Kathy Bennett: Be A Witness Not A Victim

The first time I met Kathy Bennett, she answered a question on a yahoo group called Crime Scene Writers. Not long after that she published her debut novel A Dozen Deadly Roses. Kathy served twenty-one years as a police officer with the LAPD where her assignments included patrol, Firearms Instructor, ‘War Room’ crime analyst, Field Training Officer, and undercover assignments. She was named Officer of the Year in 1997. Kathy’s debut novel, A Dozen Deadly Roses became a bestselling E-book. Her second novel, A Deadly Blessing was chosen by Barnes and Noble as a Best Book of 2012. A Deadly Justice, was released in late 20252222_4542419572580_398411682_n rubypjohnson.wordpress.com13, and was a Top 25 Police Procedural at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.~~~

Thank you, Ruby for having me on your blog today.

When Ruby first asked me to be a guest, she suggested I might want to relate some funny stories from my time being an officer, or talk about how to get the facts right when writing a police story. But I must be a frustrated teacher, because I always strive to educate the public on the way police work is done, and how the community and the police can work together toward the goal of keeping the community safe. To that end, I chose to talk about what to do if you’re witnessing a crime in progress.

I’d like to preface this by stating that I’m writing this post as Kathy Bennett private citizen and I am not representing, nor am I attempting to represent, the Los Angeles Police Department. I’m telling you of my experiences and offering my personal opinion.

Police departments all over the country are reaching out to their communities to be proactive against crime. Many law enforcement agencies are now engaged in social networking sites, blogs, and Citizen’s Police Academy so the public can get a taste of what being a police officer is all about. There is also the old standby, the Neighborhood Watch Program.

Prior to my retirement, one of my responsibilities as a Senior Lead Officer was to hold Neighborhood Watch meetings. I held one meeting a month. Usually, the meeting consisted of a guest speaker who would talk on some topic related to safety or crime reduction. I’d share crime statistics and highlight crime problems and locations for my Basic Car Area. Then I’d open the meeting for questions.

Often, citizens would relate situations they’d been involved in and want to know if they’d handled the situation right. I always dreaded these questions because, if you weren’t there, it’s hard to know exactly what had gone on…I would only be hearing one side of the story.

However, the comments that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up were the ones where a citizen would relate how they’d confronted a bunch of kids smoking dope in a car, or a kid painting graffiti on a wall, etc.

Officers hate to hear of citizens confronting suspects or wrongdoers because police officers know that you can’t be sure who you’re dealing with. Things can go from bad to worse in a heartbeat. Police officers are trained to deal with all kinds of situations and all kinds of people. The general public doesn’t have that training or experience.

What I tried relay at the Neighborhood Watch meetings was this: Be the best witness you can be. You don’t need to yell out or confront someone acting suspiciously. In fact, it was better for a witness to stay on the line with the dispatcher and tell them exactly what the suspect was doing. The dispatcher would ask for a description of the suspect/s and their vehicle (if there was one). Those descriptions often led to some very good arrests.

It was very frustrating to get to a call to find out that a witness yelled out to the suspects, “Hey! Get away from my car! I’m going to call the police!” Guess what happened? The suspects fled long before the police could get there, and the victim wasn’t able to provide a very good description.

So, if you see a crime in progress, be a good witness. You don’t have to have to confront anyone to be a partner with the police. Confrontation is one of the things police officers get paid to do. Give them a chance to earn their money.

Have you ever been a victim or witness to a crime?



A brutal murder. A rash of sophisticated burglaries. A serial rapist. LAPD Detective Maddie Divine doesn’t realize investigating these crimes may expose one of her darkest secrets, forcing her to confront a truth she’s tried desperately to bury




Holy shit! A man wearing a black ski mask was running across six lanes of heavy traffic on Ventura Boulevard in broad daylight. Playing chicken with Los Angeles drivers, he veered between a Chevy Malibu and Dodge pickup only to leap on and across the hood of a Porsche Carrera. It was like a scene from a movie – a scene most cops live for. But this was no action flick. My instincts told me this was a felon fleeing from the scene of a crime.

Although I wasn’t on duty, I jerked my sports car to the curb at a bus stop, grabbed my purse and gave chase on foot.

“Call 9-1-1,” I yelled while running past startled pedestrians. “Tell them an off-duty officer is in foot pursuit of a possible robbery suspect.” Although I wasn’t exactly sure what crime he’d committed, the guy in the ski mask was definitely up to no good and fleeing from something.

Pulling down the zipper on the concealed holster built into my purse, I pulled out my Smith and Wesson nine-millimeter semi-auto. The holster’s retention strap fell to the ground as I ran, but I wasn’t going to stop for a twenty-dollar piece of leather.

