Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Hero's Choice

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena." Theodore Roosevelt

Jeffco Sergeant Dave Baldwin's death last Sunday was a painful reminder of the capricious role chance plays in our work lives. No amount of training, discipline or experience could have altered the outcome. A blind hill, the inexplicable driving mistake of an oncoming motorist, high speeds. Sgt. Baldwin was presented with a dilemma he could not solve.

The temptation to label his loss as pointless obscures the quiet heroism with which he lived his life. Twenty-seven years ago Dave Baldwin raised his hand and swore an oath to protect the citizens of Jefferson County. He didn't ask for an exemption from the pitiless rules by which luck plays its game. The tools of his trade, in fact, spoke volumes about the environment into which he willingly ventured.

It is the "Uncritical willingness to face danger," wrote Tom Wolfe, that marks a person with "The Right Stuff." Working traffic on a busy stretch of treacherous highway on a motorcycle, in an effort to save the lives of others, is the right stuff.

I read a post this morning, written by a friend. In it he admitted to selfishness that he went home to his family at the end of watch, and Sgt. Baldwin did not go home to his. The brothers and sisters of law enforcement all think like that. Their first thought is for the welfare of others. That's what makes them heroes.

Thank you, Sergeant Baldwin, for choosing to serve.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Born to be Brave

Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.
Omar N. Bradley 

Several days ago, a young man roused his family from sleep because the trailer they shared was on fire. He hastened six of them to safety. His disabled uncle remained inside. Eight year old Tyler Doohan, elementary school student in East Rochester, NY, reentered on a mission of rescue. He never emerged.

People from far and wide have donated money to his memory, that the struggling family would have the funds to bury their tiny hero.

That the family is now squabbling over the money is irrelevant. Penfield (NY) Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer intends a firefighter's funeral for the lad, who died in a fire in their district. Fitting. The memory of his selfless act belongs among those men and women who - scared to death - rush toward danger.

I would have been proud to serve beside you, young man.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An Unwelcome Shadow - Updated

Fratricide - the killing of on'e own brother or sister. The Free Dictionary

Late Tuesday Bay Area Rapid Transit (CA) police sergeant Tom Smith Jr. was killed while he and another officer searched an apartment. The initial investigation disclosed that Sgt. Smith was shot accidentally by his partner.

There are no happy phrases, no comforting words of wisdom that can mend the hearts broken in California. The loss of husband, father, friend.... I can't write that I understand it, still not having totally come to grips with the death of coworker James Davies a mere fifteen months ago. The hope - that his brothers and sisters will mend, that the bonds of trust now torn will heal - is often elusive, and difficult to fathom in the depths of despair attendant to any duty death. The empty feeling is far more pronounced when one of us mistakenly shoots a colleague.

In the aftermath of our loss, a good and trusted friend was kind enough to chat with me. We wrestled with how to recover, what steps we should take on the long, arduous road back to normalcy. There would be no magic wand to wave. Our approach....

"I believe in you," we said to each other. "I would work with you anywhere. Find someone else you believe in and tell them that. Maybe that's how we start."

Late Tuesday my friends at work were faced with one of our worst law enforcement nightmares - a missing child. They put into practice lessons of command and control learned in the wake of Jim Davies' loss, trusted the training they had received and - more importantly - believed in each other. The young lady was reunited with her family before the sun set.

The pain never goes away. The gaping hole in our hearts cannot be filled. But something good can come of it, if only the chance to say to someone that you believe in them.

UPDATE: On a warm night in July my partner and I descended stairs, guns out. The auto thief had eluded capture. We searched a likely hideaway - the cluttered basement of a small home. I reached out, and squeezed her shoulder. We moved forward. Systematic, methodical. Room by room in the darkness, each closet, each cubby.... We whispered, made eye contact, used hand gestures. The thief was there and we found him, took him into custody without fanfare.

I think about that night often, especially in light of the death of BART Sergeant Smith. I trusted my colleague with my life that night, just as Tom Smith did with his. That's what we do. When something like yesterday happens... I believed in the officer who accompanied me into the dark, a desperate man hiding in the shadows. I was worthy of her trust in me.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Jessie Vetter 2014 U.S. Olympic mask backplateThis was to be goaltender Jessie Vetter's mask at the Olympics in February. It violates Olympic rules.

I'm not feeling very Olympic today.

A Folded Piece of Paper

It's so easy for a kid to join a gang, or do drugs. We should make it that easy to be involved in football and academics.
Snoop Dogg 

The Broncos and the Patriots. In a few short days football legends Payton Manning (Yay!) and Tom Brady (Boo!) will meet - for perhaps the last time in battle on a field - in an effort to advance their teams to Super Bowl.... I've lost count.

Football was not just a passion in the Greer family circa 1960, it was a cult. Mom swears that my brother Dave's first words were "Chuck Bednarick," Hall of Fame linebacker for our then-hometown Philadelphia Eagles. If you think my dad was the one who encouraged that...even I'm not sure that it wasn't Mom.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Matter of Definition

"He's driving around in a pickup truck with a shotgun and a dog!" Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) Wag the Dog (1997).

Another school shooting. More injuries, more heartache. This one, in Roswell, injures two students. The shooter survived. One of the injured in critical condition...all of us wait and pray.

NMEx.jpgRemember the headlines, the politicians with the evil-looking rifles decrying "military arms" available to all? The last two school shootings involved that basic and ubiquitous of all long guns - a shotgun.

How does a twelve year old boy show up at school with a shotgun? None of the silly definitions of "assault rifle," the background checks on sales between friends and the useless, futile magazine restrictions stopped a twelve year old boy from wreaking havoc at his school with a shotgun. Conversations about firearms safety, about reasonable laws that will actually address the problems inherent with the presence of arms in a free society? Lost in a sea of political posturing.

Parents - how well do you know your children? Where are your guns? Where are theirs? Look in the mirror - Roswell began with you. With me. With us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Holster

Revealed: Jennifer McCarthy, 48, was arrested after allegedly pulling a gun from her genitals to threaten her boyfriend  after an argument about space aliens. She is the most recent wife of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy. The two have a son and divorced in 2006"The most recent ex-wife of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy was arrested for domestic violence Saturday after she pulled a silver handgun from her genitals to threaten her boyfriend during an argument about space aliens." The Daily Mail, January 8, 2014.

Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton.... Do you think they ever conceived of a headline such as this when they debated the merits of the Second Amendment?

Happy New Year!