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The Tentacle


January 4, 2011

Honored Dead

Roy Meachum

There are no tears left. For young men needlessly slaughtered in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tears are all exhausted. My sorrow deepened with the invasion to take Baghdad, as I wrote. The military-industrial complex, today’s gods of war, had their way.

 

Remorse for America’s struggle to contain violence, drugs, rape and lesser crimes has never really surfaced, except among the law enforcement community, which includes families, friends and partisans that include me. As a Washington on-street reporter I came to understand my nearest counterpart was the cop on a beat.

 

Years later I handled the TV program, “Ask the Chief.” Maurice John Joseph Cullinane was a regular guest on the show. Cully was at least his family’s third generation to wear a badge and carry a Billy-stick. He told about a great uncle before World War I. Complete with a very tall helmet, he rode in the District’s horse patrol.

 

One day the elder Cullinane’s mount returned to the precinct house without him. The search party found the rider dead on the street’s bricks, his helmet nearby. The horse may have thrown him; nobody ever knew. The only certainty: he was listed on the annual report as killed in the line of duty.

 

The latest police fatality I read involved a policewoman in, I remember, New Jersey; she was sent to get details from a girlfriend who called the station and reported abusive beatings. In the current budget crunch, the officer alone was dispatched; domestic violence looms to be the largest category enforcement agencies handle.

 

While the policewoman stood in the door, interviewing the complaint, the boyfriend returned to the apartment; it seems he went away to fetch a semi-automatic weapon. The gun killed the cop. The five word statement applied 59 times last year.

 

Most on-duty deaths occurred in that manner. Officers were cut down in domestic violence cases; not all. The cause ranked only behind lives lost attempting to enforce traffic laws; there were 73 in 2010, significantly higher than the 51 law enforcement agents slain the year before.

 

Most people of my acquaintance firmly hold to the conviction that “Protect and Serve” applies principally to their person and property. They think, I’m convinced, robbery and burglary happen to less vigilant and less cautious people; ditto for rape. Most suspect the young women act dangerously; they’re hard-pressed to explain comfortably, girls and boys. When an officer is cut down in the course of a bank robbery, they assume that’s why she or he was paid.

 

Everybody has had experience with cops who think their shields mean they’re free to bully all they encounter, on duty or off. They reckon themselves higher than all other human beings. Why? I haven’t a clue. They insult and dishonor every sworn officer who accepts “Protect and Serve” as a sacred duty, and is in the vast majority.

 

When out and about, I try to salute individuals and cruisers by a friendly wave or short greeting; everyone I meet or see.

 

The Frederick Police force earned all signs of respect and gratitude, especially since the current chief came aboard; but then he first took the oath while Maurice John Joseph Cullinane still headed Washington’s boys and girls in law enforcement blue.

 

Unlike Cully, Kim Dine can summon up no older generations who wore the star; he descends from ink-stained wretches. His father is a journalist and so is his brother.

 

But as stated at the start of this column, the cop on beat’s closest counterpart is a reporter on the street.

 



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