Monday, February 20, 2017

Rookie Cookies

 Please welcome my friend, a "rookie" sheriff's deputy. To say he is a deeply and diversely talented man is to bleach out the essential meanings of both of those words. A combat veteran, a photographer and videographer. Here he describes vividly the feelings of a new officer when their trainer says "You got this" and turns them loose for solo duty.

   The patrol car feels awfully lonely when you first sit in it by yourself. For the past seventeen weeks I’ve had a mentor in the seat next to me... They are a hand in your back, guiding you towards the right answer, even if it’s barely even a nudge at times. They want you to succeed, even if they leave you out on a limb to figure it out for yourself. The best way I can describe this process might come across as a teeny bit obscure but that’s the way I was raised – I am British, after all.  
   Imagine jumping out of an airplane with no parachute. Your guide, the Field Training Instructor, is in a wing-suit next to you as you start to plummet towards the earth. He looks sleek his fancy goggles and bright smile. He gives you double-thumbs up, then hands you an unfolded cardboard box and says, “Okay, you’re doing great, now land with this!” As you tumble towards utter ruin, your FTI might snip at the cardboard box you’re holding, streamlining your descent as the details start to focus. The closer you get to stumbling, the more in-depth your perspective. Small things start to matter the faster you fall.
   The questions you will ask yourself, your preemptive decision making and your adaptability to changing situations, all the more clear as it becomes all the more urgent. Your cardboard box, over the course of your descent into the wild and wonderful world of public service, starts to look like it might become something more aerodynamic and soon, before you know it, your FTI will pat you on the back and say, “Good luck with your new team!”
   When I say “shape”, I mean beaten enough that you can at the very least land on your own two feet and work through the problems you’re going to face. Complicated and sometimes dangerous problems like; human crisis, mental disabilities, violent crime… The odd dog in the road.
   Field training really is as I was once told, “Like drinking from a fire hose.”
   Before I transferred to the patrol division, my Sergeant at the time told me that I’d start to see patterns as I progressed. That every call will be different but the principles of your response are going to be the same. Every call will have a reporting party and if it’s a crime, a victim and a suspect. If you’re lucky, you’ll get witnesses. If you’re unlucky, your victim will be uncooperative and your suspect unknown. If you’re very, very unlucky, your victim will be a child and your suspect, incarcerated for the property crimes that fuel her methamphetamine addiction.
   I’ve been a cop for two years but a patrol deputy for only a few months. As I write this, I am half way through my third week flying solo. Field training is over and I am figuring things out little by little. Your brain doesn’t stop, ever. Every single problem you’re given has a thousand ways to be solved and like it or not, we don’t live in the black and white contrast of our patrol cars. Every single aspect of law and the justice system is debatable. Only half of all lawyers are right, at any given time. The law is full of gray areas, a science that is subject to interpretation, and that’s the fun part. It is encouraging to see senior cops on my team debating back-and-forth about labelling each incident and how the solution was discovered. Even when it’s a heated debate about whether there is enough with which to charge the principals, it’s a bonding ceremony. Outsiders might see it as an argument. Insiders get excited and pull the small legal source-book from their shirt pockets, so they can join in.
   Seriously though, what do I know? I’ve been doing this job for about two hot minutes.
   I’m writing this because a good friend and leader encouraged me to share this new experience. He is an incredible person, who thinks logically, speaks carefully and has a deeply creative spirit. The level of intellect he exudes makes me feel smarter by proxy. He doesn’t know that I regard him as one of the greatest leaders that I’ve in my life. I’ve served overseas, on the front-line, with war-fighters and warriors. I am cautious not to understate the positive influence that and so many others have made upon my law enforcement career, short as it is. Pick good people to follow. They’ll take care of you. Even more so if you buy “Rookie cookies” at the beginning of each training phase.
   So here I go again: Off into a world of the unknown with already a full list of things to remember. It gets easier, once you find your rhythm. I’ve been told that this happens during your third year, so I’m doing alright! Everyone is looking out for me and supports me in my successes and my mistakes. As long as we are all doing that for one another, we will survive the day and get home to what is important…
   A Rookie

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Filling A Vacant Chair

You know him as Pahlevan Kouloubandi. He is a sheriff's deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, a man who is so multi-talented that I am humbled in his presence. He is a combat veteran, a videographer and a writer of such immense talent that I would love him to grace these pages with his own words someday.

He has offered this video, in which Agent Jason Bush makes a quick appearance, teaching new officers how to make traffic stops. He is in the right passenger seat, looking calm, charge. Frankly, I do not know how we will fill that seat.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Kind Heart

"Well, here's my counter-offer." Vincent Gambini (Joe Pesci) My Cousin Vinnie.

Mourning the passing of Police Agent Jason Bush.

I didn't know what to do.

The scam was well-orchestrated. A fly-by-night moving company would pack up a person's belongings, and transport them across town. Arriving at the destination, the crew would point to an obscure clause buried in the moving document's legalese and demand additional money to unload, sometimes a substantial sum. Often, people paid grudgingly, angrily. But, they usually paid. 

A woman called the police. Her story was compelling - shoestring budget, down on her luck... She couldn't afford to pay, but everything she owned (save the broken-down car she drove, and the clothes on her back) was packed in the moving truck. An examination of the contract didn't amount to much, and anyway, this was a contract dispute. A classic civil situation. Police officers rarely have options beyond suggesting the aggrieved person consult an attorney.

I don't know why I called for Jason, but I did. Level headed, lots of common sense, huge heart, a traffic guy. He arrived, and I explained the dilemma.

"Yeah, well. We'll see about that."

Jason conducted a thorough, no-nonsense don't mess with me truck inspection. He requested documents I'd never heard of. He inspected tires, brakes, hoses...and vehicle parts I didn't know existed. Lights, horns, belts. In the end, he declared the vehicle unsafe for commercial use. It had to stay parked for some substantial period of time (hours, if memory serves). The crew was miffed, to say the least. Jason smiled.

"Of course, if it's empty, it's no longer being used commercially and you can leave."

They started moving the woman's property into her new apartment. Problem solved.

We will miss him. We hold his family and friends in our hearts. We remember the wonderful man he was, how caring and kind, how much his smile could boost everyone's spirits.

And we aspire to emulate the compassionate manner in which he served the citizens of our community. May you find peace, sir.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Now That You Asked

I have a friend...

She's a business and marketing consultant who is set to help me grow my writing gig. I have no expectations of The Martian like grandeur, I'd just like to have more people read what I've written. As part of the homework she assigned, I am to complete a questionnaire. One of the items I found...profoundly interesting.

"What do you see as your writing legacy?"

I gave this considerable thought. Much of public writing these days seems less designed to persuade or celebrate, and more likely to attack, belittle or denigrate. Other writing is shamelessly commercial. Okay, so that's not what I want. Then it hit me.

I want my grandkids, and great-grandkids to see, in my writing, who we were. What was important to their Grandmother and I. Where did we go, what did we see. What was compelling enough to me (the writer, the cop, the dad) that I sat in front of a computer for hour upon hour, to craft stories that stood for something.

Women are heroes. Defeating the enemies of our community and our country is hard work, a calling for incredibly brave people. It's okay to fall in love, even under the most complicated situations. Everyone's life matters, everyone has the right to find happiness as they see fit.

When they were alive and well, the old folks were hell on wheels. They went places, they did things. They were not afraid to take chances, dare to dream. Or, if they were afraid, they went anyway.

Someday, the pictures and the words will help them understand who they are, too. I hope it brings them joy.