Blue Byline

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

Category: Choir practice


After months of conflict, a day of peace

Consider the many events and issues that pushed us all apart during the last few months: a presidential election; several polarizing votes on such measures as gay marriage and legalized marijuana, to name but two; a grinding foreign war that no one would have imagined we’d still be waging more than ten years later; the random killing of innocents that sparked an ongoing verbal slugfest on gun control.

How would one describe this contentious period? As a hockey player, the only metaphor that fits is a benches-clearing brawl.

Ironically, this became more evident while

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Rob McKenna: a non-partisan endorsement

In my former police department the television in the break room, like the police officers themselves, worked 24/7. Sporting events, sitcoms, even nature shows were acceptable programming, but when someone switched over to one of those loud political commentary channels (MSNBC, Fox News, take your pick) I headed for the door.

It’s not that I don’t care about politics. The problem is that when we restrict ourselves by partisanship – red or blue, conservative or liberal –  our voting choices become too narrow, too divisive. Selecting a candidate by the qualifier (R) or (D) is also no guarantee that the

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All American, Destined, Wired or Gritty, Tacoma is all that

While on a bike ride across the Narrows bridge this morning my eyes drifted up from the pavement to a sign on the eastern shoreline. It was one I’ve seen hundreds of times and it read, “Tacoma – All American City” (or something like that – my brain was in vapor lock). For some reason I always failed to notice that there were numbers underneath those words: “1998  1984  1956″.

Instead of thinking, “Wow, Tacoma was an All American City three times?” I actually thought, “Wow, Tacoma was an All American City only three times in the last 56 years

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Choir practice I: Summer movies

The lunch room in my station is the place where pecking order usually takes a back seat to comraderie. The idle chit chat is a lifeline that keeps us afloat, especially given the stresses that exist on the other side of the doorway. I often listen (and sometimes suffer) the opinions of my co-workers on a variety of topics: politics, food, kids’ sports, romance and movies.

And, best of all, I make a point of listening with my elbow on an actual water cooler.

Which leads me to my first installment of choir practice, a series devoted to matters far

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Choir practice

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

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30 years of cop stories

Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn’t always want to be a police officer. Despite being raised in an Irish family in San Francisco, a town where a large portion of police officers also sported an “O-apostrophe” in their surnames, I fought the stereotype.

Back in those days the City, as the natives refer to it, was filled with sensational crime. Patty Hearst robbed the bank down the street, some lunatic was beheading joggers in Golden Gate Park and the Black Panthers were having regular gun battles with the police.

These disturbing events were, however, outside the bubble of a

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Renewing the memory of fallen officers

When you first met Jim Lewis you were likely to notice his prominent, Roman nose. It gave his face character in contrast to his calm and easy-going nature. Jim’s casual confidence was of great value when he worked the streets of Tacoma as a patrol officer and field training instructor, as a member of the department’s search and rescue team, and, in his last assignment, as a motorcycle traffic officer.

On April 27, 2004, Jim Lewis was speeding down a Tacoma street with his lights and sirens activated when a motorist pulled out in front of him. Jim died in

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Giving in to the cliche on St. Patty’s Day

Traditionally speaking, the arrival of March 17 on the calendar brings a few things to mind. March Madness, brackets and rabid basketball fans. Spring training, torrential downpours and frozen little leaguers. Two days past the Ides of March, Caesar’s ghost at rest again.

And, of course, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. Which means that it is time to put on something green, head down to the pub, drink to excess and, if you’re very lucky, get into a fight. That is certainly the traditional way to celebrate this pseudo-holiday, at least in America.

In Ireland, a country from which my father

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