There is no sunlight in a casket.
As Det. Joseph Lemm laid in his casket no sun shined upon his gold shield, nor the medals he earned, as a cop…as a war veteran. But when he wore police shoes as a NYC detective and combat boots as an Air National Guard sergeant…he did the shining.
Det. Lemm worked in the Bronx Warrant Squad, as did I. I started that assignment as a 19-year Transit Police veteran in 1985…when he was a high school Freshman in Beemer Nebraska. He left that town of 800 to join New York City’s eight million. There he shined servng New York City fighting crime as his day job, and America at war as his second front…till his early death. I now just write about such service.
At a time when the police are besieged with protests, accusations, criminal charges maybe we can use some of his light.
It was dark and dank in the Chambers St. subway station in the sixties. I was on the J line in Manhattan and the cop with me, “John,” from the adjoining Brooklyn Bridge station, had more time on the job than I. We woke a man sleeping on the bench on my post. When the man stood we noticed a pint bottle of booze in his rear pocket. When John struck the pocketed bottle with his nightstick it broke filling the man’s pocket with broken glass and whiskey.
I was new to the job, a rookie so fresh that my leather squeaked. But the the cop with me wasn’t patrolling the same subway tunnels as I, he was still of the caves of Neanderthal times. He bragged to me that he had eleven complaints against him in the last year. This presumably attested to his toughness, his manliness. It was as if he were the icon of the rubber-hose coppers of the forties and fifties.
Black lives matter. Cops’ lives matter. All lives matter. Of course. Why these statements? Myopia? Maybe it’s myopia that matters most.
Maybe we need to better see…the other side. And realize we are all on…the same side.
Empathy, is seeing yourself in another, being in their shoes, feeling what they feel. Easy to say but maybe we need to look inside those shoes, the dark, black leather or canvas caves of the “other”. Try them on, just to feel the fit.
How we revere our men and women in uniform. We hold parades for them, we wave flags for them. I think we can relate to them in that we know that at times their hearts beat with same fears as ours. Yet they overcome that fear and serve for us, sometimes to their death…for us.
But what of our men and women in police uniforms on our American streets? Does all of the above appreciation for service to us get thrown under an M1 tank? Do their hearts not beat with fear at times? Do they too not need to overcome their fear? For us?
“Respect a cop?” “What for?” “Abuse?” “Disrespect?” “Murder?”
Sometimes those epithets are warranted. I wore blue and have to admit, as many of my brothers and sisters in blue will too, there are violent cops, cops who use more force than necessary, much more than necessary…at times. Some police officers who read this might agree secretly but not admit it openly. Some of you may actually be the officers I’m talking about.
Videos are ubiquitous showing police using force, even deadly force without apparent good cause. Some of these claims are justified, some are not. But those violent officers are very few, when you compare them to the overwhelming numbers of cops who do not use unnecessary force, who just try to get the job done, the job that they swore to do.
Some videos shake us to the core. But they paint a picture of the police that is far from justified. There are about 900,000 police officers in the U.S. and almost every one of them is doing the job they swore to do. Over 1,500 police officers died in the line of duty in the last ten years:http://tinyurl.com/Lawmemfnd
Of course you might say, “He’s pulling the ‘few rotten apples crap’ on us.” Call it what you will. Call it corny. Call it canned. But virtually all American police officers really do, just want to serve and protect. To do their jobs, just like the men and women in our armed forces. And too many times perform that service, their jobs, to their deaths…as we’ve just seen.
Do you think you can have on hand almost a million doctors, and not have some abuse Medicare payments, I call them, Doctors Without Scruples. Or lawyers or priests and not have them steal from clients, or abuse vulnerable children? We’ve sadly observed we cannot. But you know, for the overwhelming part, these men and women serve in their best capacity…as you would…in their shoes.
We do have prejudice in the mix as well, for sure. But the prejudice is on both sides of the Black and Blue line. Is it possible for us to see beyond our Blue or Black myopia? Can we try to put ourselves in the black uniform shoes or Air Jordans of the other? What is it like to wear a blue uniform? What is it like to inhabit darker hued skin than our own? Maybe we’ve become tribal in seeing the other as “them.”
I had a Black partner who had a standard reply to perps we arrested who called him, “brother.” He’d say, “I don’t recall seeing your face across the breakfast table growing up so don’t call me, brother.”
These perps were speaking racially of course but they were really speaking truth too. Yes, we are all brothers…in humankind. But the family of humankind has a pretty weak bond when compared with the bond of biological siblings. So many different aspects come into play when we deal with each “other”, not only race but, age, weight, gender, and much more. And I think we can agree that most of us have a tendency to prejudge, even just a bit, sometimes unconsciously, in all of these respects. Maybe we can adjust…for their sacred human right.
Sure we’ll never feel that a stranger will mean as much as family but whether we wear jeans sagging at butt-crack level or creased police uniforms we all have the right to respect…civilians and police. Maybe we can adjust…for their sacred human right.
Stop and frisk.
Some of us are stopped, questioned, frisked or receive traffic tickets, all of which we may feel are unwarranted, sometimes again, with good cause. But in some countries if you get stopped or pulled over you better pull out your wallet and not for your drivers license either.
The most corrupt police forces in the world:http://tinyurl.com/corptcops
Americans, for the most part, have professional police forces that come to their aid when they most need it. And as you saw in the above link, we can’t take that for granted.
