Defense Against Anonymous Cowards

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I have some reservation about writing this article because it addresses specifically a topic that I have begun to feel strongly about in recent months.

The topic would be that of anonymous postings on the internet, their dangers, and their repercussions. It is my opinion that anonymous internet identities and postings are some of the most dangerous things on the web today.

For a few years, I was actively involved with an internet message board. For the great unwashed who have never had the pleasure, or experienced the pain, a message board is basically an online community of posters, usually interested in some particular topic, who post ideas, opinions, news, commentary, and more based on that area of interest.

Within this general area of interest, posters would both introduce specific topics to be discussed, or would participate in the ongoing discussions of topics already begun by others.

For instance, the board that I was involved with fell within the domain of law enforcement generally, the Philadelphia Police Department specifically. There could be ongoing topics at any particular time involving tactical considerations, particular newsworthy jobs, departmental personalities, etc.

Though I posted under the pseudonym of “The Big Irish”, anyone who cared to know my true identity could know it. I made it available on my publicly accessible profile at the host website, and I frequently alluded to my real name and work assignments, as did many of the regular posters on the board. Everyone knew who I was, if they cared to know.

Over the course of the years that I was involved, the vast majority of my fellow posters chose to remain anonymous. I am quite sure that they had many reasons for this.

From talking to many of them in person (the vast majority would still not reveal their own pseudonym) the most frequently mentioned reasoning was that they wanted to comment without fear of retaliation from city or police administration should they choose to be critical of ongoing police procedures or personnel. That is entirely understandable.

For years I stayed with the website, though at times some of the postings became personal and vitriolic attacks against fellow officers or commanders. There are folks assigned to “moderate” the discussions, and for the most part they did an outstanding job playing referee.

But there were many times when posters took advantage of their anonymity to sling outrageous accusations, or make comments about individuals on a message board that they would never make to that persons face.

Because I chose to post with my identity publicly available, I would at times suffer the attacks of those less courageous. That is my position: don’t say something to or about someone else that you wouldn’t be willing to say to their face. And if you have good, intelligent, legitimate opinions to offer on a topic, be willing to put your name to same.

When these occasional attacks would occur, I would invite the offended to approach me publicly, telephone me, email me privately. Anything they wanted, as long as they would divulge their identity to me. It never happened.

When someone attacks you publicly, and then doesn’t even have the courage of their convictions to discuss matters directly with you, there is only one word for it: coward. There is no other way to slice it.

My decision to finally leave this message board community, something that I had considered for some time and had even attempted a couple of times previously, was cemented after reading an October article by Dennis Prager.

In the article, Prager compared anonymity on the web to pornography, and stated that in anonymity, there is something “at least as awful – and arguably more destructive – that permeates the internet: the lies, vitriol, obscenities and ad hominem attacks made by anonymous individuals on almost every website that deals with public issues.

Prager goes on to comment: “Some might argue that anonymity enables people more freely to express their thoughts. But this is not true. Anonymity only enables people to more freely express their feelings. Anonymity values feelings over thought, and immediate expression over thoughtful reflection.

He finishes his piece stating the following:

“The irresponsible, the angry, the obscene, the dumb have virtually taken over many internet dialogues. But there is an easy fix, and websites owe it to society to fix it. Just ban anonymous postings.”

I wholeheartedly agree, and thus decided to end my longtime public affiliation with this website, one in which I was a frequent and active participant.

Now, as a parting gesture to those at that site who now follow the articles at my own site, and the postings at my blog, I will give you one little going away present with thanks to a few folks who tipped me off.

It appears that the timing of my leaving active participation with the Domelights website coincided with a career transfer, and may have been fodder at said site. Someone has apparently chose to accuse me of “do as I say, not as I do” behavior.

First, the career transfer that came through moved me from a street assignment into one where I will be participating in the instruction of officers. Teaching is something that was a lifelong desire of mine, and so a year ago I put in a transfer to this unit. It finally came through, with virtually no warning mind you. I hope to develop the experience and skills here that will enable me to serve officers in this way into the future.

