IS THERE REALLY SUCH A THING AS KARMA?
Some time ago, I became aware of an officer from West Bloomfield, MI who made the ultimate sacrifice.
No one would question me if I took the news as ‘just another’ cop killed in the line of duty. After all, there are well over a hundred cops who are slaughtered in the U.S. every year. But, this one was different.
HITTING CLOSE TO HOME
On that Monday morning, my phone rang off the hook. I heard from my partner, a couple of cops I’d worked over the years, students I taught at the academy and others. The thread was common, “Did you hear about the guy from West Bloomfield who was killed overnight?” The news was sad, indeed.
I get lots of phone calls, emails and texts sharing late-breaking events. I’m am a writer who is nationally known for my drive to save Just One Life. I speak about it. I travel the country and teach classes on it. I moderate an email discussion group with hundreds of members where it is frequently the center-stage topic.
When we lose a brother / sister from our family of 800,000+ cops (nationwide) I want and need to know immediately.
Every cop shares the same primary objective: go home at the end of your shift. You owe your commitment to staying alive to yourself. More important: you owe it to those who depend on you. (Note: have you ever heard a sweeter, more meaningful word than, “Daddy,” when it’s spoken by your own child? I haven’t.)
As a result of circumstances beyond their control, as of Sunday night, there are now FIVE people (wife + 4 children) whose lives have been suddenly dismantled and shattered.
I read the accounts of what happened in West Bloomfield that Sunday. Ofc. O’Rourke’s world came crashing to an end. Sadly, O’Rourke’s story is not terribly unique.
He had been sent to a house with another officer (or two) to investigate a report of family trouble. There were reports of shots fired within the home, as well. Based on those factors, I suspect that the approach was done as carefully as O’Rourke knew how.
I remember being dispatched on calls to a residence where we were told of a, “suspicious person,” or maybe, “unknown trouble,” by dispatch. But the radio warned of, “SHOTS FIRED.” You can be certain that the hair on the back of O’Rourke’s neck was at full attention. His ‘radar’ was fully tuned-in to the situation at hand.
The unofficial word: O’Rourke was shot though either a wall or a door on his approach from outside the house. WOW! The shooter could not even SEE O’Rourke.
How does that happen, I pondered? The cop and the bad guy hadn’t even made contact. No visual, no audible, NO NOTHING. And yet, there lay O’Rourke in a puddle of his own blood. A cop’s life had been snuffed-out by someone who had no obvious reason to end it.
In the hours that followed, I mused over who (or what) had failed O’Rourke. As a trainer, I couldn’t help but wonder if his training had failed him. Was it possible that O’Rourke was preoccupied, i.e. thinking about something else? We will never know.
A SWITCH: WHAT WAS THE BAD GUY THINKING?
I thought back to calls or stops I’ve been on when one of the cops was a DICK. You know: the cop was rude, demeaning, and maybe used more force than was really needed. The transgression wasn’t bad enough to get the cop jammed-up. No, it was just bad enough to get the subject pissed. The citizen rightfully gets an attitude: “I’m gonna get-even.” The officer’s bad behavior results in the desire for future revenge.
Is there a type of cop most prone to behaving badly? My instincts tell me that the younger a cop is, the more likely he is to need to prove something. (Yes, we all know an old-timer who is a well-practiced jerk, too.) Some call it the, “John Wayne,” syndrome. Most of the time, a cop outgrows it before someone, “knocks their block off.”
YOU ALL LOOK THE SAME TO ME
There are volumes of data from studies that support the long-standing belief that it’s truly difficult for people of one racial or ethnic background to identify folks from another.
Now, take a bunch of macho guys all walking around with the same (or very similar) stances, mannerisms, demeanor and (oh yeah): the same uniforms and gear. Add to the mix some moronic subject who is holed-up in a residence with a gun.
If that moron feels edgy and possibly has priors involving jail or prison, and then consider how rational his/her decisions will be at that moment.
