Sunday, March 17, 2019

Getting Out The Vote

Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide. Joseph P. Kennedy

I avoid political posts here on Bikecopblog for a number of reasons - mostly because what I have to say doesn't seem especially interesting, even to me. I am as inclined toward talking about current events as the next writer, perhaps less so than the pros, more so than others who have exciting, enriching things to do with their lives. So - fair warning, this is a departure of sorts. I'm writing because this law is an abomination.

The Colorado Legislature just voted approval of, and our governor signed into law, our inclusion into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. As near as I understand it, this legislation commands that the electors for the state - those votes commonly called the "Electoral College" that determine who will be president - will be chosen based on the national "Popular vote." In other words, if a majority of the voters of the State of Colorado choose Candidate A, but a majority of country-wide voters choose Candidate B, the Electoral Votes are - by law - cast for Candidate B.

Setting aside that this is clearly not the method contemplated in Article II of the Constitution, nor is it something the Framers envisioned or advocated...

Our country was founded on the principle that government derives its just powers from individuals who have a voice in creating the laws under which they are governed. "Taxation without representation" was the rallying cry of the generation who decided they were not all that into taking their orders from afar.

A great deal of evidence suggests that, in the last election, voter fraud existed in any number of polling places. Ineligible voters cast ballots, concocted ballots were counted. People have recently gone to jail for such things. In one district in Michigan, "voter discrepancies" led to a miscount, appearing to show that more votes were counted than individuals registered to vote.

How does all of this happen? In some cases, human frailty led to good faith clerical errors. In others, blatant partisanship has manipulated the process until it is a sham. Lax (or non-existent) enforcement of laws has allowed voting to be influenced, suppressed or artificially inflated.

A number of states are employing imaginative methods to increase voting. One such method, called "Ballot Harvesting," allows for collection of mail-in ballots by third party activists. California is one state that experimented with it in 2018.

Does ballot harvesting lead to voter fraud? While it is too soon to have a definitive answer, there is certainly enough evidence to merit further examination. But...

I have no say in how Californians are allowed to vote. Neither do I have any say - ANY SAY - in who is allowed to vote in California. People who are not eligible to vote under Colorado law surely could be given that right if the people of California decide to make it so. Yet...

In the great scheme of the Popular Vote Compact individuals permitted to vote in their state, who would be ineligible in mine, are counted with the same weight mine is, and as an accumulation will render my vote meaningless. A majority of eligible voters in Colorado could vote for one candidate, only to have State Electoral voters commanded to vote for someone else.

Before our legislature, one witness testified in support of The Compact, saying "(Candidate A) should be president." Of course, Both Candidate A and Candidate B campaigned knowing the rules and expended their limited resources to take advantage of the system as it presented. There is nothing to suggest, were the rules as The Compact envisions them, that Candidate B's campaign efforts would not have been as successful. There is only conjecture, and the disappointment felt by impassioned individuals who believed in their own causes.

The Constitution could be amended to make these changes. But, that is a cumbersome and chancy proposition. Better to circumvent the Constitution in an effort to... What?

That is the great unanswered question. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Turning Pages

"Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination." Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (1999).

I have grown lazy, accustomed to - perhaps even embracing - the ease with which I can search a billion files and come up with a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes. I hover over the print button, produce a color version and consult it periodically as I cook. Once it has accomplished its insular and clearly defined task, it is thrown away with the skin peels.

One might think that a writer who navigates mostly the digital world - all of my novels are available on Kindle - would seamlessly move into the world of zeros and ones. One would be mistaken.

We have accumulated dozens of cookbooks, into which we have increasingly jumped with twin feelings of nostalgia and reverence. There is just something about a cook book. The search began.

I flipped through Emeril Lagasse's Louisiana Real and Rustic. Pat and I purchased it at the old Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek, stopped at a pub for a beer and poured over it. Our first dish - Red Beans and Rice. I was not optimistic at first. Four hours later I was hooked. The spine is falling apart (twenty years later) and many of the pages are stained with some of the many fabulous dishes we've created from this book.