The training and ongoing development of police officers is something that I personally and professionally feel is extremely vital, that certainly someone has to do, and I am honored that someone thought enough of my strengths and abilities to give me the opportunity to help in this area.

In my previous assignment, I had been working in a good position, in a good location, with good people. But you have to take advantage of opportunities when they come along in your life and career. So here I am, and I hope to do well.

I have commented before on that site that the backbone of police work is street patrol and investigations, and that good officers and supervisors are needed there. I continue to strongly support that concept, and encourage all good officers to seek supervisory positions, and all good supervisors to seek further management positions.

I also have commented frequently that I believe there are too many “alphabet soup” units created for political expediency, and that they withhold good, necessary officers and supervisors from that more directed street patrol. I continue to stand by that position as well.

My reading of and reflection on that Dennis Prager article “Internet Anonymity is as Destructive as Internet Porn” in late October was the impetus to finally leave Domelights, not any cowardice over ducking the ramifications of my own transfer two weeks later out of street patrol and into a training unit.

Ducking anyone? I remain a public figure, with my own website and blog. My identity and email are public. Anyone who wants to get in touch with me and discuss any matter, mano-a-mano, is no less able to do so.

The reply here at the end of this piece highlights the problem. Friends tip me off that yet another handful of further anonymous posters have slung their arrows at me, and I feel bound to reply or risk being deemed a coward myself.

That is what anonymity does, it allows the true cowards to hide while forcing the courageous into defending themselves, and it is a game that I will no longer play.

I leave anyone who cares to have read this far with these final thoughts. If you have some idea to share, have the faith in yourself to put your name to it. If you have a criticism to make of someone else, be willing to make it to their face.

If you feel burdened by a need to discuss something with someone, pick up the phone or write an email with your name on it. Have the courage to stand up and be counted, not cower in the corner of anonymity.

Oh, and I have never been one to feel that I have a big ego. Heck, just take a look at me. Few people are more average, and I know it fully.

But to anyone who feels that I am important enough to comment about, who follows my words and actions, my life and career, with such an interest, I can only say thank you. After all, every one of us has some measure of ego, and such interest certainly massages mine.

Call it ego if you like, but I will continue to discuss and comment on issues that I feel are important to law enforcement officers and the public at large on my website and blog. I do it because I simply enjoy it, with no expectation that anyone will ever read a word of it.

One thing I can absolutely guarantee is that if I am writing it on my site, my name will be all over it, and you will be able to easily contact me with your own comments.

To hell with the cowardice of anonymity, and any further defending against it.

Keep holy the Sabbath day

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For Catholics it is traditionally known as the Third Commandment from God (in some churches it is listed as the fourth). It is the command from God to “Keep Holy the Sabbath“, to formally set aside one period of time each week to rest from our work, and to celebrate and thank Him for all that He has given us.

For some, the sabbath observance comes on Fridays or Saturdays. For Catholics and many others, this day comes on Sunday.

For police officers, the chance to attend Mass (or to observe Shabbat in Judaism) should be something that we look forward to each week. It is our opportunity to be rested and refreshed in and with the Lord.

The work schedule of a police officer, who does the necessary work of protecting and serving the public, is such that we cannot frequently take a Saturday or Sunday completely away from the workplace.

Catholics are heartened by the fact that almost all churches now offer both a Saturday evening “Vigil Mass” along with the usual Sunday services. Thus, no Catholic officer should use work as an excuse to miss the weekly Mass obligation.

In Exodus chapter 20, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai. The people waited down below, since God had previously warned them to “set limits around the mountain to make it sacred”.

As Moses stood in the presence of God Himself, the people trembled at the experience. The mountain was enveloped by thunder and lightening. The mountain itself appeared to be smoking, and a great trumpet blast was heard from the heavens. Here in the presence of the Almighty, Moses was given the basic laws of God by which man was to live.

