Saturday, November 26, 2016

Blood On The Badge

Detective Ron Harris: (Ron Glass) [brings Mayflower, who's dressed in full pimp regalia into the Squad Room] Okay. Come on. Come on. Come on.
Mr. Mayflower: Hey, man, since when is it a crime to come to the defense of a lady and try and protect her honor? Since when?
Detective Ron Harris: When you push her trick out of a second story window.
Mr. Mayflower: Don't tell me chivalry ain't dead

Noting the passing of actor Ron Glass.

No one who has ever been "on the job" will seriously differ with the next sentence... The TV show Barney Miller (1974 to 1982) came closest to how police work actually looks from the inside. Say whatever you will for your own nomination. It's not even debatable.

There was the elder statesman whose over sixty urinary tract needed regular attention. The lovable, and a tad dense, guy with the girlfriend who bakes him a dish of hashish brownies. The Japanese-American cop who, when told "I've never seen a Japanese cop before" replied "Ever been to Tokyo?"

And there was Harris. He'd gone to law school, but instead of pursuing that career he became a cop. He spent much of his down time at his typewriter, working on his novel Blood on the Badge. He hoped it would make him famous. It was his ticket out of the madness, to capture it all on paper for an unbelieving world. He enjoyed modest success but never left the precinct house job.

I know the feeling. In the end, it isn't a way out. It's a way to stay in, to make sense of it all.

Ron Glass played Harris with understated grace. Oh, the man could summon a righteous indignation worthy of any detective on a heart-felt rant. He could shame with a word or phrase, put down with a glance. He was bright, urbane - a thinking man's cop.

Mr. Glass enjoyed a long and distinguished acting career, working regularly until just a few years ago. His were supporting roles, often teachers or lawyers.

Congratulations on your novel, detective.  Rest easy, my brother.

Always a Hero

One gains a visceral understanding of mortal danger the very first time. The patrol car door opens - into the traffic lane - and "boots on the ground" land in lane three. Passing cars, many drivers not only oblivious but annoyed, barely slow to the posted 65, or 75, mph speed limit. They rocket by mere feet away. The only apt analogy is to go to a rifle range, stand on the fifty yard line and have shooters of varying skill levels fire bullets past your head from the hundred.

The men and women of the Colorado State Patrol serve their state in just such an environment every day of the year. Bitter cold, blazing heat, in big cities and open farmland. It can be harsh winter in the mountains and brilliant summer sun in Denver and the same trooper may work both...the same day.

They never flinch. They never falter.

Yesterday, Trooper Cody Donahue was struck by a vehicle on I-25 as he investigated a crash. He had been with CSP for eleven years. He leaves behind two children, countless friends and thousands of brothers and sisters of the blue who mourn his passing.

Law enforcement officers understand that they face peril every time they put on their uniform. Ambushes and snipers garner headlines. But, in truth, death tugs at the elbow of every cop who gets out of the car on an interstate. That Colorado's troopers do it day in, day out because it has to be done...

Fare well, Trooper Donahue. Thank you.

Havana Daydreamin'

There is not Communism or Marxism, but representative democracy and social justice in a well-planned economy. Fidel Castro.

Noting the passing of Cuban strongman Fidel Castro.

We had departed Atlanta on a morning flight to Liberia, Costa Rico. The weather was severe clear, not a cloud in the sky. The aircraft, a Delta Airlines 757-200 in mint condition, skirted Florida's Gulf Coast. Below, Tampa...Ft. Myers...The Keys, all clearly visible. Surely, our flight path would soon alter, with our impending encroach over enigmatic, mysterious Cuba.

Fidel Alejandro Castro Rus cast an enormous shadow over the coming-of-age years for those born in the mid-Fifties. He was a revolutionary, or villain. Dictator, or savior. Man of the people, or criminal opportunist. John Kennedy believed him to be the natural outgrowth of American soft imperialism. He may have been responsible, directly or indirectly, for Kennedy's murder.

Cuba in the 1950s was known as "The Latin Las Vegas," as much for its government's strong ties to organized crime as its casinos, prostitution and drug markets. American companies owned substantial interests in agriculture, ranching and mining, with the US government ensuring that their interests were preserved. Our neighbor to the south was ripe for revolution, ruled as it was by a man who sentenced rebels to death by firing squad while skimming ten percent of his island's gaming profits.

Castro, his brother Raul and Che Guevara fought for years before ultimately taking control. Here, written history diverges into multiple (often mutually exclusive) narratives, depending as much on the sympathies of the authors as on what actually took place.
 
It all seemed surreal at first. Castro was a baseball fan, having pitched during his student years at the University of Havana. He was a supporter and financial backer of the Havana Sugar Kings, who played in the International League against American teams. Prior to a game between the Sugar Kings and the Rochester (NY) Red Wings in Havana, Castro pitched two innings for an exhibition team called Los Barbudos, "The Bearded Ones." The next day, the game ran late and, at midnight, celebratory gunfire broke out (for a national holiday). One of the Red Wing coaches was wounded. The game was cancelled.

