Sunday, May 31, 2015

Worthy of the Jersey

"Hey, can I get one of those jerseys?" the man asked.

"Of course," was my answer. It was true enough. Fortunately, that's where I stopped talking.

Saturday morning dawned a hopelessly bright, blue day. By 9AM it was warm enough to cycle in short sleeves. The meeting place teemed with cars, joggers and other cyclists as the group formed. Everyone signed a release, me included. That was an unnecessary gesture in my - Worker's Comp covered me in the event I was injured. I was there on official business.

Bike copping. Okay, this was strictly PR, as an ambassador for cycling with a local bike advisory group. They'd scheduled a group ride to raise awareness and asked for an officer to accompany them. In uniform, on a police bike... Can do.

I was stationed at the back, a sort of overwatch position that also put the "POLICE" letters on the back of my jersey at what was really the head of the line. That would be the first thing an overtaking motorist would see. Funny, it kept the comments about getting off the street to a quiet minimum. Hence the man's request for a jersey like mine. 

Contemplating a more complete answer to his question gave me pause. Was it really appropriate to say to a community member trying to make conversation:

"It really is a simple process. First, you have to apply for the job. My first time out nearly a thousand people competed for twenty or so open positions. Minimal qualifications included a bachelor's degree. 

Passing the screening advanced someone to the psychological tests, polygraph and oral board phase. Did the candidate harbor any prejudices (do you?)? What were their law enforcement goals? Did they possess good judgement? Maturity?

A few are backgrounded. Their friends, family, employers (always an interesting call - 'Oh, you didn't know (candidate) had applied to be a police officer?') are contacted and asked a series of personal, intrusive questions. Rejection lurks with every answer. A minor indiscretion ignored in other professions can end a police career before it begins.

Finally, the job offer.

The Police Academy... A remarkable experience. Military Academies are often called a "Million dollar education shoved up your ass one nickle at a time." With Police academies - 870 hours of training over five and a half months - one might only quibble about the dollar value attached. The paramilitary nature of the experience begins with the first classes. Inspections, running, hollering... Everything by the numbers, PT for both fitness and punishment. Scrutiny the likes of which most young men and women have never endured. "I thought the military held me to standards," said one recruit recently. "This (the police academy) exceeds anything I ever did in the military." Weekly tests, for which hours of studying are required simply to pass. A final - pass and you keep going. Fail, and all of the effort to get this far could be wasted. 

Graduation day only means progressing to field training. Sixteen weeks of having experienced officers specially trained in turning recruits into rookies. Every action is scrutinized, critiqued, discussed. Is the recruit courageous? Can they put into practice the skills and knowledge acquired in the classroom? Do five things at once? Listen, learn, digest? There is a report card every day, a list of things done well, poorly or... The big questions asked by the entire work force - would I want to work with this person? Can I trust them when my back is turned? Am I (paraphrasing A Few Good Men) willing to place my life into their hands, and accept theirs into mine? Do they have the right temperament to succeed when everything around them is going wrong? Can they be counselor, savior, saint to the rescue? Are they the right combination of warrior and social worker?

Succeeding there is only the beginning. Rookies pay dues for several more years. They take the reports, book the evidence. Particularly vile offenders seem to magically find their way into an FNGs car. The fun stuff? Sorry, we don't trust you, yet.

Finally, they are off official probation and can aspire to things cop. Then, a three day class that teaches skills beyond anything a recreational rider thinks a bike can do. 

Then a person can put on the jersey that says "POLICE" on the back."


But the man was being nice, and was trying to make conversation with the police sergeant escorting his ride.

"It's very comfortable," I offered. "And we're always looking for good people to come help us out."

Good people who are worthy of the jersey.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Plus One

Please welcome back my friend AJ. In this guest post he describes the other side of the law enforcement challenge coin - the commitment shown by police spouses. Sometimes called the "Plus One," spouse is a generic that includes not only married couples, but also those committed couples who have not yet tied the knot. There was a time when "police wife" described the genre, but now it includes everyone who has devoted themselves to a relationship with a cop. They are a special class. They know loneliness, they share a life with someone who experiences horrors the average person does not. To my wife Pat, who has stood by me for 23 years while I pursued a law enforcement career, and to everyone who "loves a cop," this is dedicated to you.

I come home at the end of my shift and yes all are sleeping, but I look at my wife and it started to make me think. Yes I do think. We praise LEO's and are going through tough changes in law enforcement. However, I'm not sure at first my wife knew what she was getting into, marrying me and my job.

