Friday, November 27, 2015

Over It

Trigger Warning - bad language.

Maybe I should wait on this. I spent the day with forty-two men and women about to enter this particular maelstrom. I'm not all that patient, right now. So, given the events today in Colorado Springs:

I'm awfully tired of innocent people being killed by assholes. I'm particularly tired of putting black tape over my badge.

This guy shot five cops, killing one of them. He killed at least two citizens, people who were probably minding their own business, looking forward to Christmas, and shot a bunch more. And the great cops down in the Springs took him into custody. No revenge, no bullshit. Put handcuffs on him and loaded him into a police car. That's what the pros do.

All lives matter. Even this piece of shit.

Although, hey dude, from me to you? Fuck you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Big Five Oh

It was fifty Thanksgivings ago - fifty years ago...on Thanksgiving.

This little bit of nonsense, set in the bucolic Stockbridge, Massachusetts, was a staple when I was "coming of age." Law enforcement is the butt of the minor joke, the draft being the actual target of Arlo Guthrie's ire. Thanksgiving 1965 (which is when the Massacree occurred) was on the leading edge of a very difficult time for America. Arlo's wry observations are in the best tradition of the age.

If you have twenty minutes give it a listen. It is a Thanksgiving tradition that can't be beat.

Back Up

It's snowy and slick this morning. It's dark, and early. Police Spouses and Partners are at Roll Calls serving food to those officers at my department lucky enough to work Thanksgiving. They were present in force with Halloween treats. They have put together thank you lunches.

Not everyone is cut out to be the significant other for a police officer. The pay has gotten better over the years, but the hours still suck. The time away from family on holidays is particularly difficult.

The partner, and the kids, know "the look" when their cop comes through the front door. Something happened at work, and the officer was in the middle of it. They saw, or did, something that would deeply trouble citizens unused to the horrors human beings perpetrate on each other. Yet, the cop got through it, somehow, and made it back home again.

Police families are a special group. One of my daughters has befriended a cop wife, whose husband works in the quiet tidewater community of Baltimore. The friend was wondering what effect the tumult of having a husband in law enforcement would visit on her children. My daughter reassured her that cop's kids learn how to handle the situation. "Thanksgiving started when dad got up. Turkey tastes the same Friday as it did on Thursday."

This has been a particularly humbling year for law enforcement. Behind the thin blue line continues to be the spouses, the partners... The men and women who understand us, and understand what they have signed up for. And love us anyway.

Thank you, Pat.

Thank you, spouses and partners. We can do what we do because we can come home to you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

With Thanks

They fell, but o'er their glorious grave
Floats free the banner of the cause they died to save. 
Francis Marion Crawford, American author

Our Family Protecting Yours  - Colorado State Patrol motto.

One of my friends, a coworker whose tenacity in the face of adversity I admire, has written upon these pages thanks for another day that found him arriving home, safe. This morning we give thanks for the painfully short, but heroic and meaningful life of Trooper Jaimie Jursevics of the Colorado State Patrol. We are profoundly aware of the anguish caused when an officer does not come home from work alive. May her family and friends derive comfort from the many who respect the work she did. Fare well, Trooper.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Heroes, Horrors and Hope

The news hasn't been very good for us, lately. The events in Paris have reinforced a fact - the fight against Radical Islamic-based terror, if it really is that, may be global and involve the military, but cops end up being the ones shooting back when the attacks begin. France had several of her cops get wounded, and a police dog died when a terrorist blew herself up. The ferocity of the firefights is reflected in a shield used to protect officers entering the concert hall.

Here at home, a State Trooper was killed in a hit and run DUI accident. She was married, and had a small child at home. The suspect is a retired military veteran. He was briefly held in jail, but will probably spend some period of years in prison for his act. Suspects also murdered a California cop, apparently in an effort to rob him. He was a combat veteran described by his chief as the kind of guy you'd like to clone. Three people are in custody, perhaps to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Amid the tumult, I read a Facebook post yesterday. It is the story of a young officer I know, who responded to a shoplifting call. This petty crime opens an array of doors, from encountering professional thieves, hardened criminals and those who steal because it their nature to the true hardship cases and everything in between. It really does happen that a person, down on their luck, steals because they have no money and are hungry. Sometimes, they are taking something for someone else in need. Illegal, but as a human being the "choice of evils" is evident.

My friend encountered a "person in need" situation and reacted the way good officers do. She investigated, did what she had to do and then bought the item for the individual with her own money.

It is the second such response in recent memory. Another of our officers arranged social services for a homeless man living with his young child in a vehicle. That situation included the officer digging into his own pocket to pay for lodging.

It is not unusual for officers working among homeless to pay for their lunch from time to time. Most us us carried a "Throwdown Five" for those situations where someone we knew was hungry and totally broke.

