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.