Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Call off the hounds, I'm back.

Returning from a nice long vacation, where I traveled to parts of the world that few ever think of visiting, I felt renewed, even happy to be back to work.

The natural cynicism of a big city copper meant when one got too much enjoyment out of something it had to break down, go bad, get ugly.

Tragedy struck the police family again and again, all around the country, Oakland, Seattle, Lakewood, Pittsburgh, heck everywhere, I suddenly felt my spirit go numb.

Going to work lost it's beauty.

This was a horrible experience.

The spirit, the beauty, of being a copper is what made it all worthwhile.

Every copper, deputy, officer, five oh, po po, detective, marshall, whatever you guys and girls call each other, knows what I mean.

The job can become a wicked ugly thing.

There has to be a sense of purpose, a love of the street, a craving for the adrenaline rush, for a good copper to survive the years and years of grief it takes to collect the pension.

Without a true love of the spirit and energy it takes to make the job the fulfilling vocation it should be, the evil can take over and ruin a copper's soul.

Fortunately, good friends, good coppers, and good sense revealed the demon to the light.

People noticed the Big City Copper blog was dormant. Questions where asked. "Where are you? Why are you so silent?"

You gotta love those friends that noticed these things and cared enough to say something.

I still love the job, just not so much any more.

The pension light is visible and not so far off in that tunnel.

I know now that I'm leaving the police world in 18 months or so. I'll be maxxed out in pension, wisdom, and spiritual effectiveness.

I'll miss it but health and sanity is a beautiful thing too.

For now though, I'm back.







Thursday, December 10, 2009

A slow day

Every copper knows every day police work can be slow and filled with mundane tasks. That is what the big city copper has experienced since returning from vacation. Oh, the usual stuff goes on, like watching an SUV roll over trying to avoid the crash that was already blocking two lanes of traffic. The idiot barely looked up in time to avoid killing the responders already there. Like I said, every day stuff.

While most coppers are having a good day, others found the hands of fate needed to amuse themselves. Good honest officers found their fate in the hands of murderers. Lakewood, Washington followed closely by Pittsburgh Pa. had officers slain. There might even be more since I read the news last.

Is it a form of survivors guilt to feel bad? Being unable to attend the memorials of these guys saddened me. I sent a small token and prayers for the families instead.

I hope to continue having boring slow days.








Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter and fire safety

The onset of cold weather reminded the big city copper of some of the worst memories of a copper's experience. Fires.

True, the fire department does all the fire fighting and are the usual "heroes" but more times than not it is a copper or two that are the first to arrive and get involved.

One night two young coppers were responding to a disturbance in a large apartment building. They stepped off the elevator and into a smoked filled hallway. They turned the corner and saw a bucket of tar with a mop. Further on was an apartment door on fire with the flames spreading to the ceiling. Seeing flames spreading across a ceiling was a shock. There had to be ten apartments on this floor and the building was at least twenty stories high.

They put in the emergency call for help and began to pound on apartment doors. The tenants, realizing the danger , began to gather their families and head for the stairs. Several helped to warn their neighbors.

The sound of sirens announced the arrival of help. The coppers went to the top floor and pounded on doors. They assisted as many people as they could find. The fire spread rapidly so the coppers had to get out.

The street was filled with fire equipment, ambulances, and police cars. The coppers had saved a few lives by their quick reactions. They were exhausted and had breathed in smoke so were driven to the hospital to get checked out.

The fire and evacuation was intense but the real trauma was in the ER. The coppers were taken immediately. A nurse approached with the nastiest looking needle the copper had ever seen. "This might hurt a little" was an understatement. She inserted the needle into the coppers wrist to obtain arterial blood in order to check for carbon monoxide. She missed the artery and had to look for it by moving the needle around while in the wrist. The most intense pain the copper had ever felt almost made him vomit. The code prevented him from crying like a little girl especially since the screams from the next room were from the copper's female partner.

The nurse finally ended the torture and got her blood. The copper went and puked in private. The partner wept without embarrassment. They had done their job and saved some lives. The boss said nice job. No medals or accolades, just respect from the guys and girls on the watch.

The worst part of fire jobs was the casualties. The firemen find them and bring them out but coppers do the paper job and follow up.

Seeing fire victims on the clean white gurney at the morgue didn't make it any easier to do the job. In order to see a body burned beyond recognition or children burst open like plumper hot dogs, a copper needed to flip the switch that let him step out of his self and be the professional he needed to be. When a copper suppressed all emotion, the experience was fascinating. The smell wasn't any worse than burnt meat and burned beyond recognition really meant what it implied. Gender identification was visibly impossible but every muscle was clearly visible.

Thank goodness for the ability to suppress emotions.

Practice and preach fire safety.





Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Justice served.

Big city and small town coppers everywhere who are mourning our fallen heroes can rest a little easier today.

A fellow copper found the bastard who killed our brothers and sister and sent him to hell.

Now everyone knows the big city copper is all about ethics, morals, and justice but God fearing values meant nothing to the man that attacked our law enforcement family.

The families of the fallen wept.

A civil society demanded this evil not go unpunished.

The code of the street copper screamed for fierce reprisal.

We have prevailed.



Donations to the families are being taken on line at the Lakewood Police Independent Guild.
Please give generously. Support your L.E. family in their time of grief.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rest in Peace Brothers.

All police officers mourn along with Lakewood, Washington P.D. Our hearts go out to our brothers, our heroes. Rest in Peace


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do your own work.

There are lots of things a young copper has to learn that is not taught in the academy and has to be learned by experience. One very important thing to be learned is, to keep some pooch copper from stealing a good arrest you gotta do your own paper work. It happens to young officers all the time.

A young copper and his partner were checking a burglar alarm at a school late one night and noticed an open window. They climbed in and began to do a room by room search. They were alerted by noise coming from the main office. They sneaked into the room and surprised a burglar prying open a desk drawer. The offender wisely surrendered.

The young officers were FNG's and didn't have much experience in processing a felony pinch. They called in two of the older guys who worked a crime car in plain clothes and asked for help with the arrest. They figured they would share the credit and gain some knowledge at the same time.