 America's negative response toward the Castro government evolved over time. We tried assassination, embargo and invasion. 

So the story goes, Kennedy was being briefed on plans to support combat between Free Cuba forces and Castro. Once the insurgent forces were ashore and gained a toe hold, the US would recognize them as Cuba's legitimate government and move in to assist. During the military presentation, a Marine officer put a transparency onto the overhead projector. The sheet contained a small speck.

"This is Tarawa. In four days of fighting the Marine Corps lost nearly three thousand men." The briefer placed the next clear plastic map over the first. The land mass represented obliterated the tiny dot. "This is Cuba."

Perhaps that story is true. It could be just that...a story, meant to make a point. The invasion into the ironically-named Bay of Pigs collapsed. Several years later, with the Soviet Union now a major ally, Castro allowed (or encouraged) nuclear missiles to be positioned within his shores. Che later said he would have used them, several million casualties being the price necessary to ensure the revolution. Cooler heads prevailed, the weapons were removed and the world moved back from the brink of annihilation.

In 1963 a former Marine, defector to the Soviet Union and Pro-Castro sympathizer with a penchant for aliases named Lee Oswald murdered President Kennedy from the window of a warehouse in Dallas. Bizarre and tortured an articulation as that might seem, in the tumultuous 60's it was an important, and profound, turning point.

America's dyspepsia and fascination with Cuba, and Castro, survived years of hostility, mutual distrust and, sometimes, open warfare. There were provocations and pronouncements. Refugees floated across the 90 mile strait, escaping Castro's tyranny and arriving aboard everything that would float (literally, including rudimentary rafts). Many died in the attempt.

Until very recently there was never a rapprochement with Castro and his government. America had made peace with many previously bitter enemies. In the years when American law prohibited tourists from visits to Cuba, one could easily travel to Vietnam, Moscow or Peking. Thus, when our airliner flew over Havana I was astonished, and then embarrassed. And enchanted. Later, on a cruise ship balcony, my wife and I drank wine and watched the lights of the forbidden island on the not-especially distant horizon. Someday, we mused.

So, Castro is dead. He was a thug, a dictator...a man who wrested control of his island from many of the worst manifestations of capitalists only to bind it to another of humankind's economic wastelands. No one who remembers the early 1960s will forget that, once, the entire world hung on his every word.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Phone Rang

I had arrived at my parent's condo only hours before. Dad had passed away, it was time to say good bye. My phone rang in the middle of the night.

"I'm in the hospital," daughter Katy said. "I may lose the baby. I may not make it."

The baby. At week twenty-eight, he had a name already. His room was almost fully decorated. There were plans for this couple to welcome him, love him and watch him grow into a man.

But, I'll let her tell it. She is gifted, and will make you laugh and cry. It's a tender story of a family that refused to give up, refused to feel sorry for themselves and, in the end, got to welcome a new little life to this world.

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Both Fish and Foul, Continued

“Predators did not need mercy.”
Conn Iggulden 


Yesterday, we reviewed the reasons a city might be circumspect about assisting with The Soon-To-Be Trump Administration's plan to begin deporting undocumented immigrants who have criminal records. We discussed the very real issue of chilling legitimate calls for police service by someone who is both undocumented and the victim of a criminal act. Law enforcement's commitment to them is real, hard to develop and fragile. Still, we are responsible for finding a way in.

Tonight, one of the corollaries to our desire to professionally police these communities. It is a basic tenet of community policing, an undeniable truth, that one of the best ways to partner with a neighborhood and decrease crime is to arrest and jail the people committing illegal acts. Among the best indicators that a person will commit crimes is that the are committing crimes.

One need only look at the Kate Steinle case from California for an example of how it is done wrong. The man who shot her in the back with a .40 caliber handgun had been deported five times, had seven felony convictions and was on an ICE detainer. He was released from jail because he was in a sanctuary city that did not honor the ICE detainer. The weapon used had been stolen from a federal officer's vehicle days before. Among the harshest critics of local officials at the time this occurred was Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein. 

Unfortunately, a federal law increasing the prison sentences for assholes like this is still - a year later - tied up in petty partisan bickering in Washington.

Government has a duty to protect its citizens. Is it any wonder that a candidate for president who says a man like the one cited above ought to be deported, or face lengthy imprisonment when he refuses to stay deported gains a measure of support from citizens - and non-citizens - who are tired of their daughter's last words being "Help, Daddy" after she's been shot?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Both Fish and Foul

Red Herring - "something, especially a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting." Wiki.

Sanctuary city -  "A sanctuary city is a city in the United States or Canada that has adopted a policy of protecting illegal immigrants by not prosecuting them solely for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are now illegally living." Wiki.

