Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cold, Hard Facts

"Winter has me in its grip. I think I'll take a summer trip on a sunny sailing ship, where the shells lie in the sand." Don McLean, Winter Has Me In Its Grip, 1974.

We had them surrounded.

The sun had not yet peeked above the horizon. The thermometer in the police car hung at five degrees - before the operation concluded morning had broken and we'd gotten all the way to seven degrees. At one point (I had command) my Safety officer said "You look cold. Sit in your car for five minutes."

Me: "I'm fine."
Her: "I'm Safety, right?"
Me: "And?"
Her: "Go sit in your car."

Who's up for a recitation of ICS principles? That would be awesome, huh? Next, a discussion of the rule against perpetuities! But, I digress.

She'd given me an order. The five minutes in the car was wonderful. Eventually we attracted the attention of those inside the apartment (bullhorns are magic) and were able to resolve the situation safely. All it took was about a dozen cops, at least half of whom had begun work eleven and a half hours before. We stood in the orange sunrise (which was amazingly restorative) and debriefed. One of the cops said "It was awfully fucking cold. The only thing worse would be if it was snowing."

The next day, it was. Man with a gun, family inside texting for help.... Blah, blah, blah. Ten degrees, with snow falling in huge flakes. On the way, I hear an officer assume command pending my arrival (awesome!). Elsewhere, two other operations unfolded. I had all of the resources I was going to get. A talented, capable SWAT operator, an irreplaceable go-to cop, forms up a react team. Around him is a mixture of experience (and inexperience). The members have one consistent attribute - they are willing to undertake whatever mission is assigned, including assaulting the house if shooting starts.

It is ten degrees out. We are all standing in the foot of snow that fell several days before. The new storm reduces visibility to mere blocks and quickly covers the helmets of the officers rallying to move forward. Suddenly, the suspect calls and speaks with us. The contact group rushes toward the structure, briefing a plan as they go. A peaceful surrender ensues. The only casualty is an extension cord.

I recall the words of a German General from Band of Brothers - "Men, it's been a long war, it's been a tough war. You have fought bravely, proudly for your country." This has been a long, tough year for law enforcement. We have seen a fifty-plus percent increase in officer murders. Ambushes have increased, including some asshole with a rifle sniping two of our finest (thankfully, both survived). Individuals, for their own aggrandizement, twist or ignore facts to craft a fictional narrative that has turned some members of our society against us, and emboldened others to homicidal mania. Even those traditionally respectful of police practices have questioned our use of safety equipment and tried to deny us the tools we need to be successful.
No, this isn't me.

Yet, the men and women of the Thin Blue Line, each of whom has sworn an oath to serve, still rush toward trouble. In the two operations mentioned above the officers responded quickly, competently. Each wanted to help, was willing to see the incident to its conclusion despite severe weather and the possibility of mortal danger. I am deeply humbled to call them friends; they are brothers and sisters in arms. It has been a difficult year, but we saw it through together.

The cold, hard fact is that the men and women of law enforcement continue to provide professional police service no matter what is said to the contrary. No matter what else is happening.

Happy New Year, brothers and sisters. Stay safe.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twelve O'Clock High

Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.

Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup answered a phone and forgot, for a moment, that he was important. Transposed numbers in a Sears ad led children to call a predecessor to NORAD - America's nuclear muscle - believing it was a number to Santa Claus. Colonel Shoup detailed military members to answer the phone "in character" until the mistake was rectified. From that grew the tradition, now almost 60 years old, of NORAD "tracking" Santa. Even First Lady Michelle Obama has participated.

If the definition of leadership is competence, character and caring - it is also the ability to demonstrate humanity when strict adherence to rules would be safer. Colonel Shoup passed away in 2009, but his small contribution to Christmas - and the principles of leadership - lives on.

Fair winds and following seas, Colonel. Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 22, 2014

On Track

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.” 
― John F. Kennedy

I was in full introvert, boarding the jet in Baltimore.

The night before, I'd stayed up late watching Grandson Graham. We sang at the piano, shot hoops, and ate PB&Js. At about 8:45 PM he announced "time for a nap" and headed for bed. His dad arrived home from the hospital (Special Delivery) after nine and I ran off to bed. The shuttle would arrive at 4:15 AM the next morning for the flight home.

