Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Commander

     Let me introduce my friend Louie Miller (The Commander or Uncle Louie). I came out of the Police Academy fresh faced with my 2 year college degree.  I was 21. Louie was assigned to train the new rookies. He was 60 years old and had fought the department to stay on and not retire despite several strokes. He had served as a Marine prior to his years in the PD. Louie didn't have that college degree but he showed me every day how smart and savvy a cop could be.
     In 1985 there was still a stigma about woman in the police department. I often had cops that didn't want to work with me or bosses that gave me the dirty work (dead bodies etc) because I was a woman. I was always surprised that despite his age Louie went above and beyond to treat all his "kids" (that's what he called the young cops) fairly. He saw no sex or color. He came to work with his trademark gift, a bag of lollipops, and we would get one daily. He would even give them to my 30 year old boss who was still a kid to him. His wonderful wife Veronica was always on the hunt for the good ones. He would ask if she bought good ones. He had so many nicknames back then but the one that described his work as a cop best was Louie"no meal" Miller. If you worked in a car with him you were not going to stop working to have a lunch break. He drank black coffee and we would joke about how many cups he poured out the window. If you were with him and a job came over he would say "drink it fast or dump it." We dumped it.
     I took note early on that Louie never used any type of slur or negative reference when referring  to anyone. I didn't know it then but he had won several awards for his compassion within the community. I watched him interact and handle jobs and didn't realize it then, but he was making me the cop that I went on to be. I'm positive that most of his "kids" were equally influence by him.
     One day I got a call for a lost elderly female and responded and found a thin woman not dressed for the cold. I pulled out all my police academy schooling and quizzed and queried this poor woman to no avail. I was doing it all by the book. She had dementia and the more I asked her "Ma'am where do you live?" the more confused she became. I called for The Commander over the radio and he came. He asked "What do you need kid?" I told him. I watched as this huge man walked up to the woman and gave her a big bear hug. He kissed her and said " Hi Momma I was worried about you." He mentioned how cold she must be as he held her closer. He said "let's go home now mom." He gently spoke to her and he was able to find out where she was living. I felt so foolish but to Louie it was just another day. He never took credit for fixing a problem it was always us handling the job together.
     He was also famous for knowing exactly where the bad guy was going to be. I don't know how he did it but he was always in the right place. He would sit in the back of the car while he had the two rookies in the front. He would be doing a crossword puzzle but never missed a beat. One day there was a robbery in progress and of course the "kids" wanted to go straight to the address. He never looked up from the crossword but said " make a u boat and go to the corner of such and such(can't remember the block) and wait." That sounded absurd but you gotta listen to the commander. He said "kid you don't chase them you let them come to you." Well who comes running around the corner but the bad guy. Louie opened up the car door at the right moment so the bad guy slams into it and falls to the ground and Louie then says "there you go kid, go pick up your collar." He was the real deal.
     I went on to see him handle so many situations that other cops called for his help. I learned from everyone on them. I was always amazed with how he touched everyone. Literally. The filthy homeless man, the bad guy, the bleeding victim. He was so hands on. I watched him touch and talk to the bad guy and suddenly that guy wasn't acting up so much. The power of touch was implanted in me. I will admit I never was as close up as he was. Another thing that I took on my career journey was a bag of goodies. It was definitely a spin off of Louie's lollipops but I took candies and small toys and gave them to children when I went on a job to their house. Not as diligently as Louie did but when I could.
     One day I came into the precinct and there were reporters everywhere. Cops were crying and no one would tell me what was up. The boss behind the desk looked ashen and just waved me off to go suit up. In the locker room I finally found out that The Commander had been shot and killed. He was responding to a burglary in progress with his "kids" and  he encountered the two perps in the hall and stopped to question them. One shot at Louie and Officer Del Pino emptied his gun and hit the perp. While Del Pino was reloading the other suspect grabbed the gun and started to fire at Del Pino hitting him. Louie, although mortally wounded, return fire killing the perp thus saving Del Pino. The other perp left the building and passed one of Louie's kids. She had no idea of what happened in the building yet but had the presence of mind to sense something wasn't right. She took the plate of the vehicle and transmitted it. Louie had taught her well. The perp was found shortly thereafter. March 11, 1987 was the End of Watch for The Commander. It was the end of my rookie training with Uncle Louie. That night I had to help with the paperwork and his bloody clothes. I was no longer that young fresh faced kid.
     When the Dept. Chaplain told Veronica Miller what happened to her husband she answered "That's the way he would have wanted it to be." The chaplain said that statement helped him make a terrible job easier to handle. An incredible saint of a man was obviously married to a saint of a woman. We found out through her that he had swiped some of her fur coats and gave them to the homeless. He told her they were in the back of the closet, they weren't keeping you warm. You had to catch him in these amazing acts since he was so humble.  He did many things that only a few saw. When she spoke to us kids she told us the same thing she told the chaplain and also said he was always talking about his kids. She said "he told me about each and every one of you." In a time of tremendous grief for us all she took the time to lift our hearts. I cry as I write this because I still miss him. I hope I made him proud and I'm sure some of his other kids went on to become great cops like Louie.
   Lately we have heard so many negative comments about cops that I thought it important to share this story. You see this all took place during times of great racial tensions and cop/community conflicts. There were great cops then. I know the majority were decent people. Everyday they carried on but you didn't ever know what they did because it doesn't make papers.  Louie didn't make papers until his final call. No one would have known he existed. I know now the majority of cops are good and some are even great. You probably will never hear about them.

Below is a picture of Louie with his saintly wife Veronica taken in Dec 1985. I have held onto it all these years.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

North meets South

There are certain things I know to be true. We as humans all have a need for food, water, shelter, and companionship. It doesn't matter where you live or who you are these are the commonalities among us. I can speak from experience that when you move from the northeast to the deep south that is where the similarities end. We speak the same language, or so you would think, but the words and expressions are totally unfamiliar to this ex - Yankee. Don't get me wrong there are many lovely difference but they are just so many I need a handy pocket translator. So here goes with just a few :

car accident   = wreck
shopping cart = buggy
you're a jerk = bless your heart
that was nice of you = bless your heart    (Confused? So am I. It means both tricky huh?)
soda = coke( and then the next question is what kind of coke, 7 up, orange etc)
redneck = coonass
does your dog bite? = Is he sweet?
being snotty or nasty = being ugly.
being nice = sweet
a lovely, kind woman = sha
a barbeque  = boil (food is boiled can be shrimp, crawfish, crab)
hi = hey
grocery shopping = making groceries.
mopping = passing a mop
a nice female of any age = little girl
a scantily dressed or undesirable girl = little girl (context of the sentenced " I told that little girl march yourself right outta here and show your daddy what you wearin")
a little girl = child

As confused as I have been I can only imagine what a person who moved up north would think of us and our ways but then again who would move up north and leave this warm weather behind.