If no one’s called the cops already, they will once they realize I’m running through the Sherman Oaks Galleria mall carrying a gun.

“I’m a cop! Which way did he go,” I demanded, looking at some young girls who’d exited the mall.

The girls looked at my gun, then pointed inside, then ran the other way. As I ran past bewildered shoppers, a few screamed when they saw my gun. I yelled, ‘Police! Coming through,’ hoping the citizens would get out of the way. However, people didn’t know how to react. Thankfully, most shoppers stopped in their tracks and I was able to weave around them.

My heart was trying to pound its way out of my chest and I was getting winded when suddenly two LAPD bike cops standing behind cement pillars had their guns pointed at me.

“Police! Drop the gun!”

I screeched to a halt and put my hands up. “I’m LAPD Detective Maddie Divine,” I called out, then slowly kneeled and lowered my firearm to the ground. Once the gun was out of my hand, I rose carefully with my hands raised above my shoulders. “I saw a big buff guy wearing a black ski mask running across Ventura Boulevard through all lanes of traffic. He was running like he’d just pulled a two-eleven or something. I left my car and gave chase. He ran into the Galleria. Did you see him? Have any robbery calls recently come out?”

The two officers looked at me as if I were nuts. A small crowd was beginning form around us.

“No. We didn’t get any calls about a robbery. The only call we got was about a four-fifteen woman running around the Galleria with a gun.”

“Well, I admit I was probably disturbing the peace chasing a guy while carrying a gun, but there was a guy wearing a ski mask. In fact, a few people pointed which way he’d gone.”

The other cop, a taller, thinner, officer, appealed to the group of people milling around. “Anyone see a guy in a black ski mask running through the mall?”

The bystanders looked at each other nervously and a few snickered, but no one came forward to say they’d seen the suspect.

“Uh, look, Ma’am, we’re going to take you down to our sub-station here at the mall where we can verify who you are and take a statement about what you saw and what you were doing.”

“You can verify who I am by looking in my wallet for my I.D. card.”

“Well, we’re gonna do that at our substation.”

“Fine,” I said knowing full well these officers thought they had a wackadoodle on their hands. But one thing I knew for sure, I wasn’t going to tell them to hurry up or I’d be late for my appointment with the department shrink.~~~

Purchase Kathy’s Books at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble and Kobo. Also available on I-tunes.

Contact Kathy:

Website: www.KathyBennett.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KathywritesLAPD

Twitter: @KathywritesLAPD





11 thoughts on “Kathy Bennett: Be A Witness Not A Victim

  1. Great advice, Kathy. Will the police actually come if you report someone tagging a wall? I always assume they have more important work to do. On the other hand, you are so right: you never know who you might be dealing with in a confrontation.


    • Hi Alyssa!

      Yes, here in the Los Angeles area they will, especially if you’re on the phone with the dispatcher while they’re doing it. If the taggers stop and leave before the police get there, but the police see them a block away or something and stop and detain them, the police will need you to identify the taggers. You would be transported to where the suspects are being detained. The officers will drive you in their car and the suspects wouldn’t be able to see you in the police car (the officer doesn’t get that close).

      Graffiti vandalism (or tagging) is another crime where it’s hard to catch the suspects, so if you see the crime in progress, you should definitely call the police. If you’re able to do so, without jeopardizing your safety, keep the suspects in sight and stay on the phone with the dispatcher.


  2. I’ve never been a victim unless you count my house being robbed. However, when I worked in the ER, I saw many victims of crimes-gunshot wounds, stab wounds, rapes and other horrific incidents. Thanks for posting such a timely message.


    • Hi Thorne!

      I think being burglarized is such a personal crime. To think that someone went through belongings without regard to their personal value…I loved catching burglars – whether they were breaking into cars or homes. It’s hard to catch them in the act. Yes, I’m sure that working in an ER you’ve seen a lot of society…just like police officers. In fact, I’m sure you know that cops and hospital staff often date and marry because, in some ways, their work is so similar.

      I specifically wrote A Deadly Justice with burglars in mind.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and chat with me.


  3. Thank you, Ruby. I appreciate you having me.

    Thanks for the kind words about A Deadly Justice. As I wrote the book, there were many times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get it all to work. I’m happy with how it turned out.


  4. I was not witness to a crime but I was to a car accident. Perhaps the crime was that no one would stop to help this man that drove into a telephone pole. I ran to the factory next door but the secuirity guard wouldn’t call the police until he came and saw the accident. I was a teenager at the time so maybe he thought I was up to no good. I think the worst thing someone can so is ignore a crime or someone that needs help. I agree that you can give your best help by phoning the police and letting the professionals take over.


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