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.

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