I retired after a 27 year career with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, where I attained the rank of Major before retiring a Captain in 2000. Majors serve at the pleasure of the Colonel, the last permanent rank is Captain. I then went to work for the Missouri Gaming Commission as the Director of Enforcement, Chief Deputy Director and served a short time as the Acting Executive Director before retiring yet again!
I attended the University of Missouri at Rolla and Kansas City and am a graduate of the FBI National Academy. I have resided in Japan, Germany, Okinawa and Vietnam, a number of military posts, five cities in Missouri and currently in Springfield, Mo., with my retired school administrator wife, Sharon and the household CEO, a yellow Lab, Taz'm.
I fish, hunt, ride a Harley, fly, read, write and take the time to laugh, really hard, every day. I believe in collective reasoning and contributing to the common good through dialogue, opinion and your presence in the voting booth! Finally, I recognize that everything is important to someone!
Two days from now marks the beginning of my favorite season in Missouri. A years work in the fields will soon be ready to go into the bins, the gardens are in Mason jars and our critters begin fattening up and grooming their coats for what is promising to be a cold winter. WWII had just ended days before this poem was published by A.H.Hindman in the Kansas City Times.
Every line captures a facet of fall and my hope is that if you have not experienced each one of these sublime considerations, you do so before you go to your reward. Missouri, my adopted home, never fails to enchant me. It has been my privilege and good providence to settle here as a boy. It is my intention to be here for eternity.
We have held onto this for many, many years. It was given to Sharon just before we were married by a teaching colleague. Fall is such a multi-sensory experience. Grab it while you can!
We are entering my time of the year. My agricultural roots, deeply imbedded in the soil of the South Carolina low country, sharpen my anticipation of the harvest season. It is just that the rewards of all the work and worry of the spring planting and summer nurturing delivers it’s bounty in the season of shortened days, cool nights and vibrant colors. People who love the outdoors, also love the moderating weather that fall brings. Fall marks the beginning of the end of another year on planet earth. A year significantly impacted by a microscopic, colorful bug that refuses to walk a straight line.
Our world has become one of negotiating a rapidly shifting pattern of what is safe and what is not. We are forced to deal with uncertainty as to what is open and what is not, usually verifiable by actually stopping by and reading the door. Slowly, America is coming to terms with this opponent, the virus’s terms, not ours, and dealing with it on a personal level. The freedom to make our own decisions, often conflicting with the attempts by government to keep us safe from ourselves, has delivered a scene reminiscent of Sherman’s march to Atlanta. Instead of scorched earth, we have destroyed relationships, endured political viciousness, and hours of watching bad movies on the cable carriers. To replace fun trips into the retail world, we have a constant stream of FedEx and UPS trucks navigating our streets and neighborhoods. Thousands of good hard working folks are not working yet and we need legal counsel to help understand the policies of our educational institutions. We are conflicted in our spiritual world as well. Churches are feeling the impact of low attendance, and our tendency to rely on spiritual assistance has been replaced by governmental assistance. All courtesy of a little virus with sometimes deadly implications.
Yesterday, we stopped at a chicken house here in Springfield for an order to go. I was up, so on with the mask and into the store to pick up our chicken, taters and gravy I went. Hostility chilled the air at the counter. A family was having trouble keeping the kids on the social distancing spots and decided to wait outside. They viewed me with some degree of disdain, and you can’t smile your way out of tension through a black mask. A man came in to pick up his order, looked at me and suggested that I could dispense with the mask on November the 3d, as this whole thing was a “political hoax”. I wanted chicken not a political science class, and suggested cheerfully, “we’ll see”. I did not turn my back on this man, as there existed no trust between us.
If this virus could just stay on a straight line, we could plan our way around it and establish a new order of existence. It has not and we are forced to contend with the most formidable opponent you can engage, and that is one that adheres to no rules and thus confounds the brightest minds we have. All is not lost. We have sought out eateries that offer outdoor seating, learned the basics of smoking meats at home and are becoming rather clever at buying online. (Online shopping is an art….but that is a story for a later discourse.) There are hundreds of ways to social distance in the great outdoors and the virus, most agree, cannot catch an automobile at 70, a motorcycle at any speed or a bicycle at 10 MPH.
