Sunday, March 22, 2009

FOUR DEAD IN CALIFORNIA

I feel I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the four officers slain in Oakland. I don't really know what to say about the circumstances of these the senseless killing of these four officers.
Read the article. I wanted to write something because I can't imagine the pain of their fellow officers. I was a police officer for 26 years. Those were some of the most satisfying years of my life. I was proud to be a police officer and it was a job I and my fellow officers took very seriously. But we also realized the risk. We knew that this kind of devastation could come at any time.

The difference between being a police officer and being a military member was that when I went to Southeast Asia I knew what was going on there. When I was a police officer I didn't know when the danger would come. It was a much harder job because I was required to be so many different things at once. A social worker, law enforcer, counselor, lawyer, were a few of the roles filled by cops. When I was a young officer I wasn't prepared in any way to fill these jobs. I learned as I went along. Sometimes I performed well, sometimes I performed not so well.

The public has a skewed view of police officers. That view is perpetuated by movies and TV. The officers I worked with were dedicated professionals who took on an impossible task and tried to make our world a better place to live. Our training in no way prepared us for what was to come when we went on the street. Talk about taking a drink from a firehose. What makes the police officer's job unique is that there is a very small margin of error. The outcome of failure may be death. Think about that for a second. If you make a mistake you could die or get your fellow officer killed. These thoughts haunted me everyday I went to work.

I was more aware of death as a police officer than I ever was in the military. Sounds strange? In the military I wasn't required to do social work and be polite. I was expected to protect myself and my fellow airmen. That gives you focus. In other words, your world was focused in a very small narrow corridor. That didn't reduce the fear, but it focused the mind in one direction. Survival.

As a police officer, the many functions I was forced to perform made me look in many directions at the same time. That sounds crazy, but I didn't always think only of survival because I was required to SERVE and protect.

I am sure that you have heard of your life flashing before you in stressful times, right? Every time I made a traffic stop my life flashed before me. Sound dramatic? That's how it was. No officer knows with any certainty who they are stopping or what is in that vehicle. I lost two fellow officers on traffic stops. They stopped killers when they thought they were traffic violators. Who knew?

I spent my career in fear. It didn't paralyze me, but it sure as hell focused my mind on surviving. My mother lit a lot of candles, my dad gave me holy cards, I wore a St. Michael the Archangel (Patron Saint of Police) medal my whole career. I lost friends, I used violence, I used my weapon in the line of duty, I kicked ass to save my ass, and I survived. I'm out now and it's a young man's job.

It's also horribly dangerous as evidenced by the death of these four officers. If the military lost four soldiers in a day it would be noteworthy. A police department lost four officers in one day in a civilized American city. It will be news for a while and then it will be forgotten.

SHAME ON US.

16 comments:

Average American said...

I know what the military and shooting people is like, been there done that, but I can't even imagine going through the things you see in law enforcement. Having to give every one the benefit of the doubt and always wondering whether today is the day you get shot or shoot someone else. The stress level must be way up there.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

And of course, in Oakland, the focus is on the "victim" -- the suspect -- and not on the dead officers. The citizen who performed CPR on the one motor officer was threatened by a surrounding crowd screaming "Let him die." I'll wager you're not reading or hearing that in your press. This is the worst mass killing of officers in one day since our loss of four CHP officers in Newhall on April 6th of 1970, by TWO suspects.

I still work for my Fornicalia department; we too have have lost officers -- FOUR in the past three years. One officer, Jeff Mitchell, was killed two years ago on a vehicle stop and NO suspect has yet been identified.

BZ

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thank you very much for your service in both the police force and the teaching force. I, too,mourn the loss of such brave folks who were trying to protect us from a heavily armed psycho.

May God bless them and their families.

Law and Order Teacher said...

AA,
Thanks for the visit. Being in the military was no picnic. Being in SEA was even less of a picnic. Shooting in the military is a way of life. That doesn't make it any easier though does it? We did what we had to do. On the police the chance was always there no matter who you contacted. Stressful indeed.

BZ,
Thanks for the visit.

I'm done with the PD, but it never really leaves your blood. I think about it everyday. Sometimes I miss it, but then I think of my career and I know I'm better done with it.

I always thought we didn't protect ourselves in the media enough. We just took their crap as they wrote BS to fill their agenda. When officers are killed in the line of duty it's like so many cattle to some and worse thought to be warranted by others.

Newhall was standard training for us. It was discussed in detail in the academy (1975). I, too, lost brother officers, it seems like we all did. I'm sorry for your loss. I hope the scumbag who did it is found. But where does these pieces of crap hide?

I'll end with my standard way of saying good-by to police officers, "Please be careful."

Z said...

Oh, L&O, it's always the cops who erred here in the LA Times........always BRUTALITY. nobody stops and thinks cops have wives and little kids depending on them and they're scared, as you so eloquently say here.....yes, mistakes are ROTTEN, but....If one must err, if one must act fast to save one's own life and his children's father.....well....!!?

Your comment about saving YOUR A$$ first really hit me..WHY NOT?