I'd snagged an exit row window seat and unlimbered the tools of my trade - eye mask, noise-cancelling headphones...everything a self-respecting introvert operating on 6 hours of sleep needs. I'd be asleep before we hit ten thousand feet. Then he sat next to me.

The eighteen or ninteen year old wore a dark blue blazer, matching slacks and brightly-shined shoes. A white hat perched on his bulky carry-on. He turned, cheery smile, rosy cheeks and dimples.

"Headed home for Christmas Break?" I asked noncommittally.

"Yes, sir," he replied. "I haven't been home in six months."

He fit uncomfortably into the middle seat, broad shoulders extending well over into my space. At about six three he jackknifed long legs into the thankfully bigger space between him and the seat ahead. In order to accommodate him I offered first to trade seats, and then resigned myself to leaning against the bulkhead for the four hour trip. I'd soon be asleep anyway.

Beside the young man the other passenger said "West Point?"

Seriously?! The anchor insignia on his collar should have been a dead giveaway. This was a Navy uniform, our row mate a midshipman attending the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He chuckled, gently correcting with a "Naval Academy, sir."

He was a plebe, a first year. Over the next four hours this delightful, impressive soon-to-be officer chatted nearly non-stop about Academy life, the journey that brought him to Annapolis ("My dad is my hero. I'm trying to make him proud") and his hopes for the future. He wants to be a pilot, he said. He reinforced the point by exclaiming "Awesome, I love that part" as we broke above the clouds into bright sunshine. He is a track man, working out three hours a day preparing to compete in decathlon. Me - "When do you sleep?" Him - "On weekends."

I asked if he had been to the recent Army-Navy game, a bucket list item for me. "We're required attend all Navy home games." "In effect you have season tickets?" I suggested.

"I never thought of it that way, but...yeah. That's a nice perk." He giggled. Yes, that's what he did.

Academy life was rough to begin with, but he had settled in. He was supposed to wear his uniform on the plane out of Baltimore, but could change during his Denver layover. "I want to get off at home in uniform, though," he said. "My parents will appreciate it."

"What do you do, if you don't mind my asking?" he asked. When I told him, he said "Thank you for your service." I returned the comment, and he replied "I haven't done anything."

Really?

When a young man or woman begins their military career, they swear an oath to support, protect and defend. Everyone knows that, unspoken in that oath, the military member is accepting that he or she may have to give their lives. They step forward anyway. "Pick me, I'll go." That isn't nothing. Having men and women be willing to guard our freedom with their lives - that's everything.

This impressive young man shook my hand as we deplaned and wished me safe travels.

I pray to God he is afforded the same.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Special Delivery

This is the second of three blogs from my trip to Baltimore.

"Graffney?"

The woman in a hospital uniform, pushing the mail cart, had said...mangled, actually...my daughter's last name. She stood in the doorway of the Birthing Center waiting room, pleasant smile inviting a look.

At the mail cart?

I was awaiting word on daughter Katy's c-section. It was supposed to begin around 9 AM, and take about an hour. Now past 11, the anxiety level had increased several fold. What was going on? No one knew.

"Do you want to see the baby?"

Why was my new granddaughter being wheeled around the hallway...wrapped in a blanket, little tuke covering her head. A button nose poked out, lips pursing. From time to time her mouth opened, a tiny little protestation emanating. She was fifteen minutes old, on the way to be weighed and....

Wait just a minute. You are walking her around in the hallway wrapped in a blanket? Where is the cover? Where is the hermetic seal? You're.... Like she's a normal person?!

In fact, Greta James Gaffney, five pounds nine ounces, born 12/18/2014 at 1109 hrs at the University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore, daughter of Steve and Katy, was entirely, unremarkably, amazingly normal. There was no need to treat her any differently than any other healthy newborn. I burst into tears. Her mom had done the heavy lifting, endured enforced bed rest (more like confinement), had made the sacrifices necessary to give Greta the best chance at a good start. Mission most definitely accomplished.

