Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Don't Know Much About History

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (1597)

Here I am, sitting in the shadow of a good friend's retirement, anticipating my own. We joked repeatedly - look at his retirement countdown calendar, add 365 and there you had it.

The scholar in me rebels at going into such a life-changing moment without consulting the experts. Pat and I attended classes, did the workshop and met with our longtime financial advisor. I spoke to someone who knows about cop retirements. Everything I read, wrote or heard was valuable, but this little gem beat all.

"Don't spend a lot of time arguing with people you don't know about police work on Facebook."

I don't know if wiser words were ever spoken, so let me tell you a story.

Several days ago, on a police site focused on supporting law enforcement officers of all stripes, someone asked an entirely reasonable question. Paraphrased - why do most police departments call their officers "officer" but the [my department] calls them "agent?"

That is an entirely reasonable question, one I am often asked by LEOs from other jurisdictions, and by citizens. The answer is easy...sort of. Let's take a step back in time.

Law enforcement in the middle 60s was something of a shit show. Good work was being done by honorable men (and a smattering of women) but scandals plagued departments coast to coast. Graft was endemic, training was uneven and, in some places, cops were the focus of criminal investigations. In Denver, for example, this nugget was popular: "If you find a burglar in your house just get his badge number. We'll get him at briefing the next day." An excellent book, Burglars in Blue, was written on the subject by an ex-cop who went to prison.

In 1965 President Johnson commissioned an examination of the police, with the study published in 1967. Among the findings and recommendations - have several levels of officer, with each succeeding level reflecting greater education and experience.

In 1969 a group of citizens living in Jefferson County, CO decided to "incorporate," that is they decided to create a new city. The successful vote had the collateral effect (or, to an extent the intended effect) of causing a new police department to form.

It was someone's idea - the first generation cops would know this - to pattern this ground-floor organization after the 1967 recommendations. Fair enough, huh?

One suggestion was to allow experienced officers to move from department to department without the need to start at the bottom - to "lateral," so to speak. It is a term that survives to this day and has found a formal process in POST rules.

Another was standardized state requirements - Colorado's (and everywhere else's) Peace Officer Standards and Training office is the result. God help us all.

The Commission envisioned that police officers would have high school educations or perhaps some college credits. They would undertake basic police investigations - the sort of bread and butter things street cops have done for almost two hundred years. The more sophisticated the investigation, the more likely it would need someone with more training, a higher level of education. That position? Agent. A department would have both, paying the agents more.

Of course, in typical [my town] fashion it was felt someone with a higher level of education could pick up the mundane stuff in their spare time and so, except for one group in the 80s, we never adopted the "officers and agents" structure. Legend has it that the mundane stuff was occasionally put off in those early days, but oh well. When I got there a bachelor's degree was required of everyone applying for the agent position, there was no officer rank and the department was structured along fairly traditional lines.

That outline persists to this day. One might argue that a degree is no guarantee a person is suited for a law enforcement career. Conversely, it's said that the lack of a degree doesn't preclude someone from being an exceptional cop. Trust me, both are irrefutable. Nevertheless, our way has worked for us so far.

Oh, yeah... The blazers. Following the Commission's original notions, the initial uniform issue was a blue blazer, gray slacks and a light blue shirt. The gun belt was worn under the blazer. Women wore skirts at first, but that's for another day. Eventually, it became obvious that the outfit caused more problems than it solved. Now agents wear a traditional blue uniform that is evolving right along with everyone else's.

Several of the commenters on Facebook made fun of the blazers, the title agent and the presumption that having a degree in - I don't know - underwater basket weaving made you something special. Or, that we were paid twenty-five grand a year more. I took a pay cut to come over from my original department, so I'm not sure where they got their information. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. 

I'm very proud of my organization and the people I work with. They are committed to service, dedicated to professionalism and among the bravest people I have ever met. When one of our folks took a job with the FBI (and became - wait for it - an agent) he interacted with a number of agencies on the East Coast. His assessment? "[Our shop] does it right."

So, now you know. 


