Forty Years

Time does indeed pass in the blink of an eye. It was forty years ago on this date I began my career with the East Providence Police Department.

Patch old

Original patch when I started

Forty years.

It doesn’t seem possible.

To serve on a police department, while challenging, terrifying, hysterically comical, and, too often, heart-breaking, it is also the front row seat to the most amazing show on earth.

Police officers see things most people couldn’t ever imagine. It is a reality few ever experience.

There were moments of profound helplessness and sadness.

A few days after my wife and I discovered she was pregnant, I responded to a medical call. I was the first one there.  As I walked in the house, a hysterical woman handed me a very cold, very dead, four-month-old child.

A SIDS death.

I can still hear the whole family screaming at me to save that child.

No one could, but they expected a cop to try.

There were moments of humor some would find abhorrent, but in the midst of a bloody fatal car accident, or suicide, or homicide, it keeps cops sane.

Without attributing this to any specific department or individual, I heard a story that illustrates cop humor.

It would seem there was this old school detective who, at the end of each day, would light his pipe and smoke at his desk as he did his daily reports (they did that back then in the dark ages.) Part of his routine was to prepare the pipe beforehand so it would be ready when he returned.

Some officers noticed this pattern and wondered what would happen if some of the tobacco was replaced with some excellent quality marijuana from a disposed case.

This was done with great stealth and cunning.

The detective returned, lit the pipe, and within a few moments the squad smelled like a 1970’s college dormitory. We, ah, they found this hysterical. But the best moment came when the Detective Commander, an old school guy, walked out of his office and said,

“Hey (name withheld to protect the innocent) what’s that tobacco you’re smoking?”

“Why?” said the now relaxed and happy for the first time in years detective.

“Cause my kid has incense that smells like that.”

The room, I hear, roared with the laughter of those in on the gag.

We had our moments.

There was great satisfaction in bringing cases to a full conclusion after a lengthy trial and the professional reward of a job well done.

In the twenty years I served on the East Providence Police Department, I worked with a fantastic group of men and women.

I stood shoulder to shoulder with them in those moments of terror.

We took a stand when those who would corrupt and corrode the department for their own political purposes refused to follow the law and forced them to leave when no one thought we could.

I was privileged to work with other local, state, and federal agencies experiencing the true nature and potential of cooperation in seeking justice.

I spent twenty years catching bad guys with some of the most exceptional people I have ever had the privilege to know.

Time has allowed me to reflect on those moments. Yet, no matter how bad some days and nights were, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Pro Bono Publico.

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A Simple Gesture

Police Officers are often confronted with horrors and tragedy that can sap their humanity. To survive, they adopt a tough and calloused veneer. Yet, there are moments when they show us that most of them are truly caring and kind.

I am a proud retired member of the East Providence (RI) Police department_35. A simple gesture by current members of that department reminds us that, above all else, police officers are human.

On a hill overlooking the city of Providence, in view of Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the men and women of the East Providence Police Department assemble for a weekly tradition.

As darkness falls, the line of cruisers come to life with their red and blue emergency lights. The sky lights up and, across the bay, the children of the hospital receive a heartfelt goodnight from the officers.

There’s a video that shows the images but it cannot capture the emotion of the moment.

Cops wishing a goodnight to kids facing things most of us cannot begin to imagine. The officers standing on the hill, lit up by the flashing red and blue, let those kids know that the thin blue line remembers them.

Need to know what a good cop looks like? Take a moment to watch that hill.

(Requiescat in Pace TJ)