If the virus went away today, we have learned from it. We are adaptable and far more self sufficient than we thought might be the case in this age of modern convenience. So, on this foggy Sunday morning, grab a cup of coffee, seek a little spiritual solace and dwell on what we have gained rather than lost. Soon enough we’ll either beat it or rope it off….it is what we do in America. At the very least, our generation will have a story to tell, like those before us who talk off the Great Depression and dust bowl….that is if we are still recording history in the future.
America is more mobile today than at anytime in our history. We move around a lot and nuclear families that live in the same town are becoming rarities. Trips to our parents home in rural or small town venues often involve drives or flights of many miles and the rigors of working in today’s demanding market tend to dampen one’s enthusiasm for a thousand mile drive to attend a picnic on a Sunday afternoon. Enter covid. The impact of this virus is felt in many ways not related to being physically sick. Are you a victim of strained or destroyed relationships as a result of this malady………if so you have plenty of company.
First the malady. We know more about this virus and it’s implications than at any time since it’s grand entrance on the world’s stage, and yet there is much we don’t know. Self proclaimed experts have us wearing masks, or not. They want open schools, or not. The virus was handled, politically correctly, or not. The folks who have challenged the authority of political mandates to open or close businesses are hero’s, or not. Folks who err on the side of caution and mask up with a gel bottle in their bag are germaphobic zealots, or not. Pro maskers display disdain to those who do not wear them, and those who do not wear them ask why you are wearing the stupid mask. When you are 70, you view a bout of Covid with a great deal more respect than when you are 20. Kids are basically immune, or not. Depending upon your view, Covid has killed thousands in America, or not. The popular rage today is that underlying conditions cause the deaths, conveniently ignoring that death, from underlying conditions, might have been avoided had you not contracted the disease.
Let’s cut to the chase here. Covid has become the hottest political issue in America since Vietnam. One’s view of this disease is shaped by one’s political view in general. Either I have been asleep, or we are experiencing the deepest political divide in our country’s existence. The hatred that is the hallmark of political campaigning today loves a contributing circumstance. Covid is just that circumstance. Depending upon your political perspective, the management of Covid has been a disaster or the work of the best minds in the country, who have adjusted to the ever increasing knowledge base relative to the disease. Under no circumstances will one side of the political spectrum concede the other side did something the right way. We should shut the economy down, or not. We should build thousands of ventilators, or not. We need thousands of hospital beds, or not. In combat, when time permits, you develop a plan and attack. The wise warrior understands your plans may go to hell in minutes and you had better be ready to adapt. Combat with Covid demands the same respect.
America’s problem is not so much with Covid as it is with pride and taking a stand on one side or the other of an issue that really has no sides. Friendships have been destroyed in the murky waters surrounding Covid and it’s implications. Family relationships have been strained because of this microscopic little virus from the depths of hell. Medical professionals differ dramatically on the implications and management of Covid. Why shouldn’t we form opinions as well? We should, but the smart individual doesn’t push the envelope when arguing for or against a position on the management of this malady. Why?
Because there is no way of knowing who is right or who is wrong until that day in the future when history and the rear view mirror provide the answers. If you have wagered a friendship on one of the implications of this malady, I am sorry. Your wager will become one of your lifelong regrets when you summarize your wins and losses in the end.
Unless you have moved a lot, or are a wannabe hoarder, as you enter the golden years you acquire a lot of stuff. Most of us are old enough to have cleaned out a dear relatives house after they have gone to their reward. These efforts are usually accompanied by wide eyed amazement at the stuff they have accumulated and, importantly, what in the hell to do with it. I recently came into possession of a set of very nice belt buckles from a dear Patrol widow, as she no longer had any use for them. I was fortunate as many Patrol employees collect such things and a home was easy to find. We tend to not dwell on such matters unless we are needing something not in daily use and stumble on a cache that would make a cocaine importer green with envy. We have moved around a lot, still I am concerned from time to time the county health inspector is going to show up. If you are smiling at this point, you know exactly what I am taking about.
In the last 15 years or so, I have established a relationship with a number of health care providers. I have always believed in preventive maintenance, and the practice of medicine is pretty well the province of specialists these days. On my “team” is a great podiatrist, who has been collaborating with me in the care of arthritic feet that were abused in early life until and through the vacation in Vietnam. I stopped in yesterday for a minor procedure, one that requires a little home care to see the project through. This necessitated a trip to our medicine CLOSET, which has long since replaced the medicine CABINET of the younger generation who generally keep a bandaid or two and bottle of Advil in their otherwise empty cabinet. I was shocked…..
