STIGMA_tough_cops_ask_4_help_posterI want to warn you reader that this entry into my reflections of a career series will be filled with some dark content, I would ask that if you are easily offended you not read this entry. I will not describe scenes in great detail but none the less some of the things I will mention here are not pretty or pleasant.

We talk about the adventure of law enforcement, the up moments, the exciting calls, the great arrests. These are the things that get people excited about law enforcement, the things you see on cops. There is a darker side to law enforcement, that isn’t talked about very often or seen by others. These are the things of nightmares that most cops keep bottled up in the recesses of their mind. They live with these sights, sounds and smells for a lifetime. I bottled this stuff up for years-I never communicated. I bought into the machismo of the profession. Let nothing bother you, or at least never let anyone know it’s bothering you. You must be in control, which is what we are paid to do. People are quick to complain that cops act as automatons at times, uncaring, unflinching jerks. Police officers are always at a disadvantage, we have NO clue what scene we are going into and who has intentions of fighting, fleeing or cooperating, or even when cooperating when that cooperation will end and the person(s) will become combative. So we disconnect, at the scene of a crime or a death we need to be in control when chaos is all around, we need to think rationally and not get emotionally involved when inside we want to hold the dead child lying in the street and cry. We see our own children lying there, or our parents or spouses. But we can’t feel, or show emotion. If we lose control there is no order at the scene. So disconnect from it. The culture of Law Enforcement is never let them see you sweat. Cops are brutal to one another, and the first sign of weakness is pounced on. I’m guilty of doing it and I’ve had it done to me. Weakness can’t be trusted and so you don’t show it. You bottle it up, and when a police officer is in trouble mentally who does he turn to? Sometimes he turns to the bottle more and more he turns to the gun.

When things in your personal life spin out of control coupled with work issues and scenes that just spin around in your head. Scenes such as watching a man burn to death in a car that you had no way of getting to him. Getting there as he screamed his final screams and hearing those screams even as I type this. Investigating why someone would lie on the Amtrack tracks, or step out in front of a speeding Acela train and not even leave a suicide note.  Walking the tracks assisting the ME in recovering body parts and then having to tell the parents that their daughter was killed and the manner in which she died. Getting called to a house in which the occupant hadn’t been seen in over 6 weeks only to enter and be overcome by the smell. Seeing literally hundreds of flies and finding the person in the bathtub where they’d been for 6 weeks. Countless hanging suicides, drug ovedose suicides or accidental deaths. Bags over the head with helium pumped in to commit suicide, gun shots,  stabbings, car wrecks, gruesome injuries. These things NEVER leave you.

In 1997 I became one of those police officers that decided I would be better off dead. I was suffering from depression that I could not shake. Shift work was messing with my body, I had personal issues I was dealing with and I decided I was going to end it all. I sat in the bar of my home crying and stuck to gun in my mouth on countless occasions. My finger was on the trigger and I applied pressure. I couldn’t do it. My thoughts turned to my children and what if they found me. I didn’t want that for them. You see my mind wasn’t worried about leaving them; I was convinced they’d be better off without me. No I just had enough compassion to not want to screw their lives up by having them find me. So my next plan was to have an “accident” at work. I’d pull a car over on the highway and then accidentally step in front of a truck. No rational thought I was gone and I had a plan. I started talking and said the wrong thing (turned out to be the right thing). Someone over heard me say something that struck them as odd and immediately brought it forward to a supervisor. I was relieved of duty, sent for mental screening in which I lost it. I broke down and spoke about feelings I had bottled up since childhood. Brian Finnegan, who shortly after that left for the FBI, saved my life. From that moment forward I was a changed man and police officer. I was an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention for police officers. I was the catalyst in getting a chaplain in our police department; I became a train the trainer in Suicide Prevention and have taught many others on the signs to look for. I have been a member of the NJ Critical Incident Response Team and developed programs educating new officers AND their families on what to expect in law enforcement and the mental changes that will happen. I’ve counseled many officers who have sought me out for private counseling and have NEVER shied away from the fact that I was suicidal and came back from the edge. I told everyone who would listen including college students, high school students and countless police officers. Just to tell them that you only need to hang on one more second. Seeking help DOES NOT MAKE YOU A WEAK PERSON OR WEAK POLICE OFFICER. You must reconnect and reattach. You must talk about how a particular situation or scene effected you. You must grieve, you are HUMAN. Seeking help makes you a stronger person. The easy way out is to end it, the hard way is to face it and come out on the other side. I understand the despair and desperation   but also know the elation of coming out of that. It wasn’t easy, I spent a year in counseling and was on medication for a year. I still fall into bouts of depression but recognize it.  I’m here 16 years later at the end of my career knowing I’ve helped more than a few people and that is something I will always be proud of.

Categories : Family Life
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ripplesSome of you may recognize this piece as something I’ve posted before… but in this series of reflections on my career I want to include moments that define what I’ve done. I’ve gained new friends and followers since I’ve posted this, so I updated certain parts and reposted…

 

A Pebble Dropped In The Pond

I’ve spent my entire adult life as a Police Officer. I left for the Army and the Military Police 29 days after I turned 18 and after 6 years as a Military Police Officer I left the service to become a Police Officer in civilian life which I’ve been doing for 25 years now.