Among these Ten Commandments or laws was this:

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then by either you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

Genesis chapter two ends with the finale of the creation story:

  “Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work He had been doing, He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work He had done in creation.”

The Catholic Catechism states one’s obligation to follow these Commandments in this way:

“Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human hearth.”

Later, specifically addressing the Third Commandment as rest on the sabbath, the Catechism states: “God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”

The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.

Jesus Christ performed many actions on, and was regularly charged by the authorities of His day with violating,the sabbath day. He then gave the law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

Christ declared the sabbath for doing good, not harm. For saving life, rather than killing, as the Catechism explains it. Thus the work of police officers and other safety officials is fully appropriate on the sabbath.

This, however, does not release officers from making their own public sabbath observance. Police officers, fire fighters, politicians, and other public workers should, along with performing their necessary services to the people, set aside time each week to formally recognize God, and to celebrate His many gifts to their lives by joining their worship community at church or synagogue.

If you have not followed this Commandment to it’s fullest in the past, there is no time like the present. Do your work. Enjoy your football games. But set aside time for the truly important, for God.

Jersey cops and Alabama Hooters

A story broke today of the disbandment of the Hoboken, New Jersey SWAT team after a controversial incident.

Apparently the officers of the unit stopped by a Hooters restaurant in order to enjoy some of those great wings. Someone snapped some racy photos of the cops posing with the Hooters girls. So what, right? Boys will be boys, after all.

Problem is, the boys in these photos were in SWAT garb, had gone to the location in their fully-equiped SWAT van, and let the girls play and pose with their equipment. Pun fully intended.

The actual incident happened about two years ago. The SWAT team had gone on a road trip to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and stopped by the restaurant in Alabama while on their travels.

As you can see by viewing the photos available through some of the links supplied here, the Southern Belles seemed more than happy to meet these Yankee heroes.

The story was broken earlier this week by a local investigative news reporter, and Hoboken responded by naming a new Public Safety Director who was formerly the Chief of the Hoboken Fire Department.

After being sworn in on Friday, the Director immediately disbanded the unit. He also called home the unit’s head, a Lieutenant who had been away on vacation.

At his sit-down with the Director, the LT is reported to have claimed that the unit was off-duty at the time of the Hooters visit and photos, and that all of the weapons shown were privately owned. He claims that no city time or equipment was used in relation to the incident, and that the photos were going to be used as part of a calendar.

Of course this really isn’t the point, even if it is true, which strains credulity. A number of issues come into question here, but perhaps the most important is the integrity and intelligence of the unit members and it’s command.

Posing with scantily clad women while in your gear and traveling in your work van, and allowing those women to handle high-powered weapons is juvenile at least, dangerous at worst. Allowing yourselves to be photographed while doing so is just plain dumb.

Great looking young women handling high-powered weaponry in photos is nothing new. Cops and soldiers, and many others like both their guns and beautiful women. The combination of the two in photography has gone on forever.

But when a police unit is traveling representing their department and their community as a whole, this type of activity cannot take place. The leadership of the unit should be ensuring that it doesn’t take place, rather than participating in it themselves.

Want to make a calendar with Hooters gals? Be unquestionably off-duty, wear generic police garb without any reference to your community, and have documentation that the weapons were personally owned.

Here is to hoping that none of the guys represented in the photos is married, because that is going to open up an entirely different can of worms for those fellas and their families.

Innocent men’s road trip stuff? Perhaps. But try selling that to a wife who was left home handling the house and kids while you were away. I can tell you right now “that dog won’t hunt“.

I am not trying to play the prude here, having been around the block myself a time or two now, and having experienced similar events over the course of my own police career.