Sharon is well organized and I am certain that she can immediately find any kind of bandaid, compress, wrapping, tape or antibiotic that has come out in the last 15 years. Rx medicines are yet another embarrassment. We take a few (well below the national average according to AARP) but docs are fond of changing and adjusting dosages. After paying our share of the drug costs, it is hard to pitch bottles of Squibs best out the door or down the porcelain throne (not good for the environment, I know). Every surgical procedure over the past years has resulted in a new RX for pain control, resulting in a few, or many as the case may be, left over heavy hitters in the opiate class. I could treat the aftermath of some terrible calamity, if I knew what I was doing. I don’t, which begs the question yet again, why do you keep this stuff? We are able to take a temperature a variety of ways (grandchildren for the curious!), measure blood pressure in about thirteen body parts and turn the average adult into a mummy museum piece. We have heat pads and ice packs. Over the counter analgesics, check. We have it in brand name and generic form, for the less discriminating. Ate something bad, we can cork you up. Ate too much of something good, we can increase the urgency to find the throne. Now let’s move into flu and cold. There is not a patent medicine, decongestant, vaporizer dope or antihistamine that we do not stock. The problem today is that a sneeze sends you scrambling for the long Q-tip up the nose to make sure you don’t need to make arrangements with the nearest funeral home. We have pillows, neck braces and two kinds of back wraps. Somewhere in the attic we even have a walker for those of us that dive off ladders with a running chainsaw in their hands. (That is a whole other story). We have around 30 toothbrushes, vomit trays in multiple colors, water jugs that measure your intake and cute little plastic containers to measure your output. If you need to stick it, swallow it, smear it on or drink it, we have it. We can make you cough or stop you from coughing.
By now, you see the point.
I remember the days on a farm in rural South Carolina when the outlay in medicinals was a bottle of merthiolate or mercurochrome for the less sadistic and a bandage torn from a piece of old bedsheet. If the injury was serious, you got the strip of cloth dipped in the fuel oil barrel. Seemed to work fine, and the mosquitos left you alone. For everything else, it was a dose of castor oil or paragoric.
I have come to the conclusion it is easier to run out and buy a new tube of Polysporin than look for one in the closet….unless the inventory specialist, Sharon is on duty. To those of you laughing….I can guarantee you are laughing with me and not at me!
In the past day or two, I posted a picture of a young Staff Sergeant who has been selected as the U. S. Army’s top Drill Sergeant. Veterans all share a vivid memory of their 8 weeks in basic training when you make the transformation from a fun loving, carefree young person to a warrior wannabe. I am confident the rules have changed a bit over the years from the night that I arrived at Ft. Polk, La. soon to surrender my soul to one Senior Drill Instructor, Domonick Petrarca. I had been around the Army for my entire life however; being around it and in it are two vastly different things. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
Sgt. Erik Rostamo, the current reigning top Drill Instructor, is a master of all things necessary to being a warrior, capable of delivering small arms death from the comfort of a pair of US issue combat boots. He has to be very good to earn his current accolades. When you get off the bus, he represents an element of hell, who is generally displeased with your very existence. When he is through with you at the end of a cycle, he is remembered fondly. If you are one of the unfortunate ones that is destined to become a part of the current gunfight d’jour somewhere in the world, his lessons become critical to your survival. Sgt. Rostamo’ s image triggered memories of another remarkable Drill Instructor that I was introduced to in 1969, Senior Drill Sergeant Dominick Petrarca. It was hot in Louisiana in July but it was about to get one hell of a lot hotter on the sands of Ft. Polk.
I had not slept for 24 hours. The airplane ride from Dallas to Ft. Polk was rough, with unsettled weather pitching the Trans Texas airplane violently. The load of recruits, freshly sworn in, were busy filling the little paper bags with the last meal they had enjoyed as civilians. We landed and were bussed to a reception station where we were allowed a few hours sleep on sweat stained mattresses and pillows sans sheets and pillow cases. The sweat of thousands before us was our only connection with a rapidly fading past. Two days later, the training cadre showed up and the excitement began. We were bussed to the barracks, the old style wooden barracks with communal toilets and showers, decorated in the latest colors, that awful yellow paint and stained red floors. After being loosely formed up, in ranks, Sgt. Petrarca chose the biggest recruit in our company and ordered him to step in front of the formation. He then challenged the affable fellow to a fist fight while hurling invectives that would make Lucifer grin with glee. Thankfully the recruit, terrified, declined the invitation and the cycle began.