Monday, December 3, 2018

A Spot of Bother

SHERWEN: I don't like to feel that I'm commentating to the cycling fans because there's 50,000 to 100,000. I like to be commentating to your mom. I like to be commentating to a little old lady down the street who says, wow.
Mourning the passing of cycle racing commentator Paul Sherwen.

Most Bikecopblog readers are aware of how important cycling has been to the author. I know, right? BIKEcopblog. A cross-country ride over my Bikecentennial summer of '76. Rides with memories to last a lifetime. Bike patrol - night, day. Good weather, snow. Teaching, learning... In the company of forever friends.

Then, there is racing. Never having raced has not cooled my interest in the men and women who can make the bike fly.

I followed a man through much of Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming during that 1976 bike odyssey. He called himself "Pro Padre," but his real name was Glenn. He rode like the wind, a back wheel I could hold for only so long. In the hour-long runs between refreshments (mostly junk food) he would run out to a hundred yards ahead, me red-lined the whole time. Together we braved driving rain, hail, obnoxious (but very flirtatious) teenagers and too-many-beers-to-run-into-the-organizer intoxication. He made burritos we washed down with fable Coors beer and bought a duck call in a hardware store outside of Eugene.

We were camped in the shadows of the Teton Mountains, drinking beer and sitting by a campfire. Several road-weary riders asked to share our fire, and our site. We all got to talking. One of the visitors said "No shit!" and looked at me. "Do you know who this guy is?"

Me: "Glenn."

Him: "He's Glenn Griffin."

Me: "And?"

Him: "He was road racing champion of California!"

I didn't spend a lot more time with Glenn. Eventually he pressed ahead on a day I struggled. But, in the meantime he regaled me with tales of racing bikes, of training and striving and riding the dog-eat-dog pelotons in California.

I moved to Colorado, and followed racing here. The Red Zinger, Coors Classic. What was supposed to be a Quiznos race, except that Lance screwed it up by being a douche.

I watched the Tour de France on TV, helping my wife understand and then appreciate the subtleties of professional team bike racing. My partner in crime - an Englishman who'd grown up in Africa. Paul Sherwen.

He had a knack. Every rider was awesome, fabulous. They suffered doing a job of work. A struggling rider pedaled squares, and was in a spot of bother. His broadcast partner Phil Liggett has a bit of Frank Gifford in him - "It's first and ten at the forty... Or, is it first and forty on the ten?" Paul would seamlessly point out "That's actually [fill in a rider's name] when Phil had totally botched it, and we'd all forgive Phil.

They played off each other the way best friends do, two men watching the best cycling in the world next to someone who knows them better, perhaps, than their own family. Decades crammed into cars, commentary booths in small town Belgium and the billion watt "City of Light" as Le Tour heads down the Champs.

Paul taught us well, two avid fans sitting in our basement hanging on his every word. During the 2012 London Games Columbia's Rigoberto Uran led Kazak Alexandr Vinokurov to the line at the end of the road race, the usual game of cat and mouse evolving, a question of who would flinch under tremendous pressure. Who would jump first. Rigo looked left.

My wife leapt to her feet. "He's looking over the wrong shoulder!!"

Vino darted right, went full gas and won the gold.

How did she know that? Because, for years, we'd learned from Paul Sherwen. We were the couple he was broadcasting to, the ones he wanted to reach from so far away.

God bless you, sir. Ride like the wind.  

Saturday, December 1, 2018

"What They Do is...America"

5. George Bush plays for Denver Bear
July 12, 1984
George Bush was the sitting vice president when he donned a Denver Bears uniform and entered the old-timers Game at the start of the fourth, playing first base. When his time to bat came up, the second baseman allowed Bush's lazy pop fly to bounce harmlessly to the ground. Given another chance, he smacked a legit single off Warren Spahn. Also appearing in the game were Ernie Banks, Brooks Robinson, Billy Martin, Bob Feller and a fellow named Joe DiMaggio.

"Top Non-Bronco Sporting Events at Mile High Stadium" The Denver Post.

Mourning the passing of former president and Naval Aviator George Herbert Walker Bush.

