Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Question Nobody Asked

The assembled families had questions. We gave answers. No one chose to ask the question my wife asks constantly, knowing there is no real way to phrase a response.
"Will my husband be okay?"
I don't have any way of knowing. But this much I know:
A recruit entering law enforcement in 2015 receives some of the best training available in any profession. Three of my colleagues are state-recognized subject matter experts in important, difficult skills. Many of the men and women who teach across the state in academies, and in-service sessions, are among the best in the country. When a new officer leaves a certified academy setting, they are as well prepared for what they will face as the constraints of time and money make possible. 

One other thing. While our evening session marched on, people all over the country were tuning in to watch actors pretend to be what the men and women in the room were preparing to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


I have some excellent friends.

Getting the cover right for a novel featuring a woman police officer is tricky. Most of the stock photos available have no authenticity, or lack any sense that the model - hard as they may try - knows what police women feel. So getting  The Heart of the Matter completed has, through no fault of the artist, taken some time. Enter a friend (and former coworker), her husband and their 6 week old daughter.

Kim and Cory brought Ella to Jennifer Rohling's studio this morning to try to get a photo suitable for a novel about a new mom's struggle to balance work, husband and the baby she can't stop staring at. Who better than an LE couple, photographed by a professional married to a police motor officer?

The results could not have been any better. Kim was patient, Cory had a lot of great conceptual ideas and Ella put up with the whole thing, so long as someone held her. Jen's eye for facial expression and details made this a quick process, yielding almost a hundred quality pictures.

Police employees, their families, and their friends are an amazing group. The "usual" adversity surrounding the profession, enhanced by the feeding frenzy of political self interest, should make us all very defensive. Uh huh. This young family is typical of who we are. Drop everything, drive across town with baby in tow, dress in police uniform because a friend needed to get a book published. Asking nothing in return. The photographer, opening up her studio on a Saturday, disrupts a family weekend to get things done.

Of course I appreciate the help. More than that, I appreciate being part of a profession that brings people like Jen, Kim and Cory into it. This is why, more than anything, we are stronger than the times.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tools of Ignorance

When you come to a fork in the road...take it." Yogi Berra, catcher.

Noting the passing of Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

Mr. Berra may be the only baseball player whose "-isms" book is not laced with epithets and profanity. He was known for a lot of things beside extraordinary talent behind the plate, for a franchise that seems to field each generation's premier catcher. He was a Navy veteran who witnessed the Normandy invasion, and debarked assault troops, from his transport ship. He signed for what was the standard bonus - $500 - just after boyhood friend Joe Garagiola began his professional baseball career. He wore the "tools of ignorance," an expression meant to deride anyone silly enough to squat behind the plate while hundred mile-an-hour pitches are hurled their way.

His malapropisms are legend. Once asked the time, he replied "You mean now?" The profound "You can observe a lot by watching" is deeper than it seems. We were told - math skills being optional - that 90% of baseball is mental, and the other half physical.

The fork in the road. How many of us have encountered one and frozen in our tracks? Or, worse, we turned around to get our bearings, only to find that the fork had vanished as we wrestled with indecision? A life's journey is made up of roads that present reasonable alternatives and invite us to choose. A smart person knows which to take. A wise one knows how to make the best of a timely choice.

For French Revolutionary Georges Danton it was "et toujour de l'audace." For a man from St. Louis the words were simpler, but no less powerful. Make a decision, take the fork.

All of it seen from behind the tools of ignorance, on the biggest stage in America. Home plate, Yankee Stadium. You don't linger there for an era on your way to the Hall of Fame by forgetting to take the fork in the road.

UPDATE: Political writer George Will, baseball fan, writes of the inclusivity of sports - especially baseball - in his tribute to one Lawrence Peter Berra.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thank You, Cops

Posted on Facebook was an announcement that it is, or was, or will be "National Thank A Police Officer Day." I am one, so it seems a bit self serving, huh? But, let me tell a story.

My father died just before Christmas in 2010. His passing occurred around the same time that my daughter had an emergency c-section that both saved her life and brought Graham Patrick Gaffney into the world, kicking and bleating. Oh... We had sold our house and were moving.

I left for Rochester, NY, and then Detroit. My wife remained behind, to sort out the move. She organized, planned, discarded and then began our life in our new house, alone. New neighborhood, unfamiliar surroundings.

I called out to several friends...cops. Could they please keep an eye on the house, and Pat, while I was away? Then, I moved on to other things.

