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by Peter Moskos

December 12, 2008

Some Gave All

I recently received Some Gave All: A History of Baltimore Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, 1808-2007 by Steve Olsen and Robert Brown.

It's a very nice work of history and a wonderful homage to those who died serving Baltimore City. While details on recent police deaths tend to be relatively well known, even I leaned some things about the circumstances about the death of my friend, Crystal Sheffield, to whom my book is dedicated.

Some Gave All really shines in the history, going way back in the 19th Century. Most of these names have been forgotten. This book gives all these men (and one woman) who gave their lives the respect they deserve.

There's also an interesting story out of this. I recently received an email from the author, Sgt. Olsen, about a manuscript he found:
In the same vein as your work, I have an original manuscript from 1974 by an officer who did exactly the same as you. His work, however, was suppressed by the Command at the time and it wasn't discovered until 2008. (We found it in a retired Major's locker.) It was called "The Socialization of the Urban Police Officer." It's a pretty neat read.

We found what appeared to be the only copy sealed in an envelope. In 1975 the notes written on the outside of the envelope it said "Review and Hold" and initialed by someone that's illegible. 10 years later, the note said, "Someday, somebody should read this." So, what do police do? We ripped it open and read it!
Turns out I've already read it. It's by a guy name Mike O'Neil. It was his Masters Thesis at Brown. Later he got his PhD at Northwestern and who do you think signed off on his dissertation? None other than my father!

Before I finished my dissertation in 2004, Mike got in touch with Howard Becker, because of their common interests in jazz music. Professor Becker told Mike about our parallel stories and Mike got in touch with me. Mike was nice enough to send me a copy. He's no longer involved in the police world or academia, and doing just fine.

In 2004 Mike wrote me this:
Cherry Hill was close to the worst when I was there. Only redeeming feature, the city refused to license a bar in the area. That helped. Pomerlou was chief. Think the pay was about $8,000. Perhaps $5 for court (I don’t remember). The old cops back then also said the job wasn’t as good as the “good old days.” I suspect that that is a universal.
More recently Mike corrected the record:
By the way, it was never "suppressed" by the command. I doubt they ever knew about it. I shared it, as I recall, with two civilian police academy instructors and the judge in the Southern district. None officially.
I recall this advice [about drugs] from my Sgt in Cherry Hill: "We don't have the time to get involved with that shit. If you see something, go to a pay phone and drop a dime and call the Narcotics Unit; let them deal with it."
So it seems that at least in some ways, times certainly have changed.

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