We err on THEIR side too much; people who are paid for helping Americans ought to err on THEIR OWN SIDE.
it's kind of like our homeland security/Gitmo/terrorist situation now...we have to err on OUR side if there's a question that someone might attack us, RIGHT?
If not..WHY NOT??

God bless the families of the lost policemen...'disaster' isn't a big enough word for them, is it. Thanks for all your service; I don't know how you or your family did it all those years. The LEAST we could do is hold you up, thank you, give YOU the benefit of the doubt, no?

Law and Order Teacher said...

Z,
Thanks for the visit.
As usual your comment is thought provoking. I don't apologize for my use of violence to fend off violence and to survive. I know you didn't insinuate that at all. It is a dilemma every officer faces.

How much violence is too much? I've used my share in my life spread out over 30 years of military and police service. I don't apologize for any of it.

Your point is well-taken as regards the need to maybe side with the police and military. I get it that government must be challenged, but I would have loved to have been innocent until proven guilty. The media just trashes cops and military. Selling papers and air time is certainly more important than allowing the system play out in a fair manner.

Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Yep.

lovelyprism said...

My Father was a police officer. My understanding of it is from a different perspective. I'm as insanely defensive of police officers as I am of America and the Armed Forces. It disgusts me that police officers are treated the way they are when something like this happens.

Mustang said...

Our military men and women serve the American people, not unlike police officers and firemen who serve their communities. But it is also true that when they give up their lives, they don’t do it for the people back home, or those living on Main Street; they give up their lives for each other. Years ago, a good friend of mine was a Los Angeles police officer. He described it to me this way: “It is months upon months of utter boredom, interspersed by seconds of sheer terror.”

There is no question that this story, this incident, is utterly heart breaking. Good men who gave up all they had, and all they will ever have, for an ideal most people simply cannot understand. But I must now tell you that the people of Oakland, California did not deserve such good men as these; not when, in designating their city “a sanctuary” for law-breakers, they encourage selective obedience to the law, and therefore psychological lawlessness. Personally, I would not serve such people.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

As I told my trainees when I was an FTO, the priority in my car was:

1. Passenger officer first;
2. Other officers second;
3. Victims third;
4. Suspects last

The citizens were ALWAYS third because, absent taking supreme care of #1 and #2, the citizens won't get helped.

BZ

Brooke said...

God be with those officer's families.

They are truly the bravest of us all, and the most selfless.

Thanks for your service L&O, both in the military and the Force.

Law and Order Teacher said...

LP,
Thanks for the visit. I always felt that family members of police officers and military members suffer the most. At least we could take affirmative action to survive. They must wait and hope. Tough.

Mustang,
Thanks for the visit. Years ago James Q. Wilson put forth the "broken window." In it he said the police must enforce all laws, even the most minute force must be met with police action. Theory being that criminals and other evil beings will see that their actions with be met with action and they will go on to greener pastures. I believe NYC under Mayor Rudy imposed this tactic and it resulted in drastically reduced crime. The libs in the city were disgusted with the heavy law enforcement presence but the results were unmistakeable. What do they say about ignoring history?

Ms. C,
Thanks for the visit. And thank you for the compliment. I am proud of my service and would willingly do it again.

BZ,
Thanks for the visit. I agree with your priorities. I don't feel bad that my top priority was my own survival and that of my partner and fellow officers. It is true if we are killed a piece of civilized society dies with us. After all, being prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and being a sacrificial lamb are entirely different. Please be careful.

Brooke,
Thanks for the visit. And the compliment. As I said above, I would willingly do it all over again. I feel it's that important. I'm glad others have taken up the baton.

Tapline said...

L&O Teach, Great Post....Bless those who serve. We know what is expected of the Military, but don't look at the police as sacrificial lambs.....only as strength as needed to enforce laws layed down by the legislatures.....I worked with a retired policeman before I retired for good a few years ago. He worked in Prince Georges County, Washington DC.....Bad Area, and he had many stories. He was wounded a few times and finally was medically retired.....Then he went to work for probation, where I was...We traded many stories also....But,,,,I can say he was a true friend and there when he was needed.....Great Post my friend....stay well....

PRH....... said...

The over asked question which needs to be asked time and time again.

What was this scumbag doing on the streets?

Law and Order Teacher said...

Tap,
Thanks for the visit. Thank you for the encouraging words and I agree that police officers can not be sacrificial lambs for our country to survive. We sure do understand the military. Cops understand urban warfare because that's what it is.

Pat,
Thanks for the visit. I never get how these scumbags are on the streets. I wondered when I was a cop and I wonder now. The system is broken.

Mustang said...

I'm sure you enjoyed watching those people marching in Oakland today, glorifying the slug who killed those five officers. Makes you proud to imagine any American city would allow that, doesn't it?

Lets see ... wasn't Jerry Brown the former mayor?

Law and Order Teacher said...

Mustang,
Thanks for the visit. Yes, I was appalled at the thought that any sane person, sorry misnomer there, would glorify that scumbag. The same Jerry Brown who, as Attorney General, is keen to see the Cal. Supreme Court overturn the gay marriage ban. So much for democracy.