Well you can guess what happened. By the time the paperwork was done the young coppers weren't even on the scene except for transporting the offender. The young coppers realized they had let a good pinch get taken from them. There was no recourse, the sergeant shrugged and said "ya gotta learn to do your own work guys". Good street coppers are very competitive and hustle to get the good arrest but only assholes steal them from other policemen. It was a valuable lesson the young guys learned that day.

Another incident was even worse. A man intent on suicide was sitting on the roof ledge of a five story building. A friend was trying to talk him down. Two big city coppers and a fireman went up in a FD snorkel bucket at the rear of the building. Quietly, they approached the man and grabbed him from the ledge. The man began fighting and trying to go over the ledge. He was wrestled from the roof and onto the bucket. He fought all the way down. The man was admitted to the psych ward of the hospital and the coppers were recommended for a life saving award for their heroism.

A month or so later at the monthly awards ceremony, (lots of heroic stuff going on in the big city) the presenter called out three names for the award. The two officers and the fireman right? Guess again! The Beat officer that had written up the incident had included himself as part of the save. He posed with the officers as if he had earned the medal. It was embarrassing. His wife was smiling so proudly at him though that it was better to leave it be.

These incidents are good examples of why coppers should do their own work especially if you want it done right.






The grand finale to the big city copper's middle east vacation was a visit to Petra and the Dead Sea. This was actually considered part of the Holy Land just not the christian part of it.

Petra was a fascinating archeologic wonder. Several ancient buildings carved into the mountains were featured in one of the Indiana Jones movies. The tour guide played a recording of the IJ theme song as we approached the sight. (Cheesy dramatics, no matter where you go.)

The Dead Sea was a marvel to see. It is 200 meters below sea level and extremely salty. Nothing grows in the water. It felt caustic and any scratches or open skin suffered for it. The mud baths were smelly but supposedly have healing properties.

The pillar of salt of Lot's wife and her camel were fun to see. (Too bad the camel looked back too)
This is obviously a brief recap of an enormous adventure and I know I haven't done justice to a great trip but it was a whirlwind tour with not much time to really appreciate it all.

Returning to the USA was actually a relief. Some areas especially near the airport at Amman,Jordan were definitely highly secured. Armored vehicles with .50 caliber machineguns mounted sat at various intersections.
After a long 15 hour flight, it was good to get home.
Getting back to work will be a chore though, A copper can get used to a life of leisure and travel.








Friday, November 6, 2009





We traveled along the coast of the arabian gulf stopping in Sharjah to pick up two more adventurers, a young female french socialist and an older german tourist. The ride to the border of Oman took us through several towns and villages. Several times we had to stop for the livestock in the roadway. Our driver says the goats and cows know where they live and eventually make their way home. Saves the need for a shepherd, I guess.

We arrived at the border between Oman and the UAE. It was easy to pass through and exit the UAE once we provided the officials with the fee and our passports. We repeated the procedure at the entry side into Oman. The scenery didn't change much, desert and mountains to one side and the blue waters of the gulf of Oman. After passing through more fishing villages we arrived at a small cove where a few Dhows were wharfed. We boarded ours and settled in for a casual cruise into the fiords that knifed into the mountains.

We sailed through the fiords stopping at islands and villages. We saw ruins of a British fort on Telegraph Island. Another ruin was of a portugese fort long abandoned. The boat stopped in a cove for lunch and snorkeling. Lunch was typical Omani food, fish, rice, a soup, sweet tea and flat bread. It was delicious.

The dhows were constantly followed by dolphins that swam and played around racing through the wake of the boat. It was late in the afternoon and nearing dusk when we finally docked and headed back to the city.

The adventure to the middle east continued to get better. Our next stop was to travel to Jordan and see the Holy Land from the West Bank of the Dead Sea.

Monday, November 2, 2009

On vacation...

What an adventure!

The non stop flight from the big city to Abu Dhabi should have taken 15 hours at most. But NOOOOOOOO! Some poor sap got sick somewhere approaching Greece. Did the flight continue to Athens maybe? No the pilot turned the plane around and backtracked to Milan, Italy. Wow! Italy. They at least opened the doors so we could breath some fresh air as we sat on the tarmac for four hours. So when you hear a big city copper brag about when "I was in Milan...." you can call him on it. The flight finally made it to Abu Dhabi at one in the morning, five hours behind schedule.

Normally, the big city copper is all about adventuring. The ability to adapt and improvise is one of my prized assets but after eight hours or so the "quaintness" faded fast. The plane was filled to capacity. The seats in coach were cramped and uncomfortable. There were too many squalling babies. The whole thing began to look and feel like the chicken and goat buses I've ridden. You know the ones you see in the third world documentaries. Mercifully, passing through customs and immigration was a breeze and the hour's drive to Dubai was uneventful.

The next day was spent at the pool, enjoying my grandkids, and napping. (to fight off the jet lag) Tomorrow, the adventure continues. A boat ride through the straits of Hormuz and into the country of Oman is the planned tour.

I'll let you know how it went. I will hopefully impress you with some good photos too but that will have to wait till we return.

Monday, October 26, 2009

On vacation



The big city copper is going out of town for a few weeks. This was last years visit to Dubai.

I am returning for another visit to see my grandkids. I'll try to post from there but I can't promise I will.


A camel ride on the shore of the Persian Gulf. Hot Hot Hot at least 115 degrees.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The mind wanders....

The life of a big city copper is full of excitement, adventure, and drama. It is also boring , full of mundane tasks that take up too much time.

Paperwork for instance, everything used to be a form set. Fill in the blanks, write up a narrative, you're done. The new, modern, police department is electronic and digital. The report any copper could fill out in ten minutes now takes over an hour. Sometimes it takes a half hour of waiting just to use the computer. Each officer has to log in, choose the proper report, and begin typing. Sounds easy right? Listen to this. Type, tab, type again, tab, oops, not the proper format for the date, do over. Type some more, tab, uh oh you better hit the save application every few minutes or the whole thing vanishes and you have to start over again. How many old time coppers type using more than two fingers on each hand? A simple "he jumped on me" arrest that used to take a half hour (twenty minutes if it was quitting time) now takes over an hour or longer. (Say OVERTIME, baby)

The whole thing was supposed to save paper right? The old arrest report was a five page form set with carbon paper and each page was distributed to the necessary unit. The electronic arrest report now spits out a ten or more page printout and each unit now gets a complete package rather than a one page copy. They still require copies of everything. The archives room at the station is overflowing with boxes of paperwork with no end in sight.