However, I feel we need to praise all the spouses out there who learn to accept the long nights, and fear if we are coming home. Yet they keep the household going. My wife Danielle has taken it a step further asking me one day maybe close to a year ago are there any spouse support groups where I work. I had to think briefly and said no. She had started out with a group from many different depts and wanted one for my PD. 

We all know the politics that can come into play but she stuck with it and actually got awesome buy in from command staff. This group of spouses is growing. They are there to help each other understand police work and why we might act and be certain ways. She then worked at first with just three other spouses to show their appreciation for what we do. The number joining is growing and the things they are doing blows my mind and others I work with. [Pat is one of them - ed].

Danielle didn't start this for glory, awards, fame but just to let us know people care, especially spouses. If it where not for these strong women and men we would all be single. I am so proud of her and the others involved. It is still growing and to know they are there for us gives another sense of why we continue and don't give up. These are spouses that have jobs and other responsibilities but have done some of the most meaningful, fun things for our dept I feel they need a big thank you. Danielle I knew you were special when we meet and you continue to amaze me in your support of my career. I thank you and love you for what you started and being there through the good and bad.

I know I for one probably could not have made it through certain things but you are always there. LEO's need to remember our spouses are our main lifeline and keep that in your memory banks, because without them we wouldn't be as strong as we are.

Thanks sweetie keep up the good work I know it benefits both of us and the more that get involved there is no telling where you all will bring this.
Thanks and love

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Hero

From The Sedalia Observer, May 2013

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Sgt. 1st Class Trenton L. Rhea, 33, of Kansas City, Mo., died May 15 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was a member of the 603rd Military Police Company, in Belton. He deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom.
He is survived by his wife, Leah Reid Rhea, his daughters, Autumn, Joanna and Abigail, his father Marshall, his mother Rebecca, twin brother Travis, sister Samantha Repshire, step-mother Julie, step-brother Jody Kruse, step-sister Jade Kruse, grandmother Eileen Rhea, grandfather Kenny Breeden, and his in-laws, Harlan and Lynn Reid.

According to his family, Rhea was an amazing father, husband, brother, and son who loved his family and God. He was a great leader who led by example and considered his soldiers as family. His family said Rhea was a very caring, sincere man who put others first. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was “the nicest guy you would ever meet,” according to his wife, Leah. Rhea’s hobbies were spending time with his family and studying history.

Rhea was an Army Reserve Military Policeman who deployed three times overseas to United States Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, plus a stateside assignment at Fort Riley, Kan. In Afghanistan, his mission was to train the Afghan Police Force, which Rhea considered very important as it benefited the Afghan people. He has been awarded several military honors, to include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious  Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.

Rhea’s civilian employment was with the Human Terrain System at Fort Leavenworth.

The Rhea’s are members of the First Baptist Church of Platte City. Mrs. Rhea stated her husband was a devoted man whose desire was to raise a strong Christian family.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Two officers this week killed deploying, setting out or otherwise using stop sticks. I only have one observation.

Get rid of these fucking things.

Cadet Trooper Taylor Thyfault - thank you for your service, however brief. It is the act of stepping up and saying "Pick me" that demonstrates courage. You will be missed.

Okay, maybe that was two observations.

Monday, May 18, 2015

And, His Head Explodes

"In a 5-4 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court that the tax is unconstitutional because it discourages Maryland residents from earning money outside the state." Supreme Court Strikes Down Double Tax Law, Fox News, May 18, 2015.

Law Porn Alert

Comptroller of the State of Maryland v. Wynne, Et Ux is an amazingly tasty case. The oft-indulged "Liberal Wing" v. "Conservative Wing" pasture apple nonsense into which the press descends is nowhere to be found.

Okay.... It's cold and cloudy. I have no desire to return to work after two weeks off (one spent primarily with a book, a beach, a drink and my soul mate beside me). I'm waiting for lunch to settle before I head to the gym. And I read the above in a story about a Supreme Court decision. I mutter the epithet commonly known as "YHGTBFKM." The dogs scatter.

The case is a thorough (some might say "nauseating") examination of what is called the "Dormant Commerce Clause." Dormant, Justice Scalia points out, because it is not contained in the Constitution. It is a creature of a Supreme Court intent on deciding what is good tax policy and implementing it. Or, ordering its implementation, anyway. As Justice Scalia points out, the Commerce Clause says, in whole: [The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes. The dormant part of the clause (now you've read the whole thing - does it look like something is sleeping in there?) was totally invented, a long time ago, by judges.

