This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In the venerable tradition of Lazarus, MacArthur and doggedly resilient souls everywhere, I return — again.
My writing career has acquired a zombie-like mystique because the damned thing just won’t stay dead. Some of you may recall that I used to author a weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That gig ended when I publicly disputed certain assertions made in a Post expose of the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department, where I presently work. Rather than debating the substantive issues I raised, the editors determined that I suffered from a “conflict of interest” and killed my column.
Fired by the only major daily in town, I thought my stint as a columnist was DOA. But reports of my demise proved to be premature. I wound up writing for the political website TomPaine.com and a local independent newspaper called the Arch City Chronicle. My work also appeared occasionally in The St. Louis Journalism Review and on the on-line law enforcement site, In the Line of Duty.
I now join the columnists at this publication as a Thursday contributor. For a dead guy, I get around. A surprising number of people still approach me to commiserate about my fate at the Post. To them, I explain that I harbor no bitterness toward the paper. I did what I felt I had to do and management responded in kind. So be it.
Besides, since my firing, more than 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, three St. Louis cops have been murdered in the line of duty and two friends of mine have been diagnosed with inoperable cancers. I, by contrast, forfeited the bar-stool celebrity of having a column in the Post and lost a part-time job. Don’t cry for me, Argentina…
However, to avoid the dreaded conflict of interest, I thought I’d use this inaugural column to explain to the present readership just where I’m coming from.
For 21 years, I was a commissioned officer on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. I worked both as a patrol officer and detective and later as a patrol supervisor, then detective sergeant. I was an original member of the Hostage Rescue Team, the local incarnation of SWAT.
I have a genuine affection for the cynical do-gooders and knights in dented armor who comprise the working police. A couple of years on the street will usually suffice to convert a starry-eyed recruit out to save the world into a wary veteran who survives his shift by relying on gallows humor, guts and cunning. I’m keenly aware of the mortal shortcomings of my comrades. They may not be saints, but in a close call, I’ll always afford them the benefit of doubt because, outside of the military, they’re the only people I know who consistently run toward gunfire.
I left the department when I did because I needed my police pension to send my four daughters to private high school and then college. I now work as the executive aide to the city sheriff, making me, I suppose, one of those paper-shuffling bureaucrats I used to frown upon when I was a street cop.
Politically, I enjoy no reliable party affiliation. I’m too broke to be a Republican and the Democrats think I’m rich. I thus reside in that socio-economic no-man’s-land where I’m equally ineligible for lucrative tax breaks and public assistance.
When it comes to the sex and gender identity issues, consider me an aspiring heterosexual with a thing for redheads. I believe sexual orientation is an in-born trait, not an acquired taste. I thus find no particular virtue in one predilection over another. What consenting adults do in private is nobody’s business but their own.
I am tolerant of all religions that admonish their followers to behave decently. I was raised a Catholic, which is a bit like going through the liturgical equivalent of Marine Corps boot camp. (“Once a Marine, always a Marine.”). After two divorces, it’s difficult to claim a formal affiliation with the Church, but I nonetheless try to treat my fellow man in Christian fashion. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.
The late journalist Lars Erik-Nelson pretty much summed up my general philosophy when he observed, “The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bullshit.”
See you next week…