Even the goriest murder was still just a paper job to the Beat copper. Fill in the blanks, write up a half way intelligent narrative, note all the phone call notifications, then turn it over to the Dicks. (They teach them how to type at detective school.)

The very first homicide of copper's career can be very dramatic. A young man was executed in an alley with a bullet to the back of his head in broad daylight. The family of the victim was crying and screaming. A brother of the dead guy held him, crying. He kissed the victim full on the lips then lowered him to the pavement as the police took over. Unsure of how to proceed, the rookie copper stared around trying to sort out the chaos. Luckily, the field training officer said "relax, it's only a paper job. Call for the crime lab and the dicks."

A couple of years and many crime scenes later, a young officer was getting frantic. A woman had been met at the back door to her boyfriends house by a shotgun blast to the face. With most of her head splashed into the back yard (a cat was feasting on brain matter), she was in a sitting position against the railing of the porch. Her body was still gasping for air (the well storied death rattle). The young officer wanted to call an ambulance. "Relax, she's dead already. She just don't know it yet. Besides it's only a paper job" remarked, the now grizzled three year veteran.

Sorry about that, the mind wandered a bit there. Modern technology is slow to catch on in the big city. There are bosses who still want to see paper copies of reports they can review before they will okay them to be submitted electronically. Instead of easing the workload it actually doubled it. Go figure. Old dogs and new tricks comes to mind.

All this muttering is really the agitation a copper gets when a furlough is approaching. Those last few days before a vacation starts are very difficult to endure. A few days of relaxation, laying in the sun, sipping on umbrella drinks, and eyeing the thong bikinis will ease the tension. Unless, of course, you're going with your own spouse then don't forget to take the mirrored shades and suck in your gut!! Your spouse will never notice.

Of course the big city copper is all about morality and solid family values (watch for the lightning bolt) so a visit with the grandkids is this years epic adventure. Mirrored glasses and pretending to be cool is not necessary.

Next year? DA BEACH, DA BEACH, we're going to DA BEACH!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

How will you go?

One of the guys didn't show up for roll call. I figured he was caught in traffic or overslept so I called his cell phone. There was no answer. I left a message. I called his home number. No luck. Now I'm getting concerned. Is he still in bed with the phone turned off. Is he passed out on the floor drunk? Or is gasping his last breath from a stroke or heart attack and dying. (Coppers never think of sunshine and blue skies do they?)

The other sergeant and I decided to do a "check the well being" visit to his house. The boss sent the other guy on another caper so I went alone. His car was parked in front of his building. I sniffed the air for that telltale odor of death as I approached the door. So far so good, no stench of rotting flesh assailed my nostrils.

Peering into the window, I was startled by the door suddenly opening. The officer was grinning from ear to ear. "Hey Sarge, what's up?" I explained my concern for his health since he didn't show up for work. He laughed and asked, "didn't the el tee tell you? I RETIRED!"

A sudden burst of happiness quickly replaced my initial shock. I offered and received a strong handshake followed by a back slapping embrace. He happily displayed a "Retired" star and ID card.

"Nobody said anything." I remarked. "Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I wanted to quietly walk away" was his response.

I congratulated him, told him he would be missed, and wished him well. Back in the car, I went on the air and informed the dispatcher. She broadcast the news to everyone and the well wishes began. It was heartwarming. The sad thing is that in a few months, coppers will say "remember that guy? I can see his face but I can't remember his name."

I drove away thinking of that day when I will not show up to work.

"Aw hell no," I said aloud.

I want to walk around the station bragging about how many days I have left. "Only ten more," I'll boast. "Get your party hats ready." "Five and a wake-up!" YES!

FANFARE! That's what I want. I don't care whether it's pizza, balloons and clowns or cheap booze, strippers and mariachi music. I won't, I refuse to go quietly.

For sacrificing a normal life to countless night shifts, working holidays, and witnessing the miseries of the street; I want a happy ending. For burying more brother officers than I can remember; I would like to be appreciated. For shedding blood as well as dignity to protect the uncaring masses; I think I deserve it.

I think we all deserve it.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cold weather brings...

The weather has been dreary the last few days. Rain, mist, more rain, and cold winds makes most people feel lousy. Just getting out of bed is a chore. This is typical big city October weather. The worse of it is that it doesn't get any much better. Oh, there are a few decent sunny days around the Thanksgiving holiday but that's it. Once the bad weather starts there's no relief until next May.

The general rule for police officers has always been "A good officer never gets wet, cold, or hungry!" There are always exceptions to any rule.

A few years ago, before civilians took over intersection traffic control duties, junior officers were detailed to the stadium for sports events. Football and soccer games are played in any weather short of tornados or hurricanes. These fans are insane. They come out in the most horrible weather instead of watching the game in the comfort of their home or favorite tavern. Young coppers had to stand in the rain, sleet, and snow directing the flow of traffic out of the arena parking lots. It was impossible to stay dry and warm with sleet blowing in your face for an hour. The best masks, gloves, and scarves available in those days didn't last very long.

The big city is socked with huge blizzards almost every winter. The pattern is the same every storm. Piles of deep drifting snow then a plunge into deep freezing temperatures immediately after the sky clears. This cold can reach arctic like conditions, often as low as -25 degrees. A cold so bitter that car motors and people both freeze up solid. Morning sometimes finds cars stranded on the roads and homeless people frozen where they tried to find shelter. Not everyone seeks out the city's help.

