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.
     

13 comments:

  1. Dawn,
    Thank you for allowing us to enjoy your tribute to Louie. I too have had a long career in Law Enforcement. Women have to face the same challenges no matter what city you serve. I too had an angle such as Louie, although he did not meet the same fate he taught me many valuable lessons that I carry on today. Stay safe and be blessed.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Great people should be recognized and I'm glad you read about my angel. What city do/did you serve in? Stay safe and be well.

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  2. Dawn, your husband is right, you are a great writer. I look forward to reading more.

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    1. Thanks for the compliment. I'm never sure if he is being kind to me so I appreciate your feedback. Thanks for reading and commenting =)

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  3. Dawn,

    My name is Joseph Fox and I'm currently the Chief of Transit, NYPD. I too had the good fortune to be mentored by our dear "Commander," Someone sent your blog to me months ago and ironically i just read it last night, days after Vera passed. What you wrote was beautiful. I sent it (below) to all last night.

    Thank you!

    From blog, Louie Miller:

    http://suddenlyitdawnedonme.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-commander.html?spref=fb&m=1

    My reflections when I was told his wife Veronica passed Sunday:

    What a solemn pleasure and honor to be that in her life, having felt so helpless when I got up to her in Louie's wake, 30 years old with less than 6 years on the job. I was blown away when she said, "He spoke of you. He said you'd do very well." Little did her or I know that one of the most cherished "gifts" my fortune would bring me would be being in a place to be part of the support and love our NYPD, this special "culture of caring," would bring to the families of our heroes. With no contact at all with Vera after the funeral, I spoke of him more and more as I was promoted to higher ranks. In '95 as the new CO of the 71 Precinct I decided to reach out to her. Every rookie orientation since then I would speak of Louie and then call her that night. I'd say, "Veronica, I and __ (number) brand new rookies spoke about the commander and all of his lessons and the gifts he brought to so many to our NYPD." Sometimes she'd say, "Do people still remember him?" I'd say, "Of course, so many do." She'd end our chat with, "You've made my day." The next day I'd tell the same rookies what she said and I'd add, "So you all came on this job to help people, to make a difference, right?" They'd nod. I'd then say, "Well know that each of you did so already; you brought comfort to the widow of one of our heros who was taken from us likely before any of you thought about being a cop.

    Bless them both.

    Summary of how Louie's sacrifice:

    Anniversary of line of duty death of Detective Louis L. Miller, 70 Precinct training officer

    End of Watch: Wednesday, March 11, 1987

    Cause of Death: Gunfire

    Date of Incident: Wednesday, March 11, 1987

    Detective Miller was shot and killed while investigating an armed robbery call.

    Detective Miller was a field training officer and was riding with three of his trainees. They met other officers at the scene and he directed two men to the roof of the building and two men to the 5th floor, where the crime was taking place. He and one of his trainees rode the elevator to the 4th floor with the intention of walking the last flight of stairs. When the elevator doors opened they were met with two suspects who immediately opened fire, striking both officers. Both officers returned fire, fatally wounding one suspect and wounding the other, who was later apprehended.

    Detective Miller had been with the New York City Police Department for 34 years and had trained over 2,000 officers in his 15 years as a field training officer. He was survived by his wife Veronica and his son Daniel and daughter in law Maureen.

    As we proudly carry out the mission we each signed on for, let us remember Louie’s brave and honorable sacrifice and remain thankful for the immeasurable impact he has had on the many officers he mentored.

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  4. I am very proud to say Louie trained me. He taught me things I'll never forget, Louie was a Legend.

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  5. Both beautiful and touching blogs, thank you for sharing. Retired Det. 25 yrs.NYPD.

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  6. Both beautiful and touching blogs, thank you for sharing. Retired Det. 25 yrs.NYPD.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading this and taking the time to comment.

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  7. I was proud to have been trained by the Commander in NSU 10. He taught me what I needed to know to survive my 22 years on the streets. He was truly one of a kind and I am a better man for having worked with him.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment. He did make the world a better place.

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