I didn’t know I was cut out for the job until I faced a moment in the Military my first tour of duty in Germany in which an individual threatened us with a baseball bat and without hesitation I tackled him and we handcuffed him. It was at that moment that I thought I might be pretty good at this job and I might want to make it a career. So I did, I extended my tour in Germany once and then re-enlisted for 3 years.

I took a deep breath after 6 years, got out and set my mind to getting hired as a Police Officer. It took me 10 months from the time I got out until I was hired. Over 1,000 people applied for the job when I got hired, 3 of us made it, I felt good about my choice about my career and the path my life was heading down.

But I soon realized if you are not careful, if you don’t watch out for yourself, this is a career that can eat you up from the inside. It can destroy lives and make you a very jaded, cynical, bitter person. I don’t work in a big city, I work for a moderate size town in NJ. We have roughly 27,000 residents, but a day time population approaching 3 times that amount. We have an extremely busy highway running through our town and we have our share of calls that can be a challenge.

Since I’ve been on the job I’ve been involved in investigations ranging from murder, huge thefts, robbery, rape, child abuse, attempted murder, and countless suicides and deaths. I’ve been kicked, punched, slapped, spit at, thrown up on, ignored, called every name in the book, been told I was good for nothing, a pawn for the Government, and a few times people have told me that they wish I would get shot. Through it all we try to maintain an air of professionalism. To be impartial, to render assistance when its needed and to run towards the danger when everyone else is running from it.

I worked at Ground Zero after the 9-11 attacks, I’ve spent countless hours away from my family. I’ve missed Christmases, and Easters, Birthdays and Baseball and Softball games. I’ve tucked my kids into bed over the phone or kissed them goodnight long after they’ve already been asleep.

I’ve seen devastation beyond belief. I’ve seen the anguish of a mother and father after I’ve told them their child had died in an accident. I’ve watched people draw their last breath. I’ve worked frantically to try to save someone only to see my efforts were in vain. I’ve seen countless women abused only to go back with their abuser time and time again and no amount of talking can convince her that he will ever change.

I’ve worked with the greatest bunch of people you’ll ever want to know, where at times I’ve spent more time with them than my own family. I see heroes daily on my job and I see the worst mankind has to offer. And after a while you question yourself. Why am I doing this? What good is this doing anyone? Who really appreciates us?

You can’t help but feel this way, after 30 years you doubt yourself all over again. Did I become a Police Officer because I wanted to make a difference in the world? You tell yourself that is why you became a Police Officer, maybe at the beginning you really even believed that. But the further and further you get into the job that becomes a distant memory. You aren’t changing anyone’s life, no one cares about what you do. And then it happened…a moment that validated my entire career, so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but monumental to this one person and it really shows you that you can touch a life.

On a Sunday morning at 7 AM, I was getting an Egg McMuffin and a Sweet Tea at McDonalds, there was no one but a few cops in the store and a man walked in. As I was placing my order I felt he was staring at me I looked at him and he kept staring at me. I didn’t recognize him. I had no clue who he was. He walked over to me with a huge smile on his face and said “Officer Potts, you don’t remember me do you?” I didn’t and told him so. He said, “1997, you arrested me for DWI, I fell asleep behind the wheel of my car while driving in a parking lot.” I vaguely remembered, after so many years you tend to forget old cases. As he filled in the details it became clearer to me, I remembered that this individual blamed me for ruining his life that night in 1997. That he was going to lose his job, his family and his apartment. That I was the biggest piece of shit ever and that he hoped I died. I remembered he was filthy drunk, very combative, and full of hate. As I stood there in the McDonalds fully expecting to be told what an ass I was, this man stuck out his hand to shake mine and said “Thank You” and told me that he has been sober since that night in 1997, he said that if I had not arrested him that night and spoken to him about getting help for his addiction he would be dead today. He was up early on a Sunday Morning because he was on his way to an AA meeting and that his life could not be better today because of me. Well needless to say I was a bit floored. He was someone that I had arrested 12 years earlier in the middle of my own doubts about my life and my job (anyone that really knows me knows what was happening to me in 1997) and I spoke to him about getting help and he listened to me.

At that time 27 years in Law Enforcement and just 4 more years until I retired, self doubt creeping in about my career choice, burn out a definite probability…and then this-an insignificant moment in a career of a Police Officer. A moment that neither harmed the world nor made it better as a whole, but a significant moment for this one man, a moment that changed this man’s life and the lives of everyone he knows and that loves him. The lives of all the people he speaks to at his AA meetings and the lives he’s changing by his example.

The pebble dropped in the pond, the ever expanding circles it creates until it reaches the shore of someone else’s life. As I stood in McDonalds I realized it had come full circle back to my shore. A life I had touched so many years ago had come back to touch mine, and erased all the self doubt that I felt. Did I make the right choice?

I think so.

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309476_416346265070088_1865830462_n4 AM is too early for anyone to get up, let alone someone who had just lay in bed all night AWAKE with fear. I was afraid and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was heading off into the great adventure known as the United States Army. I didn’t know it then, but this “adventure” would mold and shape me into the man I am today. It would instill in me a sense of duty, responsibility, allegiance and patriotism that burns in me to this day.

