Thursday, January 26, 2012


Having worn the uniform of two branches of this great nations military I feel a keen bond with our nations veterans.  Over the years I have met a few veterans that stand out and touched my heart.  The one that comes to mind is Sal (not his real name).  I had known Sal for a few years an alcoholic transient (Bum, homeless guy, hobo, vagabond or choose your preferred label) for years.  He was friends with Steve (not his real name either).  Both of them were always respectful and cooperative with me over the years.  I made it a point to check in on them every so often.  Sometimes I was dispatched to calls requesting they be moved along and other times I just stopped to check on them.  I would check them for warrants and ask if they wanted to go to jail.  In the hot summers and cold winters sometimes they actually wanted to go to jail for a cool or warm and safe place to sleep.  When they said they didn’t want to go to jail I left them about their business of drinking themselves to death.  I make them pour their “Steel Reserve” out if they had an open container rather than giving them a ticket.  I have never been a “stats” driven officer.  I tried to focus on doing what was right.  I figured life was hard enough for them living on the street, I didn’t need to make it harder than it had to be.

I ran into Sal one day in a stinky alley in my area.  I was asking him about how his friend Steve died in the park a few days earlier.  He was telling me the story and the prosecutor who was riding along with me was truly devastated by the circumstances.  He said Steve had been having alcohol seizures and when he came back to the park he saw him non responsive.  Then he said “being a former repertory therapist I started CPR and sent someone to call 911”.  I said "are you freaking kidding me Sal you’re a repertory therapist?”  He said “yeah, for several years, but I couldn’t save him he was too far gone when I got to him”.  We talked some more as I had him pour out his beer.  He told me he had been in the Navy, he said he worked his way up to chief warrant officer.  Being a former Navy man I know how big of a deal this was.  He said he got busted down to E6 when he got his first DUI then worked his way back up to E7 (Chief) now for those of you that don’t know but advancing in the Navy isn’t as easy as some branches.  We talked about how he lost his home and family and now lives as a bum in a stinky dirty alley in the crapiest part of town. 

It was remarkable to see that Sal was in fact a contributing member of society and had served his country honorably but now was looked down upon by all that drove by and passed judgment.  I know for certain the prosecutor riding with me had a polar shift in his opinion on who the homeless population could be.  Before leaving I extended my hand to shake his hand and said “Shipmate, is today the day?”  In the Navy calling someone shipmate is like calling them brother.  He looked at me and said “the day for what?”  I responded “the day I take you to rehab to start the first day of the rest of your life getting back what you have lost.”  At first he chuckled then he saw in my eyes that my offer was genuine.  I could see that his eyes started to tear up as he contemplated what was happening.  He laughed it off like it was a joke and pulled his hand away and said with a chuckle in his voice “and give up all this? No, today is not the day”.  I responded “That’s fine, but when the day comes that you are ready, will you let me take you there?”  He smiled and said “Sure”.  We parted ways that day.  When we drove away the prosecutor said “I had no idea that people like that lived on the street”.  At one point Sal had been the salt of the earth.  He was still a great guy.  But something in his life had triggered pain that he felt an intense need to numb with alcohol. 

Every time I saw Sal after that I called him shipmate he would smile and before I even asked it for the millionth time he would say “Sorry shipmate, today is not the day”.  At times I could see just how much it pained him to refuse my help.  The problem was like Steve, by the time I got to Sal it was too late.  He was too far gone, and even though he had a pulse he was too far down his path to death to turn back.  I brought him dinner one thanksgiving and he thanked me but his body didn’t process food anymore as he only consumed alcohol.  He was too far into the depths of dying the death of an alcoholic.  A few months later the seizures started and not long after that he was found dead, in that same stinky, dirty alley in the crapiest part of town.  A g** damned Navy veteran that served his country dying a miserable death in a disgusting place with not even a glimmer of the honor he deserved.  It pains my soul to think about it.  It pains my soul that I did not get him the help he needed sooner.  I often wonder if I had pushed a little harder if I could have saved him.  I will never know for sure because it’s too late.  I will forever wish that I was able to find out what caused him the pain he felt so I could help him.  But that is a wish that will not come true.

