What kind of arrogance does it take to jump into a hole in the internet and start typing thoughts and opinions in the hope they interest and attract an audience?
After 28 years on a police department, and the past one-point-five as a writer (not yet author, more on that in a moment) I caught up to this decade and decided to start a blog – short for weblog, as these were known when I started dabbling on the internet solely to send emails. The time when writers wrote on paper, and you bought books in stores and opinions were found in newspaper columns. And you could find newspapers.
I used to be a newspaper reporter. I ran around with a police scanner in my ear for four years, chasing the ambulances that led to crashes and gunfights and fires, even got an award, until I decided I wanted to be on the other side of the yellow crime-scene tape and joined up. After nearly three decades on the Alexandria, Virginia Police Department in Patrol, street-level drug enforcement, recruit training, community support and eventually supervision, command and a safe, quiet desk job, I died. I had two heart attacks in the same morning, shortly followed by the opportunity to meet some fine doctors and nurses who rearranged my coronary plumbing well enough to get well but not to stay employed as a cop. Police work was too much stress for my bacon cheeseburger-clogged arteries. Too bad, because I miss the job.
But too good for my wife and kids, who after I quit revealed the stress they’d hidden over my profession. It was hard, apparently, to see Dad walk out with 22 pounds of gear – bullet resistant (not bullet-proof) vest, pistol with 40 rounds, handcuffs, gas, radio – and not imagine what use these items would see that night. And in this modern media age, with the proliferation of imagery and videos and cameras in every phone, little reason to just imagine what cops go through, No longer do shootings, accidents and deaths invade our homes solely via the nightly news, an avoidable outlet, one whose reach could be blocked by a call home from a critical scene to tell my wife, “Don’t let the kids turn the TV on for a while. I’m okay though.” Too many calls like that, and no more such in my peaceful, off-duty future. I hope.
The stress, where it lately appears, rides in on that same nightly news, now in 24-hour waves. Waves of significantly anti-police bias seem constant, and on all media. News-only cable channels show marches and speeches without challenging the sentiments of the shouters, national newspapers decry violence against “unarmed” suspects and include in that category men who grab officers’ guns or wave deadly-appearing replicas as threats, or local news anchors who report on protests against “police terror,” as if that were a thing, and without according the journalistic deflection of “alleged.”
And so, this. Arrogance. The self-importance of a blog. A stress-relieving vent to my frustration and fury at my former journalistic colleagues for their failures to tell the whole truth but maybe a forum to share ideas and perceptions about how to bridge the gap between what police know and feel and what the public gets to be told. And an outlet for my occasional writer’s block, as I sit between novels.
For I have written a book, about police and violence and stress and race relations. It is called Apprehension, is (probably) complete at 296 pages pending an editor’s efforts and incoming critique from my beta-readers, and is patiently awaiting success from my ongoing pleas to agents and publishers. I will try hard to avoid the ultimate arrogance of self-publication, but that route becomes much more attractive the more I learn about revenues and royalties. Money not just for me, but for my law enforcement brothers and sisters.
As I awaited double-bypass surgery, a nurse told me my condition – 100-percent blockage of the left anterior descending artery – was known as “The Widowmaker,” and was not normally found in living patients but at autopsy. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “God’s got something more for you to do here.” So…
Novelist? Potentially. But how about advocate for police suicide prevention? In my 28-year career, I lost one fellow officer to murder, but three others shot themselves to death. And two Alexandria deputy sheriffs took their own lives. The killing of cops is newsworthy and well-known, but the greater number of police suicides seems hidden.
We can change that. I hope my book Apprehension will. And I am pledging ten percent of my profits to programs preventing police suicide. So you all can change it, too. Details follow.