The pros this morning - some toiling into the wee hours - will write hundreds of thousands of words about "41." Certainly, for a man who lived into his nineties, was married for nearly seventy-five years and was shot down (at age 20) flying a TBM Avenger during World War II only to become President of the United States some decades later, there is a lot to tell.

I remember him as a man who served admirably in the background of Ronald Reagan's breathtaking aura. Elected to his own presidency in 1988, he faced first the upheaval attendant to a political theatrical performance known as the "Iran-Contra Affair" and the understandable (and unfair) comparison to his old boss. 

In late 1990 an obscure dictator with delusions of...just delusions works fine...invaded oil rich Kuwait on a pretext as thin as a human hair. "This will not stand" President Bush noted. Not the most eloquent, nor impassioned speaker, he nevertheless backed up his assertion with a coalition of military might that swept aside Iraq's most powerful brigades with overwhelming force so shocking that dispirited Iraqi troops surrendered to the first available coalition unit...or to members of the press. Or, a drone.

America held its collective breath as the first instantly-broadcast war unfolded. The war fighters got most of the attention, commandeered most of the press conferences and in short order negotiated the succession of hostilities. George Bush was sometimes criticized for not "finishing" the war - invading and conquering Iraq when her routed troops were being handily slaughtered by the thousands as they fled Kuwait in every stolen vehicle they could start. The experience America would later have with President Bush's son at the helm has cast that decision in a kinder, gentler light.

George HW Bush also presided over...well, he was anyway there as a horrified witness to...the collapse of the "Savings and Loan" industry. America ponied up a cool half trillion to keep the shock waves from devastating the economy. Among the institutions that toppled was an S&L in Denver controlled in part by son Neil. By and by, a president who had been wildly popular months before was challenged in reelection by a quirky Texas billionaire and defeated by a faux country boy from Arkansas - with whom he eventually became fast friends.

George Bush and his gracefully outspoken wife Barbara retired to their private interests, staying involved in politics where it seemed most appropriate and staying silent otherwise. His sons George and Jeb were successful governors. George W - well, history has a funny way of smoothing out the rough edges of a presidency. Time will tell. 41's public political statements were often bipartisan - he bristled at the treatment afforded Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, saying she deserved a fair hearing based not on wild accusations, but on facts. No fan of Donald Trump, he let it be known he'd voted for Trump's opponent.

In 2009 George HW Bush, then in his early eighties, had occasion to walk the flight deck of a Nimitz-class carrier named for him. His public pronouncements - of pride in the men and women serving aboard - did not include what his private thoughts were, about what he had done so many years before from just such a vessel. Such was the focus of an honorable man.

In the aftermath of the liberation of Kuwait by coalition forces, political writer PJ O'Rourke encountered a man on the streets of Kuwait City. In tears, overcome by emotion, the man grabbed O'Rourke and said - "You write that we would like to thank every man in the allied force. Until one hundred years we cannot thank them. What they do is...is..." - words failed him - is America.

George Herbert Walker Bush served his country with distinction. In so many ways, his was a life that is America.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Trying to Be Social

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.”
Lloyd Alexander

I'm a small business owner. Nothing emphasizes that point more acutely than passing Thanksgiving, when it becomes obvious I've spent too little time marketing my wares.

Part of that effort is to have a presence on social media. Facebook, Twitter... I have a blog, a web site and books to sell on Amazon. If you want, you can get them on your Kindle, or have them printed. Bring it by the Academy and I'll sign it. The print copy.

Of course, that means I have to write. I have to have opinions and express them. The books don't sell themselves, suddenly pop into a reader's presence and insist on being read. So, from time to time you are offered the opportunity to read other things I've written. 

My web site, for example.

Writing about law enforcement, and law enforcers, has given me an opportunity to make sense of our profession not only for you, but for me. It's given me the chance to create people not out of thin air, but out of the experiences of others. Karen isn't who she is because I invented her. The women with whom I've served helped make her real.

Go onto social media and type something to the effect of "Guns should not just be banned, they should be confiscated." See what happens. A More Perfect Union examines that pitched battle between conflicting principles from a police officer's perspective.