Brother and Sisters in Blue, can you imagine how it must feel if you are on your way to the store or a movie or wherever and are stopped and frisked? I made many stop-and-frisks that I felt were necessary, (someone fitting a description, etc.) but I never did a stop-and-think of what it felt like to be that person. I was just doing my job, I knew the reason. But did the person in the sneakers accept that the man in the black shoes had good reason? Or did he perceive the reason as walking while black. Again, I thought I was just doing my job and he could think whatever he damn pleased.
Citizens of America, can you imagine being in black shoes, receiving a description of a wanted suspect; then spot, and at risk to yourself stop and frisk someone fitting that description and then being called, “racist pig”? You’re being called a racist for doing your sworn job, when to ignore the person instead of stopping him might eventually cause harm, maybe even death, to you or someone very close to you, your sibling…your mom.
If you were in those black shoes and seeing such daily public criticism, might you be inclined to not stop people you otherwise would have stopped, should have stopped? A consequence that today is called, “The Ferguson Effect”? Might you be inclined to play it safe? Not see anything? Save your family a lot of grief, save your job, your pension?
I think if you Citizens of America reading this were cops you’d do the job you swore to do. If you were a cop you’d want to arrest those you swore to arrest. You’d know you would have to overcome resistance to arrest too, and you would overcome that resistance.
So mothers don’t cry…just comply.
So if you were a cop you’d want people to comply. Cops receive training in lawful arrests, use of force. But who trains our youth in those situations? It’s just a fact, if you live in a high crime area street interactions of police and civilian will occur. Should not both sides of this interaction be prepared for it? Citizens of America do you urge your own children to comply? Do you point out to them they are no less a person by complying? That they can always complain, protest, have charges filed, sue…later. But that they need to comply? I think if you were a cop you’d wish parents would instill that in their children.
Citizens of America, you see on TV too many instances of military “collateral damage” in too many parts of our globe. You see innocents killed, burned, maimed. Hospitals bombed. But you know the men and women of our military are not there to do such harm, they are there to serve for you as best they can, to protect you as best they can…as they swore to do. It is not easy and you know that. And you respect them for their effort.
Why not the uniformed on your street corners? Some cops may hurt or kill without apparent need. Sometimes with visually egregious horror. We see that. We acknowledge that. They should be exposed, prosecuted. But you know too, virtually all the men and women of our police forces, as are armed forces, are not there to do such harm. Just as you would not be. They suit up with armor-vests, just like our military, they carry guns for you, just like our military, to protect you from harm, at risk of, and too often…actual death.
Brothers and Sisters in Blue, if you were a civilian you’d want to be respected. You are trained to respect, so hold to that training. If you were a civilian you’d hate a cop who used excessive force on you or your family. Every time you do so it has a multiplying effect on the entire community. And the next cop has to deal with the anger and hate that you planted or nourished. So, give us all a break.
Brother and Sisters in Blue, if you see an officer who uses unnecessary force speak up. Tug his coat. Not only because it’s plain wrong but you also may save his career, and your own. It can be a very wide and fiercely sucking whirlpool that pulls officers and their families down, officers who end up covering up for one another. So speak up before that time can come about. The job you save may be your own.
Are placards shouting, “Murderers”, “Terrorists”, helpful?
Citizens of America, maybe it’s time to change the tone of communication. Maybe show your local police force that you do appreciate their efforts to keep you safe. Today, more than ever you need your police services to protect you.
If you see a cop is in trouble call for backup for him. Maybe even before it gets to a critical stage. Be his civilian backup.
And you don’t need to thank a cop for doing his job. But if you said, “Thank you for your service,” or “Thank you for looking out for my family,” do you think it might make a difference in his everyday performance? Would it make a difference to you?
Most cops are dedicated but few reveal it. Often, when cops arrest someone for a serious crime, it’s more than just another bust. It’s more than, “Nice collar” from the Sarge or C.O. It’s that thought on the drive home, or those last moments before sleep relieves them of their earthly post…for a time. It’s that thought that, the stop and frisk that took a gun off the street might have stopped a bullet from killing someone. Maybe just this once, his actions stopped an angry projectile from piercing a youngster sitting at a dinner table. He feels, as you would feel, that on this day, on this planet…he made a real difference.
We all have biases. But we need to acknowledge and adjust for them. It’s important to keep in mind that beneath that hair, whether it’s black corn rows or blonde coifs the essence of humankind resides. It’s that essence that deserves recognition of our sacred human rights.
Sometimes shoes are just two cups of sorrow.
When you hear powerful popping sounds in the night, sounds you know are death in flight, cops are racing to those sounds. When you hear screams that cause you to pull your children near, cops race to those sounds. They race to, man-with-a-knife, man-with-an-axe, man-with-a-gun reports. They race to calls of “active shooter”. They race to pipe bombs, pressure-cooker bombs…for all of us.
The cop who broke that pint of whiskey is long gone. So are his mid-twentieth century tactics. Police Officers today are professionals. Some screw up, some badly, some criminally bad. Despite videos to the contrary cops are there to protect you, just as you would…in their shoes.
Maybe we all need try on a pair of shoes that are not our own. Just to scrunch our toes around in them. Just to feel the fit.
Detective Joseph Lemm was laid to rest. Let’s keep in mind his service, on our concrete corners, and Middle East sands…for all of us.
shedding light wherethesundontshine
See my alternate site:http://leebythesea.me
Categories: Police service