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by Peter Moskos

August 5, 2008

More crusty outrage

I received an email from a former commander of the Eastern District (he retired before I was there). He too refuses to read my book [everything below is edited and cut for length from the original emails]:

Your apparent motivation for writing your book would indicate that it was successful, you have your new profession, that of college professor; but then again, you didn't really have law enforcement as your "old profession", did you? Your book was obviously matter of expediency! What "real police" find offensive, is when interlopers such as yourself, apparently believe that a year on the street grants them some kind of miraculous wisdom to analyze, and be critical of, probably the most complex area of public service that exists today!

You see professor, police are special, very much so; they have conferred upon them an awesome, and totally unique responsibility, by the public that they serve, and that is the power to take a life!

Oh, our military can kill people, but only after they have an identifiable enemy, and in today's military, after the legal advisor who is deployed with them, grants them the permission to do so! But our police, they make split-second decisions, decisions that may see them taking a human life, and there are no advisors deployed with them, nor is the "enemy" often readily identifiable! No one, and I mean no one, in our society, has that awesome power; not the well over paid Congress, the activist judges, nor the President himself!

And professor, that is why your book upsets real police; there is a sort of snobbish effrontery to every working police officer, when some opportunist such as yourself, exploits a mere year of service, converting it in some way to confer expertise on his puny observations, which were subsequently recorded for future use and gain!

In order to truly legitimize your book, you would have needed to spend much more time on those streets in the Eastern, but then, that would have interfered with your future employment schedule, wouldn't it? Do you still wonder why your book is resented?

Major (retired) BCPD

Dear Major ,

I just composed an honest but rude email to you. Because you were a major, I respect you. I want to get your permission before sending it to you. It's nothing personal, but it's a bit rude. I think you can take it.

Here's my polite response:

I think you misunderstand me as some anti-cop academic. Nothing could be further from the truth (well, except the academic part). I respect and honor every police officer to ever wear the BPD uniform. Especially the patrol officer. My book is dedicated to those who have died in service! And you dare criticize?

I speak for the underappreciated patrol officer riding around right now in the Eastern District (and Western District, and other districts like it, if there are any). I never pretend or claim to know more than people with the experience of you. But really, how can a respond to criticism if you have no idea what I have to say?

I'll tell you what: can I send you a copy of my book? On me. You don't even have to buy it. Like a gift. That's right, you can make me spend my own money to buy my own damn book and mail the damn thing to you (I'll just have it shipped from Amazon——please don't think I get them for free). Just because you have the balls to write me.

But I'll tell you what: if you like my book or not, you have to write me and tell me what you honestly think. That's the deal. That's your duty. And I'll post it on my blog. And one more condition: if you actually enjoy reading my book, or think there's something of worth in it, then I want a check from you for the $25 cover price.


Dear Professor Moskos,

First of all, the question about the "reduction" in homicides while I commanded the Eastern; to be quite honest, since my retirement in 1995, which was several years after my assignment as the Eastern District Commander, I honestly do not recall that statistic; however, in deference to you, I must admit that there probably was no reduction!

There is very little that police can do to reduce the rate of occurrence of homicides: every minute of every day, presents an opportunity to commit these crimes, there simply are not enough police officers to significantly impact the opportunity to commit homicide! Most crimes of passion homicides are committed inside, and between people who know each other; there is very little likelihood that police officers will be present to prevent these!

Oh yes, good police officers know who "the bad guys" are where they patrol, and yes, they know which ones have a homicidal proclivity also, but that prevents nothing! I will wager, that if we would "allow" police to make preemptive arrests of known violent criminals, many homicides would be prevented, but that is not the case, is it? Police experience and intuition, and yes that "gut feeling" that goes with being a true professional, if unleashed, could prevent a lot of crime, including homicides, but that would be violative of someone's rights, wouldn't it?

Now for that "rude" response that you prepared for me; I say have at it, I have been called things that I would be willing to bet that you have never even heard, even during your extensive time on the streets of the Great Eastern District!

Dear [Major],

I just find it amazing that you think so much about me without having a clue as to who I am or what I stand for.

My book isn't about being a sergeant. Or a major. Or anything but being a lowly patrol officer of the midnight shift in the Eastern.

What does strike a nerve is when you imply or say I wasn't a real police officer. That does bother me. You wouldn't tell a soldier he wasn't a veteran because he "only" served 2 years, would you?

You can say I wasn't a police officer for long. True. Or that I would know a lot more had a stayed on the force for longer. Very True. But while I was there, I was a damn good police officer risking my life every damn night for my brothers and sisters in blue and also for the worthless scum of the Eastern District (and, oh yeah, the good citizens, too).