The food was prepared in a Company mess hall, not the big consolidated dining rooms in vogue today. We all took a turn as kitchen help under the guidance of the head chef (Mess Sergeant) and became adept at removing a layer of metal from the steel cookware that seemed to be everywhere you stood. You marched everywhere you went and the days were long and genuinely arduous. The military has long ago learned that repetition is the best way to train, and you got plenty of it. A Drill Sergeant seemed to be constantly in what used to be your space but had somehow morphed into his space that your borrowed from him. The training you receive is best chronicled in a book, not a blog, but for one aspect. I was assigned the task of fighting the biggest, meanest trainee that our company produced, one Anthony Roosakis, in the Pugil Stick drill. This training is supposed to teach you to fight with a rifle in hand to hand combat. You use log sticks, with padded ends to beat the hell out of one another. Roosakis sported a tattoo on his arm denoting that he “was born to raise hell” and I believe he was. He was braining me with the sticks, but made the mistake of slipping in the sand providing an opening for me to finish the match with him on his back. Were it not for intervention by a Drill Sergeant, I would have killed him. For many years as a trooper, I remained alert for the name Roosakis, but never again saw it.
At the end of the cycle, 99% of us realized that Senior Drill Sergeant Petrarca actually cared. Vietnam was a running gunfight and most of the trainees at Ft. Polk were destined to enter a hot war. He invested blood, sweat and tears in sending us into combat as well prepared for ground fighting as we could be. We were just as adept at putting a bullet into the enemies head as we were at providing first aid to one of our troops who had taken a shot to the head. Drill Sergeants introduce every one of their trainees to an orderly life, with structure, teamwork and a sense of loyalty to the country. These are rewards that follow you through life.
I will not forget Senior Drill Sergeant Petrarca, a man I knew for eight weeks, fifty years ago. He made a difference in my life that many are not privileged to enjoy. He was also the toughest SOB that I have ever known, and I have known quite a few tough guys.
God’s infinite wisdom is clearly manifested in this concept we call retirement. I am up this morning, coffee in hand, reflecting on an America that is wobbling like a dented top we played with as kids. There are many definitions of “retirement” but only one really matters. When you retire, you are no longer a problem solver on the world’s stage. You are no longer required to make a difference. Let me explain.
I am shaking my head at the police response today. To be fair, the generations before me were shaking their heads at the behavior of my generation when we were the gendarme. I have nothing but respect for the folks on the line today and a wavering respect for their leadership in many cases. It is good that my generation’s opinion on the tactics of today are no longer relevant, as we would be in jail or dead with the skills and tactics of yesteryear. The police are supposed to represent the society they protect, with norms and behaviors reflecting those demands. In the old west, bad guys were quickly dispensed with by the law, with lead or a rope. It was appropriate then, as action had to be taken quickly to prevent almost certain additional death. We have come a long way. When folks like Clyde Barrow and John Dillinger were unceremoniously gunned down, we clapped with glee and applauded the efforts of the police. There may have been an inquest, but it seldom took more than an hour, the graves were closed and the hunt was on for the next miscreant.
I began my career under the tutelage of troopers who handled things in a somewhat refined but definitive way. When our penitentiary erupted in a riot in 1954, the event was short lived. Troopers from all around the state began arriving, and control was quickly and with deadly consequences, restored with the prison population laying facedown, naked in the yard, afraid to move for fear of a swift and likely harsh response. Calm was restored and the prison population was exceedingly reluctant to buck the system for a long, long time. Today, we approach things differently, granting broad concessions to terrorist groups like BLM and ANTIFA, as they burn our cities down and loot the retail world. Previous police generations understood that force, sometimes with deadly consequences, was all that a certain segment of society understood. You cannot meet the rampaging hordes we are seeing today, with fresh water, verbal pleas and a promise of understanding while they burn, pillage and injure the officers that stand between them and honest, morally bound folks. To coddle them is to empower them, and that is exactly what we are doing. My generation of police commanders do not have the patience and wisdom to stand by while folks burn down towns, districts and threaten with impunity. We would be inclined to take the fun out of the riot de jour of today…
That is why I am writing about the sanctity of retirement. I am not expected to respond to the happenings of today. I am expected to sit back and converse with my retired contemporaries about what we would do if we were in charge. We are not and never will be again, and we offer our sincere best wishes to the sophisticated and well meaning current police generation and especially their leadership.