She went home today, a tiny little person at the very beginning of her life. She passed the "car seat test" on the second try, met her big brother and took up residence in the Baltimore suburb Perry Hall.

A very special delivery.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cowards

I pause for just a moment before my second trip blog. 

Hey you! Yeah, you. You know who you are.

When the grand jury in Missouri returned its no bill you ran for the closest microphone. You questioned the decision and, in high dudgeon, suggested that there would be consequences. Did you do this because justice demanded it, because you knew the evidence pointed in the opposite direction? Of course not. You did it for you. Only for you.

When the grand jury in New York did not indict, you found a TV camera into which to rant. There would be repercussions, you bleated. Despite knowing none of the facts and little about law enforcement (which, frankly, would dilute your indignation) you demanded.... Something.

Today you got it. Two NYPD officers sitting in their car were ambushed and murdered. Instead of praying for peace, you demanded vengeance. Instead of pleading for cooler heads, you incited anger. Instead of praying for strength and understanding you plumbed the depths of baseless hostility. You branded police officers as a class of citizen unworthy of the legal protections afforded everyone else, preferring to stoke the fires of hatred for your own aggrandizement.

Tomorrow, should you need police officers to help you...we will. Not because you are worthy.

Because we are strong.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bethsquire

The last four days - basically a weekend - has involved a cornucopia of achievement, emotion and tears. None of the acheivement was mine; all of it the product of tenacity, perseverance and guts on the part of our daughters. I offer the next blogs in order of their occurrence, so as not to advance, or minimize, any one moment.

Law school has been described as - a place for intellectuals who can't stand the sight of blood (or else they'd be MDs, not JDs), and an institution where they scare you to death (first year), work you to death (second year) and then bore you to death...until you graduate. Becoming a doctor of jurisprudence is a considerable achievement that is only a beginning.

Passing the bar exam takes hard work, focus and a single mindedness rivalling anything NASA can achieve. If a candidate panics failure isn't just an option, it's a certainty. Remain calm and the necessary feeling of phobic competitiveness vanishes. The fine middle ground is indescribable, except to lawyers.

Beth Mason presented herself two days ago in the august chambers of the Maryland Court of Appeals, to be sworn in as an attorney, and counselor at law. There was the usual harangue from bench and podium - the polysyllabic versions of "Don't fuck this up" presented by an attorney with cachet, and an old justice who'd seen it all.

Friends and family sat in prideful audience, smartphones and tablets extended. Amidst an abundance of Millers, our new lawyer stood, said her name aloud, and was sworn in as a member of the historic Maryland Bar.

I am going to, for once, allow my native arrogance out for a romp. Only lawyers understand the sacrifice, the deprivation, the difficulty and the awesome responsibility raising the right hand means. If a human being's freedom is granted by the Creator, it is safeguarded, defended and nurtured at the bar by lawyers. The men and women standing in the courtroom accepted more than just a title.

They hold in their hands the challenge of making a free society work.

That our daughter has accepted that challenge - is worthy of it - is a profound achievement that reflects not just her amazing intellect, or her single mindedness. It is her compassion calling out.

Congratulations, Beth Mason, esquire.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Going Somewhere?

"An MRAP isn't a military weapon. An MRAP is a truck that stops bullets." A friend.


Get in close, convince the bad guy of the futility of his actions and then be patient. A winning formula. Four kids safe, homicide suspect takes three steps and he's planted...er, assisted to the pavement.

That's what all of that equipment, training and discipline buys. You don't like the optics?

Sorry. I like the optics of four safe kids just fine.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait

Police spouses and partners - they are a diverse group. They are used to things commonly outside of the experiences of other spouses. While everyone else celebrates Christmas they sit at home, often with little ones around them, while Dad...or Mom...works. It is an intertwined profession, so that the gruesome injuries to a bike cop in Denver reverberates among those whose "cop" patrols their city on two wheels. The travails of Ferguson and Staten Island are not lost on them. Please join me in thanking my wife Pat for her insights into this closed world.