However, there is no legitimate argument that this is anything but a bad decision on the part of the cops involved. Every police officer at any level in any jurisdiction needs to really think about the intelligence of participating in anything like this during their career.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, happy birthday to me

On this coming Tuesday, I will turn 46 years old. Two days later is Thanksgiving. It is the closest that my birthday ever comes to actually falling on the holiday, which it will never exactly meet.

Thanksgiving is celebrated always on the fourth Thursday in November, and if you do the calculating you will see that the latest that my birth date, the 20th, can fall is on the third Thursday.

Still, with this being my own closest confluence of the two days, which some years is almost a full week apart, it gives me a good opportunity to reflect on what exactly it is for which I am personally thankful.

Sliding towards the back end of my 40’s, with apparently no reversal of this aging process in sight, reflection is something that I find increasingly vital in my life, and here is a sharing of those things.

I am thankful for having a good career that is affording me opportunities and experiences that I could have never imagined as a young man. To tell of all the many exciting, demanding, rewarding experiences that one gathers over almost two decades as a police officer on the streets of a big city would take up volumes. Suffice it to say that they have all contributed to my personal growth and knowledge. For this career I am very thankful.

I am thankful for the educational opportunities that I have been afforded, and for the intelligence and perseverance that it takes to pursue a college degree while also working full-time at a demanding job.

Special thanks in this area goes out to Philly police boss Keith Sadler, who encouraged me to get going on my degree pursuit over four years ago now. It goes out to the Philly PD, as well as to the Community College of Philadelphia and St. Joseph’s University, for their relationship in helping cops travel this journey. For these educational opportunities, I am very thankful.

I am thankful for my home, which feels so much now like a glove-fit, but which I could not have envisioned just a little over a decade ago. For a kid from a row house neighborhood who never had two nickels to scrape together during his 20’s, to think that I could one day own a single home in a great neighborhood with a nice front and rear yard, a garage, and a swimming pool is amazing. It isn’t a mansion, and it needs some work, but it is ours, and it is home. For this wonderful place to live out day to day life, I am very thankful.

I am thankful for the people in my life, because relationships are what this life is all about. These people include friends, co-workers, my fellow students, regular acquaintances, and most of all my family. Without the rich texture and color of their own many and varied personalities and experiences, my own life would be so much less enjoyable. For the people that bring my life to life, I am very thankful.

As a police officer, then a detective, and now as a police supervisor, I have had to deal with other cops and investigators under some tremendously pressurized situations all across the city. From South Street to Red Lion Road, from Kensington Avenue to Cobbs Creek Parkway, I have first-hand, on the street experience watching some of the most dedicated men and women in the world handle fights and fires, auto accidents and homicides.

Everything that you can think of that comes under the umbrella of the good, the bad, and the ugly, the men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department experience almost daily. For the opportunity to work alongside them, I am very thankful.

As a student, I have had the opportunity to sit in the classroom with some of the most dedicated individuals within those same police ranks. These are officers who do that same difficult job every day and night, and yet still find the time, energy, effort, perseverance, and intellect that it takes to also pursue a college education.

Like me, they do it in the hopes that they will one day improve their working situation, be it in their current career on in another chapter of their lives. And the instructors and professors who teach us are also doing double-duty. For these people, I am very thankful.

None of us go through life without making friends. Some are closer than others, some come and go in our lives, but once you make a real friend, they are usually a friend for life. I had the good fortune as a young man to play ball with some great guys on the Brewers softball team.

The Brewers won a half-dozen championships on the ball fields of Philly between 1983 and 1996, We cemented our friendship over post-game food and drinks, post-work get-togethers, and family gatherings. Now over two decades later, I can say these were the best friends of my adult life.

I ran into Dee Sweeney, one of the Brewer wives, in a local store a few years back. She commented on how during the conversation she could still feel our friendship, even though we hadn’t seen one another for a few years at that point.

Dee and her husband, George Sweeney, had a few young kids at the time, and so my response to her was that “we could not talk to one another for over a year, and you could call me up at two in the morning to come watch your kids and I would”. Those are good friends, and for them I am very, very thankful.