I didn’t need the alarm as I watched every single minute tick off the clock that night before I left. I had just turned 18, but I felt like I was 8. I was afraid, like a thunderstorm was coming and I had nowhere to hide. Little did I know my thunderstorm had a name, Drill Sgt. Bell.

I half-heartedly ate breakfast consisting of toast and juice that morning. My father was awake as he was going to drive me to a parking lot in Toms River where I would meet my recruiter and he would drive me and the other guys from the area in a van to Newark where we were to swear in and ship out. Conversation between my dad and I was sparse. He helped me check and recheck my bags for all the things on the list the recruiter had given me of things I would need and to be sure I didn’t have any of the items that were not allowed. My entire teenage years had been packed up and shoved into the attic weeks before. To this day I’ve never retrieved those boxes but would love to see what my 18 year old mind thought was important enough to pack away and stash in an attic. I know there was music, 8-track tapes, cassettes and albums that probably have since warped or dried out and crumbled. There was love letters and school notes that I thought I’d want to keep. Those boxes are a time capsule into my youth. I wish I could see what was in them. I’m sure they’ve long since been thrown away.

The time to leave had come and I walked slowly out to the car. I knew this day was coming and had since February prepared myself physically, I was not prepared mentally or emotionally. I sat in the front seat and my father got behind the wheel. He turned the key to start the car and suddenly I heard a sound I’ve never heard before. A guttural  loud sob that had spit and snot flying all over the windshield. My father was crying. It is the first time I had ever seen my father cry and it only added to my anxiety. The ONLY thing I could think of saying is “Why are you crying? You’re the one that kicked me out”. That was it, he wiped his eyes, backed out of the driveway and off we went. I honestly don’t know if we had a conversation in the car on the way there. I’m sure we did and I’m sure my father, who was career Army, retired and then became a police officer had advice for me. I know I know, my psychiatrist has told me the same thing, you followed exactly in your father’s footsteps Blah, blah, blah…I get it.

We met the recruiter in the parking lot, I said my goodbyes, I got in the van and the next thing I knew I raised my hand along with a couple hundred other young men and women and swore allegiance to my Country. Suddenly I’m on a train bound for Anniston, Alabama. Where my Army Basic Training Military Police School was to be held and Drill Sgt. Bell was waiting.

The purpose of this blog is to relive specifics of my career as a police officer and I have no desire to bore myself or anyone with war stories of how tough it was, or what Basic Training was like but I will relay the story of Sgt. Bell because it is so stereotypical of what Basic Training is that’s it’s comical but true.

We arrived at Ft. McClellan Alabama and spent a day at the reception station. This is where haircuts are given, uniforms are handed out and equipment is gathered. After that day we are assigned to our training units and sent to the slaughter.

We loaded up on buses and I was one of the first to get on so I was forced to the rear of the bus…what a mistake that turned out to be. I remember it was about a 10 minute bus ride from the reception station to Bravo Company 11th MP Battalion…Bravo 11 as we were known.

As the bus pulled up in front of the barracks and came to a stop there was an uneasy silence as we waited for what was in store for us. The bus doors opened and I could see the familiar sight of a Drill Sgt. Hat begin to climb the bus steps. Attached to that hat was a Tall, slender, very much in shape Black man…this was Drill Sgt. Bell. He stood at the front of the bus looking down the aisle and smiled at us. The friendliest smile I’d seen in a long time. My fears began to subside. What a very nice man. He put his hands together in front of him almost like he was praying and just continued to smile. No one dared say a word. Sgt. Bell’s first words to us were “How are you Privates doing”? We were not yet trained in the Army ways of yelling in one voice. So there was sporadic” Good Sgt. “ From all areas of the bus…Sgt. Bell’s reply as the smile left his face, “Good, Good You are not at home joking and smoking any more, Mommy and Daddy ain’t here for the next 6 months I’m your mommy, your daddy, your brother, your sister and your nightmare. You’ve got thirty seconds to get off this bus and 29 just went by. GET THE FUCK OFF MY BUS”!  Cliché I know, it’s in every movie but that’s because that’s what they say, and believe me I had a pucker factor of 100 plus when I heard him say that. I was in the back, I literally stepped over people to get off that bus. There were guys in the first two rows that were the last to get off because it was a mad trample to get off that bus. We spent the next 7 hours in what is known as hell day. Running from one place to another, doing pushups, getting yelled at, doing pushups, running, getting yelled at, doing pushups, running. Back and forth back and forth until we were puking and then cleaning that up and putting it in our pockets. I remember to this day that when I was dropped to do pushups as punishment I had to recite the following in order to get permission to recover. “Drill Sgt. Thank You For This Opportunity To Condition My Mind And Body. Drill Sgt. Please Feel Free To Do So At Any Time. Drill Sgt. Private Potts Requests Permission To Recover”!