God built a period of decompression into our lives. It is the “golden” years, where talk of health, fishing and travel are the major concerns. We grouse, ruminate and criticize at will, but are expected to offer no solutions beyond the coffee table. My major concern today is Sharon’s ability to catch the big fish of the day and grin impishly at my chagrin. That being said, the thought of crushing the rioters and looters still makes me smile………knocking them out of their recently stolen tennis shoes is an option, or so it would seem.
I am a serial reader. That is my confession, made unapologetically. I am hopelessly addicted to the feel, smell and comfort that words on paper provide. There are few pastimes where hoarding is respected and the collection of books is one of them. When life grants a pause, I choose to read, something, anything, rather than sit idly by with a brain in neutral. Let’s have a look at this addiction and think for a bit about the direction we are headed. We are at a fork in the road and must choose between technology and the way of the dinosaur. The antiquated Dewey Decimal system is slowly being replaced by a keystroke on a battery powered piece of computer technology. Technology is wonderful, but it can not replace a book.
The smell of a book is intoxicating. The bookbinders glue, fresh paper and the promise of something new and exciting is a part of the euphoria. My concern is that one day, our descendants will pick up an IPad rather than the family Bible to see who married whom back in the day. Already, our children are shopping for school with the latest in technology being the prime mover of the back to school shoppers. In the world of hard science and technology, a printed book is obsolete before the ink dries on a printed page. I understand this phenomenon, but still……
I am currently reading a wonderful book, written in a style that evokes true emotion in the reader. It is entitled “Tears In The Darkness”, authored by Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman. This book chronicles an event that history cannot erase, the Bataan Death march. I am a combat veteran, however my experiences were a walk in the park compared to the tribulations of those subjected to the inhumanity of the Japanese during this event. The authors are gifted with the ability to tell this story in such a way that you are profoundly and emotionally moved by the plight of our men who were compelled to surrender in the largest mass surrender in our military history. You feel the rage toward the Japanese and at the same time develop an understanding of the way they were trained and their reverence to the Emperor. The morphine induced euthanasia of our dying soldiers by our doctors, themselves dying from the conditions that defy human comprehension, is moving and enraging. The indignity of death, under these circumstances, is palpable. Forgive the comparison, but the faux rage expressed by the folks trying to tear our country down, is disgusting when you consider the hell these men went through to guarantee that privilege. These events would be lost to history were it not for the printed words of skilled writers who have captured the essence of this horror and placed it in a book. I will never again look at the jacket on this printed treasure without saying a prayer for those who were participants in this unspeakable tragedy. Such is the power of the printed word.
What about the fork in the road? I think it a disservice to not encourage the reading of books and other print media by the generations that are coming up today. Science aside, the world today belongs to folks who can communicate verbally and with the pen. What better way to master these skills than books, periodicals and other forms of print media. A newspaperman who I had great respect for once told me that print media is pure communication. The words cannot be taken back and live forever. You have done your job when the reader feels the point you make rather than simply sees the point.
I’ll take a book any day over a tablet or pad. When we hit that fork, I’ll be treading in the tracks of the dinosaurs, with a book in my bag and a smile on my face!
Pandemics, politics, civil disobedience and the economy tend to take our minds off what is truly important. Today I am writing about one of the true pleasures in life and why it is important. Borrowing from the excellent 1992 movie, “The Scent of a Woman” starring Al Pacino, let’s talk about what men take for granted and really don’t understand! These thoughts occurred to me at 2:00 AM this morning, when Sharon slipped into bed. More on that later!
Men are conditioned to respond to certain scents. Examples include black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, grapefruit, ylang ylang, lavender, patchouli and vanilla. These beautiful scents, when mixed with proprietary pheromones by the cosmetic industry are what is found in those little bottles that adorn your wife’s dressing table. They are designed to shift a man’s focus from politics to the lass that is sharing his space. A spritz of one of these little temptations on my pillow when Sharon was traveling, as a buyer for a gift shop, served as a reminder of how fortunate I really am. These little bottles of potion are ridiculously expensive and alert men can read the mood of his lady by the scent chosen for the occasion. Al Pacino, in the movie, played the part of a blind eccentric. Perhaps when we concentrate on the signal sent by the scent of a women, we can let go of the troubles of the day. Now for the “Fifty Shades of Gray” part of my missive.
