin; I reached 130 miles per hour by the end of the off ramp. By the time I got up around 150 mph, the car felt like I was driving a boat; it was light as a feather. I shut it down and took it back. It was fun but I had had enough.
* * *
I pursued a car load of juveniles in a stolen car, and after a few miles they decided to pull over. By the time I got them all out of the car I had six teenagers on the pavement. A concerned motorist stopped and asked if there was anything he could do. I told him he could watch the kids while I called in—we did not yet have portable radios. I unloaded the shotgun, racked the action, and handed it to him. In my gruffest voice I told him to shoot anyone who moved, then I whispered to him that if they run let them go. I went back to my patrol car and called for assistance.CHAPTER 3
DEALING WITH WOMEN
I had a learning curve when it came to women. I got married young, and I had not been around many nasty or aggressive woman.
Don and I did not get a lot of drunk drivers; some I even let go. One night I stopped a good-looking, well-endowed ski bunny coming off the mountain from a day of skiing. As it happened, I had stopped her about a block from her house. After talking to her for a while and giving her some tests, she invited me to her place after I got off work. She said she would leave her door unlocked, while she was rubbing up and down me like an alley cat. I was so flustered I told her to take it easy going home and walked back to the patrol car. As she drove off Don asked if she was drunk I told him yes I believe she was.
Sexual advances were not uncommon, at least when I was young. One time while working with Don we stopped two cars. Don did not lock his door and was taking to the driver of the car behind us. I was running the driving status of a young lady, when she walked back, opened the passenger door, and crawled over the console. She put her arms around my neck telling me that she would do "anything" to get out of the ticket. As I looked over her shoulder Don walked up looked in and was shaking his head.
These scenarios were not uncommon, especially with drunken women. First of all you had caught them in a vulnerable position; they knew they were in trouble, and they were under the influence of alcohol.
One woman stripped down naked in the back of my patrol car, while I was giving dispatch a blow-by-blow account. I'm sure people in scanner land were very amused. It's uncomfortable marching a naked woman into the jail. As a side note, it's easier for women to slip off handcuffs due to the size of their hands compared to their wrists. I had women slip their cuffs several times during my career.
Another approach was for women to pull their tops down (tube tops were popular) or their skirts up when you walked up to the car. Every gal who showed me her tits or her crotch got a ticket. I assumed that it had worked several times before, and she had probably earned this ticket. When you walked back up, and they realized they were getting a ticket anyway, the contact would normally take a nasty turn.
Often women I took to jail invited me you back to their homes. I think some misunderstood the fact that you were just treating them with respect.
Trespassing calls along the river in the summer were common. These cases were normally naked college girls sunning themselves. This soon became a dreaded task. No one should have seen most of these gals naked. Remember it was the late seventies, and I was in Eugene.
I could not count the times we arrested naked women who were combative or overly friendly, while we were executing search warrants early in the morning. I remember one of the women we told to get dressed came out wearing a leather micro miniskirt and, as it turned out, no panties. While interviewing her, she kept spreading her legs.
A woman who I had arrested several times came by the office one day to give me some information. I knew her history very well, she was extremely attractive and well endowed. My partners did not know her but were extremely interested in being in the area and wanted an introduction. While I was talking to her I wrote this short note: "She has AIDS and hepatitis," and I handed it to one of my partners who passed it around the room. You should have seen the expression on their faces.
Excerpted from Hunting Men by Mike Davis. Copyright © 2014 Mike Davis. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Life with a Coach, 1,
High-Speed Adventures, 5,
Dealing with Women, 10,
Attitude Change, 13,
Criminal Division, 40,
Vehicle Theft Unit, 44,
Explosive Disposal, 47,
Narcotics in the Beginning, 57,
Working Undercover, 65,
Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team, 76,
Giving Cops a Bad Name, 101,
Marijuana Grows, 105,
Entry Team, 114,
The World According to Mike, 136,
Just Shut Up, 139,
Off-Duty Adventures, 142,
Staying Grounded, 156,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I REALLY wanted to give this book 5 stars, the only thing holding me back is that it had so much more potential. Mr. Davis is a victim of his own no nonsense personality. It makes for a great insight but he doesn't bother painting the background! The stories are interesting and you walk away feeling good about the State Police. They truly have one of the most dangerous, stressful jobs in the world. He went in wide eyed and eager and left feeling like he was becoming a dinosaur. That's how honest and straightforward his writing is. In my opinion he is selling himself short. It's guys like him who formed what the police of today are. Of course they can't do things the old way anymore but you have to take into account it was a different time. Imagine trying to coordinate raids without something as simple as a cell phone. If you don't read this book you are missing out.
Interesting and insightful look into the life of a State Police Detective. An action-packed and poignant memoir.