We’ve all knocked on doors before.

But now, I’m going to tell you how I knock on doors, and what I’ve learned from doing so.

The first thing I do is pay attention to what I’m seeing when I walk up to a door. There are a lot of clues as to a person’s lifestyle by what’s in front of their domicile. I sniff the air for drug use. Listen for loose dogs. And always, always, look for cameras.

If it’s an apartment on an upper floor, I pay attention to the vibration I might sense, through my feet, from someone walking around, not making themselves known.

Knock, Knock

When I knock on a door I stand to the side, so as not to be shot. My first knock is friendly. My last knock is a “cop knock”.

In between knocks I’m scanning the windows for any movement. Sometimes it’s a reflection in a mirror or even a shadow being thrown against a wall, or floor, or perhaps the blinds. Sometimes the wind or a fan can cause movement, but often it’s a passing person.

A dog barking behind a door can give someone away. If you hear the pitch of a dog’s bark change, it can be the dog looking back and forth over its shoulder at its owner, while barking.

Sometimes, while just posting an eviction order, I will announce “constable making entry”, even if I’m not. Anything to get somebody to open the door.

I once played a “game” with a woman, where I was going back and forth between a door from her garage to the house, and her front door. She tried closing her garage door on me several times. Each time I walked back into the garage the sensor would raise the door up again, just as it was closing on me. Eventually, I lodged a piece of gravel in the garage door sensor so the door would stay up permanently. I figured she would call the police, which she did, whereupon I served a protective order on her.

Sometimes, when I knock on a door people are standing in the window watching me. One time two women called 911 on me, and two police officers, as the owner drilled out the lock. Two additional officers responded, knowing full well that Mesa PD was already there, but they HAD to do that. As it turned out these women were mentally ill.

I’ve knocked on doors which have fallen in because the hinges were broken. Sometimes there are no doors to knock on because they were simply missing.

One time I served an eviction order at the wrong address because it was listed incorrectly on the order. Luckily the resident was home, and his story was believable! I’d simply been given the wrong address.

Twice, I’ve gone to a door to serve an eviction order where a fraud has been perpetrated by the plaintiff. Both defendants were women, and one was deaf. In both cases their stories were so compelling that I stopped the eviction proceedings, only to report back to the judge. In both cases, the judgments were reversed. Come to think of it, that subject would be an interesting blog post!

Sometimes my knock at the door has caused people to run out the back, or jump out windows. And other times they just come out the front door, but in a hurry, and with their eyes downcast.

On one occasion a woman opened her door, only to let the dog out after me!

One time I knocked on a door and a man yelled out that he was in medical distress. I called 911, but we always thought he was faking, trying to avoid being evicted. He was taken via ambulance, just to be on the safe side.

CALL 911!

Sometimes I don’t even have to knock on the door! Recently I was doing an eviction near Robson and Main St. This property had three separate rooming houses. My eviction was in the middle building and had been an ongoing saga. I was walking by the back building when a woman threw the door open, fell on the ground, screaming: “CALL 911!” This was the first emergency response I’d been involved with during the COVID-19 era and was so different from what I’d experienced in the past. She recovered thankfully and was released from the hospital a few days later.

One time I knocked on a door only to hear someone moaning from behind the door. It was unlocked, and when I entered the scene was so horrific that I IMMEDIATELY called 911. When Mesa Fire arrived the commander took one look at this guy and said, “Load him up.” to his crew. This was an ongoing eviction. The guy I was evicting had been released from a detox center in the morning. When I first served the order, earlier in the day, I only met his friend, a woman who seemed super responsible. When I came back to finish the eviction in the afternoon there were two open bottles of vodka, one completely empty. After Mesa Fire took him, I emptied the other vodka bottle in the sink.

We’ve had people in medical distress at my own court. The worst case was when I was waiting to testify at another court. A woman went into medical distress in the vestibule of the courtroom. You just never know, you always have to be on your toes!

There are thousands of stories like these, where I’ve gained critical experience dealing with people in crisis. My life has often depended on me being able to discern, within moments of that door opening, what the situation is. Sometimes it’s not even my safety, but the safety of others that matters. This is especially true of children, or the elderly.

What this has to do with me being a good JP is the hyper-vigilance I’ve gained through my experiences over the years. I’ve learned to pay attention to people, and their circumstances, and that’s what a good JP has to do.

— Ed Malles