Sharon put two beautiful chuck roasts on the Traeger at midnight last night. The air is heavy, with humidity at the top of the scale, and the smell of beef and hickory smoke combined, hung in the air around our home throughout the night. I am sure it stopped passing cars, if not for the smoke emitting from our deck, then from the promise of delectable smoked meats slowly coming to perfection on the smoker. You know the scent, like when you park in front of your favorite BBQ joint and begin salivating before you hit the door.
I was asleep when she began this cook, slumbering away when she slipped out in the wee hours of the morning to check the smokers progress. When she returned to bed, I was aroused from a deep sleep, not by the scent of one of our favorite colognes on the nape of her neck, but by the unmistakable scent of beef and smoking hickory pellets. Maybe it is my age, but the scent of the smoker on her PJ’s was every bit as intoxicating as the best bergamot and vanilla concoction that Paris or New York has to offer. Sharon no longer travels, but if she did, instead of a fifty dollar spritz on my pillow, just leave a smoked rib. It will work every time!
I will always appreciate the true scent of a woman, but have come to realize the smell of smoked meat will get you in a hell of a lot less trouble in life than a beguiling smile, little black dress and touch of Opium or my old favorite, Ciara. Al Pacino had it figured out and now I do!
This has been a recovery week, another surgery to fuse a finger joint has relegated me to the hunt and peck typist cadre, while limiting physical activity. My time has been well spent reflecting on the current state of affairs and other considerations. Sharon and I have been working to improve the landscaping in our back yard, and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that perfection exists in very few places. Landscaping isn’t one of them. The pursuit of perfection may be a fool’s errand, however; it does exist. Today I write to offer an example or two of “Perfection”.
Within the past few days, the world lost a good man. Allan C. Heseman, a retired Highway Patrol Sergeant went to his reward, courtesy of the emperor of all maladies, cancer. He was young, at 63, and had a zest for life lived in the pursuit of perfection. It was Allen who coined the title of this blog. Allan’s quest for perfection manifested itself in many ways. He was an aviator, where perfection lies just out of any pilot’s reach but is relentlessly pursued, a woodworker where there are so many aspects to perfection that most never see them, and a technical developer, as in computer applications. He was also the consummate family man, and today few can wear that title honestly. Allan possessed a great sense of humor and could light up a room with a broad smile and appreciation for harmony. Allan knew just how elusive perfection is, but was never deterred in his pursuit.
The surgeon that has slowly turned my hands into bionic hands is a perfectionist. The skill and training that manifests itself when he picks up the blade is evident soon enough when the bandages are removed. But even a skilled surgeon knows that perfection can be obliterated by a moment’s carelessness. He is careful to write “cut” on the finger before surgery and a big “I” , for injection, on a finger on the opposite hand that needs a little cortisone to calm the arthritis down. The surgeon mends and shapes human flesh and bone while Allan’s medium was wood, computers and the sky. The similarities are significant.
Allan Heseman trimmed our Truman Lake home. Allan’s craftsmanship was very evident as he patiently taught me that with the application of math and science, wood can be molded and shaped to do anything you want it to. I installed a wood ceiling in the great room, overlooking the lake. Allan taught me about the appropriate process to finish this ceiling, before it was hung. Each board was perfectly sanded, conditioned appropriately, stained, and then sealed before hanging. This required the construction of an elaborate drying rack to handle the volume of wood. Base joints were carefully cut to precise fitting and difficult outside ceiling corners were trimmed to perfection. I can only hope and do believe that my surgeon is as meticulous as Allan Heseman.
Where is this going? In this absolutely tumultuous world we live in, perfection can still be found. The craftsmanship in a Ranger bass boat, the beauty in a Loomis rod and the appeal of a Belgium Browning shotgun. A perfectly maintained mid 60’s muscle car or the refinement in today’s BMW’s are all close. A Smith & Wesson Model 15 Combat Masterpiece, with a trigger reworked by the late Roy Bergman, a shooter that has attained a “perfect” score on the FBI combat course is, well, perfection. A tailwheel airplane pilot who can plant a Citabria on the centerline and hold it there in a crosswind is tempting perfection. We all know about perfection, but we do not all pursue it.