Sigh. Okay, maybe Congress has written a law on this subject? No. Maybe another part of the Constitution permits The Supremes to strike down tax policy it finds disadvantageous in Maryland? Nope. How about if the law "discourages" some kinds of commerce, and not others, irrespective of a federal law to that effect?

Commonly, in places where Congress chooses to legislate they are said to "occupy the field." States may not intrude by passing laws that contradict the Federal statutes. In the absence of Congressional action (I know - the US Code is thick enough to require a crane to lift it) States are free to craft their own solutions, unless the Constitution prohibits it to the States (a Bill of Rights thing, involving the "incorporation doctrine." Truly, I loved teaching this shit at Metro). That's not what is going on here. The Supreme Court could not be bothered overturning what is plainly a power grab.

Scalia's opinion is worth reading, but Ginsburg's dissent twists the knife. Any court case in which Kagan, Ginsburg, Scalia and Thomas join in dissent is law porn. Although, that all in one sentence is kind of creepy, isn't it?

Of course, the Fox News story and headline (assist, AP) so far misses the point that it should be illegal to print. A law is unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution. Discourages Maryland residents?! Oh, you poor baby.

I'm going to the gym.

1033, Baby

"According to philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt, however, the 'essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.'" William Voegeli, National Review, November 13, 2013.

"Breaking News: The White House announced that it will no longer allow federal programs to supply local police forces with some military-style equipment amid an outcry over police treatment of minority communities and protesters." Fox News, May 18, 2015.

It is colloquially called the 1033 Program. In a nutshell, it is intended to provide surplus military equipment to law enforcement organizations. According to Wiki: "The most commonly obtained item from the 1033 program is ammunition. Some of the other most commonly requested items include cold weather clothing, sand bags, medical supplies, sleeping bags, flashlights and electrical wiring. Grenade launchers and vehicles such as aircraft, watercraft and armored vehicles have also been obtained."

I have not personally seen in recent years airplanes, boats or tanks that were obtained from the military. Although a low pass in a formerly mothballed A-10 might discourage a persuadable hostage taker or two, generally it is cost prohibitive to obtain the really cool stuff. For example mechanized vehicles that are readily available are..."pre-owned," the replacement parts for which are not on a shelf at Auto Zone.

As for the other stuff... Puh-leeeze.

What ails law enforcement circa 2015? Partisans of all persuasion are available to cash grant checks, fill unreadable volumes and belly up to microphones to offer fabulous-sounding hogwash. "Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice, told reporters he hoped the [President's Police Reform Task Force] report could be a 'key transformational document' in rebuilding trust that has been destroyed in recent years between police and minority communities," says Fox News. Davis is billed as a 30 veteran, once a California police chief. Their article has a helpful picture of a SWAT sniper overwatching a "relatively small crowd."

Well, here's the opinion of another 30 year veteran. Law enforcement as practiced in the United States in 2015, as a general statement, is the most professional it has ever been. Officers are more carefully selected, better trained, better equipped and held to a higher standard than ever before. The degree of scrutiny is closer than ever, and will become closer still. None of that is a bad thing.

Public support for law enforcement, despite breathless media coverage to the contrary, continues to be strong. Individuals who live and work in communities (as opposed to talking heads who arrive, do  few pithy interviews and depart for the next career-enhancing story) are familiar with the strengths and challenges of their officers. They accept that men and women are fallible, that sometimes there is inequity in the most reasonable soul. Plainly, people who see law enforcement as a basic good in their community don't demand perfection.

What can we do better? First, we can listen to our community. "(Citizens) call us half a million times a year," a retired police commander once commented. "You think maybe we should look at what they want, as a start?" 

Next, let's stop looking at citizens as a revenue enhancement stream. Enforcement action is meant to solve public safety problems. It is not designed to solve budget shortfalls. The Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department began that conversation.

Finally, let's stop listening to the loudest voice. "Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world," said Edward R. Murrow, "doesn't mean you are wiser than when it only reached the end of the bar." Grown men and women searching for real solutions don't have time to waddle in front of a microphone, proclaim themselves outraged, and then disappear to the next community. Media are not hoping to be part of the solution - they are hoping to increase readership and make money doing it. You want to know what should be done?

Lower voices. Turn off the TV. Stop listening to know-nothing social media (except Bikecopblog). Engage a police officer in a discussion and ask them. They will jokingly ask for more money, and then they will say, in their own way:

"Give us more of a say in how police services are delivered.Get the politicians, and the politics, out of our police cars. We know what makes our communities safer, and more just. We know the rules, who among us isn't following them (we want them gone as much as anyone). And then, when we make mistakes, treat us fairly and with dignity. We are doing our best."

