I would bet that you– like me– have never heard of the Great Kitty Cat Caper. But you’re about to, and here’s how it all started.
One of the nation’s most decorated ex-cops and a Line of Duty technical advisor, Randy Sutton, told me that 90% of the officers he talks to, and he talks to many of them, tell him their biggest concerns are not what they face on the streets, but rather the fiery hoops from hell they endure from their own chieftains and administrations. What got Randy into a multi-year doghouse himself all began when, as a Sergeant with the Las Vegas Metro PD, he decided to go public with his displeasure over a new sheriff in town.
“For, for seven years. Uh, I was put in what was called the Metro dungeon, which meant that I faced the wrath of the machine. I have no, there’s no reason for me to make up any stories here, but it was open warfare on Randy.”
Ultimately culminating in what?
“I was assigned to a specialized squad. It was a combined FBI Metro task force, and we were doing some serious, good work. We were putting real bad guys in jail. And one of the cases that we were working, uh, we were, we were doing a search warrant on an abandoned house. It was being used by gang members for drug storage and sales of guns. And it was part of a long-term investigation. And so there was nobody in the house when we hit it. Uh, so we got the guns and we got the drugs. And one of my guys yells to me, ‘Randy, come here!’ and he had found a abandoned kitten in the attic. And he said, ‘Randy, what are we going to do with it?’ And I said, well, if we call animal control, they’re going to euthanize it. So we’re not doing that. And I made some phone calls and the Captain’s secretary at my substation said I’ll take the kitten. So I drive the little baby up to the, up to the secretary, deliver the kitten with some milk. And she’s all cuddly with the kitten. You know, this is, uh, I go back and we finished the search warrant, bring all this stuff up and she’s in tears.”
Why? What could have possibly happened in that brief period of time?
“And she says to me, Randy, the captain came out and saw the kitten and asked where the kitten came from. And when I told him he called animal control and Randy, he immediately got on the phone with the sheriff and they’re trying to do you on this one.”
What did that mean, “do you”?
“So, so this later became known as the Great Kitty Cat Caper. And so I called internal affairs and I spoke to the head of internal affairs at the time, told them what I had done. And he did some research. He said, Randy, you haven’t violated any, anything you’re okay. Well, two days later he calls me and says, I got a very interesting phone call from the sheriff. And he says, they want you brought up on charges. Um, and he says, I told them that internal affairs will not be putting its name on the, on, on the charges. He says, he wants you brought up on charges of exceeding the scope of the search warrant because the kitten was not listed in the search bar. And then they assigned a whole bunch of detectives to canvas the neighborhood, to try and find the owner of the kitten and to charge me with theft.”
It’s beginning to sound like “Catch-22″…or a modern-day version of The Twilight Zone.
“And I also happen to have a friend who was in the upper administration, who was giving me information about what was taking place. And then he tells me, he said, Randy, I was just in the most insane meeting I’ve ever been in. He says that it was the, it was the sheriff, it was the entire command staff, it was the district attorney, it was the department lawyer. And he said, guess what? The subject was you and that cat. And he said, they, they were, the, the sheriff was insisting that I be criminally charged. And he said, he told me, he says, the department lawyer just was sitting there listening to everything. And then they were, they were, he said, they were like on the warpath. And then the, the district attorney and the, uh, and the department lawyer said, so let me see if I get this right. You want to arrest one of your highest decorated officers for saving the life of a kitten. If you do that, it’s going to be national news and you’re going to look stupid. And it was only because of that, that I wasn’t criminally charged with the Great Kitty Cat Caper.”
OK, so then what happened?
“But what they did do was they relieved me of my command. They took me and they put me in some assignment and I was literally facing investigation after investigation for, until that sheriff went out of office. So I know full well, what that bullying does. And it literally affected the rest of my career. I didn’t get promotions, I didn’t get assignments. And it was all because I called him out for his leadership style.”
Talk about PTSD?!
“I was under such stress. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress. And it was, I mean, there were times when, when I, I was looking for another job. So it literally affected my, my emotional wellbeing, my mental health, um, certainly my career. Uh, and, and when I later became, you know, involved in police training, uh, I discussed this, this, this exact topic. And, um, uh, and I even wrote several articles about administrative corruption, about policing with honor. Here’s the thing. We all go through our careers. And we will all work for people that some that we like, some that we don’t like, some that we respect. Some that we do not. There’s lessons to be learned from all of those leaders. Okay. I learned the most valuable lessons about my own leadership style from those who I, who I had so much disrespect for because of their leadership style.”
What else do you think your experience in the Great Kitty Cat Caper should tell cops?
“You’ve got to fight. And the only way to fight is by being smarter and document basically what is harassment so that you can, you know, when it comes down to the triers of fact, whether that be an administrative body or later on in court, you can show, okay, you know what, here’s what happened and lay it out. So many of these disciplines have been overturned or, or, you know, completely exonerated. It happens all the time. And mostly it’s because the, the leadership that is causing this issue is so enamored by their own power that they, that they fail to document properly because it isn’t real. That’s the, uh, you got to document, don’t give up, realize that you can outlast them. That nothing is forever. If you have, if you have a union, join it, there is strength in numbers having, uh, you know, access to attorneys through labor is really important.”
So the bottom line is?
“You know, the, the reality is that you have to protect yourself.”
Okay. There is one more burning question. What happened to the kitten? The last we heard the secretary was in tears.
“Well, so as soon as she told me about the kitten and my team, let’s say that we, uh, worked together to do a little jailbreak. We, we liberated the kitten from the kitty jail where it was being held and it was returned to the good home that wanted it.
And that’s the story of the Great Kitty Cat Caper. Have you experienced your own great kitty cat capers? What did you do to maintain and keep it all in focus? What lessons did your great kitty cat capers teach you? By the way, Randy’s website for cops, either on the job or off, who are hurting physically or mentally is www.thewoundedblue.org. It’s amazing. Please check it out. If you know a fellow brother or sister who’s hurting, check it out for him or her, and take advantage of this wonderful gift and be looking for our new training program. Randy Sutton, great cops share their greatest lessons learned. It’s coming out in January, 2021 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meantime, for all your online training needs, In the Line of Duty is still law enforcement’s only producer of reality-based video and online training with our entire library available at your fingertips. Check out the free two week trial, exclusively for law enforcement. Again, it’s lineofduty.com and that’s Stuff You Never Ever Learned at the Academy. I’m Ron Barber. Thanks for bending an ear in our direction! Please tell your fellow officers about our podcast and share the wealth!