Total Pageviews

Monday, November 16, 2015

Angels and Demons

My dad passed away last week.

It feels misleading to say he "passed away" because that gives the perception of a serene slipping away. It's not the same in my mind since he killed himself.

I have been on countless suicide scenes over my career and I find them to be so complex because those who find the victim are often the ones who loved them the most. I could never understand how a person could be so selfish to leave their family with that final memory and in the incidents where there was no note or warning, leave them wondering why.

The anger I have felt on behalf of family members has been real. And now I’m that family member attempting to get inside the head of a man who chose to leave this world without saying goodbye to his one and only child. I vacillate between profound sadness and wanting to beat my fists against his chest.

And then I think about the man who was my father and the demons he fought throughout his life. He was two people to me and I have mastered the art of compartmentalizing both.

He was a man with a very high IQ and my earliest memories are sitting on his lap watching television shows like Jacques Cousteau’s underwater exploration and Carl Sagan’s personal voyage through the cosmos.  He read me works from the analytical psychologist, Carl Jung and I was bored by it but I pretended to love it because he did. He also exposed me to The Benny Hill Show and loved listening to his thunderous cackle even though I didn’t understand what was so funny. (I now realize allowing me to watch that show was mediocre parenting at best!)

He took things apart and put them back together and his degree from the DeVry Institute of Technology resulted in our garage being turned into a television repair shop. He was a police officer by trade but a technical hobbyist during his off-hours. I sat in his workshop with him and he let me melt spools of metal using the soldering gun (another example of mediocre parenting in hindsight.)

I didn’t realize until adulthood how much his curiosity about life was woven through the tapestry of me and how it’s manifested into my insatiable thirst for knowledge. He’s the reason I became a police officer and I’m blessed that his military and law enforcement service was instilled in me.

Then there was the other side of my father. I would often sneak into his liquor cabinet and pour bottle after bottle down the drain so he would stop drinking. His restless mind was likely the result of his addictive personality and I’m not sure he was ever able to quiet his thoughts — so he drank them away. I wrote him letters as a child and begged him to stop drinking. He never acknowledged me and continued to replace every bottle I washed away in the sink. He would leave work and go immediately to the social club (a.k.a. bar) and when he got home, I learned to tailor my behavior to his mood.

The demons of addiction took over his life and that became his script and downward spiral. He lost everything that was important to him but in my mind, it was his choice. My dad is the reason I thought everyone who had a cocktail in their own home was an alcoholic. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I finally understood that moderation and balance is the key to everything in life but I still find myself triggered by those who indulge to excess regularly. It’s part of the reason I grapple with understanding addiction because I have spent my entire life convinced it’s a choice. Those who are alcoholics and addicts choose their poison over their loved-ones. At least that’s what I used to believe.

He was only 70 years old when he decided he didn’t want to be here anymore. His disease of addiction caught up with him and he chose to leave this life using the weapon he carried on his side as a police officer. And now I’m left with remnants of his dual existence and I’ve been trying to make sense of it all by separating the darkness from the light.

Our parents and other influencers are fallible and imperfect and the way to peace is to recognize and embrace both their light and dark. I choose to cling to the angel memory of a man whose energy is making its way to Carl Sagan’s vast cosmos and I’m going to let go of the man with the demons.

My friend Jeff put it best: We must copy the angels and learn from the demons.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Ultimate Betrayal

When I learned that Lt. Joe Gliniewicz from Fox Lake, IL, was shot and killed while investigating 3 suspicious subjects, I was devastated. There were 7 officers shot that week in incidents across the country and emotions were already running high. So when it happened so close to home, it felt like an epidemic that was closing in. I actually believed there was a full-on assault against police officers.

The police response from all over the state to join the extensive manhunt for the 3 “shooters” was not surprising. There were officers on the perimeter who were overheated and dehydrated but refused to give up their positions.

The sea of blue that enveloped Fox Lake on the day of the funeral was a testament to the support that the law enforcement family extends to one another. Having been indoctrinated into the police profession at an early age, I know what it’s like to be a part of the “brotherhood” and there is no greater feeling. When the police come together for good, we are at our best.

This is precisely why we in law enforcement feel so betrayed by Gliniewicz’ carefully choreographed staging of his own death. I learned early on in my career that law-breakers lie to cover up wrongdoing in both criminal and immoral acts. I have come to expect this.

But cops are supposed to be the good guys. They aren’t supposed to lie and when they do, it doesn’t bode well for our profession. The very core of policing is built on public trust, and when trust is eroded, the police risk becoming ineffective. The public should demand that their police officers enforce the law in an equitable way with service and justice as foundational principles. We can clearly see the consequence of officers who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy.  Their actions not only weaken our system of justice but also threaten the reputation of honorable and worthy police officers all across the nation.

There are two kinds of mistakes: mistakes of the head and mistakes of the heart. Mistakes of the head are calculated and willful acts of misconduct (and should really be called "on-purposes"). Mistakes of the heart are truly accidental where there is no malice or forethought. I have the utmost empathy for well meaning officers who try and fail. Especially since unlike most professions, mistakes in law enforcement can be fatal mistakes.

Joe Gliniewicz is an example of law enforcement at its worst. His criminal actions leading up to his death tarnished the badge and his staged murder ranks up there with deplorable acts like planting evidence and coerced confessions.

The “hometown hero” was a selfish man whose private character was far different from his public persona. I can hardly imagine what his family went through as the details of his corruption and his calculated ruse began to unfold. The betrayal to the law enforcement community pales in comparison to that of his own children. My hope is they can move forward someday and find peace with the memory of what was good about their father because I have to believe (for their sake) that parts of him were good.

As for the law enforcement community, we’ll take another tarnish on each of our badges because the public tends to paint us all with a broad brush. But we will continue to rebuild trust one contact at a time so the citizens we serve are reminded that guys like Gliniewicz are the exception.

We can begin this thought process by recognizing that it was police officers who sifted through the grain and the chaff to get to the truth. Law Enforcement agencies worked together to uncover and expose one of their own. I believe there was a time in the not so distant past where that investigation might have turned out differently.

I offer my sincerest gratitude to those in my profession who had the excruciating job of investigating this case.

We must always search for the truth no matter where it leads us; even when it leads where we’d rather not go.