In a world filled with horrors there is hope. People behind the badge continue to be human beings who reach out to others, and each other, in tough times. If those of us in blue stand together, it is because we represent, at our core, the notion that service to our communities, be it running to the sound of guns or to the sound of a citizen in need of a few bucks, raises us all up.

Nice job. Everyone.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Huddled Masses

"Uncertainty is the refuge of hope."

Child abuse.
No one likes these calls. Even the best of them involve that most disturbing of human suffering - a child who has been the target of abuse at the hands of someone they trust. I went to the call because I was close, we were busy and they are often complex calls. I had no idea.
A toddler no older than two was wandering aimlessly in the courtyard of an apartment complex. Mom and dad were no where to be found. Diaper dragging, a treat someone gave him in his hands...on them, and his face, too. Bewildered, he tagged along with several of the other children as they lead the "search" for relatives. 

Kids are like that. They have no real fear of the police. They understand authority figures, accept them far more easily than jaded adults. When an officer says "Do you know where...?" the neighborhood child posse forms spontaneously, everyone talking at once. They assured us they would find someone for us to talk to. In the meantime, the wayward two year old stood, deep brown eyes calm but wary. "What was all the fuss?" his expression said.

By and by the parents returned from their shopping trip. We questioned them fruitlessly, because they spoke zero English.

They were refugees from Ethiopia.

Never fear, our kiddo cops were on it. One of the delightful young ladies - dishwater blonde hair streaming down her back - spoke not just English, but Spanish, too. One of her playmates, dark skin, black hair and deep brown eyes,  spoke Spanish, and whatever dialect the parents did. Through this pre-teen daisy chain the story emerged.

The parents had seen adults out on their porches, mingling with the kids. The appeared to be undertaking some kind of oversight role. As was customary, they would just keep an eye on their son while they ran to the store. Wouldn't they? We patiently explained that, in the US, the parents must have a more definitive plan for the care of their children. Although they had technically broken Colorado law, we discussed their obligations in the new, confusing country in which they found themselves. With humble respect and gratitude they begged our pardon, agreed to abide by our laws and we left.

What does this have to do with today? I don't know. I'm on the side of those suggesting caution, as this new wave of refugees arrive from war-torn countries. There is little doubt that our enemies will take advantage of our generosity and sprinkle the huddled masses with war fighters intent on doing us Paris-style harm. We should be wary, cautious and have a plan for all of the contingencies this new and unique group presents. I'm with the men and women who don't trust - that's why one verifies.

Somewhere, there is a seventeen year old Ethiopian kid about to finish high school. Maybe he's a great kid. Maybe he's an asshole. But, because the United States took him and his family in he had the best chance to be who he wanted to be.

Just like my great grandfather Dave, from Donegal, Ireland. He told my dad, in the early 1930s, "Here, a man can keep what he earns, can make something of himself. Over there, the government gets half, and the church gets the other half." He was a laborer. His son became a machinist, his son an engineer and his son a lawyer.

Things are not so different eighty years later.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Peacetime or Wartime?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Percy Fitzwallace (John Amos): "I don't know who the world's leading expert on warfare is but any list of the top has got to include me and I can't tell when it's peacetime and wartime anymore."
Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer): "Look, international law has always recognized certain protected persons who you couldn't attack. It's been this way since the Romans."
Fitz: "In peacetime. . . ."
McGarry: "I don't like where this conversation's going. . . ."
Fitz: "We killed Yamamoto. We shot down his plane."
McGarry: "We declared war. . . . I'm going to get back to the office."
Fitz: "We measure the success of a mission by two things: was it successful and how few civilians did we hurt. They measure success by how many. . . . You're talking to me about international laws. The laws of nature don't even apply here! I've been a soldier for 38 years and I've found an enemy I can kill."

"We Killed Yamamoto," The West Wing, (2002).

The cruise transfer bus dropped us off at Miami International Airport, where we would catch our flight home. We had returned to "The Grid" the day before, to check in with United Airlines. Shortly thereafter we discovered news reports about the carnage in Paris.

We strolled past the International concourses, on our way to board our flight. Two teams of uniformed ICE agents walked among the travelers, M-16s slung, plate carriers in place, black BDUs looking ominous. I felt better...and see them, here. It reminded me that the men and women with whom I serve represent the last line of defense, and the first to respond, when terror reaches our shores.

I feel anger every time I read an account of what happened. There is a sort of remorseless bitterness brewing just under the surface when I read accounts of young college students sitting with friends, sharing a meal, gunned down for no other reason than they represented a pointless statement made by men with hatred in their hearts for western values. I know that the perpetrators are cowards, and that they were killed in the gun battle.

Moments of silence have their places, and we should observe them solemnly. Solidarity symbols abound. They help us provide support, and join the millions of others in expressions of compassion for the victims, their friends and families. It is impressive how many people stand up when tragedy strikes.

I remember this feeling from 9/11. It is cold and calculating. We have weapons. The assholes who did this have self-identified in their announcement of responsibility. They have built an infrastructure in furtherance of their goals. The American military is the best in the world at breaking things and killing soldiers belonging to our enemies. We should let them.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"So, What Do You do?"

Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks): "Tell him. Tell him why we need him."
CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman): "I'm not saying anything."
Wilson: "Why not?"
Avrocados (gesturing): "I don't know who the fuck these two other guys are."
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Traveling. There are a multiplicity of pleasures, not the least of which is the brief, fleeting departure from real world adult responsibilities. No vacation has required me to mow lawns, repair bathroom sinks or pay bills. Shoveling snow seems to attend our every return to Denver, but that is a different blog.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking about work, either. One recruit asked, days ahead of this vacation, if I was going to be thinking of him. Let's see... How about, no.

One thing I have had to think about, though, is the question that always gets asked among adults thrown together in a restaurant, bar or cruise ship lounge,searching for common ground upon which to build a conversation.

"So, what do you do?"

There are advocates and partisans on all sides of this discussion. "I'm a cop," is probably harmless in most places in the US. Even in a world where the main stream media revile us, the average American respects police officers. Not a hard one, there.

But, in an environment where I will be entering another country?

Poolside at a resort in Mexico I overheard an officer of some kind telling cop war stories. Aside from being a shitty story teller, I think he was looking for unnecessary trouble. Maybe I'm being overcautious, but a good friend said she tells people she's a first grade teacher. "I live in fear that I'll meet a real first grade teacher," she added.

I tell people I'm a writer.

Technically, it's the truth. I currently have two novels and a short story available for purchase. A third novel is due for release on December 9th. I spend a large portion of my free time writing, marketing writing or alerting people that my stuff is for sale. It's not a lie to say I write.

This gets an amazing array of responses. Sometimes, it elicits "That's...interesting. Now, back to me," kinds of comments. Other times, silence. One guy blurted "Maybe you'll use me as a character!" Oh, there is no way I'd pass him up. Lightweight, loud, costume jewelry... He'd make a great villain. The other fellow at the table would be better, though. That would be the guy who flirted with my wife.

There were several people who wanted to know more, How do I create characters, begin novels. Do I have a plot in mind at the beginning, or do the characters sort them out (the latter). How much do I write, how do I concentrate?

It makes me feel vaguely dishonest, and a little bit guilty. "Bring cards next time," my lovely wife offers on the way back to the cabin. "You might make a few sales."

Spell broken.

I am a writer. I have a publisher who has invested time and money in me. I have books for sale. That other stuff? Long term, intensive research.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sixty Feet from Grown Up

"The outside corner belongs to the man with the baseball." From The Umpire Strikes Back, (Luciano, R., 1982).

The other night, a rookie Mets pitcher with a whole bunch of letters in his name (Noah Syndergaard, I looked it up) offered a quote concerning the brush back pitch with which he opened Game Three of the World Series. "Anyone who didn't like (it)," he is alleged to have said, "can meet me Sixty Feet Six Inches away." Cute.

Baseball fans (and certainly the opposing Kansas City Royals players) know that "sixty feet six inches" is not an anatomical reference but a term of art. The front of the pitcher's "rubber" (then, again...) is precisely sixty and one half feet from the "rear point of Home Base." Since the somewhat aroused batter dusting himself off after being entertained with chin music has to cover that distance to personally interact with the pitcher - well, Ole Noah is telling them to call the Whaaaaa-mblance if they want. He'll be on the mound, if they'd care to chat.

Well, okay Big Guy!

Coupla things. First, it's a far better story if the guy (whose nickname is Thor, after the well-muscled dude with the big hammer in the movies. There might also be a god in mythology by the same name - I'm not sure) had mowed down the Royals in order, all night long. Instead, the teams exchanged leads several times before KC's Franklin Morales showed up and pitched, fielded and behaved dreadfully. The Mets took full advantage and blew the game wide open. That's baseball, played by the two best teams on the planet.

Standing on the baseball field that night, dressed in Royals uniforms, were a collection of some of the most competitive human beings in the world. They are fighting for a prize that may be within their grasp only once in their careers. Every one of them has been knocked down, plunked, maybe even beaned over the years by pitchers as desperate to get to the the majors as they were. They fight for inches, any advantage - every play contested.

That is not to say some pitchers can't intimidate some batters. Randy Johnson, nicknamed "The Big Unit," (there it is again) threw so fast and so hard that some batters came down with flu-like symptoms the night before he was scheduled to pitch against them. Nolan Ryan threw with such velocity that many batters argued balls and strikes with the umpire by alleging that the pitch "sounded outside." Noah's pitches arrive at similar velocities as the aforementioned Hall of Famers. Maybe he thought he'd give it a whirl, see what developed.

What really would have helped was a Met win in Game Four, to bolster a solid Game Three outing.


Who owns the outside corner? The men who want it most. Right now, that seems to be the team Thor thought he could rattle from sixty feet six inches away.