Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Choir practice

Post by Brian O'Neill on June 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm with 9 Comments »
March 6, 2014 8:04 am

A few months ago I was in my editor’s office shooting the breeze. We were having a lively discussion about some of the topics I had raised in this column, as well as some of the ideas I had for the future. After I finally exhausted all the possibilities, he gave me a frank look.

“You know,” he said, “you don’t always have to write about police work.”

“Sure,” I said, though I didn’t really mean it.

The reason for my lip service was simple. Though I have been writing in some capacity for The News Tribune and The Peninsula Gateway for several years, this level of experience relegates me to the literary bench compared to the journalists, editorial writers, staff and syndicated columnists whose work makes up the bulk of the professionally crafted print news.

Also, there seemed no reason to mess with the program. Blue Byline has actually fared well online, a success I attribute to the public’s general curiosity about the field of law enforcement. People are hungry for crime stories, and news outlets (not to mention Hollywood) have been eager to satisfy that craving. By my estimation about half of the front page stories relate to some aspect of police work, which provides a wealth of topics for discussion in this column.

Recently, however, I have reconsidered my editor’s suggestion. I have already written a handful of columns wherein I intentionally wandered outside the figurative police tape. Those included: a story about a charter flight with Congressman Norm Dicks; a reminiscence about a buddy trip to the Arizona desert; a politically charged discussion about Mitt Romney’s bullying incident.

These were well received, though in the latter case “well received” was a bit euphemistic – a more accurate definition would be “verbal carpet-bombing.” Apparently, removing partisanship from a political discussion is like trying to take the hole out of the donut (ba-da-bump).

Regardless of the response, these incursions into broader issues were a welcome change. So, while I will continue the police-related discussion on issues and incidents both local and national, I might occasionally ask for your indulgence in order to thrash around (with apologies to “Monty Python”) something completely different.

A “real” police choir practice/ courtesy of

I will entitle these columns “Choir Practice,” the term coined by former LAPD cop and best-selling author, Joseph Wambaugh, which refers to the end-of-shift gathering of cops, typically at a bar (where there is little to no singing, as per the inset). Light or serious, I will always try to keep the voice of the fictitious “reasonable person” (whose judgment is the basis for our criminal code) in mind when I do.

I hope you have enjoyed the column over the last year. And if I failed to mention it, thanks for reading.

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. Chippert says:

    It’s your column and none of us can tell you what to say in it, but I for one hope that your “cop” stories will still be the preponderance of what you write about. I read your column each time with much interest as to how our people on the long blue line view the world they have to inhabit day in and day out. While we frequently disagree on parts of many issues you have written about, I respect your opinion on things and value your service as well.

    So, keep up the good work, Brian and keep your writing blue for us!

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    Most definitely, Chippert, and thank you.

  3. NotPoliticallyCorrect says:

    Hey Brian,

    How about Choir Practice and a Pint? Even though we have had differences in the past. I do respect your opinions / views. Look forward to more stories and comments.

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    Differences of opinion are expected, NPC. This column was intended to be an insider’s view of police work, but the two-way debate has made it something much more.

    My thanks.

  5. RidingintheRain says:

    I knew it! My father-in-law was a retired cop from long ago. I remembered he would talk about going to “choir practice” on a Friday night which meant pizza and beer. I wondered if that was where you were going. I enjoyed reading your column. You have an interesting and insightful writing style. I also enjoy a piece that makes one think.

  6. Feel free to say what you like. However don’t get past the idea
    that this is a big business newspaper in big corporate capitalist

  7. Brian O'Neill says:

    Your comment does reflect one view of the country we live in and the type of economy in which we labor (though a tad cynically), but my belief is that only tells part of our collective story.

  8. BlaineCGarver says:

    Cops, soldiers, and other grubment enforcement workers (I’m one vis-a-vis the state HOH) have to completely keep emotion out of “it”. It’s really tough. I give you heat when your political bent gives way to “opinions” on how law should be administered. I can completely understand overlooking slight infractions, but would not understanding something having a neg. impact on others. Keep up the 98% good work, Sir. <{:-)~

  9. BlaineCGarver says:

    Arghh…DOH, not HOH…

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