Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting Older

If you're part of the 'Baby Boomer' generation like I am, I know you already know this but I'm going to say it anyway:

Getting older sucks.

However, it sure beats the alternative, doesn't it? Mind you, I'm not complaining, because there are many folks I grew up with or went through school with who aren't on this earth any longer. I've been blessed this far along in life much more than I deserve; I won't bore you with the details so you'll just have to take my word for the fact that God definitely has a plan.

Frustration is becoming a semi-daily occurrence, though; not being able to do some of the things I could even a year ago is aggravating, to say the least. Arthritic thumbs are starting to limit my ability to use my hands when gripping things like a shovel or hand trowel, activities in much use when I'm out metal detecting, the 'other woman' in my life. The left thumb affliction is thanks to a fractured metacarpal, incurred while rolling around on the sidewalk in front of the old Jimmy's Lounge with a drunk 200-pound Amazonian woman I was trying to handcuff nearly three decades ago. I guess the right thumb, not wanting the left to feel alone, decided to join the party about ten years ago.

You haven't felt pain until you've had steroid injections in both thumbs. Doc Dawson did them for at a time. Before the first injection he told me it would be painful; he also asked me not to hit him. It was and I didn't.

I haven't had any choice.

The reading glasses came along seemingly overnight. One day, a decade ago, I had no problem reading reports on a computer screen while at Lexington PD; the next day I was squinting to see the words. A trip to the eye doc revealed I was becoming far-sighted. Wonderful. Now, when I drive at night, I have to wear them to see clearly.

I have a distinct feeling it only gets worse from here. That's OK, though.

Like I said, it sure beats the alternative.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Big Street Cred For A Small-Time Rapper-Turned-Inmate

Sometimes you read things that can't be created in a Hollywood screenwriter's mind.

Take Michael Persaud, for instance. Persaud is a small-town backwater Rhode Island rap 'artist' who uses the name 'Montana Millz' when he performs, and writes nearly all of his material himself. One of the things he's created and performed is a little number entitled 'Sell Drugsz'.

Apparently he's listened to his own stuff too much; Persaud was sentenced to prison last month guessed it...drug trafficking.

Persaud and an accomplice, both of whom are obviously lacking in narc detection skills, sold 70 bags of heroin to an undercover narcotics investigator in 2016; a subsequent search of his hotel room turned up an additional seventy bags of the drug, along with the very potent and deadly synthetic narcotic Fentanyl and cash.

This isn't his first dance in the drug trafficking game, either; he's been previously convicted of trafficking for which he spent time in prison.

Persaud plead guilty to five counts of narcotic distribution and one count of possession with intent to distribute and was sentenced to three years in prison.

While he grinds out his time behind bars, maybe Persaud can work on a new version of his old song:

'DON'T Sell Drugsz'.

                                                  Michael Persaud

Friday, February 2, 2018

What If ?

As part of the domestic duties I assumed after retirement, I was washing dishes last evening; along with laundry and carpet maintenance, it's what I do to help my wife keep the household ship-shape. After all, she works full-time; it's the least I can do to make life a little easier for my redheaded angel.

Anyway, I was recalling occurrences from my past while scrubbing a casserole dish, thinking about growing up and all the people who'd  been involved in or a part of those better times; relatives who have since died, neighborhood friends, pals from high school, and it got me to thinking about 'what if?'.

For instance, what if we hadn't moved into the Madison school district and the house I grew up in on Hout Road? I would have never met Dean Blamer or sons Dear Jr and Dale; Dean had significant influence on the career path I chose because, being that I was around his sons so much, I'd often be at their house two doors up and have the opportunity to hear some of his cop stories. Those tales sparked the fire that drove me in the direction of law enforcement. Dean Jr retired just last week from the Gahanna Police Department; he, too, having been influenced by his Dad, without doubt.

 Then there was Rick Utt, who was the fastest kid in the neighborhood, and his brother John, with whom I would work at Mansfield PD. The Guegolds lived right next door; George Jr, who I graduated with, now owns Schneider's Bakery on Orange Street and makes the best apple fritters in Richland county. Across the road were the Lucas and the Thomas families, both with multiple kids in the house. Our front yard would become the neighborhood whiffle ball field, complete with base
paths worn  down to the dirt. Mom and Dad didn't mind, and all these years later I realize it was because they knew where I was and what I was doing.

John Utt, who I occasionally run across at Kroger's, still reminds me to this day of the rule against cussing while playing at our place.

What if I'd taken more time to talk to my relatives who were veterans of war? My Grandpa Clark, who died the day after my birthday in 1973, served in Europe in World War One, or 'the Great War', as his generation called it, 'the war to end all wars.'

