“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Home Decorating

Recently we went to a social get-together at a friend's house, kids and adults both enjoying themselves. It was a rather nice house in a good neighborhood, and it took me a little bit to figure out why it just didn't feel "right" to me.

There weren't any books.

No bookshelves, no partially read novels lying on an end table, not even a side room which had the family library. With the exception of a handful of school books it was otherwise a literary desert.

Now, please don't take this as a criticism of the people or place - it's nothing of the sort. It just reflects what I've grown used to and comfortable with in my own life.

Ever since I was young I was a reader. My mother kept books around the house, family friends had large libraries, trips to the bookstore and the library were frequent and quite simply it became the norm. Even when I was in the military I remember the majority of my personal possessions being books when I would move from one duty station to another.

I suppose it's only natural that one of the qualities which made my wife special is that she reads as well. Every room in our own house has at least one bookshelf, and when we go through those periodic purges of excess items in the home the books are always the hardest to sort through. Again, it's no surprise our children have taken the love of the written word into their own hearts as well.

Which explains why a house without books just doesn't feel "right" to me - because it's just an empty structure up until then. Sort of like being in one of those model or demo homes with all the furniture and accoutrements designed to show it off, but lacking that spark of life inside. The same as I have trouble relating to people don't read books at all, because there's just that little bit of something not in common with them.

I'd rather have a place cluttered with books and comfortable than the cleanest mansion in the world without a page in sight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

For those who served, no matter the branch, field, or length of time - thank you. It was an honor and a privilege to serve beside you. Your sacrifices have helped not only this nation but others worldwide, and may your time never be forgotten.

To those who read this, please take a moment today and express your appreciation for those family, friends, or acquaintances today who wore our nation's uniform. It means a lot just to hear those words.

If you have the chance, the following organizations are worthy of your funds - they help the veterans, families and survivors of our recent conflicts. I can speak personally as to the good things they have done for my own family, purely out of their generosity.

Wounded Warrior Project

Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Public Issues

One of the facts of working on a bomb squad is that the vast majority of our calls are false alarms - a simple abandoned bag, a package sent to the wrong location or whatever. While it's somewhat of a downer in terms of not dealing with live stuff, that's the nature of the beast. However, it also is a fact that we still have to treat EVERY call as if it IS live - because as soon as you get complacent thinking "oh, this is just another nothing incident" it will end up biting you. 

What this means is that, once we get on scene, we treat things very seriously - from controlling scene and traffic access, to possible evacuations, to the whole robot/bomb suit/special equipment game. This tends to be time consuming, and disruptive and everything else. Because my concern is the safety of me, the community, the other officers and everything else - not whether or not this is "convenient" to everything else around. 

Usually everyone is pretty understanding of this and realizes why we do things. But this past week we had Captain Sarcasm on board - because we had to block off the entrance to his commercial area in order to deal with a suspect package, and he just couldn't see all the fuss going on for what ended up being nothing. So, while I spent an hour resolving this situation, worrying about potential risks and countermeasures in my head, and everything else involved, he spent his time on the sidelines yelling out smart-assed comments, suggestions, and even going so far as to complain to the patrol supervisor on scene about all of this "nonsense." 

Fortunately for my temper and my career I was able to get things done and leave in a different direction, so that my mouth didn't add to the problem in a direct encounter...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


So earlier this year I encountered a "client" at work, who I had to arrest for a DUI (second in less than a year), as well as some felony charges and other bits and pieces - all well-deserved, and very open and shut. To the point of the defense attorney completely waived my appearance and plead out the case out as opposed to fighting things. This is on top of a history of several other events and convictions, including suspended time and probation currently active.

And it gets to sentencing - where she gets a grand total of four months to serve.

Now, I'm not saying that this was the crime of the century, and I'm the first to agree that our prisons have a lot of folks in them who probably shouldn't be.

But every one of these offenses was a blatant "I don't care about the law" - not a mere technicality, not a regulatory infraction, but conscious decisions to act recklessly, ignore court orders and defraud others. For this she gets basically a slap on the wrist, an inconvenience for a few months, and back out to do as she will again.

The whole point of jail time is deterrence - it's a "time out" or "grounding" for grown ups, a consequence for choosing to act against society's chosen dictates and a display for the individual as well as society as a whole that there is a price to pay for acting in such manner. Should we remove such consequences, then what is the point of attempting to enforce such laws? If we've decided that the punishments established by the legislature and public are excessive, and that our judicial system needs to minimize things "for the good of society" then we've weakened one of the pillars of our political system. If we've eliminated the deterrence of punishments then we have also removed the incentive to obey the laws of society.

I think events like this are part of why so many have lost faith in the system.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gaming the system

This is just an initial rant, not sure if I'll keep it up or not, but felt like writing.

So today we had one of our senior officers retire due to "PTSD." And I use the parenthesis for a reason, as I'll discuss. A relatively senior guy, has worked the road his whole career, and has a reputation (which I can personally vouch for) for laziness and attempts to work the system to his benefit whenever possible.