For anyone who has their life in order, there are no more important people than family. These are the folks for whom I am most thankful. My extended family has been great throughout my life. The richness of the experiences that my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents have brought to me has been unforgettable.

Whether at a shore house, or in a family gathering, or on a bus trip to a ballgame, even at a funeral, these people have brought fullness to my life, and an appreciation of the extension of our lives out into the world that a good family brings. For them I have always been and will always be thankful.

There are none more important than immediate family. My wonderful wife, my incredible daughters, my inspiring parents, my brother and his own family.

My parents had many challenges in their lives, especially my mom who died far too young after far too much suffering. My dad’s life as a Marine, a dedicated law enforcement professional, and the enjoyment that he has found in retirement.

These people were my foundation, and for the example they set through all their own challenges, the opportunities they afforded me as a kid, and the love they showed me throughout their lives, I am eternally thankful.

My brother, Mike Veasey, is “the Man”. If he weren’t, I would be, but he is around so the title is his. If you don’t get that idea, don’t worry, it’s a bit of an inside thing. As a kid, he and I had the typical big brother, little brother, combative relationship. As adults, we bonded into a closeness that I will forever cherish.

Mike was my partner for a few years when we were both young cops trying to survive on the streets. While I probably would have survived without him, it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. His family, my dedicated sister-in-law Diana and my wonderful Goddaughter Meghan, may as well be my own. For this family, I can never express my full thanks.

Then there are my kids, Christine, Kelly, and Melissa, and granddaughter Elysia Bellina. My kids have brought me so much joy and pain over the past three decades that I simply would not be the same person today without them. Only other involved parents can understand how the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the smiles and tears, the triumphs and tragedies of another person’s life can affect you so much.

To say that my three daughters have been a challenge would be appropriate. But to say that they are my pride and joy would be an understatement. That joy extends to my granddaughter, who puts a smile on my face and in my heart every time I see her. I can only pray that they all have children of their own one day, and pass along these family ties, bonds, history.

My wife, Debbie Veasey, is quite simply the best human being that I have ever personally known in my entire life. The gift that I was given when this woman came to my life, which was at an extremely difficult time in my life, is one that I did not deserve, but for which I am forever thankful. We have traveled together, grown together, and shared almost everything, almost every day.

Deb has stood by me through all of life’s difficult challenges, a couple of which were my own creation. She has loved me during every season of my life. She is truly my partner, my best friend, my love. For her, there is no level of thanks to truly express how I feel.

None of these people and experiences would have been possible without the blessing of a loving God. Saying that I am thankful to and for God Himself just doesn’t seem to say enough. The experience of His love in my life, the way that He has listened to my prayers.

The gift of his own Son, Jesus Christ, to my world. His death for my sins. His teaching that has begun to penetrate my consciousness more fully over the last year. I only pray that my own children will know this kind of personal relationship, this ultimate relationship, as they continue on the journey of their own lives. In fact, I pray for nothing more often and deeply. For the positive answer to that prayer, Lord, I would more thankful than anything.

Give thanks, all of you, for those people and things that are most important in your life. Give thanks for the joy they have brought you. Give thanks for the challenges they have brought you. Give thanks for the ability to enjoy the people and events, and the ability to battle and overcome the challenges.

And when you do give thanks, remember where that thanks should be directed. The full and final thanks goes to your God.

Happy birthday to me, and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Movie Review: Dan, in Real Life

Steve Carell with his on-screen daughters in “Dan, in Real Life”


In my experience, cops are some of the strongest “family” folks around, and yet that can sometimes seem contradictory. The rate of divorce for police officers is as high as 60-75% according to some studies.

One officer who has been married and divorced multiple times is even said to have amusingly stated: “If I ever decide to get married again, I’m just gonna find some woman that I don’t like very much, and just buy her a house.”

I can vouch for the feelings involved, being divorced once myself. After that one, I met and married again, to my wife Debbie, who I can tell you for a fact is the most wonderful woman in the world.