The extremely cold weather does chase the criminals off the street. After a day or so, the cabin fever kicks in and the indoor disturbances start. Coppers often have to park the patrol car on the main street and walk to the location of the job through the snow. The problems are often resolved while standing around the lit stove. Everyone, including the officers, warm their hands over the lit burners. Not many people are put out on those frigid nights. The combatants, unless they go to jail, are usually willing to wait for a warmer day to resume the hate.

In between assignments, officers return to the station to run their personal cars for twenty minutes in order to be able to drive home after the tour is over.

Winter in the big city is when police work is the most challenging. It's not easy getting motivated when the sidewalk and driveway has to be cleared of a foot of snow just to get to the street. A running start is then necessary to make it off the side road to the main street. If the main street has been plowed, an officer might make it to work at a reasonable hour.

AHHHH life in the big city!

Winter in the big city? BLAHHHH.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The faded thin blue line

Many years ago in the big city, there were police officers that lived on the edge of copper society. They did their duty and protected each other but there existed a fine line between the good guys and the bad.

Every one knew who took money from traffic stops. Some were blatant and bragged about it, others were more discreet. Some preyed on the immigrant population. They relied on the fear of the police in their own country to pay a bribe without complaining. An officer, rumored to carry large sums of traffic money in his socks, failed to come in at the end of his shift one morning. The entire day shift went looking for him, not concerned for his safety, but racing to find him first to clean out his "choke".

In those days drunks were tolerated, sometimes even protected. The legendary "blue line" actually existed. Police officers did not talk to outsiders about what went on within the job. The drinkers were just overlooked as long as they stayed out of trouble. Most often the new guys , the young recruits, had to take their turn riding with the drunks.

Young officers had no say in the matter. The problem officer was usually very senior to the young copper and would grab the car keys, telling the rookie, "I'll drive kid." The first stop was usually the liquor store or bar. The drunk would leave the rookie in the car, saying "I'll be right out." Several minutes later, the older officer returned with a bag. Afraid of getting in trouble with the job but also leery of being called a rat, the young kid said nothing.

These problem officers were professional drunks. They drove around all night, threw beer cans out the window, and usually managed to steer clear of danger. With an uncanny, although blurred eye, they were good at spotting trouble blocks away then going the other way. They even offered to share their booze with the partner (after the third or fourth can, of course). The young copper had no choice but to say a silent prayer and wait for the morning. Two shifts riding with the drunk was usually the limit. The guy making the duty roster was good about shifting him around.

Before the development of the random drug testing program, the dopers were also well known. These officers were more secretive and only gathered with other pot smokers. Police cars parked door to door in a vacant lot wasn't always officers discussing strategy. There were instances of drinkers and dopers riding together in an attempt to keep the problem officers out of trouble. They worked hard at avoiding assignments which meant other officers had to carry their weight.

Keeping track of ammunition was not always a high priority in those days. The gunfire heard at night wasn't always the bad guys shooting. The were rumors of officers carrying small caliber guns for hunting rats on slow nights. Officers responding to calls of "shots being fired" were sometimes met by other police who were "close by". Shots fired outside a bar sometimes were waved off as not bone fide when drunk off duty guys were suspected of putting out the street lights.

Police parties were famous for poker games at one table, dice games in the corner, and drunken bimbo's offering their services in the back. Of course wives and husbands were never invited.

Those days are long gone. The new breed of police officer won't tolerate the drunks. Random drug testing has gleaned out the dopers. Digital cameras and tighter weapons policies has cut down the gun play. The thought of losing the best job in the world because of a DUI arrest or the possibility of a nasty divorce has toned down the drinking, gambling, and womanizing. Cell phone cameras, squad car cameras, and the fear of going to prison has stopped most of the traffic bribes.

The large amounts of drug money that is out on the street has bred a new kind of police criminal. These crooks shake down drug dealers and terrorize honest citizens by planting drugs then threatening to arrest them. Federal authorities work along with internal affairs officers to put these criminals into prison.

The old way of protecting bad police officers no longer works. The thin blue line is faded, sometimes barely visible. Modern police officers are professionals and won't tolerate criminal behavior in their ranks. These are the men and women I am proud to serve with.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Close, but no......

A police officer's career is exciting and dangerous. It's not however, all shootouts and frisky women. (A big city copper is polite and doesn't describe it as "bullets and blowjobs" like some officers would.)

There are areas where an officer can go his whole career without ever taking his gun out of his holster except for practice or qualification. There are also towns and cities where the high crime and violence forces officers into gun fights on a more regular basis. Not all gun play results in injury or death. Sometimes, it's a close call that could have gone bad but didn't.

A copper responded to a disturbance call one night. He approached the location and paused to put his flashlight into a baton ring. The door burst open. A woman screamed out "he's got a gun!" She ran out into the street followed seconds later by a man holding a very nasty looking revolver. The copper, in the middle of the street, realized he was still fidgeting with the flashlight. He succeeded in securing the light (they're expensive) then grabbed the .45 he had just purchased a few days earlier and had only just qualified with. (Strange, the things that run through a copper's head during a adrenaline surge.)

The armed man, apparently very intent on the woman, chased her into the street. The woman , screaming, ran behind a parked car. She kept the car between her and the gunman by running back and forth as he chased her.

The copper, gun drawn and leveled at the man, shouted "police, drop it". The man stopped. The copper shouted again. The man turned, looked at the copper for a long second ( the hands, watch the hands, crap, there's bullets in the cylinder, it's loaded, watch the gun, watch the gun,) then said "SHIT" and dropped the gun. The copper ran up, ordered the man against the wall, then stepped into the back of his leg and forced him to his knees. The copper backed away then called for an assist car to take the man into custody.

While off duty and returning to his car after traffic court one day, a copper watched a man approach a car that was pulled over at the mouth of an alley. The man pulled a gun and began to fire into the car. People began screaming. There was a school on the block and the kids were just getting out for the day.