It isn't about grenade launchers, MRAPs and BDUs. Anyone who tells you that is talking bullshit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Deferring to My Father

"The shirt, labeled on Under Armour's website as "Band of Ballers," bears a strong similarity to the U.S. Marine Corp War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The statue, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, features a group of soldiers planting a flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima (1945), which resulted in 26,000 American casualties." Underarmour Stops Selling Shirt Bearing Similarity to Statue,  Darren Rovell, ESPN Business reporter, May 16, 2015

What the...?

I am agnostic about this t-shirt. I did not serve as a Marine. All of my military experience was in the US Naval Reserve, mostly locked in a safe reading stuff and practicing creating classified briefings out of it. So, if an honest-to-God Marine is offended by this shirt, I will never tell them they are wrong. I'm not going to go all Rage Boy about it, either.

Here is my issue, on this glorious Armed Forces Day. The main objection this writer can imagine is the t-shirt's similarity to a statue? Does he have any fucking idea what that statue represents? (Yes, Graham, Papa wrote f-word).

Years ago my father spoke about his first day on Iwo Jima, now 70 years in the past. They could not get over a seawall because the Japanese soldiers would shoot them. So they stayed on the beach for most of the day. An enemy shell, fired from Mt. Surbachi, would land among them. "A couple of kids would get killed," Dad said. That went on for hours, until they got off the beach after dark.

The flag raised on the summit several days later meant that the rain of terror was close to an end, that the enemy inside the hollowed mountain were being silenced. It was one of the iconic moments in the history of a fighting force organized in Tun Tavern in 1776.

The statue represents a moment in American history where a group of Marines planted a flag to let their brothers know they had fought their way to high ground. It represents sacrifice in the face of a determined, bitter enemy. It represents Marines who have served proudly in all of the wars America has fought to preserve our freedom.

I expect that, were my father still alive, he would remind people that it was only a t-shirt. They should remember the "kids" who died this week in a helicopter crash in Nepal, a long way from home.

But, who am I?

Travel Tip #1

"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable."
Clifton Fadiman
People watching.
The scene: Cozumel International Airport (CZM), Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Boarding gate 6. A hundred or so passengers have been cooling their heels for several hours awaiting a late-arriving American Airlines 737-800. Severe weather in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (the flight's origination) has snarled air traffic. Although Cozumel airport is comfortable, with a number of worthy distractions ("A 750 ml bottle of Bombay Sapphire is how much?!") once one leaves the comfy confines of an all-inclusive resort, nothing but home is acceptable. Edgy is one way to describe the throng, munching on airport snack foods and jealously eying the passengers boarding a US Air flight to Charlotte. Cranky is another.

A sense of foreboding overtakes us. At the US Air gate are three security people, having roped off a table, doing pre-boarding spot checks. Super. Nothing like having someone root through carry-on while others cluck sympathetically, lugging their steamer trunk-sized uprights bound for limited overhead compartments - the victim's rightful space, no doubt.

By and by our chariot arrives and it is our turn to head home...and run the gauntlet. But, fear not. We are saved by "that guy."

Actually, it was a woman. Selected for personal service by security, she puts up a fuss. They want to swab her hands (to ensure no bomb building, I guess) but she freaks. "What are you doing?" she demands to know. She refuses to cooperate, wants to know what is on the swabs...

A friend told me of his arrival in Iraq. He was following a long line of people shuffling toward a check point. Apparently concerned about allowing illness into the country, everyone was having their temperature taken. Forehead sweep? Disposable plastic tip? No. Glass thermometer, swished in alcohol between examinations. He was appropriately taken aback. He had a right to complain. (He declined their invitation, saying he felt fine, thank you). But, I digress. Back to Cozumel.

Now, it's a scene. She demands to know why she has been singled out, what they are doing to her hands and can she speak to a supervisor? This presents two very interesting observations. 

First, with her to entertain them, the security people are not going to care about an aging traveler and his wife taking leave of beautiful Cozumel and boarding the silver bird bound for home. 

