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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
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The Ghosts Of Christmases Past

For the patrol officer, the creature that stirs in the Christmas season is something quite different from a mouse.

December 19, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

December 23, 1983.

It’s been a busy night for my training officer and me, what with the usual seasonal yuletide rob ‘h hides. But as the night rolls on, it gets one better: An assault with a deadly weapon call goes out.

We get to the location in time to see the victim taking his last breaths. I look down at the young man whose tattooed torso has been stripped bare of the wife-beater t-shirt that now lays torn and bloodied on the asphalt nearby.

Do you see what I see?

The significance of the ink is not lost on me, and I can see that he’s a "veterano" - a veteran Hispanic gang member. It’s also apparent that he’s fought the good fight, a fight borne of desperation, if not to save himself, then to at least wreak as much damage as he can in his dying. Even money says that his assailants did not go away unscathed. Bathed in the glow of flickering Christmas lights, the irony of such bloodletting at a time ostensibly filled with fraternity is also not lost on me. And when I check his California driver license to find he’s only a year older than my 22, I find myself depressed.

Good will to men…

What is it that makes men so readily kill one another, I wonder. Tonight, knives have been the weapon of choice; car theft, the apparent motive.

The young man’s barrel chest rises and falls once more and it’s lights out.

God rest ye merry gentlemen…

There’s the usual taping off of the crime scene, followed by the writing of homicide reports chronicling man’s latest travesty on man. Six a.m. the following morning finds me with a blow dryer, trying to rid the victim’s bloody t-shirt of as much of its dampness as I can before booking it into evidence. (It’s 1983, DNA recovery and matching are unknown).

This is my first murder, the first of many I will roll on throughout my career. Back at home, only exhaustion lets me get some sleep before reporting back to work later that day. The conscious moments that bracket my slumber are occupied with thoughts of the man who died before me, and I’m surprised at how much the loss of life has affected me. Why him, and not me?

Back at work, the first call out the gate is to an address that I recognize: The victim’s. We’re to contact his family and let them know that the victim’s car has been recovered.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin…

I knock on the front door, consciously ignoring the wreath adorning it. A woman opens the door. It’s the victim’s mother.

“What do you f*****’s want?” are the first words out of her mouth.

I advise her of the car’s recovery. From behind her, the victim’s brother chimes in.
“You a*******’s probably didn’t even find it, did you? Somebody found it for you, right?”

Soon, I’m surrounded by a cacophony of profanities and banalities by what I suspect are three generations of the victim’s relatives. The legitimacy of my birth is questioned, and I am alternately accused of having succumbed to Oedipal urges and having orally serviced my fellow man.

Toll the ancient yuletide carol…

Though I am a rookie, I know it’s not supposed to be this way. Indeed, at no point during my succeeding 24 years do I encounter such hostility from a “bereaved” family.

Having met his tribe and been bid adieu in so many words (“Get the f*** outta here!”), I take my leave and make my way back to my patrol car. As I do, I think of my victim and, armed with new insight, no longer ask, “Why him, and not me?” No, what I’m wondering now is: How did the SOB live this long?

It proves to be the first of many such juxtapositions of homeboys and homilies, homicides and holidays. And with each passing holiday season, I find myself becoming more and more accustomed to reserving my compassion for those deserving of it.

And it is in this spirit that I extend my most sincere seasonal wishes. That you and your family get through it safely, with mind, body, and soul intact.

And to all, a good night.

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

J.Huddleston @ 12/19/2008 2:56 PM

Right on target! What a shame this attitude is passed on from generation to generation. They naren't born that way, but taught.

David Moore S-55 @ 12/19/2008 9:26 PM

Dean-EXCELLENT! What a jolly greeting? NOT!! Like you have said many times before, your main focus in writing is the fact that truly important learning points, wisdom, and drive to help make a difference (Why you became a Deputy in First Place, and continue to provide for the "Special Team"), much can be taken from these encounters off the path previously traveled. The body language and verbal assault speak volumes and make for a long tour of duty as you stated. Unlike Santa - you deliver the most vital and needed safety wisdom or present of all, "to Survive" so others may enjoy the home with the wife and children when they enter Christmas Day...knowing more than likely they will be working Christmas Eve. Only time daddy may be at a losss of words to explain to your children why daddy has to work and wont be home. God Bless all who have held the line and loss their lifes but are still riding in spirit next to you in the unit!! Wishing you and staff at Police a wonderful holiday season and a New Year Full of Promise, minus of course (Carpel Tunnel)!! :-)

tachesser @ 12/20/2008 8:58 AM

Sad, but true. It is a shame that so many forget the read reason for Christmas. For cops, the things we see has a tendency to take the joy out of the season. My first Christmas involved responding to a traffic fatality of an 18 year old girl within sight of her home, with the parents already on the scene when we arrived. Her drunk boyfriend blamed her with driving the car.
It makes us appreciate our families more and to enjoy the time with them. It is important to keep the job separate from your "normal" life. In the end, the only thing we have left is our family. Do everything you can not to lose them. Wifes put up with alot, and kids grow up too fast.
And watch out for our police family, too. No matter what color the uniform, or the shape of the badge, we are a family. Take care of each other, especially this time of year. No more names on the wall for 2008.

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