Cop Arrested Oval Decal  The last few days have been tough. My husband and son are cops; I have many friends who are cops, and I worked in 2 different police departments (not as a cop). The tirade from the press has been difficult because my experience has not contained racist cops. Any cop who was rude, racist, or heavy-handed was politely, or firmly left go. As the wife and Mom of a cop, I have experienced having my loved ones deal with shift work (what day are we celebrating Christmas, Thanksgiving... plus the sleep deprivation), emotional and physical stress, and second-guessing decisions they made in a nanosecond. It is a challenging job in a system where it is hard to know what the community they serve will accept, and what is taken today may change overnight. Courts may decide 10 years or more after the incident that the decision made in the nanosecond was not reasonable, even if it was a standard practice or was included in their training. There is unbelievable stress connected with providing safety in our communities, not only to the men and women who provide it daily, but also to their friends and family who support them.

Should there be some system-wide changes? There is always room to provide better service to the community, be clearer about boundaries, or be better partnerships. These types of changes take communication, understanding, conflict resolution, and time - not vilification. My hope is for productive and authentic partnerships between the community members and those men and women protect them. Let us begin those conversations. 

Distinguished, Everyone

Please welcome Amy Shoemaker, principal at Amy Shoemaker Partnerships. Amy has a quarter century of experience in Business, in the highest levels of HR and executive coaching. Her blog - "Lead Forward" - is an advanced course in all things leadership. The "Distinguished Clown Brigade" is a collection of leaders in Denver who don gaudy outfits, face paint and often brave plummeting temperatures to raise money, enjoy the company of the like-minded and give a little bit back to our community. 
You would not expect a middle-age, middle-class, executive to be a clown. It doesn't seem like an “executive” or “middle” thing to do. Yet I have relished the experience several times in community parades. For one evening a year, I have the opportunity to be someone else and interact with my community in a completely different way. As a Human Resource Executive, my passion has been to hire and develop a diverse workforce. I've redesigned recruitment and promotion strategies to attract a more diverse candidate pool and won Business Diversity Awards from The Urban League of Wichita and the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ).
2012 Parade of Lights Group Photo 50 by 50Yet I have the stigma of being a professional white woman. I have read the studies that professional white women tend to hold their purses tighter or move them to the other side of their bodies when a minority man approaches. I am ashamed to admit that I have modeled this behavior. So I tried an experiment, instead of moving my purse, I look teenage boys or gentlemen in the eye, smile, and say “hi”. Not everyone responds, some look away and pretend not to hear me; however many smile and say “hi” back. My experience has been positive or neutral; it is never negative.
So with this perspective, I transform into a clown. Our parade audience includes all races, genders, ages, disabilities, socio-economic status, and experience. We “high-5” the kids in the crowd and people smile, wave and laugh. A 4 year old girl holds her arms out and announces “I want a hug!” I knelt down to her level and held out my arms, expecting her to change her mind once she saw me at her level. She ran into my arms and gave me a big hug as cell phone cameras flashed. I danced with a couple of teenagers, whose friends exclaimed “How cool! You got to dance with a clown!” I held hands, smiled, and looked into the eyes of people with a variety of disabilities and really saw and honored them as people. It was so fun to interact with people in a way that I seldom could as myself. As myself, the teenagers would have said “Ugh, that creepy old lady tried to dance with you” and the mom would have yelled “What are you doing?” if I tried to hug her child instead of smiling and mouthing “Thank You.” How often do you get to spread so much joy to so many people in such a short time frame? Did I mention that the 4 year old girl and her mom are African American, the dancing teenagers are Hispanic and Caucasian, and the 3rd grade girls who asked what it was like to be a clown are American Indian? Does it matter?
I got to glimpse at a world that celebrated inclusion and for a few hours, no one cared about my age, gender, the color of my skin, or how much money I made. They enjoyed a fun evening with their family and laughed at the joy of a silly clown.
I have been wondering; what changes would occur in our community if we judged people by their positive intent and the joy they bring into our life?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cute As a Bug

Please welcome my friend, coworker and fellow author John Hinterreiter. His book, Hugs for Bugs, is simply one of the best children's books I've seen in years. As he pointed out recently, Christmas is approaching....

Earlier this year I wrote, illustrated, and self published a children's book titled "Hugs For Bugs." Many of you have shown generous support for this book and I appreciate your kind words. For those of you who are finding out about this for the first time... meet your child's new favorite book.

