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.


  1. All that you do - all law enforcement - is beyond my imagination. Thank you all. That's it. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Judy. I have had the privilege of serving in the company of countless heroes over the years. It's been a huge honor to have you read their stories and comment.