Adolph Hitler and Emperor Hirohito would change all that in 1941, and war hasn't slowed down much since.

Grandpa used to tell of being in a fox hole, trying to convert his fellow soldiers while under artillery bombardment; he would become a minister for the rest of his adult life after the war. I wish that I would have had the interest in history I now have, would have asked questions about life in the United States Army in 1918. What if I'd have asked my Grandma Jackson's brothers about what they'd seen and experienced during their service in World War Two in the Pacific Theater? Realizing now what a missed opportunity those were might explain my love of writing veterans' stories for the newspaper that I now have.

What if I'd spent my entire police career in Ontario? When I left for MPD in 1984, I couldn't envision the village becoming the retail/entertainment center it now is, never mind transitioning from 'village' to 'city' status. Several of the men I worked with back then are gone from this life now: Denny Reid, Tim McClaran, Keith Miller, Cal Miller, Bob Krauss, Dick Hamrick and Rex Knee. Rod Smith, who was one of our dispatchers, went on to become Chief of Police; he's retired now, too. I still count Mike Burchett and Ron Dille as close friends from those days and still see them on a regular basis.

Then again, I would have never met and become friends with guys such as Jan Wendling, Bob Powers, Dave Nirode, Jim Gadd and the man I call my 'little brother', Gary Foster. . I have a memory filled with good, funny and rather exciting times from Mansfield PD.

The flip side of that coin is some of the horrible things that came along with being a policeman in the largest city in this area, terrible scenes that still visit occasionally during the night.. The Darla Ward homicide scene and the dead infant on France Street are two that jump to the head of that awful line.

What if I'd never suffered the very painful spinal injury while there, causing eight hours of surgery and forcing me out of MPD? Where would my career have ended in the department if I'd been able to stay?

I can tell you one thing: I would never have met and married Stacy who, in my opinion, saved me from myself. I would never have worked at Lexington PD with Brett Pauley, whose wife Heather introduced me to Stacy; nor would I have had the opportunity to work with some pretty good coppers like my old night shift partner Troy Weaver, or Jon VanHouten, who is possibly the funniest man I to Jan Wendling. Jon is also an excellent investigator; if I were a criminal, I sure wouldn't want him after me, even if he IS afraid of cemeteries.

We can 'what if" our entire lives, you see, but on this day, at this moment?

I wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Absolute Truths

There's an old saying: the only certainties in life are death and taxes.

I disagree, to an extent. While it is true that no one gets out of this world alive and the Internal Revenue Service can be fanatical about extracting the government's pound of flesh, I believe there's a few more certainties that can be added to the list of absolute truths.

Number one, in my book, anyway, is that there is nothing guaranteed to anyone. No one controls what happens even the very next second. You may not even finish reading this sentence. Life can end just that quickly.

You never stop being a parent, ever. I don't care how old your kids get, you always worry about them. It's just a natural occurrence. It's unavoidable. To be sure, there are cases of parents abandoning their children but, in my view, if they can do that, they weren't parents in the truest sense of the word in the first place. If they don't care about their kids they should have never had them to begin with. My first wife, all she wanted was to have a family, to raise and nurture them, guide them into adulthood. Then one morning she got out of bed and passed out; I thought she'd died right there on the kitchen floor, right in front of me. The rescue squad took her to the hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery.

Unknown to us, she had endometriosis; she was pregnant but the fertilized embryo had started to grow in one of the Fallopian tubes, rupturing it and causing severe internal bleeding. We later went to see fertility specialists in Cleveland, who told us she couldn't bear children. It destroyed her, changed her, and I later made a bad decision, too, one I've had to live with through the decades. That's on me, my fault. I wasn't the man then that I am today.

I don't blame her for hating me. Carrying hate around with you, though, will eat your insides away. That lesson was learned firsthand, too.

The point is, the world is full of couples more than deserving of bringing life into this world, yet there are those who have no business having babies but pop them out like an auto assembly line anyway.

Life, you see, is not fair. Not at all. Add that one to the list, too. One of my peeves is hearing people, especially some of the younger generation, complain about 'fairness'. As much as the civilized world makes laws to foment equality and fairness, the truth is the opposite will always exist, no matter our efforts or how much we wish for its elimination. Life isn't fair and the sooner people come to terms with that fact and move past it, the better off they'll be. You adapt, improvise and overcome challenges and obstacles.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr once had a dream; I wish it would come true.

In that same light, you're going to make mistakes and bad decisions in life. You are, after all, human. Learn the lessons of those mistakes, remember them so they're not repeated. There's only been one man, the Son of Man, who passed through this world clean, unsoiled, and pure.