With the holiday season rapidly approaching I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to purchase an author autographed hardcover copy for you to round out your own personal library, or give as a gift for a child who will surely love you for it.  Be warned... your child may ask you to read this book to them every night before bed.  There is a hardcover copy of the book in my mail box and another one in the roll-call room, please feel free to peruse those puppies at your leisure and then return them.

The book is currently listed for retail at $23.95, which I believe is high for an unknown author. Prices are set by the publishing company which I have no control over. If you are interested there are a few cheaper ways to get your hands on a book.

-For $20.00, I will hand deliver a signed hardcover copy to you, and sign it to any person of your choosing.
-If you would prefer to purchase a copy online please visit www.outskirtspress.com/hugsforbugsbook. This page contains links to the books purchase pages on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. There is also an e-book in PDF format available for only $5.00.  The book is available in hardcover format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores for $21.56 plus shipping.

However the book is purchased, I would be happy to sign and personalize it with a dedication to any person of your choosing if you wish. If you are interested in ordering a copy form me, just reply to this e-mail with your name, the number of copies you want, and the name of the person who you want each book signed to.  I will order the books and you can pay me on delivery.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

May I See Your License?

You don't ever want to go out there and not be the best. You want to be the best cop that you can. Be the best writer you can be. Everybody has their goals. Everybody has their dreams.


I was a fit twenty-something, all of five six and maybe one fifty. He was over six feet tall, and hit two hundred with only one foot on the scale. Paramedics were examining both of us in the booking area of our police station, to ensure that the injuries we'd both sustained didn't require a trip to the ER. I called my wife at her work to explain that - yes, the news was reporting that a police officer had been injured. Yes, it was me. No, I wasn't hurt badly.

Wanted felon? Gang fight? Hardly.

I'd stopped him for a most mundane traffic violation - his inspection sticker had expired. Of course, the inspection law in Colorado was set to expire itself, replaced with an auto emissions test. I was "prospecting," using a lawful stop for a minor violation to see if I could find anything else. He pulled into his driveway, offered the always pleasant "deuce" and went into his house. 

His mom came out and said I'd frightened him. "He lost his drivers license," she said. 

"Is it suspended?" I ask.

"No, he just lost it."

About that time, junior emerges from the house and retrieves his six pack of beer from the car. I tug at his sleeve, explaining that I can always--

He hits me in the chest with the Buds.

Game on. In the course of the next two minutes I am knocked to my knees twice. We destroy several pictures sitting on a piano, (playing a couple tunes on the way by) and basically lay waste to the poor woman's living room. It is pre-portable days so I'm on my own. It wasn't the smartest move, but now I'm in it to win it. 

He isn't exactly fighting. He's resisting arrest. From afar it would look like I was attacking him, because I am. I'm trying - desperately - to overcome his resistance with just enough force to get him under control. That's what the law says I can do, that's what the citizens of my community expect me to do. It isn't personal. I can use reasonable force to effect an arrest. What is reasonable?

My partner, who'd worked for Houston PD, arrives after what seems hours. He steps into the fray and his revolver falls out of his holster. Awesome. If this monster makes a move for the gun, I'm going to shoot him. No question. But wait....

We throw him head first into the brick mantle of the fireplace. That stuns him for a moment, enough for us to cuff him.

All of this because he misplaced his driver's license.

He was on parole for a robbery he'd committed in Ft. Collins. At the prelim (injuring a police officer is a felony) his attorney asked me why I had used force in a situation involving an inspection sticker. The judge, known for both his laconic manner and his tendency to side with the defendant, didn't allow me to answer.

"I understand why the officer did what he did. Why don't you?"

The young man ended up pleading to a misdemeanor. He returned to prison to finish his robbery sentence.

Use of force by police is almost always a response not to attack, but to resistance. We are directed by our communities to arrest people when it is an appropriate response to an alleged criminal act. It is in their names, as their governmental agents, that we take action. When someone resists, they are in effect denying that society has a right to lawfully arrest them, that there are any limits to their liberty interests. Plainly, no society can tolerate that. Collectively, "The People" have the right to make laws and compel adherence to them.