Yes he made choices to get where he was but clearly he had a need for help.  I recently saw a statistic that 18 vets a day commit suicide.  That’s a vet every hour and twenty minutes killing themselves.  Vets are 4 times more likely than the population to commit suicide and 8 times more likely to abuse substances.  PTSD and TBI’s are real and we as a nation have not done enough to help our vets that need help.  I know that it is too late to help Sal, but I can take what I learned from him and when I am on a call, slow down and ask the questions that need to be asked to see if I can get this person the help they need especially if they are a vet.  As first responders we will deal with this issue more and more, we need to train and be prepared to help those in need.  In the end, we can either be the vets best friend or worst enemy depending on how we handle things. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

No gloves, no love!

A while back I assisted in taking a violent criminal into custody that ended up throwing a wrench onto my personal life.  I won’t get into any specifics about the case because has not been adjudicated and will likely end up being a death penalty case.  Regardless, when I went hands on with the suspect I experienced a signifigant blood exposure.  The suspect was very bloody from the way he was taken into custody (he lost a fight with the land shark that sniffed him out).  Now the call up to that point was pretty tense and because we had been preparing for an ambush, when I exited my car I didn’t  glove up and grabbed my rifle. 

Let’s face it,  if I can choose which tool to take to an ambush,  my 10.5" barreled AR-15 with Aimpoint Micro optics and light and more importantly multiple 30 round mags (loaded to 28 rounds of course to stay within department policy) is going to be pretty high on the list, much higher than gloves.  I was already wearing my vest but as far as other PPE (personal protective equipment) I could have done better.  Sure my ballistic helmet would have been a good idea but even the basics would have been a good idea.  I had two pair of black nitril gloves in my vest and another pair in the my pants pockets, but waited too long to get them on.

Once the tempo of the call slowed down I should have gloved up before touching anyone.  But this time I didn’t and really wish I had.  I am a pretty serious germ-a-phobe and really prefer to glove up before touching people regardless.  But like I said I didn’t this time.  And when I looked down I had his blood covering my hand and running down the back my hand over some scabs from working on my car and down my arm.   As soon as I could I cleaned it off and went through three bottles of hand sanitizer to clean up. 

Later when the suspect was receiving medical treatment it was determined that he had MRSA, this combined with the fact the he was a little guy and had been in prison for several years, I assumed he got passed around like a playboy so who knows what else he had.  So I completed the appropriate blood exposure paperwork and went through the processes prescribed.  I went to the doctor several times and they drew my blood several times for testing and gave me some guidelines.  Because they had not analyzed the suspects blood yet they put me on the worst case scenario precautions.  Among them was no unprotected sex with my wife for six months.  There were some other even more intrusive personal limitations given to me that I will spare you the details of.  To confirm, I asked, “Okay so no unprotected sex with my wife but unprotected sex with hookers is still good right?”  He had a stunned look on his face so I let him off the hook and told him, “I’m joking you know, right?”

 Suffice it to say, this momentary of lapse of not putting PPE gloves on had complicated my life comprehensively.  Because of no gloves, I was forced into the scenario of no glove no love.  I learned now that no matter what when it comes time to touch people, take the time to glove up.  Not just for the six months of probation, but just to avoid the stuff you can bring home to the rest of the family.         

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The choice is yours of which side you support, I made my choice

On December 9, 1981 at approximately 0351 hours Philadelphia Police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a vehicle.  Before he exited his car he radioed for back up.   It seems apparent that Officer Faulkner recognized the subject as someone he knew to have an active warrant for his arrest.  Along with requesting back up he requested a paddy wagon for transporting prisoners.  While attempting to handcuff a subject that did in fact have a warrant (William Cook) a struggle ensued to get handcuffs on the suspect according to witnesses.   