How about a good woman with an abusive husband? How might she juggle the end of one relationship, the beginning of another and do justice to a murder investigation that won't go away? Out of Ideas.

Your friend is dead. Everything about his end suggests suicide - in law enforcement today that's a rational assumption with far too many tragic examples. It gnaws at you. Before you know it you find yourself fighting for your own life. You'd have discovered The Heart of the Matter.

Finally - a mom, a wife... A police supervisor awash in the downside of the digital revolution. My first novel, my first main character. A Miracle of Zeros and Ones.

Every one is a product not just of my own experiences in law enforcement, but of hundreds of men and women who have done their best to serve. If you want to know what real cops think, not just when the body cam is on but when they are being themselves... 

They fit nicely in a Christmas stocking.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Constitution Says What?! UPDATED

"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer."

Henry Kissinger
The Constitution has had a busy week. Irony was in the air, thick as mosquitoes on a warm Syracuse evening. People who thought they'd packed the Court, finally to get the "conservative majority" they craved, the outcomes they'd worked so hard to anticipate... Let's start from the easiest part.

The headline was inferential. President Trump had "signaled" he might use an executive order to rescind so-called "birthright citizenship." First - how, exactly, does the Twitterrer-in-Chief signal? Usually, he comes right out and says what is on his mind. Unfiltered. For whatever it's worth. President Trump is learned the art of notion floating an idea? I'll be damned.

Of course, there was an immediate hue and cry. Dude, the...you know...Constitution!

Well, you know, the 14th Amendment. It says, rather clearly:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

If I've read it once in cases, I've read it a hundred and forty-seven times. "In matters of constitutional interpretation, we begin with the text itself." Begin?

It is a mistake to think that the Supreme Court... Hang on, let's do something quick, before the actual substance stuff. The Supremes - sometimes referred to awkwardly as SCOTUS, which doesn't take any less time to type, really - deal in "cases and controversies." Some States (and this is their option) allow advisory opinions on laws that haven't really become a thing, yet. "Hey, [State's Highest Court], what do you think of the law we might pass?"

The US Constitution requires that an actual lawsuit actually be in play. Sometimes, as in Plessy (separate but equal) and Griswold (contraception), court cases are ginned up to cause a case to be brought. The "Scopes Monkey Trial" started when a teacher was arrested in a prearranged agreement between him and the local government so that a case could go forward - a real case and controversy existed.

So, the Supreme Court can do no more than chuckle over their muffins during morning get togethers about President Trump's hint. That is, until the mild-looking guy from Hawaii, or the bearded imbecile from... Washington or Oregon - one of those states where they let weird dudes in black hoodies direct traffic - when one of them issues an injunction, there is much high dudgeon on both sides and the President ultimately gets his way. Okay, maybe it was California.

What does "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" mean? Not a clue. I've read a few essays by people who think they know, but... Let's think about this.

Emma and Noah, a young couple from Thistletown, Ontario, pop across the border to see their beloved Maple Leafs play Buffalo's Sabres. She is eight months pregnant, but due in thirty days. Both are Canadian citizens. Of course, if they commit a crime, or make a wrong turn in violation of New York traffic laws they'll see how quickly they become "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" by some Buffalo cop looking for something to do.

Toronto Goalie Nikita Zaitsev gives up a late, soft goal. The crowd goes nuts. Emma detects an unquenchable flow of... You get the idea. Several hours later Carly Yvonne is born at Buffalo General, a happy and healthy six pound... American?

I've been a lawyer. Isn't there something that tells me whether the world has welcomed a new American, or a Canadian who will soon be back in Ontario learning how to say "eh?" after every third sentence?


We're soon going to find out. And, maybe it's time we did.

UPDATED: Andrew McCarthy has a very interesting take on "Subject to the jurisdiction" and an originalist view of the 14th Amendment. He ends it with an entirely reasonable policy statement. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In Defense of a Thing

Josh Limon (Bradley Whitford): "He spends his days yelling at the squirrels for eating the bird seed."
Leo McGarry (John Spencer): "You know, they make a thing now..."
The West Wing, "Noel," (2000).