Almost 31 years later I look back on that day with fondness. I survived it, I’m proud to have made it through. This blog isn’t about Army life but this portion of it is important to establish how I became who I am. How I developed into, good or bad, the person I have become today. My next entry will speak briefly about the remainder of my Army career, the moment of clarification in my life that I knew I had what it took to be a good Police Officer and my decision to leave the Army and become a Municipal Police Officer.

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May
22

Reflections on a Career

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MPINSAs I prepare to leave the only profession I’ve done my entire adult life I want to take the time and reflect on my career, and list significant moments from it so I have a record. If you are reading this thank you for taking the time, I’m writing this for myself, mainly, but if others find it interesting that great as well.

There was never a burning desire in my youth to become a police officer. I can’t remember ever declaring that that was what I was going to do, in fact, I remember wanting to become a stuntman of all things. That was my little kid dream as I jumped ramps with my bike and purposely fell off it and rolled along the ground like a “stuntman”.

The decision to become a police officer was sort of put upon me. I was a senior in High School and my father, who was a municipal police captain at that time, had a conversation with me at the dinner table right around the Christmas Holidays. He asked me what I planned on doing when I graduated High School, I said I wasn’t sure but I’d like to go to college. His next question was who is going to pay for that and where will you live? I said I’d get a job to pay for it and I had hoped to live at home. My father’s next words stunned me. “I want you out of the house after you turn 18, you’re not going to stay here and do nothing. You better figure something out”. Well shit, I wasn’t expecting that but it certainly told me where I stood. My parents had divorced when I was 12 and I asked my Mom about living with her, she said no. Talk about feeling unwanted. I was 17 and was going to be homeless in 8 months.

Obviously, at least in my mind, the Military was my only option. Still, I wasn’t leaning towards Police Work. I visited recruiters from all branches of the Military and the recruiters did what they do best, make it sound like the greatest adventure ever. I made up my mind, I was going into the Air Force and becoming an Air Traffic Controller, only it’s 1982 and Ronald Regan has just fired all striking Air Traffic Controllers, seems everyone else had the same great idea and the waiting list for Air traffic Controllers school was 2 years. Still I could go in, get on the list and after two years go to the school. I decided thats what I was going to do. Problem number 2, no Air Force Basic Training classes were open until the following spring more than a year away. When I told my Dad that he said that was unacceptable and that I needed to get out after I turned 18. He had his reasons I’m sure but let me assure you I was not a troublemaker or on drugs, etc…I think he just wanted me out of the house plain and simple.

So I went back and decided I’d go into Law Enforcement and go into the Marines. Having already taken the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) I had qualified for anything I wanted to do in the Military except fly helicopters because of eyesight issues. The Marines sounded promising until I started hearing about embassy guard duty and that was mainly what I’d be doing. Hardly any law enforcement at all. The Army made promises about tours of service in Europe and actual law enforcement. My mind was made up, the Army it was. I was going to become a Military Police Officer. I was afraid to tell my Dad that I wouldn’t leave for Basic Training until September 29. That was 29 days after my 18th Birthday. He let me stay until then. My father signed the papers in February 1982, since I was still only 17 and I knew where I was going after my 18th Birthday, Fort McClellan, Alabama.

I don’t truly know why my father wanted me out of the house so badly, and frankly I no longer care. It was a leap I probably needed to take and perhaps my father saw that as well. I certainly grew up fast and it set my life on a course that I followed for over 30 years. I will retire 39 days from today, just shy of my 49th birthday. It’s been an adventure with some really great satisfying moments and some that were very dark and solitary. At times it’s been exhilarating and at other times mundane. It’s pushed me to my limit both physically and mentally and almost took my life. I’ve laughed at inappropriate things and shed tears that I had no business shedding. I’ve watched people be born and watched way too many die. I’ve seen people shine in the moment and I’ve seen the darkest that humans can be. I’ve taught people life lessons and been schooled by 5 year olds. I’ve risen to the occasion and screwed up royally. I often questioned why but never regretted my choice.

Over the next few weeks I plan on detailing my career as best I can, more thoughts than deeds, although I will chronicle some of the memories. I hope if you’re reading this you’ll come back and read the other stuff I’ll write about and not judge me too harshly, after all, you should really blame my Dad!

 

Categories : Ramblings
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Dec
16

Thoughts of a First Responder

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Sometimes I feel the need to write because of the emotions I feel or because I need to express myself over some incident or event that has happened that compels me to share my thoughts and or feelings about that incident and/or event.

I too feel the pain of the nation over the senseless killings that happened in CT., and I mourn the loss of innocent lives, but my connection is different then many of you. I can not know the pain that the community in that area is feeling but I can relate to the loss of innocent lives. I have not experienced it personally but have experienced it first hand. My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones but as a police officer for 30 years my heart also aches for the first responders. They experienced scenes that NO human being should ever see.

It is the nature of the beast to never discuss what we see or what we feel. We are NEVER supposed to be emotional over an event, we must maintain our composure at all times. We are not supposed to express our feelings, or talk about a scene. We are expected to be strong and detached. This is an issue amongst my brothers and sisters that needs to be addressed.