Second... Mexico is a sovereign country. They try to make getting in and out as easy as possible, but it is their country. They have rules and procedures that make sense to them. If they don't make sense to you, spend your vacation somewhere else. Anyway, the soldier looking on certainly didn't seem inclined to summon his supervisor.
Not that she was in any real danger of being spirited off somewhere. But why take the chance? Years ago we were arriving at Liberia airport, Costa Rico, to attend a wedding. A woman was standing next to a table, her belongings strewn about. She was screaming at a woman in uniform. Others in similar uniforms were elbowing each other out of the way for a chance to scream back. We stood dutifully in line, but the first uniformed woman (apparently having lost her turn) smiled at us and waved us through.

Travel tip #1? When you are in line ahead of me, in a foreign country, and the locals involve you in one of their infil or exfil ops? Please, make a fuss. I'm on your side.

Friday, May 15, 2015


"The hall burst into flames, and the building was evacuated. Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside so he went back into the burning building to retrieve his beloved $30 Gibson guitar. Two men died in the fire, and King learned the next day that they had been fighting over a woman named Lucille. King subsequently named that first guitar Lucille, as well as every guitar he has owned since, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over women." From Lucille (guitar), Wiki, 2015.

Noting the passing of BB King at age 89.

Most of the guitarists I've listened to over the years, and certainly all of the blues guitarists, mention BB King as a major influence. There are lists of awards the man won, and honors he'd been given elsewhere. All I know is that the blues, the guitar and playing for people so consumed him, the love of music so animated his life, that he was still performing at age 89.

We should all be so lucky.

Mother of All Rides

I have added a blog from Daniel Wolf, who is bicycling from Virginia to Oregon this summer.

Next year is the 40th anniversary of  the TransAmerica Trail, a bike route spanning nearly 4200 miles coast to coast. About 4000 people rode the trail during the Bicentennial summer - the organization at that time (now Adventure Cycling) was called Bikecentennial. Somewhere close to 2000 riders, men and women of all ages, completed the entire ride. I was one of them, beginning in Reedsport, OR on a blustery June day in 1976 and riding into Yorktown, VA mid-August.

Mr. Wolf has embarked on what is an intensely personal tour of the USA. Please follow his blog and wish him well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our Backs Were Covered

"Friends, I will remember you, think of you, pray for you.
And when another day is through, I'll still be friends with you." Friends With You, The Essential John Denver (Danoff and Nivert), (2004).

Through all of the tumult 2015 has brought, we have been surrounded by friends. Friends who have laughed with us, cried with us and taken care of us when we struggled to take care of ourselves. To each and every - thank you.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What People Really Think

Please welcome my friend AJ Zayatz to Bikecopblog. This is Law Enforcement Week, and his words explain better what we experience than any I could conjure. People believe in us. 

You know this has been a crazy week in this country, especially Baltimore, disbelief comes to mind. I however still believe most people believe in police and respect them. I for one saw this during my week. First an older couple who wouldn't say no to buying me coffee and they said thank you for your service. Since where I work I cannot accept free items I put money in the tip jar to cover it but in a way this couple didn't see. Then today out of nowhere with my head always on a swivel a man stops next to me asking how's my day, I say just kicking it off. He says I appreciate your work, be safe.

So hopefully at some point we can get the masses to speak up and show that having a job never knowing if it's your last shift and your family will never see you again overcomes this mayhem that is going on.

Be safe and try to keep positive because I who am usually pessimistic actually am optimistic. Society really does care. We just need to stay tough and hopefully at some point things change. Only one can hope.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Window Well and Cozumel

Mourning the loss of last feline triplet Rowena.

There was no real reason to check our email. We were (as this is written are) in Cozumel, on the vacation from adulthood. You know, the time in life when problems are challenges to be overcome, faced head on... Accepted as part of being a grown up.

We were running away from home to a beach, a bar and a book. Just one check in and we could go back to having sand between our toes. But, being a grown up means reading the whole email.

Rowena had died. Friends, family members had rallied, made the best decision and found that she'd gone somewhere comfortable and joined her litter mates. With this litter, no Vet care has ever made a bit of difference when the time came.

She was the smallest of the three, and the cockiest. Freidman and Winchester would clumsily try to snare a moth. Rowie would watch them flail, fail and stare dumbly at the insect. She would sniff, shoulder past them, snatch the poor thing from mid air and pop it in her mouth. Munching loudly, she'd saunter away.

After the other two left we got a playmate for her. She was game (up to a point) but eventually hissed her displeasure and went looking for Pat's lap. Being an old cat was hard work.

Her appetite fell off a cliff. With the three refugees from our Northglenn window well that always said the end was painfully close.

We say farewell to a tiny cat with a big heart. Thank you for your company. We miss you already.