The recent Staten Island case (about which I offer no opinion here) is an example of how police-citizen encounters can begin with a petty accusation, and how tragically they can end. Luckily for me this fight over an inspection sticker ended with a few bumps and bruises. I had a big lump on my head - the Chief was nice enough to tell me I didn't have to wear my hat for the rest of the day.

It wasn't the smartest thing I ever did, but at that point in my career it was my best. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gig - UPDATED

"DENVER — Four Denver Police officers were hit by a car while escorting students from East High School who walked out of class Wednesday morning." Fox31 News.

UPDATE: Out of surgery, still critical but stable. Obviously a long way to go, but this news beats almost all of the alternatives.

The students were protesting the recent decision of a grand jury not to indict a Ferguson officer for defending himself from attack. The officers had deployed to ensure the safety of the students as the peaceful protest moved along busy Colfax Ave. One officer was critically injured, having been run over and dragged almost a hundred feet.
Officer John Adsit

Bike copping can be a difficult business. Aside from the inherent danger of riding a bicycle, most urban police cycling is done in densely-populated areas full of vehicles, people and distractions. Proximity with traffic, especially in situations like this protest where the bikes are extremely valuable, creates a recipe for conflict, with the officer always at a disadvantage.

Denver's 16th Street Mall bike cops are an interesting group. They have a dizzying array of citizens within their area, from downtown business types to homeless street people. They patrol in about every kind of weather - a picture a friend (who is a DPD officer) sent last winter showed the bike unit riding in snow that would send most of the rest of us indoors. In the summer, local temperatures of one hundred or more degrees are not uncommon, with pavement temps even higher. Yet.... I'll bet they don't worry about attracting new officers to what is assuredly a fabulous job.

As I write this the available info is encouraging. Local stations say that early reports about the officer are promising. Let's hope that keeps being the case.

Let's also reflect on a couple of things. First, the young men and women who participated in the march did so peacefully. 

Second, the Denver Police Department's relationship with their community is such that a rally protesting a Ferguson police officer's conduct happens as DPD provides traffic control and an escort. The only injuries that resulted were due to a traffic accident unrelated to the protest. 

We protect, we serve and sometimes we get hurt doing it. In the meantime a group of young men and women get to march, and holler that one of our brother officers should be imprisoned for defending himself from a potentially deadly attack. Ironic, huh?

That's the gig.






Sunday, November 30, 2014

Facing the Bear Paw

I post the following because I am a writer, supporting another writer. Bear Paw is a man to be recconned with. Like his writing, put off by it....

Here you go, Mr. Bear Paw.

http://ramblingmoustache.blogspot.com/2014/11/bearpaw.html

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Matter of Definition


Unarmed?
  • Authorities said 43-year-old James Clark, an MRI technician at Southern Tier Imaging, struggled with Smith before grabbing the officer's gun and firing at him. Smith, an 18-year veteran of the force, was hit three times and died at the scene.
  • A Navy news release Tuesday said the man approached the USS Mahan late Monday night at Naval Station Norfolk and was confronted by ship security personnel. The Navy said a struggle occurred, and the civilian disarmed the petty officer, and used the weapon to fatally shoot a sailor. The news release added that Navy security forces then killed the suspect.
  • Two Metro-Dade police officers wearing bulletproof vests were disarmed and killed Monday by a man who shot them in the head, apparently with their own weapons. Less than two hours later, police arrested a suspect in the shooting. He was identified as Charles Harry Street, 34, of Boynton Beach, who was released from prison 10 days earlier after serving eight years of a 15-year sentence for attempted first-degree murder.
This is not an exclusively American phenomenon. 

  • Three police officers and a suspect have died in two shooting incidents in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) on Friday and Saturday. One police officer was shot dead and two others were critically wounded by a suspect inside the Pinetown Police station west of Durban. The three police officers were busy charging the suspect, when he apparently disarmed one and opened fire. Meanwhile at Dududu on the South Coast an officer went to the home of a female colleague and shot her before turning the gun on himself.
Gun retention. Officers all over the world train to prevent suspects from disarming them. There are several techniques, none of which are any fun. One, a most effective method, involves reaching for a back up weapon and shooting the assailant at ultra close range.

