Out of the Blue

At this time in my life I realized I needed to get in touch with my inner feelings regarding my years as a cop. While I have written poetry since my youth and had addressed most areas of my life except one — my years in policing.  While I wrote poems about love, life, and social justice, my experiences as a police officer avoided my pen.

Until now…

Here is a sample from my latest book, “In My 80th Year: Poems of Reflection and Remembrance.” A narrative after each poem explains the context.

LOSS

i first met him
immigrant
mexican
university student
deliverer of morning
newspapers
driving on the
wrong side of
the street
stopped him
yes
he still could
become a
police officer
even after
my warning
later
i hired him
one night
backing
me up
hit by a
drunk driver
ejected
lying motionless in
the road
thought him
dead
later
talking with
his wife
newborn child in
arm
i was suddenly
gripped with
something deep down
a gnawing
emotion
i thought this
is what it will be
like
losing one of my
officers
now only
an injury
but what if he
had died
my deepest fear
caught me off
guard
my deepest fear
always
there
deep
buried
never left
me.
_______________

This accident involved one of my officers and brought a deep fear of mine to the surface. During my career, I had suppressed the fear surrounding the death of one of my officers. When I went to the home of this young officer to tell his wife he had been seriously injured, it suddenly rushed to the surface and I had to choke back my tears. Thankfully, I never had to officiate at a death in the line of duty.

PROTEST
 
undercover assignment
report back
resistance &
demonstration
draft cards
might be
burned
hell no, we won’t go!
angry young
people shouting
many of us
veterans
watching
college kids
resisting
their call to
duty
that was not
us
we stood
there
watching
later i was taken
in
i knew them
shared a classroom
saw courage &
passion
while others
saw cowardice
that’s when
i knew we
were about to
walk a
long &
painful
road
ahead.

_____________________

Very early in my career I came to understand the proper handling of protest is one of the core roles of police in our society. Protest is part of our public life and protected by our Bill of Rights. How police respond in these situations matters. When I became a chief I could put these ideas into practice department-wide.

GIFT

forty years ago
remember that
night?
how have you 
lived 
the life
i gave
you then?
you stole 
a car
i pursued
you ran away
i chased
you tried to
hurt me
jumped
over a
fence as
i squeezed my 
trigger
an explosion 
into the
ground
do you remember?
how have you
lived
the life
i gave you?
i give you 
thanks
for
that split second
moment
(an invisible
hand?)
two lives could have
been lost that night
two not
just one
so how have we
lived
that life
we gave each other? 

______________________

This moment could have changed my life and not for the better. Was it God who intervened and jerked my hand as my weapon fired into the ground that nigh? While I could have justified the use of force (he missed striking me with a 2×4) it still would have had tremendous moral impact on me. Thus, two lives were saved that night.

SHINY

that’s what we
called him
my partner
118 
power car
fellow marine
he served in the
south pacific
we didn’t know 
much about ptsd
then
he never said 
much
except he hated
japanese
japs
really hated
them
how could i study
martial arts
with them?
he
called me
karate
during
every shift
he
drank
a pint of cream
stomach
trouble &
girl
friends
every radio call was
“block away!”
i lost track of
him
only to get a
call
years later
from 
his brother (also
a cop)
shiny
called me
to 
come 0n over
he was there
full dress
uniform
sitting at his
kitchen
table
bang
right into
his heart
what was he
thinking?
another 
casualty of a 
war
once far
away
now come
home
bang.

________________

Little was known about PTSD in the 1960’s; much less after World War II. Over the years, I have come to understand that the demons within my partner, Shiny, were the product of the horrific battles he fought as a Marine infantryman in the Pacific.  His suicide, I expect, was the only way he felt he could quell recalling those horrific experiences. If I could talk to him today, I would encourage him to talk about his feelings and experiences, find a therapist, and know that he is loved. As a Christian, I would remind him that God forgives him, and then to work hard to forgive himself.

POLICING

what drove me?
beliefs &
values did
childhood
expectations about
america
humanity
the beautiful nation
the righteous
society
reason
justice
laws above men
God &
those
inalienable rights
add to this
courage
compassion &
above all
never
never tarnishing
the badge
symbol of
authority &
yes having the intestinal fortitude to stop others
physically if
necessary
from
tarnishing
theirs.

______________

This is my philosophy of policing: police work is being a guardian — it is what police do 90% or more of their time. This should be acknowledged and reflected in their training and by their leaders.

You can find more police-related poem in my new book, “In My 80th Year: Poems of Reflection and Remembrance” on Amazon.com ($8.00) which also contains narratives regarding the context in which the poem was written.