The officer, pulled out his pistol and began to approach the gunman. A woman screamed behind him " AY DIOS MIO, OTRO!" (Oh my God, another one!) The copper couldn't fire. Too many kids and parents were behind the shooter. The gunman continued to shoot as the car screeched away from the curb. The copper yelled "police"! The shooter, a young male, turned and ran into the alley. The copper (remember, off duty so no radio) chased after him. The young man turned into a gangway and disappeared from sight. The copper, slowed down and began to carefully search for the gunman. After several minutes, there was no sign of the man or of any other police. The copper called it in and provided a description of the shooter and the vehicle but no injuries or damage was ever reported.

Cruising in the vicinity of a block party shooting, a big city copper spotted a man fitting the description of the man wanted for the earlier shooting. The man ran into a yard then continued out of the back gate. The copper gave chase and called out the direction of flight to other cars in the area. When the man turned into another yard, the copper immediately turned into a parallel yard and exited the front at the same time as the suspect. Unaware that the officer was approaching from behind him, the man ducked under a porch and pulled out a gun. He was hiding it under some stones when the copper came up and challenged him. The man looked back and saw the officer had a gun pointed at him. He put up his hands and surrendered.

After each of these incidents, the officer involved got the "coulda shoulda woulda's." He was second guessed by other coppers. "I'd have killed him" "You should have shot him" were some of the comments he heard. Like a true professional, the big city copper told them he never felt threatened or not in control of the situation so killing wasn't necessary.

Sometimes a close call is just part of another day in the big city.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Searching prisoners. A basic rule.

"Search your prisoner". This simple instruction is taught at every police academy in the world. This simple sentence is printed on signs in police lockup facilities everywhere. It is repeated almost daily at roll calls and by field training officers to their recruits. You know coppers though, the most basic safety measure there is and they neglect to do it.

Turnkeys everywhere complain about finding contraband of all kinds on prisoners already inside the holding facility. Besides drugs, knives, razor blades, scissors, nail files, and even small guns are confiscated in lockups. The officers assigned to the holding facilities rightfully get angry at the street officers who endanger their safety. The officers, who allow the contraband to get past them, are sternly disciplined, as they should be.

There are stories.

Driving past a subway station, a copper is flagged down by a man bleeding from a gash in his face. The man asks to be taken to the hospital. "Somebody tried to rob me", was his story.
The copper opened his rear door. The man started to climb in. "Wait a second " the officer said and opened the mans coat. The butt of a pistol was sticking out of the inside pocket. The officer grabbed the butt as the man pulled away. The gun came out in the coppers hand. Thinking quickly, the copper flicked the safety off and confronted the man with his own gun. When assisting cars arrived, the investigation revealed the man had tried to stickup some one with a bigger gun and got cracked in the face for his efforts. A victim is not always the good guy. Big city coppers have a saying, "Today's victim. Tomorrow's offender." Never put someone behind you without knowing who it is.

In another instance officers assigned to the wagon were transporting prisoners from a drug raid. The wagon man began to pat down a man before putting him into the truck. A "Tac" officer, (tactical, plain clothes) said "he's been searched already." The wise wagon man said "right" as he pulled a snub nosed pistol from the mans front pants pocket. The tac man sheepishly reached out for the gun. The copper said "I'll meet you at the station." When the wagon door was opened at the station, all five prisoners had slipped the cuffs from the back to the front. The man would have easily pulled the gun from his front pocket. A deadly tragedy was averted.

Sadly, two plain clothes tactical officers in another district, didn't fare so well. The "snitch", they put in the back seat, hid a gun in his boot and shot both coppers in the back of the head. One was killed instantly. The other copper lingered for a few hours before he too died.

Is it laziness? Do officers feel so immortal they overlook danger? Coppers can't afford to assume the other guy searched already. Search your prisoners yourself if you're unsure. Search anyone you don't trust. Police can do a pat down for weapons of any one they have a reasonable suspicion about. Every officer wants to go home with the minimum of blood loss. It may save someone's life. Maybe yours.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Safety first.

I picked up my new bicycle yesterday. While setting it up for riding (better seat, mirror, lights, and my favorite thumbbell), my mind revisited the vision of crashing and flipping over onto the street. My fall was not an accident and fell into the "assholiness" category but it reminded me of an important topic.
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SAFETY! Whether you are a pedestrian, riding on a bicycle, crotch rocket, or a Harley, road safety should be foremost on everybody's mind.
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A pedestrian, in a hurry to cross the street, stepped around a group of people waiting for the light to change. A transit system bus, pulling into the bus stop, struck her head just as she tried to get back on the sidewalk. First on the scene, I approached the woman as she lay on the street. She looked at me and smiled. I told her the ambulance was on the way. A few minutes later, I looked into the ambulance and asked how she was doing. The medic told me she had died shortly after she was struck. I was stunned. She used one of her last living moments to smile at me.
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The injuries I suffered were minor but earlier this summer, a bicycle rider died after getting "doored". The rider was thrown into the street by a driver opening his door into traffic. He was struck and killed by a passing motorist.
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All summer, motorcycles called "crotch rockets" traveled up and down the lakefront highway at high speeds. The riders recklessly hit speeds of over 90 MPH. They often roared past the radar police car in groups. The police, instead of trying to pursue at such dangerous speeds, had to radio ahead and try to catch them at their destination.
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Occasionally, the laws of physics caught them first. One night a rider lost control, veered off the road , and struck a tree. His torso remained attached to the tree limb. His legs and hips were found a hundred feet or so further up the median.
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On another night this big city copper was told by a motorist of a body in the street. Driving up to the location, I noticed a bundle of clothes laying in the road. The pile of rags contained a man laying on his back staring up at the sky. I checked for a pulse in the neck and felt only bones protruding. Checking further, I observed the back pockets of his jeans were also facing upward. After calling in and requesting "everybody", I looked around for the inevitable motorcycle. The cycle was down the street a few yards away. I noticed another dark pile on the parkway. It was a man curled up in the baby position. I felt for a pulse and then heard a groan. As he turned his head his brains began to spill from under his "do rag". He died there on the street.
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Professional police motorcycle riding was also dangerous. Several officers suffered injuries in crashes or in training sessions. A news item told of two officers getting killed while doing motorcade duty for the president.
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Safety first. We'll all hopefully live longer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Police have normal days too.