Almost anyone that enters this line of work is an Alpha personality, the reason we are often looked upon unfavorably, we must be in control…that isn’t a power trip, that is a fact. We must be in control because almost always the situation calls for someone to enter the scene and be in control…YOU demand that from us. We give it to you but at a cost. We are expected to be in control and when we enter a situation in which there is no control, no rational explanation, no rhyme or reason, only carnage we are expected to deal with it…to carry on and do our jobs. Police Officers are very adept at disconnecting from an extremely gruesome scene or emotional circumstance. We deal with the horror with off the cuff humor at times to save our selves from the shear horror of what we are witnessing.

We run into problems when we can not find our way back to reality, when we detach from the the event that confronts us because we HAVE to be the one in control but then never reattach, never acknowledge the event and how it made us feel. Almost every officer I know has been to some traumatic event, has tried in vain to save a life or has been a responder to a devastating event that defies explanation. be that a death by natural causes, suicide, homicide or accident. I’ve seen it too many times.

My concern is always for those that never learn to reconnect, to express their feelings, to tell someone that what they saw was horrendous and effected them in a way that no one can ever know. The first responders that responded to the horrific scene in Ct. will forever be changed, but they need to reattach, to be sure to talk to those around them to express how they feel and to know that tears are ok and that others feel that pain as well.

Often we hear about officers ending their lives, in fact the suicide rate is twice as high as the National average, it’s easy access to a means (guns always available) but it stems from a horrible stigma that you can not lose control. You MUST always be in control and if you lose control you are weak. whether it be in your personal life or public life.

I hope that my brothers and sisters in Ct. seek the help they so dearly need, to speak of the unspeakable, to share feelings and to find themselves reattached as humans and know that it is ok to shed a tear and to feel sorrow.

This isn’t about guns or the right to own or carry them. This is about human beings, the victims taken from this earth far too early and for me,and my brothers and sisters, about sanity and maintaining faith in human kind when all seems lost.

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Sep
09

Lost Dreams

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Ten years gone. Ten years in time for those of us that
survived, ten years in missed opportunities, unrealized potential and ten years
of lost dreams for those that perished.

We will all reflect upon where we were and what we were doing
when the planes hit on that crisp beautiful September day in 2001. I was at
home getting dressed to go to work as a police detective in NJ.  As I saw the reports come in I knew I had to
get to work right away, and off I went. As I drove to work the reports of the
first tower collapsing blared at me over the car radio. I was dumbfounded,
until I looked towards the northern horizon and could see the smoke and dust
rising from the area the towers once stood. Panic calls from my wife, should
she get the kids from school. What should she do? I was in complete police
officer mode then, not husband mode, I didn’t offer her words of comfort the
way a husband should. I told her not to panic, to remain calm and let me find
out what is going on. My wife often suffers from my “police officer”
persona in times of crisis and never gets the benefit of a husband that truly
shows the vulnerable side that she may sometimes need. I was scared but I had
to maintain control. I always cherish and appreciate the fact that she has in
the past and continues to understand who I am and my reactions are based on
training.

There was confusion at police HQ as we assessed what was
going on and how many people would go to the site to assist in what we believed
would be rescue operations. I was assigned as family liaison, helping to
coordinate children who were separated from their parents who worked in NY and
in some cases in the towers. In fact my job throughout was dealing with the
families of the residents of our town that perished that day. I worked with the
Medical Examiner’s office for nearly a year until we had confirmation through
DNA that all our residents remains were recovered.

I did not go to ground zero that day, but did go in the
days that followed. I worked the site and the destruction witnessed firsthand
is indescribable. Pictures and television can NEVER do it justice. The
desperation in people’s eyes and their pleas to find their loved ones is
haunting to this day. The toll it took on the fire fighters, police officers
and emts that searched the debris daily is an overwhelming thought. I keep the construction hard hat I wore as a reminder.  The silence
amongst heavy machinery was unreal. The feeling of hope drained daily to a
feeling of sadness as the realization set in that this was no more a rescue
mission but everything from this point forward was a recovery mission. The
entire area had become a graveyard with large pieces of twisted steel the
tombstones that marked the final resting place for 2,606 heroes.

Despite the despair, a feeling of unity was prevalent-
patriotism flowed through the mounds of debris and it was as if 2,977 (total number of victims from all 9-11
sites) unknowing patriots cried out God Bless America.

Six months after 9-11 I had to tell the wife of one of
the people that perished in the North Tower that her husband’s remains had been
identified. The news was delivered to me late on a Friday night. It was not
information I felt could wait until Monday so I went to her house at 11pm and
gave her the news. She yelled at me for delivering the news to her at 11 pm on
a Friday night when there was nothing she could do about it until Monday. She
was right and I felt horrible, I was so sick of dealing with 9-11 everyday,
phone calls, letters, stacks of cases on my desk, but in that moment of her
yelling at me I received clarity. What I went through daily since 9-11 was
NOTHING compared to what these families were enduring the day of, 6 months
later and today. I have great respect for those families and while I don’t see
them very often any longer I keep a little letter written by a then 9 year old
boy thanking us for looking for his father who perished that day. I often visit
the memorial our town erected to honor the residents of our town that perished
and reflect on the lives of people I never knew while alive but learned so much
about in death.