"But the person was unarmed."

Deputy Sheriff Samuel Kent Brownlee | Weld County Sheriff's Office, ColoradoNo, they weren't. They were making a violent, concerted, often sustained effort to arm themselves by taking a firearm from the officer. The struggle sometimes is a fistfight. Sometimes, a brawl. It is always a fight for survival.

Sam Brownlee was a Weld County deputy who attempted to apprehend a domestic violence suspect who'd fled in a car. He, and others, got the vehicle stopped. The attempt to arrest the guy went badly. Deputy Brownlee was disarmed and murdered. Right up to the moment the suspect obtained Deputy Brownlee's service weapon the guy was....

Unarmed. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Glowing Hearts

My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent.

I've written before about my admiration for the "Great White North." They came to our aid, publicly, in the first moments after the aircraft struck the Twin Towers in New York. Canadian men and women have stood shoulder to shoulder with our troops in conflicts all over the world. 

So it was no surprise to see this:



The True North, strong and free.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Exposure

"Darling, I don't know why I go to extremes.
Too high or too low, there ain't no in betweens." I Go To Extremes, Billy Joel, Storm Front (1989).

In the process of researching my soon-to-be-released novel The Heart of the Matter, I talked my way into a ride along with the Collier County Sheriff's Department in sunny Florida. They surround Gulf-side Naples, and extend into the scrub of Everglade country to bump up against Broward County. I arrived on time at the North Naples substation, and met "Skinny Vinnie," a corporal. He was tall and stout, a native of Long Island who had come to Florida after military service. He was talkative, proud of his organization and the kind of aggressive cop I'd love to have on my team. He drove with abandon to a nothing call (a deputy taking a routine report wasn't answering her radio) and, when I asked why, Vinnie replied stoically "In the next county over they lost three people last year. We take nothing for granted."

Of course, the subject of weather came up in the five hours I spent with him. February in Naples is soft and sweet. The sea breeze offsets Florida's bright sunshine, so that 70's and 80's are not uncommon. Naturally, the summer heat can be daunting.

"I'll bet you guys don't do much traffic direction when it's ninety-five degrees," he observed.

My reply - "Not often" - was more polite than accurate.

Several summers ago, four hours into bike patrol, my usual partner and I decided to stop at the substation to cool off and refill our water bottles. She made the mistake (or exhibited the good sense) of looking at the weather app on her iPhone. "Hey, this says it's a hundred degrees!" Change of plans. We got back into our cars. Our air conditioned cars.

In December of that year, working day watch, I rolled up to a call. I glanced at the car thermometer to see if I needed a hat - it was a brilliantly sunny Colorado mid-day. "-2" it displayed. Yes, I would need a hat. But I was lucky. The night shift cops had worked in seventeen below conditions the night before. It had snowed, those tiny flakes that appear when it's seems the air itself has frozen.

I was a brand new officer in the early Eighties when I was "voluntold" to direct traffic in the middle of a storm at a busy intersection. An early fall blizzard had brought down tree branches, cutting power to much of the community. It was snowing so hard that I could not see even one block. Steady dabs of thirty three degree droplets ran down the back of my neck and under my vest. Twenty degrees, snowing sideways and I'm soaked, cold and miserable. After two hours I was relieved by someone else.

A few days later I was taking a report near the same intersection. The victim of the minor crime observed that the day was nicer than had been those previous. "Some poor guy stood in that intersection for hours, directing traffic," he said. "I felt bad for him. I almost brought him out a cup of coffee." Nice.

"The weather in Denver tends to be beautiful," I told Vinnie. "At least we don't have your humidity."

No reason to go to extremes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Treasured Trash

"Union Steel Chest moved from Rochester NY to LeRoy in 1932. Operation of the company began in 1893 with the manufacture of drafting tables, and later machinists tool chests and specialty cabinets. The manufacture of light formed metal tool and utility chests began in the 1920s." MC, Collector's Weekly

There is nothing like a little garage envy to become motivated. We recently visited friends, who have put a lot of time, attention and money into making this oft-neglected space gleam. Upon returning home, our pet sitter/house cleaner had gotten a start on our...uh hem...mess.