A copper working on the street day after day never knows what kind of situation he may encounter. Funny, absurd, bizarre, or even sexual, are just some of the ways to describe a "normal" day.
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An attractive brunette walked into the station during a rainstorm, soaked to the skin, wearing only a tight tee shirt and shorts and asked for help getting into her locked car. The lucky officer who offered to assist her returned later smiling from the "thank you" she gave him, twice, since her husband wasn't home.
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An officer related how he and his partner were met at the door by a woman wearing a see through robe. Cheerfully they, accepted the invitation to enter the apartment. The first copper was led into a room. The partner heard a voice from the other room. Smiling he went in and found an old woman at least 70 years old leaning up on an elbow from the bed. "Please come in officer, I ain't had me a man in over ten years."
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Another copper related that during an interview of a young woman victim of date rape, she was asked if the man had ejaculated. Not understanding , she asked "huh?" She was asked again, "Did he have an orgasm?" The girl replied "Oh no, he had a Monte Carlo."
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Responding to assist a one man car at a disturbance, a sergeant found the officer speaking to two men. One man was in tears and the other was highly agitated. The crying man related he and his friend were having an argument so he left to calm down. When he returned his friend was screaming and behaving strangely. The coppers got both men to go into the apartment. The agitated man was speaking rapidly and his eyes were wild.
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The coppers got them both to sit down. The wild one began to explain that after the argument, his lover walked out so he decided to take a shower then a nap. While sleeping , two black men broke into the apartment and dragged him into the bathroom where they broke the mirror and raped him. The sergeant, stated the man should go to the hospital to get checked out. The man agreed, then continued to say that they had raped him with a piece of broken mirror. "My ass is bleeding" he stated, "Look." He then stood up, yanked his pants down, and bent over.
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Both officer and sergeant started, "NO, DON'T" but it was too late... The officer shone his flashlight. The sergeant looked closer. Nothing. The man was not bleeding at all.
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"There's nothing wrong with your ass! Put your pants on." ordered the officer.
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The coppers decided the wild eyed look was possibly crystal meth intoxication. This was probably causing the delusions. They convinced the calm one to sign his friend into the hospital. The wild one was placed in the cage car and driven to the hospital. The friend and sergeant followed close behind.
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When they arrived at the hospital, the officer opened the door to the car. The man calmly stepped out and immediately took off running. His friend ran after him. No drugs had been found and neither men had committed a crime so the coppers didn't join in the chase.
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"Have you ever looked in a guys ass before, Sarge?"
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"No, how about you?"
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"I won't tell if you don't." They both agreed.
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Ten minutes later, the jokes started on the radio and from passing police cars.
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Coppers can't keep secrets. Is nothing sacred?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Support your local police.

The big city police department has been suffering through bad publicity because a small group of rogue officers chose to tarnish the honor of their profession. Maybe todays mutterings will help readers understand why they should support the many, many good honest coppers who do their best to overcome the daily battles that police endure.
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A former New York City, Anthony Bouza, police chief wrote "Cops work in a world shrouded with mystery and power..."
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For eight hours a day, six days a week coppers encounter everything one could imagine. Every pain, misery, despair and degradation that man can think of inflicting on each other has to be challenged and overcome. Officer's senses get heightened to a level where the adrenaline flows in copious amounts. They witness more traumatic events in one year than an average person will see in several lifetimes. This overloading of the sensory circuits gives the police an outlook of arrogance, superiority, and power that some outsiders recognize but can never understand.
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Police Officers go into the homes of people who have temporarily lost control of their lives. They evaluate the situation, consider the options, then make a decision for those who are unable or unwilling to do on their own. This is often accomplished in a matter of seconds or in some cases, split seconds. Applying these decisions to the situations at hand takes authority and power. Society gives police the power and authority to accomplish this task using whatever force is necessary including the right to subdue, strike, and even kill legally. This enormous power over the citizenry is wielded by even the lowest ranking rookie officer.
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Police are bonded together into a brotherhood brought on by shared danger and self preservation. There is a common feeling that an outsider has no idea of what really goes on in the bowels of the city so it is difficult to relate to anyone but another copper who lives and works in the same environment.
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Whenever a copper sees another officer struggling with an individual, he sees himself or a brother fighting for his life and the pleasure of going home to his family in one piece. To prevent any further injury to his comrade and the offender, he joins in the fight. A passing citizen sees this and cries brutality because there are more police than bad guys. Well, coppers do not fight fair. They don't have to. They have to win at all costs. Society demands it. What would the city be like if the police had to fight one on one with the criminals?
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Police officers are a unique, elite group of individuals. A thousand years ago these people would have been slaying dragons and rescuing princesses. They actively seek out danger and evil. They revel in the capture of violent criminals. Normal people hear shooting and run from it. Coppers feel a surge of adrenaline and go after the gunmen. Why is that? Do they get paid an enormous amount of money? No!! They do it for the honor and the glory of it. There is a certain satisfaction to solving a murder or a robbery, whether it's within minutes or a year later.
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An active aggressive copper can't help but get complaints filed against him. A true professional, he doesn't shy away from his duty for he knows that as long as his actions are within the law he has no fear of a complaint board. Officers will go out and provide service to the best of his ability for the same people who had filed the complaint against him. It's ironic that the same person who vehemently screams of abuse and brutality at the hands of the police is the first to cry "Help Police" when he or she becomes a victim of a crime.
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The intoxicating allure of the street does have a price that has to be paid. There is a tremendous amount of stress involved in police work. Any situation, any encounter can explode into a maddening tooth and nail struggle for life itself. Every darkened alley or hallway is a potential ambush. Every traffic stop is a possible gun battle waiting to erupt. Whenever a copper walks in an open area his eyes never stop moving, ever conscious of the huge target the blue suit makes. Coppers are the only people who never look at each other during a conversation as they must always be aware of their surroundings. They see what other people miss. Where an average person sees dress styles, laughter, and love; the copper sees pickpockets working, psychotics babbling, and couples fighting. They can't help it. They have to wallow in other peoples misery and observe them at their worst. In order to deal with dead children, pools of blood, spilled brain matter, and the pitiful wail of grief stricken families they unconsciously grow callouses over their emotions. The typical gallows humor coppers are famous for is a defense mechanism formed to cope with the sickening violence that man inflicts on his own kind.
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This stress related arrogance, cynicism, and callousness of the heart is not a button that can easily be switched on or off. Many officers take it home with them. Their odd working hours and long shifts wreaks havoc on their home life. Their lives are subject to public scrutiny and everyone knows who the officer is that lives on the block. Coppers dislike going to non police functions because of the attitudes people take when they know he is present. All of this often results in one of the highest divorce rates in the country.
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A higher price that is paid is the many injuries suffered from fights with doped up addicts, violent attacks, and traffic accidents. Yes, coppers bleed, in fact they bleed more than any other profession other than the brave soldiers fighting for our freedom (God bless them). Every officer's heart bleeds a little every time one of their own is murdered while doing his job.
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Being slain on the job should be the ultimate price but it doesn't end there. The suicide rate among police officers is abnormally high. Too many good coppers have taken that escape route while depressed and over stressed.
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Death by retirement is also a job hazard that is almost unique to the profession. The average life span for a police officer is two years less than normal and statistics show that a retired officer collects only 18 months of his pension before he dies. Many coppers have died the first week after "pulling the pin."
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Policing the big city is difficult and dangerous. The men and women who go out and risk their health and safety daily usually get only the gratitude of the victims that have been helped. The actions of a small element of bad cops who abuse the power and insult the honest and decent members of the profession should not result in further loss of support from the public.
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Without the support of the community, the only satisfaction coppers will get will be from peer recognition and their own professionalism. This will only serve to further alienate the police from the society it serves.
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Most Police Officers, whether they are big city coppers or small town's finest, are fiercely proud of their profession and of the men and women that "SERVE AND PROTECT."