We will reflect on the 10 year anniversary and remember
that fateful day, I wish we could recapture some of the patriotism that was so
strong in the months that followed…football games will be played that day,
children will laugh and our lives will go on after we reflect for a brief moment.
For 2,977 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA their
lives were over in a brief moment. As we remind ourselves what happened that
horrible day a soldier will be in harm’s way and perhaps be killed.

We remember the 2,977 heroes that perished on 9-11-01 and
the 5,796 men and woman in uniform that have perished since. They left behind
wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers families, friends and dreams of a
better tomorrow, what a shame if we allow those dreams to perish.

Categories : Family Life
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I normally reserve my blog for things I find amusing and rarely do
I post an opinion on here. But over the course of the past 24 hours I’ve found
myself as flabbergasted as the rest of the Nation in what happened in Orange
County, Florida yesterday afternoon.

Many of you are dumb founded that she was not convicted of even
child abuse and I am as well, but I can tell you based upon what I do for a
living it happens. While circumstances and actions all point to guilt, facts
and evidence sometimes don’t add up. Many times that is attributed to the
person actually being innocent, but often times it is the result of sloppy
police work, poor evidence collection, and overzealous prosecutors so anxious
to convict on a charge that won’t stick instead of a lesser charge that is
easier to prove. That motivation is usually politically based. I cannot tell
you if any investigative mistakes were made I wasn’t part of the investigation,
I can tell you that there is, in my opinion, one crucial thing that was
neglected, that probably would have led to a conviction of some sort. I will
touch on that in a moment.

The defense was to throw as much crap against the wall , see what
stuck, and what would sway the jury in their favor. A tactic that worked brilliantly.
The blame was placed squarely on everyone else but Casey. Dad sexually abused
Casey, Mom left the ladder to the pool open, Kronk sexually assaulted women
using duct tape. It was a horrible accident and the family panicked and
disposed of the body.

I often get very tired of hearing people use the excuse they were
sexually assaulted as an excuse for their poor behavior as an adult. It is
absolutely a horrible thing to be sexually assaulted and people who are deserve
every bit of our sympathy. However, because you were sexually assaulted does
NOT excuse you from actions you’ve done to others as an adult or excuse your
substance abuse or reckless behavior. While certainly as a child it is very
hard to see what is right and wrong, as an adult we grow up to know that sexual
abuse is wrong, and you have a responsibility, as an adult, to not only seek
treatment for yourself, but to push forward with prosecution of the individual
who caused you so much harm so that they cannot do it to another child. I am
sympathetic and I want to help but I refuse to excuse someone’s bad behavior on
the fact they were abused as a child…this is why Casey Anthony felt the need
to party? Why she didn’t report her child missing for 31 days? As an adult, a
responsible adult, if my kid is missing for 5 minutes I’m in a frenzy, whether
I was abused or not I KNOW it is NOT normal for a 2 year old to be gone for 31
days.

If it was an accident it is a tragedy, but why the need to cover
it up? Accidents happen, it is unfortunate but children drown in pools all the
time. I believe a recent study said one every 5 days. It happens everywhere in
America. Parents don’t go to jail because their kids drowned in a pool. They
certainly may feel guilt for the rest of their lives but they don’t decide to
hide the fact that their child drowned. They call the Police and First Aid,
they do everything they can to try to revive the child, even after the child
has been drowned for hours…I know I’ve seen how they react, I’ve been there.
Normal parents grieve and beg you to help their child…they DO NOT hide the
child’s body and go out and party and get tattoos.

I believe the turning point in this case was when Roy Kronk
reported seeing something “suspicious” in the woods in August of
2008. He reported it to the Sheriff’s office. It wasn’t until two days later,
after he called again, that a Deputy Sheriff met with him in the area. I don’t
know any of this as fact, but it is my opinion that that Deputy Sheriff did a
half ass job of investigating a “suspicious” item. The testimony and
reports indicate the area in August 2008 was flooded. Knowing the way some
police officers think, that Deputy probably didn’t want to walk out into a
swampy, mosquito infested area to check for any suspicious items. It was August
in Florida, hot and humid and he couldn’t be bothered. He berated Kronk for
wasting his time. Had that Deputy walked a little further or perhaps called
others to assist, the body would have been found sooner, the amount of
decomposition would have been less and PERHAPS enough evidence would have been
gathered to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what had happened to Caylee
Anthony. Surely that Deputy knew there was a child missing from the area and a
few seconds of discomfort in his/her day may have been enough to prove a case.
This was the most critical mistake in my opinion and shows you how such a
little thing can turn a case. The remains were not recovered until December
that same year, 4 additional months in the Florida weather surely destroyed
crucial evidence.

We’ve seen it happen before in the OJ Simpson trial, we believe he
is Guilty, but when evidence isn’t handled properly or details are over looked
it can open up enough reasonable doubt that a conviction is not possible. In my
opinion Casey Anthony had something to do with her daughter’s death, she did
not act like a “normal” parent would following the disappearance of
her child and she lied to authorities at least 4 times during the
investigation. Parents don’t need to lie unless they are covering something up.
But based on the evidence presented and the options given the jury could not be
convinced of her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Our judicial system isn’t perfect, but more often than not it gets
things right. It’s been said it is better to have 1,000 guilty people go free
then to convict 1 innocent person. Casey Anthony will never be free, she is
guilty in the eyes of America and she will bear the burden of that guilt for
the remainder of her life. Only she knows, truly,  what happened to her child and while she was
found not guilty yesterday, she will be judged again and that time the rules of
evidence won’t apply, reasonable doubt cannot be relied on and then her true
guilt or innocence will be determined.