According to four eyewitnesses the brother of William Cook, Wesley Cook aka (Mumia Abu-Jamal) ran from a parking lot across from the traffic stop and witnesses observed Mumia shoot Officer Faulkner in the back.  Officer Faulkner fell to the ground on his back and witness said he fired into the chest of his attacker while he lay wounded on his back.  The attacker fired four more shots into the officer while he literally stood over him finally shooting officer Faulkner in the head killing him.  The attacker tried to flee but collapsed at the front of William Cooks car.  Just after 0352 hours approximately 90 seconds after Faulkner requested back up, officer Shoemaker arrived on scene to find Faulkner dead and Mumia slumped over the curb.  Mumia was wearing a shoulder holster but his .38 revolver (purchased by Mumia himself) was on the sidewalk next to him.  Officer Shoemaker gave him commands to “freeze” but Mumia reached for the gun and attempted to raise it to shoot at Shoemaker.  But the chest wound from Faulkner’s gun had sapped most of the strength out of Mumia so as he was struggling to bring his gun back up Officer Shoemaker, rather than shoot and kill the subject uses less force than he was authorized to and kicked the Mumia causing him to drop the gun.  Shoemaker kicked the gun away and struggled with the suspect to take him into custody.

 Three witnesses on scene confirmed that Mumia was the shooter as he was placed in the paddy wagon.  While at the hospital he made a spontainous utterance to the hospital staff treating him “I shot the mother f***** and I hope the mother f***** dies”.  So let’s review the facts.  Officer Faulkner was shot and killed at a traffic stop.  The shooting was witnessed by several people.  The shooter of Officer Faulkner was observed by witnesses being shot in the chest as he was shooting the officer in the face.  Mumia Abu-Jamal was found at the front of the car driven by his brother at the traffic stop with a gunshot wound from (Faulkner’s gun) in his chest.  Next to him was a revolver with 5 spent casings and one unfired round.  Mumia was wearing a shoulder holster for the same gun that was laying next to him that he was found to have purchased.  Seems like pretty overwhelming evidence right?   Well a jury of ten whites and 2 blacks convicted him after two hours of deliberation.  He was sentenced to death after three hours of deliberation.  His case made it all the way up to the wise nine (US Supreme Court) and his conviction and death sentence was upheld.

 Mumia never once said he didn’t shoot and kill Officer Faulkner at trial.  His bother never once testified that his brother didn’t shoot Officer Faulkner.  He merely stated he was innocent of the charges.  He said this because he felt killing an officer was justified.  His radicalist Black Panther roots assured this.  There are people who feel Mumia is a political prisoner.  I am not kidding look it up.  Paul Newman, Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream and a host of other intellectuals argue that he is a political prisoner.  16 cities have included him as an honorary member of their city even though he sits on death row.  Paris France named a street after him to show their support for this political prisoner.  Why, Because its sounds good to them.  Somehow the supporters of Mumia seem to be blind to the fact that Mumia’s bullets were found in the back and brain of Officer Faulkner.  How does that happen?  I will tell you how.  In typical radical movements like the Black Panthers they were documented to set up ambushes on police officers (the government oppression)  Am I the only person who finds it beyond coincidental that Mumia “happened” to be across from his brothers traffic stop at 3:50AM with a gun waiting?  But to the radical left Mumia is a hero and even today you have people posting “Free Mumia” on Facebook and other places every day.  What is it in society that makes people think that he is a hero?  I cannot answer that.  Those that consider him a political prisoner point to the fact that he was denied the right to defend himself.  Well at first he wasn’t, but after he repeatedly did not follow the rules and could not contain his outbursts.  From the onset, Mumia felt the rules did not apply to him.  He should be able to kill whomever he wants to and the court should not be allowed to tell him when he can and cannot talk.  He was empowered by the supporters who felt he had been “set up”.

You will need to choose for yourself which side you fall on.  But know this.  There are groups out there today that are even more radical than the Black Panthers were back then.  They not only feel it’s acceptable to kill police officers, they delight in it.  Look no further than Youtube and see the comments on officers murdered.  I saw one video showing the cold blooded murder of an officer.  The officer pulled a truck over and as soon as it came to a stop the driver jumped out and opened fire on the officer as he was getting out of his patrol car.  The dash cam captured the whole thing.  The video was titled “Making Bacon” and praised the shooter for just “doing what needed to be done”. 