Friday, September 25, 2009

No honors today.

A copper was buried today. Quietly. Only family, friends, and those police officers who knew him.

A sergeant who knew him from the early days, wondered why the order for a full honors burial never came out. He hastily arranged for two escort vehicles and a handful of officers to show up at the funeral home for an impromptu honor guard to show the family the respect that was due to their loved one.

The man was a hero. An apparently unsung one but a hero none the less.

A few years ago, the officer was working in a high crime district helping to train a young recruit. While patrolling late one night they came upon a car parked near an industrial area. The man in the car was alone. He had a newspaper in his lap. The officers sensed no danger.

Both officers came up on the same side, realizing the error, the veteran copper waved back the younger officer and approached the driver.

The man stepped from the car but kept the newspaper over his hand. Now aware of the danger, the copper lunged for the man as a nine shot .22 revolver came into view. He grabbed for the gun hand as the offender fired. Four bullets entered under the officers body armor into the officers torso. The officer fell away injured and bleeding.

The man then turned and fired three more shots at the young recruit a few feet away. Struck in the vest, belly, and belt buckle the young copper was able to draw his weapon and fire several times, killing the assailant.

Severely injured, the veteran copper was rushed to the trauma center. He survived the attack.
Coppers know how much damage a .22 slug can do at close range. Even after months of rehab it was determined that the officer would no longer be able to carry out his police duties. He was retired on disability.

Still a young man, he struggled to live his life to the fullest.

He died quietly, a hero.

He was buried quietly, without the honors due him for his sacrifice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Riding the bus...

Some police officers in the big city are assigned to patrol the transit system. Besides the subway system, there are miles of bus routes that have to be protected. This is a huge responsibility.
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One of the tools available to the officers is the surveillance cameras that are installed on board most, if not all the buses, on the system. These cameras provide remarkably good quality video or digital photos of any incident occurring on the bus.
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Modern technology is a helpful law enforcement asset but it still takes the dogged determination of good coppers out on the street doing the leg work.
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When crimes are recorded on a city bus, these officers obtain copies of the video and hit the road. They look for landmarks visible on the video such as fences, ads, benches, or anything that will give them the location where the bad guys boarded or exited the bus.
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These officers, whose only mission for the day is to find the bad guys, will then go on foot, asking questions, showing the photos, and searching for signs of the crooks. They visit the schools, look through yearbooks, and talk to students and teachers.
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Using the technology available along with good old fashioned "boots on the ground" police work, many crimes have been solved.
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Serious crimes, such as a bus driver being set on fire, or the shooting of a teenager have been successfully prosecuted. Criminal vandalism cases have also been closed due to the dilligence of big city police officers.
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This is what police work is all about for these officers; One mission, one villain, go out and get em. Positive results is the only payoff. Pride in one's work is the only thanks. The look of surprise on the guy's face when he is shown his photo is worth the hours of pounding the pavement.
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Wiser words have never been spoken than what an old sergeant preached at roll call, "Being a big city copper is a vocation, a calling, not a job. Kind of like the priesthood without the young boys."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Avoiding tragedy for big city police

