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.
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.