Any of us can be taken away at any moment for a number of reasons. This is something I have learned over the years. When I was younger, I felt invincible. There was nothing that could touch me, there were no risks that I would not take, and only through fortuitous circumstances did I ever make it to this point. I was foolish, to say the least. If you are younger, you should assess those around you and appreciate each and every moment you have with those who matter. Life is short and what we make of it counts more than you may realize at this point.
In many walks of life, young people starting their careers are helped by those more experienced and knowledgeable. In law enforcement, these mentors are even more critical to a young officer’s development—in many cases, the skills imparted by mentors are responsible for keeping that newbie alive. Today I look back and know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m alive thanks to the guidance of my mentors in LAPD. And now, more of them have left us.
The last two years have been rough for LAPD. We first lost Randy Simmons from “D” platoon (SWAT); then Chief Daryl Gates; then Robert Cottle,
IN MANY CASES, THE SKILLS IMPARTED BY MENTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING THE NEWBIE ALIVE.
also from “D” platoon; and lastly Sgt. II Frank Mika, formerly of “D” platoon, who was actively serving as the primary instructor for Firearms/Tactics at the LAPD’s Elysian Park Academy. All of these men were class acts of the first order. I am grateful that I knew these men. I am grateful that each of them gave of themselves not only to me, but to others as well.
Randy Simmons was the epitome of a SWAT officer, as were Rob Cottle and Frank Mika. Randy was also a minister and devoted his free time to those less fortunate. Rob Cottle was serving yet another tour of duty as a Marine in Afghanistan when his Humvee was struck by an IED and he was fatally injured. Chief Daryl Gates was the pioneer of the first SWAT team ever—all of us in the community owe him a debt of gratitude for his foresight. Sgt. II Frank Mika succumbed to brain cancer after a valiant fight.
Frank Mika was the very first real, honest-to-God police officer that I ever worked with. Back in 1976, there was one day toward the end of the Academy training when we were individually assigned to a Division to work the PM shift. I drew Wilshire Division,which was hot by any police standard, and I drew Frank.
Other recruits in my class drew sleepy divisions and simply wrote tickets, rescued cats from trees and helped little old ladies across the street.
Not me. Frank decided to give me full, unbridled exposure to the streets, and he did it with carefree abandon. We made more stops, became involved in more hot calls, rolled on more pursuits, braced more suspects, raced to more ambulance shooting and stabbing calls in one shift than I could have imagined. I couldn’t sleep for days.
I also worked with Frank in Wilshire as a probationer. We were all over the Division buying calls and racing from one hot call to another for the entire shift each and every day we worked together, just as it had been during my Academy ride-along, full speed with no brakes. It was an absolute blast.
Years later, my first partner in SWAT was… yes, Frank Mika. My very first day on the car and I had taken it home to organize and clean it and wouldn’t you know it, Frank was on SWAT standby, got the call-up, raced to West Valley station and guess what? No car in sight.
I was elbow deep in car wax to make our pretty police car even prettier when Frank called me. “Hey #@*&%, where’s my car?” “Right here, Frank. I’m polishing it!” “Well, here’s what you’re gonna do, #@*&%!!!!” Needless to say, I ran that car to the SWAT call-up in record time, half covered in car wax
WE RACED TO MORE AMBULANCE SHOOTING AND STABBING CALLS IN ONE SHIFT THAN I COULD HAVE IMAGINED. I COULDN’T SLEEP FOR DAYS
and half polished, and waited until it was over. I never did that again. Frank reached so many officers and testified in court on so many cases on behalf of the good guys that it is hard to imagine that he is gone. Some of you reading this may have come across him through his teaching or in reaching out to the LAPD Firearms and Tactics unit for information.
Frank was always positive and could have fun in a sunken submarine. He was as honest as a sunrise and gave of himself unselfishly to those who needed him. He transformed the Tactics unit into what it is today. Any time I was up at the Academy, I would drop in on him, and he would always take time to speak with me. Once you were his partner, you were his partner for life, and there are not a lot of people out there you can say that about. Maybe it’s because I have matured over the years, but I lost so many partners during my career that I now realize that each special person is just that—special, and we need to understand that.
To Randy, Rob, Frank, Chief Gates and all the others—we miss you very, very much. We are forever grateful for your time with us.