The claimed issue stems from a suicide a year ago where this officer was on the periphery - no direct interaction or witnessing of events, and only minor involvement in the aftermath. But according to him it's enough he needs to leave the job. Oh, and despite the fact I know of uglier calls he's been on over the years.

Now - before anyone lectures - I of all people know that PTS affects different people in different ways, and what is one person's trigger may mean nothing to another.

And, maybe I'm a bit cynical because of my own experiences.

But this one just stinks to me, based on knowing him and everything else going on. And it pisses me off.

I'm all for people who are bothered by events getting the help, assistance and everything else they need. And, I certainly don't want someone who can't cope anymore working a dangerous job with themselves and others at risk.

This screams of "faker" though, and I trust my gut on it - of using the system to get a medical retirement on something they can't prove "doesn't" exist, so the agency takes the easy way out in liability and time. And, every single person knows that "So-and-so retired from PTSD from this call." and rolls their eyes.

It bugs me because this is just as bad as the label for PTSD sufferers as "just waiting to snap," so everyone is scared to hire or be around them for this supposed violence waiting to happen. Instead this is the old "malingerer who is using a psych excuse to get out of doing stuff or to get a pension." Which in some ways makes things even worse - because, as an invisible illness PTSD like so many other similar ailments, already faces an uphill battle for acceptance and recognition. And events like this make it even harder for those needing treatment and help to make that choice, because they don't want to be labeled as "that guy" - for a type A personality, being called a slacker is far more degrading than being labeled as violent or dangerous any day of the week.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this was the event that made him have some issues and not feel safe or comfortable anymore, and I'm wrong to judge. But unfortunately I'm afraid I'm not, and this will serve as another example of those things which make it hard for those people who really are suffering to get the recognition and aid they need.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

For any vets out there having a tough time right now.

I know that the situation in Iraq is getting in my head, and that I can't be the only one.

And that we're all frustrated, and second guessing things in not only our lives but the world as a whole.

I'm not saying I agree with every word she says in this article, but it's something very important for us all to think about. Take a second and read it, please.

Stop Letting ISIS Control You

And, I will please ask my readers to share this link around - I feel it's something we need to share as a community.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson, MO

I don't have anything magical to add in analysis of the situation or the following events, so move on if that's your concern.

However, as a law enforcement officer, I do have two observations which have resurfaced from the whole thing:

- #1 - yet again, this is why I see the need for cameras in every patrol vehicle (if not body mounted). While they will never be 100%, it certainly provides an irrefutable and open image of events such as this. Having been involved in a false excessive force allegation myself, I can certainly say I WISHED that I had video of the event - it would have solved things much more quickly. Yes, video is subject to interpretation, but much less so than the current "he said/he said" situation.

Furthermore, as police in this nation we SHOULD be open and accountable. I cannot think of a single police use of force (particularly lethal force) situation where I wouldn't be willing to have the event exposed and explained and subject to public scrutiny - we are charged by society with the trust to do such acts, so we owe it to the same society to openly display when such force is used. Now, before anyone gets on the "tactics and officer safety" bandwagon - I've done enough entries and other things in my time to feel confident in saying that we can certainly provide the community and the government oversight with video, audio, etc of lethal force events without displaying any sensitive tactics or procedures that got us there.

And, quite frankly, call me jaded - but any officer arguing against such is probably one who I have questions about anyway.

#2 - the other observation has to stem from my experiences, and thus being able to relate to what the officer involved is dealing with now. Things like this hit the press and take on a life of their own. And, due to department policies, and more importantly sound legal advice, we have to stay quiet. Should you be involved in an incident as an officer (or a civilian in a deadly force situation) any competent lawyer will immediately tell you to keep your mouth shut. Not saying you don't cooperate with the investigation, or deal with any internal affairs or other issues - but you DO NOT make press statements as to what happened, why you did/did not do certain things or in any way respond to the allegations. If anything is done regarding that it is through media statements by the department, or by a private attorney who will use a lot of words but say very little. Because they realize that anything said will be pre-interpreted prior to any court case which adjudicates based on facts.

Meanwhile, the other side has no such burden - they will freely impugn your character, the events in question, your motivations, and everything else. And, emboldened by your silence, the accusations become then that "they must know it's true" or "they're hiding something."  Every press conference tailor-made to highlight the "suffering" of the other side, and the lack of a response viewed as "the thin blue line standing firm to protect their own."

It sucks. There's no other way to put it.

And, that's not even counting the civil risk - even if everything is clear criminally, you can bet on a lawsuit. Meaning once again you and your family are under the pressure. You can't apply for a house or other loan with any success. You have even more attorney and court appearances, and they are FAR more hostile and accusatory. Facing the risk of your employer choosing not to fight it, leaving you potentially liable to lose everything you own based on a jury's sympathies. Not that I'm saying you shouldn't be responsible if you use force wrongly (I advocate harsh and permanent sanctions for such) - but even if you are in the right and cleared you will get sued, I can say from personal experience.