Chicago mayor Rahm ("Never let a good crisis go to waste") Emanuel has announced that his city, regardless of the change in administration in Washington, will continue to be...and always will be...a sanctuary city. As such, they will not assist with President-elect Trump's intention to deport undocumented who have arrest records. Locally, Denver and Aurora have followed suit.

Immigration reform has been examined here. If you decide to click on this link, please read the Karen Sorenson short story included. There is nothing easy about the situation in which we (as a nation) find ourselves.

A country has every right to regulate who enters and remains within their borders. Their laws also determine what happens when someone violates those laws. Simple?

Hardly. The Federal government (See, Arizona v. United States [2012]) has exclusive jurisdiction over immigration law, and the enforcement of same. Plainly, ICE doesn't need Mayor Emanuel's permission to enter Chicago and detain persons illegally within the United States. Nor do they need the good mayor's input on how priorities are arranged regarding who is at the front of the "knock-and-talk" line.

Additionally, federal agents have access to all of the same data bases local cops do. And then some. I've arrested people in the past, only to receive a call from our friends at the FBI - "Why are you contacting him?" before I'd gotten to the station.

Finally, the "Immigration reform" engaged in by the outgoing administration was done by executive order. Like it or not (I express no opinion here) the next president can take that shit, or leave it. Deporting citizens of other countries who are here in violation of immigration laws, and who have criminal histories (See, eg Kate Steinle's murder) is reasonable, rational and justifiable.

So... WTF?!

I know, right? Here's the thing. If there are three million individuals illegally in the US who have criminal histories, that means there are close to ten million living mostly under the radar. You know those folks working their asses off, paying taxes (and social security), raising their kids to be decent and hoping to be left alone? Guess what.

When someone assaults them, rapes them or steals from them, you know what they do

Nothing. They suck it up because they are afraid to call the police. They are afraid of being deported by the officer who shows up to help them. They are easy prey to gang members, petty thieves and every other asshole looking to victimize vulnerable populations.

Getting into their communities is hard work. Gaining their trust takes years. It is painstaking, one individual at a time grunt-level law enforcement. Announcing a round up can screw up years of work.

Emanuel is a politician, playing a politician's game. His career doesn't matter to most cops.

The people we serve do.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Peacable Assembly

Circa August 2008, Pepsi Center. Denver, Colorado

The motives of protesters, despite shouted invectives and artfully-phrased signs, is sometimes hard to discern. Come with me...

I was one of two supervisors responsible for first floor security in the Pepsi Center during the Democratic National Convention. When trouble started, I usually made my way there, if only to have an idea of what we might have to do in response.

The mob had formed somewhere else, and materialized at the gate separating "The Venue" from the rest of Denver. A tall fence ringing the building ran along the north edge of Auraria Parkway, with breaks every so often where the magnetometers were. By the time I got there, protesters were shouting, rattling the small barricades set about (bike racks, actually) and putting on their best mad-as-hell faces. This was the "Recreate '68" crowd. Officers of my police department (including SWAT), Denver and Colorado Springs faced off.

I was alive in '68. I remember the riots in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. There was teargas, there were clubs. Blood was spilled, skulls were cracked and a very messy scene showed the world our shit wasn't entirely together. What were they protesting?

Our involvement in the Vietnam war. America had gotten herself embroiled in a mess. In an awful expression of "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" we were trying to support democracy, limit the expansion of communism and end aggression in South Vietnam. For all of the heroism, sacrifice and battlefield skill of our fighters, things seemed to be going backward, even as several hundred Americans (and a tragic number of Vietnamese civilians) perished every week. The outgoing president in charge was a Democrat. Fair enough.

What puzzled me, standing on the calm side of the Mag Stand, was...

The War against Terrorism, begun with popular support and swiftly fought, had evolved into something akin to Vietnam. Americans died, disagreements evolved over tactics and strategery, and we seemed to be going in circles.

But... A largely unpopular Republican president had overseen the operation. The Democrats were poised to nominate a black candidate who was wildly fawned over and expected to win big. The whole Party had every chance of taking over come 2009. What the frick?

Among other things, it was a social event. Oh, there were the violent assholes who will descend at any such event and use it as an excuse (or cover) to attempt mayhem. There were the anarchists, who apparently believe that any government is morally bankrupt - sort of the "You're-Not-The-Boss-Of-Me" party. Sprinkled among the throng were folks who were truly protesting a government that fed itself first, regardless of party (eight years later, I'll bet they voted for you-know-who).

I was watching a happening, a group of people caught up in the emotion of a mass event and reacting for reasons defying the rational. Years later they would reminisce, ensconced in a booth at the club, drinking a boutique cocktail and getting ready to return to their law firm, about that wonderful day they were eyeball-to-eyeball with The Man. Good times.

Wait...

Maybe,this is an extrovert issue!