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Feb
14

Barbie and Ken Reunited.

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Barbie and Ken are getting back together isn’t that special…make your mind up already Barbie.

In 2004 Mattel felt that since they were changing their image of Barbie they needed to make her an unattached single, care free woman of the world. That a woman cannot be successful in this day and age while being attached to a man and that it was time to cast that man aside for her career advancement.

My thoughts on this; Barbie is a bitch and Ken is probably gay (not that there is anything wrong with that). I mean come on, Barbie and Ken have been romantically linked since 1961, yet has anyone really ever seen them kiss? The only time I ever saw them kiss was when I forced my sisters Barbie and Ken to ” do it” and even then Ken looked real uncomfortable and Barbie, well, she just looked sick.

Ken has always taken a back seat to Barbie and to me always looked very comfortable when his clothes were swapped with Barbie’s. Come on admit it, if you had a sister growing up you found yourself always wanting to torment Ken by putting him in Barbie’s apron, yet Ken always seemed to be a little too happy in her outfits, always smiling with those big white teeth. NO? You didn’t do this? Ok so I’m the only weirdo here.

Barbie, I think, used Ken. Barbie was too busy jetting across the world in her Malibu Jet and Malibu Motor home to really be concerned with “settling” down. Barbie had her own agenda and a damn the world and especially Ken attitude. Where was Barbie when Ken needed her, Barbie was too busy being Doctor Barbie, or Veterinarian Barbie, or Burger Flipping Barbie in Barbie’s McDonald’s Play Set. Barbie was shopping at the Fashion Mall and never once did she come back with anything for Ken. Sure the rumors were rampant that Barbie and Kung Fu Grip GI Joe had that illicit affair back in the 70s, but shortly after that romance ended has anyone seen or heard from Kung Fu Grip GI Joe again. Where do you think Kelly came from? They want you to believe Kelly is Barbie’s niece but look closely and you’ll see Kelly has that scar on her left cheek just like her dad. Just goes to show you what kind of user Barbie really is.

Then Barbie went and changed her image again she became Cali Girl Barbie and decided to completely leave Ken and just be “friends”. Ken was devastated by this and went on a 6 year Play-doh binge. He cleaned himself up and apparently professed his love all over NY. “Barbie we may be plastic but our love is real” OH Please Ken…you’d be better off with the Bratz Girls at least they won’t crush you and make fun of your non anatomical manhood.

I think we all know where this will lead, ten years from now we’re all going to say “Hey remember that Ken guy, I wonder whatever happened to him.” Meanwhile Ken, will be toiling around in obscurity in some back room bin of a dollar store remembering the days of his romance with Barbie, and secretly wishing he could wear her apron just one more time.

Damn that Barbie is a Bitch! Good Luck with that Ken! Sucker.

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Feb
14

A Comic is Born?

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One of the things I always said I wanted to do was get up on stage and do standup comedy. I’ve always been told I was funny, in school, in the Army and at the Police Department I always heard “Dude you are F’in funny you should go onstage”.  I was funny when I was telling stories, acting things out or just plain making fun of people…I knew that wouldn’t translate into being funny onstage-unless of course I gathered a room of people who thought those stories were funny. I mean unless you’re a cop or idiot (same thing) telling a funny story about a death scene isn’t funny to most people.

So when I read about a comedy class being given at Catch A Rising Star in Princeton I just had to do it…there was no denying my inner comic, what’s the worst that could happen I’d get booed and called an asshole? I get that daily as a Police Officer, especially by the Governor of NJ. So I paid my money and attended class.

The class was put on by Steve Trevelise and Jimmy Graham, two very funny and talented comedians. Steve is well known on the radio in and around Philadelphia and Jimmy was part of the Murderers Row out of the Howard Stern Show.

We learned the craft of writing standup comedy,  how to craft those stories I had into jokes, how the story may be funny but the art of telling the story, acting out the parts, imitating voices, making stupid faces really made the joke. These were the things I was already doing. We were taught that being brief was our friend…to condense those stories down to their basic elements and getting to the funny stuff without all the filler.  We were taught that writing was our friend and that we should always have a note pad on hand or digital recorder so we could write down the funny stuff we observed, put our spin on it and craft a joke. I’ve never used the Voice Memo function of my iPhone so much. Always recording random thoughts, observations and funny jokes I’m lucky enough to think of in the middle of conversations.

We were told it takes a comic a year to come up with 30 minutes of material, they weren’t kidding. We had 4 weeks to come up with 7 minutes of material that we would have to perform ON STAGE at Catch A Rising Star in front of an actual audience…GULP!