With a weekend to kill (I'd post the pictures of my wife's business trip to San Diego, but I'm still in therapy) I undertook the chore of chores. I bought a big tool chest, a work bench and started throwing, cleaning, organizing. Tucked onto a forgotten shelf, behind several layers of "I'll get to this when I've submitted my More Perfect Union query" I found this:



I don't remember when or where I got it. One like it, for sale on eBay for thirty dollars, was manufactured in the 1950's. Perhaps it belonged to my late grandfather, a passionate fisherman. It could have been a gift - we lived not far from LeRoy (where, oddly, jell-o was invented) during the Sixties. It would not have been out of the question to have found it under the Christmas tree, my dad hoping his oldest would be the fishing buddy he craved. Sorry, Dad.

I learned early on that, with the exception of adolescent soirees into Powder Mills Park to entice trout (with worms, no less) I was content to do my angling in the fish section of Wegman's. Evidence of that finds itself on an ancient length of masking tape across the lid with the words "Paint, brushes, glue etc" written on it. I would love to know what I envisioned "etc" to be at eleven or twelve.

It is once again filled with fishing tackle - including a jar of thirty year old salmon eggs I discarded unopened. I assume I filled the box with hooks, lures and the other trappings of angling as my children grew older. Alas.... All three have something of their father's genes.

Thirty dollars for an old, beat up metal box? Union Steel Chest moved to Arizona in 1973 and ceased operations shortly thereafter. Apparently, time and plastics had rendered these lovely old things obsolete. A pity. What must it have been like, for the last employees to douse the lights, pull closed the door and walk sullenly away from the building they'd called "work?" With the company defunct, they are now collector's items.

Mine has collected memories of aircraft, automobiles and comic book heroes glued, painted, displayed and then discarded with the other trappings of youth. Maybe I'll keep the thing around, so it can talk to me when I'm old. There are no doubt stories it could tell me of the days when I was not.    

Every Other Year Indulgence

"The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it." —P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

Michael Ramirez CartoonMuch will be made of last nights election returns. Almost all of it will be self-serving nonsense. Wouldn't it be nice if the folks just elected to office would remember that there are 300+ million of us trying to get by during tough times. Making it tougher on us by allowing themselves to be assimilated into Big D, or Big R and towing the line won't help. How about, in the words of my very bright wife, we pick a few issues that matter to the majority (the economy, defense, energy development - those are my picks) and do something constructive? It wouldn't really take much. We might start with the notion that a good idea is still good if the opposition thinks of it, and move forward. 

Who knows, maybe the hard-core "ruling elite" in DC could begin to recognize the difference between ruling and governing.

A guy can dream.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Quantum Mechanics

"I like to drive with the windows open. I mean, before you know it, you're going to spend plenty of time sealed up in a box anyway, right?” Tom Magliozzi, Car Talk, WBUR (Boston)

They were a new presence on NPR, occupying the Saturday morning spot on a Public Radio station in Syracuse. A couple of clowns from Boston, talking about cars. I was five minutes into the first show, on my way to take a final, when I was hooked for life.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi were unlikely mechanics. Both had graduated prestigious MIT. Tom eventually attained a PhD in marketing. Yet, one could envision them peering into the engine compartment of virtually any car, puzzled, shrugging their shoulders and laughing. They were extraordinarily ordinary, a couple of...car guys, swapping stories, theories and life observations with listeners. Their shade tree manner never seemed an affect.

Their intelligence shone through even as they traded "auto noises," gave dating advice (often telling a woman to keep the car and get rid of the guy) and offered wry observations about life - “Kids: get away from the cell phones, get away from the computers, and mail someone a fish before it’s too late.”

Tom died of "complications from Alzheimer's Disease" at age 77. Honestly, maybe someday someone with cache will do the same and we'll dedicate ourselves to finding a cure for this fucking scourge. In the meantime, there are the archives, which his brother Ray insists be broadcast as long as there are listeners.

Via NPR's airwaves, the patented Tom Magliozzi laugh lives on, the brotherly banter between two American originals preserved as a way of saying - "Reality often astonishes theory."

Farewell Click. Or, were you Clack?