And yet with all that is good in her and in the relationship, I have certainly made it a “challenge” for her at times. It has only been in the last few years that I have begun to seriously take a look at and understand the challenges of stress on police officers, and their marriages in particular.

Marriage challenges for a high percentage of cops doesn’t tell the full story. I know many officers who have great marriages, and who adore their wives and husbands, even if they sometimes need to fight through challenges.

And there are more familial relationships than spousal ones. I have seen few people dote over and care for their kids, and even their aging parents when needed, the way that cops will.

It’s my belief that there is something in the ugliness and difficulty that we experience in our professional lives on the streets that makes us appreciate and cherish the peacefulness and innocence of our home lives, and our kids in particular.

Cops are sometimes a little harder on their kids than some other parents, but that is hardly surprising considering that we know first-hand the consequences of any bad choices they may make.

I have been blessed in my own life with three wonderful, beautiful daughters. The first two came along when I was a very young man. Heck, you could argue that my first came along when I was still a boy. She was born when I had just turned 18 years old.

My second came along a year and a half later. 19 years old, and two daughters in diapers! My third daughter came along as a wonderful extra package when I married my wife. I have raised her since she was six years old.

Any responsible, loving father of daughters can tell you what that relationship means. Nothing will break out those protective genes more than having your own little girl to raise and love.

There is no feeling in the world like having a little angel wrap her arms around your neck and say “I love you, Daddy” to you. And as someone whose three girls are now in their twenties can attest, that feeling never gets old.

My wife and I are movie-goers, and yesterday we took along our 21-year old daughter to see the film “Dan, In Real Life” starring Steve Carell of “The Office” and “Evan Almighty” fame.

In the film, Carell plays the title character of “Dan”, who is an advice columnist. He lost his wife to cancer a few years earlier, and is now raising his three daughters whose ages appear to be about 17, 13 and 6, all by himself. Well, as we learn, he does have some help in a strong support system of parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews.

The plot revolves around a family reunion at Dan’s parents home, where he and his kids reunite and rekindle what are obviously strong family bonds with his brother and sister and their families, as well as another brother played by Dane Cook.

The character Cook plays is the single brother who has been a confirmed bachelor, but has just fallen for a great girl, played by Juliette Binoche, and is now bringing her home to meet the family for the first time.

I will spare you the further details in case you were going to see the film. If you didn’t have it on your list, or hadn’t heard about it yet, I can assure you that it will be well worth going to see. A great date movie, but it also works great as a night out for married or seriously involved couples.

A big part of the film is Dan’s relationship with his three girls. The oldest just got her license, and is dying to spread her wings by driving more, but Dan plays the protective dad. The middle daughter just met her first teenage crush, her first “love”, but Dan plays the protective dad. The youngest is still very fragile over the loss of her mother, and Dan plays the protective dad. You get the picture of this key dynamic in the film.

There is one thing that will always get me – a big, hard, educated cop – to tear up at a movie when it is done well, and that is a touching moment between a dad and a daughter.

This movie gives a couple of those moments, especially towards the end as Dan opens himself up to them, and the daughters basically tell their embarrassing, over-protective dad to “go for it.”

Having survived the little-girl into teen-angst years, and then those years into young womanhood, I can tell you that there are few more solid moments than when you and your kids finally seem to “get” one another.

It is a moment that I have pretty much experienced already with my two oldest in recent years, and that I am looking forward to still with my youngest. It is a moment that Dan begins to experience here.

One thing that I can safely report is that this one has a happy ending. In the end, Dan is just like the rest of us, a dad, trying to function in real life through difficult circumstances and incredible twists of fate.

An advice columnist who finds it so easy to help others, he has found it so difficult to help himself. This is a feeling that many cops can easily relate to. But he finds his way the best way that we all can, through opening ourselves up to love, and the realization that it’s not all about us.