One thing I have learned is that wackjobs come in all shapes and sizes.  It does not discriminate and encompasses all races and classes.  You can never be too prepared or vigilant.  I just hope that if I get killed on duty that worthless souls do not delight in my death and praise my killer.  I am afraid that not even gods power would be enough to keep me from haunting them deeper into their own misery.   

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I was fine, right up to the last call

“PRESENT… ARMS” the command was shouted to the cordon.  Ceremoniously slow (on a four count), I raised my right hand in perfect unison with the group to salute.  A few moments later the casket of a slain officer moved passed me.  Behind the fallen officer, walked his widow and 7 year old son and 3 year old daughter.  The widow clearly grief stricken by the untimely slaughter of her husband, the children not fully grasping the finality of what was happening. 

As the family passed me, I moved my 1000 yard stare down to the little children who surely were deeply missing their father.  I notice that both children with crystal blue eyes were looking back at me, smiling.  I assume that they were raised to like police officers just like their father and not fully understanding what was going on and were happy to see so many police officers with shiny shoes and badges and colorful ribbons.  I don’t know for certain why they smiled at me but they did.  Without thinking I broke bearing and gave them a slight smile back.  At the same time both of their smiles grew and their eyes got even brighter.  I would be lying if I told you I saw what happened next because instantly my vision became too blurry to see as tears welled up.  The rest of the family passed by and I wasn’t about to break bearing again.  The command was given, “ORDER...ARMS”.  Again ceremoniously I lowered my salute on a four count and as had been previously arranged, we were given to command “Honor Guard..Post” the cordon in perfect unison made a right and left face respectively to face the funeral and fell into a pre arranged ranks. 

The rest of the funeral went on with full honors.  There were stories shared of lives that had been edified by the fallen officer.  How simple tasks he had done with courage, conviction and honor had impacted people’s lives in a positive manner.  To the officer it was just another day at work of serving others.  He died on a call that every officer has been on.  He was in circumstances that every officer has been in.  It was by most accounts a routine situation right up to the moment that the murderous suspect ended the officers life.  Except for being murdered, it was just like any other day as an officer.  Exactly what we all face every day.  It was a touching ceremony and I felt honored to be a part of it. 

I was able to maintain my composure right up to the last call.  For those of you that have not attended a police officer’s funeral there is a tradition called the “Last Call”.  It is something that I can’t talk about without getting choked up.  Even as I write this my eyes are blurry.  At the graveside the police radios are tuned to a certain frequency and in the silence, a dispatcher gets on and calls for the fallen officer by their call sign.  The silence of no reply by the officer is as piercing as a dagger to the heart.  Generally three times they call for the officer and three times there is no reply.  Then the dispatcher says something to the effect, calling the officer by their call sign, that they have arrived on their final call and are 10-7 (end of shift) forever.  At this funeral it sounded something like this.  “Mary four thirty one…………Mary four thirty one………..Mary four thirty one……………….. Mary four thirty one is 97 on his final assignment in Heaven and will be 10-7 forever.  Mary four thirty one…. you will be missed by all, we will take it from here.”

It is the last call that will make the hardest, salty police officer weep like a baby.  It’s not uncommon to here the widow or mother wail and cry during the last call.  Its during the last call that the occasional inhale sounds like sobbing blubber.  You struggle to regain your composure as your eyes fill up and you hear the officer to your left and right, behind and in front of you sniffle struggling themselves to hold back the flow of emotion. On this day, I was fine right up to the last call.   This year is starting off with tragic statistics, 5 officers murdered in the first two weeks.  Stay safe, be vigilant and do all that you can do to love your family and let those that you love, know that you love them.  Every officer killed in the line of duty, started thier shift just like any other day, not knowing if today was going to be the day.  I feel like I leave a little bit of my soul at each funeral, this one more than most.