With everything going on... Maybe, a little snippet into the kinds of informative interactions that occur at our house.

We were getting ready to go to - work for her, the dentist for me for a cleaning. Today I found out one of my fillings has broken, and needs to be replaced. Needles, mouth pried open for half an hour and that heavy feeling. Plus, worrying about chewing a hole in my numb cheek. The office manager erroneously made the follow-up appointment in a few weeks for my wife, not me. 

What better way to avoid the dentist? I thought I'd just keep it to myself until the phone call. "Patricia, I'm calling to confirm your appointment tomorrow to have the filling replaced."


I digress. I asked on my way out what is an operative and essential question, one that gets asked most mornings - "Can I take (leftover) for lunch?"

We are busy people. We love to cook. We subscribe to Sun Basket, who send us three meals a week. Some of the ingredients (not all) are pre-sliced and diced, all are pre-measured. It usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour to make. They are generally fabulous, generally straightforward and there are almost always leftovers.

So - busy people, microwaveable... Edible at the desk while typing out missives to colleagues, reading emails from "The Boss" and watching BigJet TV.

Me: "Can I take the curry stew for lunch today?"
Her: "Yeah, go ahead. I have a thing at noon."

I have a writing instructor who doesn't like the insertion of thing into any kind of writing. Lazy, she says. Lacks description, or details. It doesn't really say anything?

Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah?!

Actually, it is especially descriptive. When Leo says "They make a thing," has anyone who spends $20 a week on bird seed only to have it eaten in its entirely by squirrels... There is a saying, that there is no more motivated a problem solver than a hungry squirrel.

Everyone who has tried to outwit a hungry squirrel knows what I'm talking about. Most of us have tried several "things," always with the same result. The squirrel defeats it, somehow and sits there, munching.

But, in our mind's eye we can see the gizmos.

That's the essence of good writing. No less an authority on story telling than singer/songwriter John Prine said it best - tell the listener enough to stir their imagination. Let them fill in the rest.

A long-time and dear friend always referred to any sort of malady, virus or ill ease as "The Otch." In fact, it is derived from the Italian/American word agita, which is an upset stomach, heartburn or indigestion.

Leo: "Donna's going to take you to the hospital to have your hand looked at."
Josh (hand wrapped in a bandage): "It's fine."
Leo: "It could be infected, you could have a thing..."

You know?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Key Ingredient

Please welcome my friend Andrew to Bikecopblog. He is a friend, a gifted and talented man and until this week the proud owner of a Toyota SUV. He wrote this as a comment to my post about the Malibu I sold a few years ago. It is way too good to keep there. Whether writing in defense of freedom, or about the departure of a trusted companion, Andrew's thoughts are always worth entertaining.  

My beloved 2000 4RUNNER joined a new family on Thursday. Suffice to say, the 20-yr-old buyer is a wonderful young man who considered himself blessed to have found my pal. When he realized it's a standard, he was ecstatic. That made it easier - not easy - to bid my truck adieu.

Later that day I needed to drive my wife's 2014 car on an errand. Apparently there's a rule somewhere that techy keys need to get bigger every year. My 2000 key was simple, black, flat; never needed a battery replaced; never needed to be replaced by a $500 duplicate.

So whenever I drove my wife's big-key car, I would pull out my keychain that would make a custodian envious, find my familiar 4RUNNER key, and then my fingers would just automatically find the *other* key, by default.

That afternoon, I stood in the garage for around 10 seconds fumbling with my keychain, trying to find my wife's key. It was right there, in plain view all the time, but my mind's eye didn't see it, because my fingers were still trying to find the 4RUNNER key that had departed with the its new owner.

I chuckled to myself when I realized what I was doing, it being the first time I realized that that's always been how I would find the *other* key on my keychain. And my heart ached a little bit with that realization, that my 4RUNNER had become, a long time ago and in no small way, a part of me.

My kids were 11 and 9 when I got it. They're 29 and 27 now. It was a part of me, it was a part of them. It was a part of us. Hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball, skiing, skating, camping, and more...perhaps most importantly, driving them to school every morning until they could drive themselves. She served us well. Here's hoping she continues her good work.