We're doing a prime rib roast today - it's Jed's ninth birthday and he is allergic to chicken - and I looked first for cooking instructions in Ray Lampe's Dr. BBQ's Big Time Barbeque Cookbook. I bought it many years ago, ahead of making a brisket for daughter Beth's college graduation. Eighteen hours later (including mostly overnight) the meal was a success. The book has notes, tabs, loose printed recipes and the evidence of the dozens of ribs, rubs and side dishes it has described.

I have two autographed cookbooks that are in general use - one called Blue Crabs was a Christmas gift out of which I've made both crab cakes and a seafood gumbo that is a sort of coastal decadence only a visit to Baltimore can replicate. The other, an Emeril book that my mom stood in line to have signed by the man himself.

Yet, it is two homemade books and an old recipe I cherish the most. 

The first is titled Beth's Florida Cookbook. It contains pictures, recipes and recollections from her time in Ft. Myers. She rescued it just after it was written when she evacuated ahead of a hurricane. It has multiple dishes we've made over the years (including a simple but breathtaking shrimp marinade). My favorite, which we've actually made just ahead of a vacation, is "Beth's Hurricane Dinner."

1. Take everything out of the fridge or freezer that will go bad.
2. Cook it all on the grill.
3. Eat as much as you can while drinking warm beer.
4. Feed leftovers to the cat.

We substitute the dogs into step 4, since out cat usually looks at us and struts away when we try to feed her people food.

Beth's Maryland cookbook contains a Salmon with Grapefruit and Coriander sauce dish whose author is Martin Ginsburg. Never heard of him? Look up Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg.

Finally, we have put on the wall of our kitchen a recipe for Beefsteak Pudding, which my brothers and I ungenerously renamed "Lard Stew." It is an old rendering of a dish from the Nineteenth Century, a conglomeration of suet, inexpensive beef cuts and flour. Yes, it is as greasy and chewy as it sounds. But, in beautiful handwriting is this phrase:

"If you get stuck, ask the boys. They've watched me make one."

The boys are my grandmother's dad and my Uncle Jim.

The internet has its place. Ultimately, I found what I was after online - Paula Dean's recipe for mashed sweet potatoes. But, nothing compares to opening a book to connect with a time, a place and a loved one.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Retirement Job

"There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want."Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

I decided early on, when retirement loomed just over the horizon, that I would be candid about my intentions. To wit:

"No, I'm not going to practice law part time. Part time at a law firm means I'd only work forty hours a week."

"No, I'm not especially interested in returning to University teaching. The classroom is a joy. Grading is a nightmare."

"Much as I loved being a bike cop, forty years after first taking a job as a police officer my bike copping days are all in the past. Once my Academy assignment is over, so is my LE career."

I mentioned to the Academy class recently that I have found the perfect post-law enforcement occupation. It will require minimal public contact, give me time to write and can be accomplished in the company of my beloved dogs. My loving wife can follow the lead of her substantial intellect and huge heart, content that I will not spend idle, empty days watching cricket.

Porch watcher.

I know what you're thinking. That's just another one of Greer's idiotic schemes, silly ideas and clever but meaningless formulations. Well... You'd be wrong.

One of our new recruits emailed this to me, an indication that she, if no one else, takes this shit seriously.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

In the News

"Have you ever served in an infantry unit, son? Ever served in a forward area? Ever put your life in another man's hands, ask him to put his life in yours?" Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) A Few Good Men (1992).

What happens when a member of your department, or another, is arrested? 

It's difficult to express any opinion, even one brimming with caveats and disclaimers, that might not be instantly attributed to my position as a police officer. This has been said, but bears repeating. I write this as an individual, not as a representative of my organization or the place that I work. These are personal opinions, and are based on information that is not subject to any restrictions regarding release.

Let's start with a basic premise - that everyone accused of a crime in the United States must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or plead guilty to criminal charges. The officers seen on the news  in Denver have not been convicted of anything. But, the reality of human nature cannot be ignored.

The "presumption" of innocence is a misnomer. A presumption is something supported by facts. In most cases the only things known are the persuasive  inculpatory facts that led law enforcement to file charges, and prosecutors to accept them. If anything, the presumption - especially among citizens reading newspaper articles or watching TV - is that sufficient evidence exists to presume something happened.

To repeat - Any officer accused of a criminal act has the legal right to have the charges proven against them in court, by competent evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt determined by a jury.