Naturally I fell back to my career, I wrote Cop jokes but the funniest comedy comes from deep within, to find your faults and put them out for the whole world to see, tapping into those not only makes others laugh but in some way is very therapeutic. I’m a hypochondriac and it was easy for me to explore that and write some funny stuff. I spent my 4 weeks writing, enhancing, erasing, revamping, changing, cutting, throwing out, re-writing my routine up until 10 minutes before I went on stage at the graduation.

We performed our act in front of the other students so many times that they just stared blankly during rehearsal the night before graduation.  Does not do anything for your confidence when you tell a joke and no one even chuckles. But we heard it so much it just wasn’t funny…and that got me doubting my stuff was funny at all. CRAP what the “F” am I doing…I was praying for snow so our show would get pushed back another week, I needed another week to write more stuff, we had snow every week leading up to the show, it decides to not snow that week.

Our show was Thursday, February 3rd. I arrived a little early and had a couple of glasses of wine to calm the nerves which were surprisingly not as bad as I thought they would be ( the nerves, not the wine). It was an absolute packed house, well over 100 people in the audience waiting to see us sink or swim.

I had memorized my routine, not line for line but in what order I was going to do it. I knew what I was going to do up there on stage and I was ready. To say I wasn’t truly nervous would be a lie, but I do so much public speaking that getting up in front of a crowd doesn’t make me nervous at all. Having been a Radio DJ for a few years a microphone is very comfortable for me BUT I had never gone on stage to PURPOSELY make someone laugh. That made me nervous, I was anxious and wanted to get it over with.

There were 8 of us performing that night and 4 comics were in front of me. The closer it came to my turn on stage the less I listened to the other comics…I was trying to get in a zone but now I was one comic away from going on and my “What the fuck are you doing” meter went off. Holy Crap, no one laughed at these jokes last night. Am I am idiot? I must be…I need to turn around right now and get the hell out of here, just as I was about to turn and run screaming from the waiting area I heard Steve introduce me and someone’s hand on my shoulder pushing me towards the stage…Ahhhhhh Shit here I go.

The audience politely clapped as I grabbed the microphone. For a brief moment I felt naked on the stage, I hoped I remembered my routine. I did tape an index card onto the side of my water bottle that had bullet points to steer me in the right direction if I got lost, I referred to it once in the middle of my set.

The lights were bright enough that it was difficult to see everyone in the club, the stage is small and you are right on top of the audience. I took a deep breath and moved into my first joke…laugh…led me into my second joke bigger laugh…Holy Crap this is awesome…any nerves I felt evaporated with those first two jokes. Suddenly I was hanging around with my friends being the idiot center of attention that I for some reason need to be. I heard the laughing and fed off of it, but the funny thing is I couldn’t gauge how much laughter I was getting. I could hear responses, laughter, giggling, guffaws but none of it registered I was lost in the moment,  lost on stage with an incredible rush like NOTHING I’d ever felt before. Jimmy told me it’s like a drug…the more laughs you get the more of a rush it is, the more you lose yourself and become more yourself if that makes any sense. I felt a connection with everyone there, like we had hung out 100 times before that night and we were drinking some beers laughing our asses off at some stupid crap. I won’t tell you any of my jokes, you’ll have to come see me perform sometime but that 7 minutes flashed by in the snap of my fingers.

I finished my set walked off the stage to very loud applause and felt 10 feet high, what a feeling that was very hard to come down from I was amped and ready to get back on stage right then and there. As I’ve said, I’ve spoke in public, in front of very large crowds, I was on the radio at 94.3 the Point at the Jersey Shore and had TENS OF THOUSANDS of listeners and nothing felt like I did walking off that stage.

Over the years I’ve put on a little weight, ok a lot of weight, enough that I was getting Lap-Band surgery the following week or I would have been up on stage that very weekend somewhere. As I write this I’m recovering from the surgery but am anxious to get back on stage somewhere. I’m writing every day, some funny some not…it doesn’t always have to be funny as long as I’m writing that’s what matters. This was an exercise in writing for me today. I was unable to concentrate on this leading up to the surgery-but now that I’m beyond that I needed to chronicle my comic debut. For those of you wondering I didn’t look like Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka (the blueberry girl) but I was definitely feeling the weight…I’ve lost 24 pounds so far… when I get the video of my performance I will post it up…hopefully you’ll laugh when you see the video and when you visit me on a stage somewhere in NJ soon!

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Mar
27

Fire, Fire, Fire.

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Just a quick observation…while cooking dinner I slightly burned the bread I was baking, ok it caught fire and was a total loss, and smoke spilled from the oven. The fancy pants smoke detector began to blare and then a very calm female voice began to say…Fire, Fire, Fire….over and over. Very calm and nonchalantly warning us that the house was on fire. For me it was much too calm…I want a smoke detector that screams at me….”Oh Lordy, Oh Jesus, The House is burning, get the F out…oh my God we’re all gonna die if you don’t get the F out of here!!!” How about an alarm that yells that-then I’m sure to get out. MAybe it can even faint half way through screaming, someone would have to pick it up, fan it a bit and it would carry on carrying on-“Oh Jesus, Oh Lord, MY House , NO you didn’t just burn the bread, Uh Uh..Oh Lord, Jesus”!!! Now that would be my kind of smoke alarm.

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