Perfection is slowly being replaced by “good enough” and that is a tragedy. I challenge my readers to look for the perfect or near perfect things in your lives and begin each day thinking about them for a few minutes. It establishes a mindset for the day. Our landscaping involves a lot of wood, in privacy fences and decking. It looks good, probably good enough, but it is not Allan Heseman or Dr. Wyrsch perfect. This shortcoming is not from a lack of effort…rather a lack of experience. God is already enjoying a conversation with Allan, who closed the gap between perfect and good enough. The Lord, who is perfect and a man who relentlessly pursued perfection. It ought to be a two cup visit.
There is a lot of real estate between a bully and sociopath and the rest of society. That real estate is where the police live. Today we are fascinated, or enraged as the case may be, by the police use of force. It is time we take a few minutes to look at this important aspect of policing from 30,000 feet.
There is a concept in policing that most departments rely on in the review of the use of physical force by it’s officers. This concept is called the Force Continuum a concept which establishes a scale for the degree of force that is necessary to meet force or the threatened use of force. It is clinical and seems easy enough, but it is not. The whole model is submerged in a murky cloud of uncertainty and relies on experience and judgement to apply properly. Today the police are being subjected to extreme criticism and second guessing on a topic that, unfortunately, is very much a part of the police responsibility to the people we serve. Let’s have a look.
Today, I watched a police officer in New York being placed in a headlock by a thug in front of a jeering crowd of people. This cannot happen. At best, this thug should have been concerned with serious physical injury as a result of this encounter, or worse. He was not. That is what happens when we are lulled into believing that policing should be a game of conversation, kissing and teddy bears. It is not.
“If you are in a fair fight, you didn’t plan it properly”. Nick Lappos, Chief Pilot for Sikorsky Aircraft
Police officers cannot be subjected to physical force situations in which they lose. It is that simple. The vast majority of encounters with the police are resolved verbally as the vast majority of folks in freedom loving America are reasonable. Today, with the aid of instant television and cameras in every hand, we are blitzed with images of violent encounters between folks who despise authority and authority. All experienced police officers have been involved in physical force situations and it has become fashionable to second guess these encounters by certain politicians and the folks who support the elimination of the police function. We tend to forget that police officers bring a gun into every violent encounter with those that fight, therefore for us the stakes are inordinately high. The trigger on this gun can be pulled by either party in the fight. There is a good reason for our wariness in any encounter with the citizens we contact.
“The skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible and does not miss the moment to defeat the enemy.” Sun Tzu
On a personal level, I once was threatened by a huge, cross dressing man, who held a linoleum knife in his hand, that I found only after placing him in a wall search position. He was driving a stolen car and had just left a station without paying for gasoline. He assured me that if he had the opportunity he would have “cut me in two” with the short blade. I was lucky as he was a violent offender with several resisting arrest charges in his jacket. He was hurt in this encounter, but easily could have been killed. The words of Sun Tzu, above, ring in my ears even today. I wish that I could say this was my only encounter involving physical force, but it most certainly was not. It is a part of policing.
The point that I am making is a simple one. For a certain, small, highly visible segment of our society, force is absolutely necessary to gain lawful compliance. There have been some 20 officers killed since the death of George Floyd at the hands of an aberrant police officer who will certainly face a significant penalty as a result of his actions. Police officers are seldom aware of what level of force may be necessary when they are in an enforcement situation. It is high time the police officer be accorded the same respect in these encounters as the individual on the other side of the contact. We cannot let thugs put officers in headlocks, douse officers with buckets of God knows what, hurl bricks at them and burn their cars to the ground. The answer is force, reasonably applied, with a good measure of judgement and training mixed into the response. The qualifiers aside, it is still force.
Even today, the words of Sun Tzu and Mr. Lappos are instructive. There will always be a segment of society that demands a forceful approach to problem resolution. This is what the police train for and are good at. A police officer, fully capable of superior violence, is exactly what you want between you and a thug hell bent on destruction. Trust me here as I have been that police officer.
The thinnest pancake has two sides. Let’s have a look at the police side, appreciatively, for a change.