 He was crucified for it.

Another one that comes to mind: there is absolute evil in the world. Always has been, clear back to when Cain killed his brother. Mankind has taken great strides to counter evil but still it flourishes. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news and it smacks you in the face, from the senseless murder down the street to the violent armed conflicts fought by great armies across oceans and continents. It will remain that way until evil and savageness are terminated and, according to my Bible, that day will come.

Lastly, it is an absolute truth that not everyone knows the meaning of the word 'responsibility'. Nowadays no one wants to take responsibility for their actions or decisions; they'll slip, slide and twist facts in order to deflect a lack of responsibility on their part, choosing to blame a plethora of deficiencies of character and common sense for what they do.

To this old, retired cop, those are absolute truths of life.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

'I Hate My Life'....Really?

I was walking down an aisle in Kroger's the other day, intent on picking up a package of my favorite peanut butter sandwich cookies. I'm addicted to them. Yes, I know they're not good for me. Yes, I know I am a diabetic. Sometimes, though, you have to yield and step over the line. I wouldn't call it 'living on the edge', but you get the idea.

As chance would have it, I overheard a young gal talking on her cell phone as I passed by, obviously unhappy about something.

"I HATE my life!"

I hate my life. That's a pretty big statement, especially from a young person who has yet to experience so much more of it.

I thought about what she'd said as I drove home. What could possibly be so wrong that she hates life? Well, her life, anyway? Had she just been dumped by a boyfriend? Was she telling a friend that her parents wouldn't let her go to the mall after school tomorrow? I mean, how could anyone take this, the life that we have been given, so lightly?

I know what you're thinking: "Chill out, it's just a figure of speech." While that may be true we should never take our words lightly. Ever. Be thankful for your life no matter how bad it seems.

That's the problem with our world today...people taking things, not only life, for granted. You get in the car, turn the key and expect the engine to start. Same thing with life; we expect to wake up and open our eyes every morning, never imagining what could have happened as we slept. Every morning across the globe, however, people who had expected to wake up, to resume their lives where they'd left off the night before, don't. They had plans. They had schedules and activities. Places to go and people to see.

And I'd venture to say they didn't hate their lives.

If she thinks life is so bad she should consider the person suffering from emphysema, struggling just to draw each breath. Or the combat veteran, a victim of multiple traumatic amputations after the detonation of an IED while he served in Afghanistan. Or the single mother of three children, working several part-time jobs just to make ends meet and getting no financial help from her ex-husband, who just keeps plugging along because she knows those kids depend solely on her.

She doesn't want them to hate their lives.

I could paint several dark scenarios in which people struggle to live, to stay alive, but my point is this: life is fragile and precious. All over the world there are folks hanging on by a thread, grasping for even just one more minute of life. When I discovered I had small-cell renal carcinoma...kidney cancer...I could have cried and wrung my hands in hopelessness. I didn't. I wanted to move ahead immediately. We have to look beyond our problems, our issues, and meet them head-on with a plan of attack. Giving up and hating life? That's the easy way out. It takes drive, motivation and a lot of self-evaluation in order to see a path to overcoming our own personal obstacles. In some cases, there is no pathway, so what do we do? How do we go on, knowing the termination point is approaching?

You live your life the best way you know how. You get the most out of the time you have.

You make each day count.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Loss of Two Friends

January has been a difficult month, and not because of the weather.

We've lost two local patriot heroes, members of America's Greatest Generation.

On January 3rd, Crestline's Stan Schneider, a Marine during the Second World War, passed away at the age of 96. This morning I awakened to news that Roy Walter, who served proudly in the United States Navy during the same war, had died.

The significance of the passing of these two patriot heroes is that I'd had the privilege of writing Stan and Roy's stories of military service for the Mansfield News Journal this past year; during these veteran interviews, developing a friendly relationship with the veterans I talk to is unavoidable, especially with the men who served in WW II. They're from a different time in this nation's history, a generation that was shocked into war by the despicable attack on Hawaii's Pearl Harbor naval base on December 7th, 1941. Though militarily sound from a Japanese perspective, the sneak attack and resultant wreckage of America's Pacific fleet enraged the nation; men young and old reported to military induction centers across the country in droves, eager to exact revenge on the Empire of Japan and her heinous ally in Europe, Nazi Germany. In many cases nationwide, men who were found physically unfit for military service committed suicide, unable to bear what they must have perceived as shame at being rejected by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

That was the mindset of their generation, because they all wanted to do their part in protecting America. They didn't seek out 'safe spaces' or run off to Canada to avoid serving. Even Charles Lindbergh, the hero of flight in America and an ardent anti-war isolationist prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, flew combat missions as a fighter pilot in the Pacific theater.