That said... It's painful to watch our profession dragged through the Press. Inevitably, some people conclude that the individual is guilty based only on the allegation. By inference the indictment of an individual law officer is an indictment of the profession as a whole.

In the arcane, impenetrable world of formal logic, this is the Fallacy of Composition. That is, "Assuming that what is true of the part is true for the whole." One is a long way from proving law enforcement is corrupt because of the activities of an isolated few. Even if one were to establish that groups are flawed (which has happened far too frequently) this does not, in and of itself convict those not involved, or the entire profession. Why?

You've read it here, before - law enforcement as a whole has never been so professional, so dedicated to the wellbeing of citizens and so good at what we are asked to do. The reason is simple.

We hold ourselves, each other and our profession, accountable as never before. Gone are the days of cover-ups, excuses and ignorance. Applicants are rejected for behavioral and psychological reasons. Recruits wash out because their performance and attitudes fail to meet accepted standards. Officers are not retained in field training after close scrutiny of their merits, and flaws. Established officers deviate from organizational expectations, leaving or being ushered out.

Yet, there are those who - for whatever reason - fly below the radar for far too long. Police leaders have adopted the admirable stance of committing their agency to support the investigations, to abhor proven or admitted transgressions and redoubled efforts to prevent, not just punish.

I have spent the better part of fifty years -most of my life - studying, practicing or enforcing the law. My present assignment lets me be present when young men and women begin their police careers. Our curriculum is difficult, demanding and begins with this premise:

Each person is endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are not permitted those things by government, but merely by their birth on this Earth. Anyone who presumes to infringe on those rights, even with iron-clad legal justification, must do so with caution, empathy and respect. Nothing else is acceptable. Each one of us is personally accountable to ourselves, our agencies and our peers to uphold the highest standards attainable.

And, they, from the beginning of their careers to the last day, are accountable to those of us who have given so much, and those thousands who have given their everything, to get us to where we are, one of the most admired public professions in our country.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Inexplicable Waste

“There are patterns because we try to find them. A desperate attempt at order because we can't face the terror that it might all be random.”
Lauren Beukes, The Shining Girls

About fifteen years ago my phone rang. A friend was at work, listening to a nearby agency working a fatal traffic accident. A massive girder on an overpass under construction had fallen on a car, killing an entire family in one shocking moment.

"How random is that?" she asked. "I mean... One second either way and it misses them."

Five law enforcement officers were killed at work this week. Each is tragic, the loss of a favored colleague, a son or daughter - a dad, a mom... A human being with hopes and dreams and ambitions. Someone who had planned to come home and accomplish the mundane chores that string together a life.

Perhaps none have hit people as hard as the twin and inexplicable deaths of Natalie Corona and Chateri Payne. Officer Payne, of Louisiana, had completed her training in November. Officer Corona had been on her own after field training for a few weeks.

Officer Payne was on her way to work, in uniform, when an unknown asshole shot her four times. She was described as an all star, an elegant and happy soul. At this writing no suspect has been named. Indeed, if the agency knows who it is they will wait to spill the beans until their SWAT team is closing in, holding Chateri's cuffs at the ready.

Officer Corona had responded to a motor vehicle accident, that most ordinary of calls. Her organization saw unlimited potential, part of their future as an agency. In a bizarre but not unheard of happenstance some dipshit rode up to her on a bicycle and killed her because - this is not out of the ordinary - he thought the police department was broadcasting "sonic waves" to his brain.

Random? That's our occupation. In the thousands of traffic stops I've made in a career, there had to be (if statistics are to be believed) at least one person who was armed and willing to kill me. For whatever reason, they chose not to try.

That doesn't include the calls we knew were dangerous, that played out that way. Early in our careers another agent and I responded to a domestic with a gun. A woman was able to call 911 and report that her estranged...whatever...was armed and had assaulted her. He took the phone from her, struck her with it and then beat a hasty retreat. Right into our laps. We knew he was armed and handled him appropriately. Yeah. We smashed him into a wall and took his gun away from him.

Those aren't the events that make a normal cop crazy. It's the bizarre randomness we see. It is especially difficult when it is someone going about their business when, out of the blue... A cop at a stoplight, shot for no other reason then they are an officer. It's not unheard of that the knock on the door at home is some jerk who found out this was the home of a cop, and shoots the person who answers. A family driving to the mountains, gone between heartbeats.