I'll be back in Baltimore this very weekend. Eating crabs at my sergeant's church with him a bunch of my former squadmates. You know what, they criticize me too. But I can take it from them because they know me. They also risked their lives for me and know I did the same.

My offer still stands, by the way. I'll buy you a book if you want. If you don't read my book, I don't have more to say. You can be a fool and criticize me for what you think I stand for, or we can have an intelligent discussion about what I wrote and what police can do, if anything, to prevent crime.

Anyway, here's what I wrote last night. The "rude" letter. Looking over it again, it's not so bad. So I call you an asshole and a fool and full of shit. I know you've been called far worse.

Dear [Major],

I don't wonder why my book is resented. Because in truth, it's not. No cop who was read the damn thing resents it. Only people who believe what they read in the "liberal media" (frankly, I'm surprised you read The Sun) have something against me. You're full of shit.

Why don't you just read the damn thing (my book, that is, not The Sun) and then bitch? A man who condemns something about which he knows nothing is at best ignorant. And also perhaps a great fool. Consider that.

I wasn't a cop for long. But at least I earned my chops the tough way.

Frankly, sir, and forgive my bluntness: I think you're an asshole. But you know what, I'll forgive you, because I can be an asshole myself. And hell, some of my best friends are assholes. But at least I had the common courtesy to read what you wrote.

What I give in my book is an honest portrayal of what it was like to be a patrol officer in the Eastern District for over a year. Nothing more. Nothing less. You got a problem with that? Write your own damn book.



DJK said...

I had a hard time getting past this part, "by the public that they serve, and that is the power to take a life! "

How is that a power that's given to him? Doesn't everyone have that power, to defend ones self or others near him? He's obviously of the Mayor Daley ilk who feel that he is the "only one" trustworthy enough to own a gun. He's the guy that tells everyone he's a cop. He's the guy that became a cop because he was picked on his whole life.

And this part, "
Oh, our military can kill people, but only after they have an identifiable enemy". Is that what he things happens in the streets of baghdad? People dressed like everyone else walking around with bombs strapped under their clothing or young girls with rifles aimed at our Marines' heads? Identifiable enemies?? Does he think he is better than Cpl. Green Marine out there in Haditha or Kurkut who has to make split second decisions to engage a child or a woman riding their bike toward them with who knows what in a package in the basket?

So, he needs to step down off of his own "snobbish effrontery" of a horse. This is one of those guys that things cops rule the world and is happy to make your life miserable because he is above the law.

How much more time does he think you would have needed to spend? And why? Because you need to see five years of the same old shit instead of one?

"I mean no one, in our society, has that awesome power; not the well over paid Congress, the activist judges, nor the President himself!"

WHO THE FU*K DOES THIS GUY THINK HE IS??? I sure hope this isn't how most cops feel about themselves. This guy's superiority complex is insane. I bet he wears panties.

DJK said...


"Now for that "rude" response that you prepared for me; I say have at it, I have been called things that I would be willing to bet that you have never even heard, even during your extensive time on the streets of the Great Eastern District!"

You young whipper snappers haven't even HEARD words that I know... with your MTV and Intendo....why I had to walk uphill......yah yah yah

PCM said...

You're right about the "power to take a life." Self-defense is a right we all have.

As I've said, it's handcuffs--not the gun--that distinguishes police from non-police.

DJK said...

Yep and he never touched on that once.

DJK said...

He said it as though he has the power to shoot anyone at will. The problem here is that he might really think he does.

PCM said...

Of course he didn't touch on my point, because he hasn't and won't read what I write. He's above that too, you see.

LibFree said...

I kind of disagree with your point about the cuffs rather than the gun (though I think we agree on this more than disagree). The people create laws and the people are ultimately responsible for the enforcement of those laws. For convenience sake, we hire out that responsibility to our police (who perform a dangerous and often unappreciated job); but, if the police fail in that responsibility due to fraud or negligence, the people have the right to enforce the law ie. citizens arrest. The police are granted certain levels of legal protection, but there is no reason those could not be legislatively applied to the citizenry.

Also, I'd rather be a police officer in a dangerous city than serving in Iraq. Danger is one thing, but at least you wouldn't be serving in a desert, living in a tent and you could go grab a pint after work.

PCM said...

Of course it's better to be a cop than to be a solider in Iraq! Not only can you grab a drink after work, but being a cop is much safer.

Cops, not every time but certainly most of the time, go home safely. Policing in the Eastern District isn't as dangerous as being a soldier in Iraq. Living in the Eastern District can be.

DJK said...

I agree with Lib and was going to mention citizen's arrests but don't know the laws of Maryland.

Cops can arrest at more levels than can citizens, that's all. And they have cool uniforms. ;)