One needn’t believe in Karma or any other kind of spiritual kinship to see how things could go sideways in a hurry.
CAN I GET A GRANT TO FIX THIS?
Nope. The correction to this problem doesn’t like with the scholarly egg-heads of academia. Rather, it comes down to our concern for the COMMON GOOD.
I’m taken back a few years when I was working as a reserve in an agency serving a Ghetto-Suburb of Metro Detroit. There was crime, drugs, prostitution and bad shit happening everywhere. Some days, it was more than could be handled by our small gang of well-meaning cops.
I had just finished some task in the jail, waiting to get back on the street when another officer arrived with one of our frequent-flyers in tow wearing department-provided bracelets. Said visitor was in the backseat and being escorted to the holding cell, having been freshly arrested.
My colleague asked if I would handle the booking. He said he would handle the paper and we could both be back on the street in a flash. As a dutiful reserve cop, I was happy <ahem> to comply.
I recognized Joe Slug in the back seat of the patrol car: he was a regular in our lockup. At the old age of 20, he had rap sheet nearing 10 feet long. Drugs, breaking/entering, etc. and most cops considered him hopeless.
I tried very hard with Joe. Could I alter his attitude? I was positive, polite and encouraging. When we had completed the booking, I walked him to a cell and told that we didn’t really want him (in jail) there. Joe got really excited until he realized I wasn’t going to cut him loose. Everyone (including the arresting officer) wanted Joe back on the street, gainfully employed, obeying the law and contributing to a society.
Joe didn’t quite know what to make of my respectful approach with him. But, in the end, the surprise was on me. As I was stowing Joe in the one-man cell, he asked, “Can you bring me a Bible to read?” I was speechless — at least for a few seconds. Upon regaining my composure, I told him I would find one and bring it to him. None in the station, I discovered. At lunch, I went to the Dollar Store to get one and take it to him.
Later in the shift, I took a few jabs from others on the crew for being, “soft” on this career criminal in the making. “A useless piece of shit,” as one put it. Oh well, my investment was small, so there was little to lose.
Imagine my astonishment to learn about six months later, than Joe was enrolled in the local community college, he was coaching a little-league softball team and had become a regular at church. No, I didn’t do it; Joe did. I was only there when Joe learned that someone actually cared about him.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? (W.I.I.F.M.)
Too often, when someone asks for help, our first thought is of ourselves and personal gain. Winning battles STARTS with winning the hearts and minds of others, first. Yes, you’ve heard that before about the folks in Iraq. But, it just as true when describing the folks who lived in one of Detroit’s Ghetto Suburbs surrounding the City.
As cops, we can MAKE people do what we ask them to do. Those behavior changes will not be permanent. Humans always do what they WANT to do. Therefore, earning trust, gaining a willingness to follow the rules and a commitment to an honest life style will only happen when a person WANTS that lifestyle for themselves.
THE COMMON IDENTITY
When you needlessly piss someone off (trust me, the slugs know if you NEED to do it), they will seek revenge against you or against anyone who they think might be you at a future encounter. Conversely, bad treatment of a person who is behaving badly may be the fuel he needs to seek revenge once he’s sprung from the can.
Do you remember a call like this (the one that burned your ass): You respond to a family trouble call. After 10-15 minutes, you have the wife, the husband (knuckle-head) and kids all calmed down – maybe even with a smile sprouting up here or there. Then, in charges Boy Wonder who thinks that he has something to teach everyone on your crew and raises the family’s group mentality to an angry furor. You’d like to kick your partner’s ass.
Treating others badly has a price. Someone will surely pay for it. Maybe Officer O’Rourke collected what had been earned by another cop on another call at another time.
Alternately, you can follow the Golden Rule (to the extent possible). Putting away a few credits for good behavior may save a life one day. It might be yours or, it might have been Officer O’Rourke’s. Think about it.
When it comes down to it, IT’S ALL ABOUT SAVING JUST ONE LIFE.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing me to share my story with you. I can be contacted with questions or input: jim@CopBlueblog.com