What do we do about this?

What can be done. Prepare, be vigilant. Understand that the uniform is designed to makes us visible and identifiable. Be the hard target, try to tip the odds in our favor. And understand, from the very beginning, that sometimes shit happens to good people, for no real reason.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A New Year's Promise

"N-n-n-n, wait, wait. It was firm, it was adamant, it was resolved... It was resolved." Dr. Benjamin Gates (Nicholas Cage), National Treasure, 2004.

My Dad and I
CLETA Graduation 1979
New Year's resolutions get a bum rap. Post that you are going to visit the gym more and someone out there will chuckle - "What, two or three times?" Lose weight? Restaurant Week is next month. Save money?

I've spent the concluding three months of 2018 preparing to make 2019 my last year as a police officer. How's that for a New Year's Resolution?

May 1, 1979. I arrived promptly at eight AM... What would come to be 0800 hrs hereinafter. I met with the sergeant to whom I was assigned. He assured me it was okay to load my sidearm - a Smith and Wesson Model 64 .38 - with the rounds I had purchased myself. We met with "Number 1" and the Mayor, who swore me in. They gave me used body armor, introduced me to my training officer and... Three weeks later I was on my own. Three months later I went to CLETA, the regional police academy that was eight whole weeks long.

A figurative hair's breadth from forty years later I am rounder, grayer and have a much better idea of what I was getting into. And, a much better idea of what I'm leaving.

Part time work? No clue. Stick it out until the end of the year? Likely. Go back to Patrol, ride the bike for another year?

I'd love to. I'd love to reunite with the men and women with whom I've spent so many hours serving our community. Unfortunately...

Careers move on. People move on. Life moves on.

Yesterday, I spent several wonderful hours watching grandchildren. Today, I'll run errands and write a lot. Tomorrow?

Who knows. Next week vacation ends and my 2019 work year begins. My last?

It is resolved...

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Into the Breach

"In peace there's nothing so becomes a man. As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger." Henry V, William Shakespeare (1599).

I have to admit, even after so many years of "pushing a radiator" around Lakewood or, more pleasantly, riding a bike on duty, I have fallen into the trap of driving to work in the morning happily ensconced in Condition White.

Most of the time, headed south on Kipling St., I'm immersed in an audio book - at the moment a charming reading of Michener's excellent Caribbean - mind wandering. Recently, an officer admitted to following me one morning. He'd remarked, "Do you know the speed limit on Kipling?

From memory. But, when the reader speaks of the ocean breezes blowing across lovely Barbados... I long to be plopped down in the sand, love of my life at my side, sipping something cold and refreshing, warming my soul in the sunshine.

It was in this semi-aware state that I rolled up to the red light at Kipling and Alameda on a recent morning. It's perpetually busy, and not just because of the number of cars present. There are double left turn lanes, right turn lanes, and the timing of the lights changes as the day goes by. One cannot venture into the intersection uncommanded - every movement is controlled. Then I saw...

A cyclist. They (here English is unartful, but I'm pressing ahead) were dressed in several iterations of visibility, scarf covering their face to ward off the cold. A light perched atop their blaze-yellow helmet shone brightly. A brighter bulb flashed rhythmically mid-handlebar. Reflective tape, striking hi-vis coat, orange ankle straps. Their gloves contained bands of 3M material. Visibility-R-them.

This person had chosen, for their foray across one of the busiest intersections in Colorado, a left turn lane from Eastbound Alameda to Northbound Kipling. There are bike paths available, ped crossing lights and places on raised gore points to wait safely, out of traffic. But, no.

To be clear, nothing this person was doing offended traffic law. We teach this very maneuver in Bike Patrol class on an equally busy street - which generally scares the crap out of the new riders. The proximity to traffic, the feeling of vulnerability... If one need not do this, don't.

The rider I was watching looked all ways in the intersection and promptly made their left against a red light. Against a red light! They then darted across three lanes of traffic and sped urgently down the bike path.

The tapestry of human nature is one of the great appeals to awareness. Human beings are rarely ordinary, if one is susceptible to embracing their nuances.

I returned to Michener's story, having just seen something stranger than fiction.