I haven’t been able to stop thinking about my friends lately — and with good reason. Most of them are cops.
I’ve known a lot of these guys for at least 12 years. I’ve known some of them longer than that.
Having said that, I must admit I wasn’t happy about getting the cops and courts beat when I started working at The Greenwich Post back in 1996. In fact, it was the last thing I wanted. I was so upset I cried. But I did my job. I didn’t love it — but it was OK.
When a new reporter joined the staff, I happily handed her the police beat. And it was only when I no longer had the job that I learned to appreciate it. With no pressure, I started doing some features on the Greenwich Police Department and getting to know everybody there a lot better. From that point on, covering cops was all I wanted to do.
In 1999 I left the Post to work at a weekly newspaper in Westchester County. And that’s when I got a chance to cover not one but three different law enforcement agencies. Two of them are pretty small and the police beat in those communities was pretty tame. And then there was the PCPD.
The Port Chester Police Department is pretty small, too. But because it serves a more urban, densely populated and ethnically diverse community, let’s just say that writing about crime there was often… challenging. Believe it or not, it was fun, too.
A lot had changed by 2003. The publisher had sold the newspaper where I had actually enjoyed working in the summer of 2001. The new owners were…. well, the less said about them, the better. So in January 2004, I moved 300 miles away from home to join the staff of what had once been one of the best suburban newspapers in the country.
I had a five-year plan when I moved to Warrenton, Va. But for various reasons I ended up staying there for more than eight. The cops in the law enforcement agencies I covered there became friends. And because I had moved to Virginia alone, without knowing anyone, they also became my surrogate family. That didn’t mean I compromised my objectivity, though. If anything, it made me work even harder to make sure my “journalistic integrity” remained in tact. (You can stop laughing now. It does exist — and I did have it.)
Having said that, there was one time when I almost lost it. It was December 29, 2009. I had just brought Eli home from the vet, and was making lunch when I heard a court deputy’s voice come across the police scanner. “Officer down! All units! Shots fired! Officer down!”
At first I thought it was some sort of drill. But I didn’t waste too much time thinking about it. I set the land speed record from my house to the courthouse, where a bank robbery suspect awaiting a hearing made a desperate bid to escape. He stabbed one deputy in the face and then used his first victim’s gun to shoot another deputy who intervened.
I arrived at the Fauquier County Circuit Court building to find the scene had already been secured. No one objected when I joined a K-9 handler on the perimeter and snapped some photographs of one of the victims being loaded into an ambulance. Long before the D.C. media arrived on the scene, I learned that perpetrator was quickly subdued and that both deputies — one of whom I knew pretty well — were expected to make full recoveries.
It was a very, very close call.
I think about that day every time I hear about a police officer being hurt or killed in the line of duty. I say a silent prayer for the victim(s) and their families. And then I thank God it was no one I know.
I think about my friends every time I hear about a law enforcement officer being hurt or killed in the line of duty. And then I say a prayer that they’ll all stay safe. Because they have husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends and children and parents who would be destroyed if anything happened.
And then I think about the thugs and criminals who prey on innocent, law-abiding citizens and the cops who are sworn to protect them. And then I say a prayer that they’ll be brought to justice — even though I know that seldom happens.
Frankly it makes me sick. But not half as sick as I feel when I listen to President Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio making baseless and ignorant comments that fuel anti-police sentiment. Thanks largely to their anti-law enforcement rhetoric, people like alleged Dallas sniper Micah Johnson think it’s perfectly okay to declare open season on police.
Now I will never deny that there are some really bad cops out there. There are plenty of racists and bullies in uniform — there is no doubt about it. They make me sick. And yes, Mr. Obama, they should be held fully accountable for their actions.
But what about the thugs and gangsters and criminals who routinely target honest, decent, hard-working cops in law enforcement agencies across the country? What about all of the people in this country who want to kill cops just because they’re cops? What about them, Mr. President? What about them?