In 1988 I was a big fan of the cop drama, Hill Street Blues. It was a brilliantly poignant show that myself and many of my academy classmates credited for driving our decision to become police officers. Fast forward to April 2011, and that career choice spurred a new gig as a News Tribune blogger.
Hard to believe it’s been over three years since I first started writing Blue Byline. Back then I was a cop with a penchant for writing hackneyed diatribes, small 600 word missives forever destined to change the way TNT readers viewed the world of law enforcement. Or so I hoped.
While I may have fallen somewhat short of that objective, the time spent hunkered over a computer screen in my PJ’s was not a total waste. I was the startled recipient of several spontaneous thank you’s, a few unexpected and welcome invitations to speak at civic events and a byline on NBC.com. The reading statistics were also interesting. Here are the numbers since the first column appeared on April 7, 2011: 302 posts; roughly 180,000 words; 2,980 reader comments; 263,980 page views.
Along the way, a few stories have resonated more than others. A column about the “vampires” who work graveyard shift struck a note with many bleary-eyed night people. A piece that compared Canadian firearms regulations to the U.S. was either a popular favorite or a blistering indictment, depending upon one’s viewpoint. One that criticized a new law against profiling motorcyclists earned me my first death threat (as a writer, at least). Another that eulogized WSP Trooper Tony Radulescu, killed by a gunman in 2012, was viewed nearly 2,000 times in a day.
If all of this sounds like a swan song, that is the intention. The task of cranking out 600 words once or twice a week (flexible editors like Patrick O’Callahan are a gift from above) may not sound difficult, but the hours spent searching for synonyms, unmixing metaphors and unflogging analogies can be as tiring, as exhausting as (insert synonym and metaphor).
In truth, there are a couple reasons I’ve decided to hang up the blogging hat, at least for a while. First, my topic choices are getting stale. There are only so many times one can descend into the hellish nightmare of school shootings before becoming numb. There are only so many ways to absorb the recoil from gun rights advocates when arguing for universal background checks. There are only so many warnings one can provide to pot smokers whose rash dealing and consumption may one day invite federal intervention into Washington’s legalization experiment.
The second reason is time. When I stepped away from law enforcement two years ago to assist a sick family member, I took the opportunity to begin a bucket list project: a novel. City of Destiny, a work of crime fiction, has since been completed. My new editor, however, thinks otherwise. Turns out I still have lots of work to do.
So that is what I will be doing in the short term. Long term? We’ll see. I hope to return to law enforcement in a position of some responsibility, and of course I hope to continue contributing to the TNT’s ongoing dialogue.
Until then, many thanks are due. To the TNT’s publisher, Kathleen Peterson, who graciously agreed to let a cop trespass on her turf. To online expert Ian Swenson for showing an old dog a few new software tricks. To Cheryl Tucker for saving me from more than a few embarrassing mistakes. And to Patrick O’Callahan for the support and the many lessons on the craft of writing.
And hey, I have a final message for my brethren in blue. Let’s be careful out there.