Thursday, March 14, 2013

Funerals Pt II or Daryl Gates - Oderint Dum Metuant

I don't like police funerals. No, I don't like line of duty funerals. I don't mind burying a retired copper who died at age 89, took the City for 30 + years of pension ... that's sweet. What kills me is saying bye to an officer who got killed in the line of duty. One of the things the movie End of Watch got right was how big, emotional and dignified police funerals are. In the movie, when Officer Taylor gets up to speak at his partner, Officer Zavala's funeral he's speechless. Of the two line of duty funerals I attended neither partner got up to speak. I can't imagine getting up to speak at a current partner's funeral.

I heard former Chief Bratton give two eulogies, one for Officer Ricardo Lizarraga and one for SWAT Officer Randal Simmons. His eulogy for Officer Lizarraga was very adroit and professional - it was what you would expect a Chief of a big city department to say about one of his fallen officers. As for Simmons' eulogy, I haven't heard it reported anywhere but it was a bit jarring. Chief Bratton spoke after a few family members and former partners of Simmons. The quintessentially unflappable Bratton was uncharacteristically nervous and unpolished. Those who spent any time watching him on TV whether it was in NY or here in LA know that he is above all else, polished and smooth. However he had trouble starting. So he did an old public speaking trick to get momentum to start his speech, he began listing who was in attendance. In his characteristic Boston accent he called attention to the dignitaries in attendance:

Here today we have Gov Schwarzenegger (polite applause) ... LA County Sheriff Baca (a little louder applause) ... Mayor Villaraigoza (a smattering of applause) ... former Chief Parks (nothing. Not even crickets.) and former Chief Daryl Gates - (instantaneously the Faith Dome erupted.)

Five minutes, sustained and very loud standing ovation.

Once the outburst subsided, Bratton's eulogy continued, and he "landed the plane" as they say and finished his thoughts in a dignified manner expected of a big city Chief.

I was there. I stood. I loudly applauded and I cheered. It was '08. I was tired. I was tired of getting kicked in the teeth all too often by administration, TV and print media who would all too often put the bullseye on me and my brother and sister officers rather than actual criminals. I was sick of Chief Bratton who thought the worst thing you could do was embarrass him on TV. I was also sick of the after effects of Parks' Reign of Terror. I had had enough of losing valuable tools due to political expediency. I stood. I stood proudly and clapped and hollered loudly for the last truly 100%, pro-cop Chief the LAPD had seen. I'm not aware that he ever uttered the exact phrase, Oderint Dum Metuant (Latin for let them hate, so long as they fear) but by his actions he sure did. For those of you unawares, the "them" in that phrase would be violent criminals.

Daryl Gates is not without his faults. My classical liberal (libertarian) blood stirs when I recall how it was his personal testimony in Sacramento that moved the state legislature to pass some of the strictest Victim Disarmament laws in the country. He often said odd things about minorities and was an unrepentant drug warrior. In short, he wasn't perfect. Only Jesus Christ is. But dammit he hated crime. He saw supporting the vast majority of good officers as a way to keep morale high. He wasn't some doofus in a Chief's outfit, playing leader - doing things he thinks are politically expedient rather than what will bring down crime - like we've had since. No, he was the real deal - not perfect but he was about letting his police officers enforce the spirit of the law and lock up criminals. Chief Gates has since passed away. All of us who take this job seriously will miss him dearly.

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