Months later, at a neighborhood block party, one of our new friends admitted to apprehension over our arrival. "Just after you moved in," she said, "cops started driving by your house...a lot...shining spotlights on it. We wondered who in the world had moved in."

Thank you, officers.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Caption This

Caption this. The best three (I am the totally subjective arbiter) will receive a first edition copy of A Miracle of Zeros and Ones. Winner to be announced September 15th.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Reading Reader

Who are you?

There are several counters that I follow, to determine what blog entries are popular, or forgettable. When someone visits the blog itself I get credit for the visit, but don't know which posts were read. If they snag one of the posts, the counter scores that a 1 for the post and adds it to the total. It can be interesting to watch.

Many of the posts most enjoyable to write (often the law porn) are largely ignored. Others, tossed into cyberspace almost as an afterthought, garner dozens, sometimes hundreds of reads. If I actually knew what I was doing, maybe I'd know why.

But, out there, tonight and for the last several weeks, some one is reading. The counter racks up twenty four hits, twenty four individual entry visits. The list of posts read string beyond the limit of the dashboard - Charmed - 1, Shirtsleeves - 1. Someone started reading a few weeks ago and it looks like they are visiting each and every post.

Whoever you are picking them off one by one... I hope you are enjoying them. I've gotten to read some of my favorites, just after you did. I'm very much enjoying rereading as we go. What do you think?

UPDATE: You'll understand when you read it. With thanks.

See The Man

"The only thing black and white about this job is the patrol car." Officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner), Adam-12.

Marking the passing of TV cop Martin Milner.

It is not too strong a statement to write that the TV portrayal of Los Angeles Police Department Officer Pete Malloy, played by character actor Martin Milner, and his partner Jim Reed (Kent McCord) were directly responsible for my decision to choose law enforcement as a career path. The banter, the caring attitudes and the crisply professional LAPD drew me to follow them every week. The late 60s was a time of dramatic upheaval in the United States, but these officers seemed well-trained by a department that held them to a standard of conduct to which everyone might aspire.

One scene seemed to exemplify the allure of policing, and sealed the deal. Reed and Malloy had been sent to a "family beef" (the code for which I have long since forgotten). Upon their arrival the female half ran toward them, screaming "He has a gun." One need not be a seasoned veteran like Malloy to know who "he" was. As one the officers pushed the woman to safety and ran toward the armed husband.

This was, of course, pre-Kevlar days. Both officers were armed with revolvers. Granted, it was TV, but to an impressionable fifteen year old this represented selfless bravery, the instinctive desire to protect and serve. I would learn years later that real life cops were rarely that bold - some would say foolhardy - but I would be in far too deep by the time that lesson was imparted. All I knew was that these men ran toward danger, not away from it. I'm in.

A later episode chronicled Reed's reaction to shooting a suspect (who died). In one poignant scene he is on the phone with his wife, explaining what had happened. In the midst of it he broke down. No two officers ever react the same way, but it is not uncommon for remorse, anger, self-doubt and a little bit of guilt to creep into an officer's mind, and heart. The detailed, painstaking nature of the investigation is visited, but mostly the camera follows the young officer as he struggles to grasp the realities of his job.

Years later, the sterling tarnished a bit for LAPD. They were shown to be poorly trained (Rodney King), bumbling (OJ Simpson) and to have harbored officers who planted evidence on gang members (Rampart). They have, in many ways, resurrected themselves to a status they once occupied when Reed and Malloy patrolled their streets.

Milner himself found his way into a number of memorable movies. He was something of an ensemble player for John Wayne, appearing in several of his flicks. He reached stardom playing a police officer on TV, and made a nice career of it. He was, by all accounts, an honest and kind man.

Martin Milner has reached his end of watch. Thank you, sir, for your role in pointing me toward a rich, rewarding career. I would have been proud to call you a brother in blue.
"Pete Malloy: The only thing black and white about this job is the car." - See more at:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An Eloquent Man

The current LE climate seems especially trying. We're told, among other things, that men and women making career choices are steering clear of law enforcement. Inasmuch as this trend ebbs and flows with economics more than risk, I wonder sometimes who is kidding who.

Nevertheless, apparently there are those calling for more LE deaths as an atonement for... Well, who the hell knows. We represent, after all, the values of our individual communities. Attacking us is to attack a culture that, for all of its flaws, has fed, clothed and taken up arms to protect, several billion people just in my lifetime. For those who would wish us harm, I introduce...

The Deuce.

Click on it. You'll love it.