Tactical Strolling

download[Ed. Note: You may not often find the writing of poetry among the ranks of police. While I have written poetry since my early 20s, none of it addressed my work as a police officer — I wrote about justice, about loss and grief, race, and about being in love — but not about what I did for over 30 years — my time on the street. I pose to myself a question — Why? Why did I not write about this important part of my life and the people with whom I struggled and worked? Compartmentalizing? Avoiding? Was I trying to escape the life and death issues with which I faced as a cop? So here’s my recent endeavor as I try to poetically capture the events in the life I once knew, embraced, practiced, and which significantly influenced my life. Perhaps, more will come as I age. Having said this, some events I immediately recall: my first dead body, the guy in the fire with a shotgun pointed at me, my time on the Underwater Recovery Unit finding bodies of children, high-speed chases (without seatbelts!), almost shooting someone, almost being shot, and drunken, abusive, and sticky-fingered partners. Here’s my start, when began foot patrolling an all-black neighborhood the week after Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis.]


 

i stop the car
check out
adjusting my leather
gear
securing the
vehicle
“out of service”?
hardly
i’ve just
spent 4 hours
chasing
9-1-1 incidents
settling arguments
mediating disputes
answering questions
made an
arrest
pressed for time
i’m
ordered
to “foot
patrol” so
it’s not only
my gear that
needs
adjusting
it’s me
my attitude
I take a
deep
breath
i look around
step out onto
the sidewalk
this crowded city
block
among people
who don’t look like
me
and who may not
appreciate
my
presence
do they think
like me?
but i can
no longer
be what
i just was
enforcer
tense warrior
and very
impatient
no – if i am to
succeed
here
among these
folks
i must
serve
i must
and
they need to
see me
for who i
am
beyond the gun
badge
and blue
and
for me
to see them
for who they
really
are
i now
must be
their
cop
their protector
guardian
advocate
take time to
listen
bring myself
here
now
in the present
to them
now on this turf
it’s strange
to be
the kind and helpful
person
i once thought
i was
the person
i was
so long
ago
before the
academy
this feels
good
yes it is
good.


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