In light of our ongoing national crisis with law enforcement…
In light of our ongoing national crisis with law enforcement, it is ironic that two weeks ago Chicago native and police officer, Tony Parker, agreed to fly to New York and drive, as the second driver to Boss Murphy, back to Chicago and the Ravinia Festival. Boss and I were going to hear the U.S. premiere of my Violin Concerto written for the great Nicky Benedetti and the venerated Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Tony did us a solid.
If Officer Parker had known that our nation would once again erupt in outrage over two more clearly documented and publicly viewed cases of unnecessary abuse of police authority, he would not have come, just to avoid hearing my mouth on the 14 hour journey. If he had known that a Mark Essex style gunman would take the lives of some innocent police officers to retaliate for the deaths of innocent citizens, he would definitely have stayed home, if just to mourn in solidarity with his brothers and sisters in blue. But, we left New York last Friday at 4pm, and there we were on Highway 80 west at 2am on Saturday morning, still heatedly discussing it.
Tony is a 26 year veteran with the Chicago Police Department. Before that, he spent 5 years in federal drug enforcement administration. He has functioned as a plain clothes officer, a certified police instructor (who was voted top instructor by the recruits 4 years running), a high school liaison officer and, he has been a street cop on the West and South side of Chicago (some of the toughest neighborhoods in the country). We have known each other since 1982 or 3, and he will officially retire from 32 overall years in law enforcement this coming Friday. I was the best man at his wedding and we have been extremely close friends for many years.
We have had decades of talking and arguing about policing and problems in the hood and perception versus reality and on and on. Me from the perspective of personal experiences and the view from my couch, him from daily personal experiences on the front lines. Though we many times disagree, we have discussed it with the familiarity and closeness of brothers, so these thirty some years of conversation have not been politically correct or filtered in any way.
Because he sees so many heartbreaking crimes against citizens everyday and experiences constant disrespect at the hands of the criminals who menace those citizens, he almost always defends police actions. Down through these years I have tried to stump him with blatant cases of injustice to egregious for even him to dismiss.
When some of the police crimes of last year were filmed and the cops were still not prosecuted, we started talking more seriously about this age old problem. In the throes of a recent discussion, he was forcefully defending police action in what I thought were some clear cut cases of abuse, so I asked him, “How long have you been a cop?”
“A long time.”
“I’ve been with you and people in the community love you.”
“Yep. They know me.”
“You see the worse street criminals in the US everyday, huh?”
“How many have you shot?”
“I don’t want to shoot nobody.” Feeling that he had just proven my case, I start laughing sarcastically and say, “You see. I don’t WANT to shoot people…..want.”
He dismissed my comments and continued, “My academy instructor Zenford Mitchell was famous for jailing the arch New York gangster, Nicky Barnes. Zenford taught us, ‘Always give people a way of getting out of stuff before you try to kill them.’ The cops you’re looking at are shaking the tree until the gorilla falls out. And when it does, they kill it and think that’s police work.
I never wanted to shoot anyone and thank the Lord I never really had to.
Veteran officers would say I got a pass and I am truly blessed to have survived my career, one that asks so much of you, and you get so little in return. I use to say to the people I would meet in the street ‘Look me in the eye.’ and what I saw touched my soul, it would touch yours too, if you looked long enough to see. Man, every night, I would come home and I would walk in my kids room and they would be asleep, and I would kiss each one of them. I would sit in the living room and say to myself, ‘I am always gonna put myself in a position where I can come home and close both of my eyes. And I was lucky and did.”
I asked him later, “Can I post what you said?” He said, “No man, that’s for me and you.” But I’m still posting it.