That makes a pretty good case for theirs being America's Greatest Generation, doesn't it?

By no means am I casting  negative aspersions on later successors in America's military. I have an ardent, very high level of respect for anyone who saw combat or served our country in uniform; we ALL owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude, one we can never repay, for their service, commitment and sacrifice.

I consider each of the men I've written about this past year as friends.

This month, I've lost two of them.

May God bless the souls of Roy Walter and Stan Schneider.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

'Administrative Leave' Is No Vacation

Recently, four officers from the Mansfield Police Department were placed on administrative leave following a Christmas Eve officer-involved shooting, pending an internal investigation of the incident.

Administrative leave is a common practice at police agencies after officers are involved in a serious incident; after all, you wouldn't want officers on the street after they'd been involved in an event in which they may be culpable in a crime or serious violation of departmental policy and procedure. When placed on this leave, the coppers are paid their regular wages but they don't work the streets. Occasionally, men and women on AL will be assigned in-house duties, working within the department in positions that generally won't involve contact with the public, but in most cases they are paid to stay home.

Nonetheless, administrative leave is no vacation; I speak from experience.

Back in 1992 I was placed on AL after being compelled to use deadly force on an armed subject, a man who was drunk and had already fired a shot into the air amidst a large crowd in the parking lot of a bowling alley, just as responding officers had pulled into that lot after a fight complaint. After the man fled into a wooded area, he emerged in the rear yard of an apartment complex, fired a shot into the ground and then started to raise his weapon towards other officers. I fired one shot, hitting the man and putting him down. He survived and eventually spent eleven years in prison for his actions.

I am not proud of having been forced to fire on another human being.

The man was transported to a local hospital; my watch commander, Lt. Steve Sheldon (who is now Richland County's sheriff) relieved me of my weapon (per departmental guidelines) and a shift sergeant took me to the hospital for blood and urine samples. Again, common practice to ensure an officer involved in a use of deadly force isn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Once back at the station, notifications were made to the Chief of Police, the Prosecutor's Office and the president of our local Fraternal Order of Police. Detectives from the Major Crimes Bureau were called in also and, as expected, wanted a statement. After conferring with union-provided counsel and telling him what had occurred, I'll never forget the man's words: "You tell them whatever they want to know. You did everything by the book." That attorney was Don Teffner; his words reinforced my conviction of having been justified in my actions, that I had fired to protect the lives of the five other officers on scene when the suspect had raised his handgun in their direction.

I gave my statement and was then sent home on administrative leave, after having been set up with an appointment to see a local psychologist the next morning. Regardless of what you see on TV cop shows, shooting someone is a traumatic psychological event; the session with the psychologist was to ensure I wasn't suffering 'problems', known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Sleep evaded me for the next three nights.

The entire chain of events kept running through my mind like a bad movie. It churned over and over, sometimes in slow motion; though I knew I was justified, I'd been raised to respect the sanctity of life and being compelled to shoot someone didn't sit well with my religious beliefs. As a policeman, you know there's always a possibility you'll have to use deadly force in the line of duty, but when it actually happens your psyche may not be prepared for it. The event being in the news for days on end didn't help, so I stopped reading the paper and listening to local radio stations.

The departmental Shooting Review Board, as it was called back then, cleared me within the week after having reviewed the statements of the five other officers in addition to my own, as well as the physical and medical evidence. The only thing that awaited was the decision of a specially-convened Grand Jury after they, too, heard all the testimony and evidence.

Let me tell you now, there is no worse feeling for a police officer than sitting on a witness stand and being read your Constitutional rights by a prosecutor. I was the last to testify that day and, afterwards as I sat in a hallway outside the courtroom and awaited the Grand Jury's decision on a possible indictment, I was nervous. Even though I knew I had been right, even though the department had cleared me of any violations of policy and procedure, I was still nervous. As the old law enforcement saying goes, you never know what a jury will do.

The jury shortly returned a 'no bill', meaning there had been no grounds to indict me for a criminal offense. I had been cleared.

The day I went back to work was a huge relief, giving the feeling of being a part of the team again. During that week off, though I received many phone calls and a few visits from my brothers in blue,  I still felt 'outside the circle'. 

The four Mansfield PD officers went back to work a couple of days ago, so I can only assume they, too, have been cleared of any wrongdoing. They're back on the team, doing what they were meant to do.

And I am happy for them, knowing exactly how they felt during their stint on administrative leave.