The two man wagon crew is rolling down the street that is the south boundary of the patrol sector. Not having an assigned beat, the officers cruise the area waiting for a transport job or any disturbance calls they can respond to.
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The driver is a grizzled veteran. Three years doesn't sound like much, but in a hard core, high crime district like this one, it makes coppers old in a hurry. Riding with him is a FNG, a kid just released from his field training officer. It is a good match up. Young officers can't learn what they need to know by riding with a field trainer. They learn by experience. By working with older coppers, a sharp rookie can observe how others handle problems. They can then glean the good tactics from poor ones and form their own style.
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Veteran coppers seem to ignore the normal radio chatter but are attuned to their own call numbers. They can also tell when a serious job is coming. The tone of the dispatchers voice changes when he's giving out a hot job.
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A plain clothes team is chasing an armed robbery offender on foot. The wagon crew is only one street away. The driver spots a male black, gun in hand, running from the side street just ahead. The man runs into a doorway a few houses from the corner. The officer pulls up close to the corner and radios in the street address before approaching the doorway.
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Drawing his .45, the copper opens the door . It is a hallway. There are sounds of footsteps pounding up the stairs. "Damn" he says as he quickly begins the climb. The footsteps are going higher. It is a three flat building. Approaching the third floor, the officer hears a door slam. There is a door at either end of the landing. "Which door is it?" Before he could decide, the doorknob begins to turn on the far door. "Crap" the copper is in the open, on a landing between two doors with no cover. Crouching down into the corner, the copper makes himself small and points his pistol at the door.
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The door opens. Standing in the doorway is a man holding a gun. The copper yells, "drop it, police" and aims for the chest. The armed man's eyes open wide as he slams the door shut. The copper jumps up and slams his foot at the door, kicking it open. A gunshot goes off inside the apartment. The officer stops in his tracks, "the fucker's shooting at me" he thinks. He shouts, "police police" and holds his aim, looking for a target.
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Suddenly, a man jumps into his field of vision from the right. It's a male black with a gun in his hand. Directing his aim toward this new threat, the copper notices a radio in the other hand. The copper realizes he knows him. It's one of the plain clothes team that was chasing the robbery offender. He says hi to him and enters the apartment. The other plain clothes officer ran in behind the first. Now it's a chase to grab the bad guy first. Who ever puts cuffs on the offender gets the pinch.( Competition is fierce amongst ghetto coppers for the good arrests.)
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The offender is in the living room of the apartment with his hands in the air. The plain clothes guy gets the cuffs on him so they win.
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There is shouting from the doorway. "Drop the gun" and "No, NO, Don't shoot".
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There is the FNG officer holding the black officer at gun point. The frightened officer holding his gun AND radio high in the air. The veteran coppers rush back and calm the new guy down. (He is shaking). The grizzled veteran copper introduces the new guy to the plain clothes officers.
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Back at the station, the officers sat down to discuss the sequence of events that almost led to tragedy had either officer fired without thinking. Luckily, one of the first things learned is to "always watch their hands"
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The pursuing officers had heard the address given by the wagon copper. They went up the rear stairs and encountered the offender trying to escape by the back door. The offender had fired a shot and fled back inside . He then tried the front door again. He was trapped. When saw there was no escape he had given up and threw the gun to the floor. Meanwhile in the kitchen sat the family, who lived in the apartment, terrified. The offender had chosen the building at random.
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To avoid this type of near tragedy, the plain clothes teams decided to introduce themselves to the uniform guys at roll calls.
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That's one of the ways how FNG's become veterans in a hurry.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coping in the police world.

Police officers are exposed to more traumatic events in one year than most people experience in a lifetime.
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There are horrific mutilations of bodies caused by traffic crashes. Broken limbs, severed heads, and other bloody body parts are often strewn about the scene.
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Suicides are messy and can be gruesome. Some go quietly to sleep in a car, parked in the garage with the engine running. Others, take sleeping pills or other drugs and also go quietly. Many don't go so neatly. Those who leap from tall buildings leave a smashed, broken, and bloody mess. The brain is sometimes laying several feet away from the skull. Arms and legs are always twisted into awkward and unnatural positions. People who jump in front of trains , well you can imagine how many pieces they break into. Did you know that the neck of a hanging victim really does stretch, if left dangling long enough? Someone that shoots themselves sprays their brains over the whole room.
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Murder victims are left in positions indicative of how angry the killer was. Heads bashed in, throats slashed, hog-tied and strangled, gang symbols carved into torsos, shot, or the worst, babies scalded to death are all methods of death the big city coppers have seen.
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How do they do it? How can a copper deal with all the mayhem and destruction of a 25-30 year career without going insane?
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Most officers develop an internal switch that activates when the stress level rises ("when the shit gets deep"). Other coppers are gifted with the ability to turn it on and off naturally. The switch helps the copper function as a professional when all hell is breaking loose around him. The brain sets the mess aside to be dealt with later and allows the work to get done.
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It does have to be dealt with though. It starts during, if possible, and immediately after an incident. Some call it "gallows" humor. Others call it "whistling through the graveyard". Crude jokes and comments may seem inappropriate to some but it is a necessary tool coppers unconsciously use to help cope with horrifying incidents. Many officers take the difficult route and dull the memories with alcohol. Telling "war stories" around the bar helps some officers escape the demons inside them.
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Others, unfortunately never recover and eat a bullet.
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If you ever hear police officers speaking crudely about the dead, making harsh jokes at inappropriate times, or writing stories about the dreadful circumstances of a death, have some compassion. Coppers really do care about victims and the families of victims but they also care about the mental stability of themselves and their fellow officers.
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Talking, laughing, or writing about the ghastly has a way of soothing a frightful ghost.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Medal of Honor Convention





This week the big city has the honor of hosting the Medal of Honor Convention.

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military award. To receive this medal, an individual must perform an act of personal bravery or self sacrifice, involving the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in a combat action.

There are currently only 95 living recipients of this award that, as written by Peter Collier, is earned only through acts of incredible bravery "at the intersection of happenstance and hell."

Today the big city copper had the honor of leading the motorcade escorting these living legends to the ceremonies being held in their honor.

The lead car, motorcycles, flanking cars, and tail cars surrounded the buses. They lit up the street but, with silent decorum, escorted them with full honors precision.

The fire department formed an archway with snorkels and ladders at the entrance to the park that the motorcade passed through. The escort halted at the Police Gold Star Memorial Park.

The path to the site of the Police Memorial Wall was lined with police officers on foot and on horseback. The Medal of Honor heroes, honored the police heroes by holding a ceremony at the memorial that lists the city's fallen officers.

The procession of old warriors continued on foot (some in wheelchairs) to a luncheon and more ceremonies inside the facility.

Following the finale, the men graciously signed books and chatted with all who approached them.

What a day! The air was rippling with patriotism. There were dozens of flags, there were even more soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen all proudly displaying rows of ribbons on their uniforms. Each ribbon depicting an act of their own personal valor.

Every soldier, currently serving, or aging veteran, stood in awe of these simple men. Humble men who, through extraordinary acts of courage and sacrifice, earned the right to wear that star spangled blue ribbon and star around their necks.

Escorting these men was an honor.
 

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