And no matter what, it changes you, and your relationship with the community and your profession and your peers. Because, no matter what happens in court, no matter how you may be vindicated, how your actions are shown as appropriate and just and reasonable, it doesn't change things. There isn't a press conference to say "Ooops, we jumped to conclusions."  If anything, it is a news release implying that someone "got off" on the allegations, or the system was rigged - because that all fits the narrative. But 99% of the time it isn't even that - the media storm blows over, court comes and goes, and you're left with knowing that you were in the right, but you can never reclaim that little bit of your dignity from the public circus. Knowing that forever after some attorney can bring up the "weren't you accused of XYZ before officer????"

I honestly don't know what happened in Missouri. I don't know which side is "more" right in the case, because I wasn't there and right now the media monster on either side is spinning like a top.

But, I do know that two lives will never ever be the same because of it - one is dead, and one has effectively ended any chance of living in that community again. And that we, as a society and a profession, can figure out a better way to manage the aftermath of such events. We owe it to ourselves as professionals to be accountable and open and fair in our dealings. We owe it to our citizens to show we are worthy of the trust placed in us, and exercising it appropriately. And, most importantly, we owe it to the people involved, so that lives and reputations are not destroyed on hearsay and allegations, and instead face only the light of truth as to what occurred.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A thought...

If you're teaching banjo and the student has trouble with tempo, would you then use a rural gnome???

The jokes are free - you get what you pay for!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are we unable to learn?

I would have thought that after 12 years of counter-insurgency warfare against the same general foe, that at least ONE person at the Pentagon would have learned how to conduct such operations.

Instead, regarding the recent round of airstrikes in Iraq, I read that the admitted view is "Well, this won't affect their capabilities much, but it will show them we're serious and how!"

Which does not work in the real world.

Effective military force boils down to one of two options:

#1 - a show of force/decisive strike or other limited action; the proverbial "shot across the bow" which informs a foe as to precisely where a line is drawn, and demonstrates the ability and will to enforce said limitation.


#2 - the complete and total use of said force, either as a follow-on to the first option, or when no other alternative is available, and conducted until one of the two sides capitulates or is unable to proceed further (or no longer exists).

Anything outside of one of these two options is mere theater, and will accomplish nothing.

In fact, given the Arab world and mindset, it will actually make things worse. That's in no way a racial or prejudiced statement, it's an understanding of the culture based on over two decades of dealing with it. Don't think I'm right? Look at events since 1947 as demonstrations - those nations and times when "limited actions," "retaliatory strikes," or other euphemisms have been used have universally failed; whereas on the occasions warfare has been treated as the serious business it is, and resources committed fully, have resulted in not only military victories but changes in the status quo. In fact, we've reinforced this cultural ideal through these very actions, showing time and again that "the infidel" will never stay around for the long haul, that we are shallow and weak and too concerned with what the latest trend is to fight the long fight.

All we are doing right now with "limited air strikes" is setting the scene for failure again. It is Lebanon. Iran. Somalia. Libya. Syria. All repeated as examples of "America has no stomach for the fight, see what happens? Their bombs are ineffective and we are still here!" Our foes know it, and more importantly, the masses know it (and are afraid).

Because right now it is abundantly clear that we aren't able or willing to get back in the fight. That, once things get messy enough, or prolonged enough, or the ratings go south, we will be gone in the night, and they will be left to deal with the consequences.

And it sickens me right now, more than I can possibly describe. It bothers me that I have friends who died for apparently nothing, that thousands of us left parts of our lives, our bodies, and our souls in those hells, never to be reclaimed - and that the powers-that-be could care less for such sacrifice. It kills me to see innocent children, women, and men tortured, killed, and living in terror of what may come next, all for the fault of being born into the wrong tribe or sect or belief system. To see pictures, to hear stories, to understand what is happening and realizing it's only the merest surface image of true events. Knowing that there is no hope for a peaceful resolution, for simple coexistence to occur - that instead, things will continue to spiral into darkness until the region fragments even more than it already has; and that worst case, it will spread into a greater conflict in other nations.

We could solve this. I don't mean just the United States, I mean the world community as a whole. But we won't. It's not politically expedient. It's not socially correct to enforce our norms upon others. Most importantly, the average person in the world has lost the concept that there are some evils worth fighting til the last breath, worth sacrificing for, worth joining together to conquer and eliminate.

Instead, we'll keep at this pretense of action - just like we did in Rwanda, in Bosnia and Kosovo, and in countless other places. They'll shake their heads and "tsk tsk, such a shame, but at least we tried." at all the right gatherings.

Because they never see the faces, or realize it's actual people dying - it's not a news story done in 30 seconds.

I fear this is the start of the scream that civilizations make as they die....


The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- W. B. Yeats