The post shared below this introduction was written by Joseph Julicher at his blog, “Hung by the Thin Blue Line.” Joseph recently emailed me and asked if I would remove the previous blog posts of his (that I reposted here) at CopBlock.org. I decided to check his site before responding to his email and not only were his post still up, but he had added posts recently. Now I’m not very fond of removing posts, so I probably wasn’t going to do it anyways, but since he’s still blogging – and I find the stories interesting – I’m going to keep sharing them. Of course, I told him this via email and I think we should all let Joseph’s current “conservative” employers know that speaking out against police abuse is something to be encouraged, not discouraged. With that being said, the ‘retired cop saga’ continues…
“Head down, mouth shut, look at your boots, do your job, go home, retire”
by Joseph Julicher
That was exactly my plan for riding out the last four years of my career. I had a psychopath for a boss, in a corrupt system, who was just empowered by the fact that he was condoned in twisting the facts of a case in order to effect retribution; what was my other choice. However, even the best laid plans…the onslaught began!
Police Work 102 had begun. They had laid the foundation in building their file, now it was time to pad it. It started out innocently enough; verbal reprimands, constant attention (targeting, if you will), scheduling changes, etc. etc. It was really quite juvenile, and made me chuckle; “be bullet proof and there’s no problem”. Meaning, don’t give them any ammunition and they can’t get you. Or, so I thought. Eventually, living in a glass house caught up to me. The stress was all consuming, not to mention that I was a fish out of water being assigned to a different part of town. For years, I’d had my certain places where I’d go “hide” to finish reports, do paperwork, or clear administrative functions of the job.
One day while writing a complex report that I wanted to make clear and cohesive, I received a minor complaint about a parking situation, way across town, on an adjoining beat. I had meant to finish writing another sentence or two while the situation was still fresh in my mind, so I delayed rushing right to the scene of civil unrest. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t hidden, an out of towner rolled up on me asking for directions. After straightening out the lost guest, I returned to my report; the call had slipped my mind. Dispatch reminded me of my error, since the original (connected) complainant had called, dissatisfied with our response. All told, it probably took me 38 minutes to clear the call, including the ten minute drive time.
As god as my witness, it was the first time in my entire career that I’d let a call slide! However, I was under the microscope, and this wasn’t just going to get passed over. In turn, I received my first write-up for a work related incident that didn’t involve a traffic accident. This one was on me; I fucked up. I gave them the opportunity and they took it. Oh well, shame on me. The next write up came for not adhering to a long established quota system for traffic enforcement. For years, I had been threatened to be written up, and at ever turn I laughed in their faces with the retort “Go ahead and do it, if you’re dumb enough”. Apparently, I’d finally met the supervisor who was actually dumb enough!
The handwriting was clearly on the wall, and I needed to get in front of it; “time to kiss the ring” I thought. I went to the chief’s office, specifically off duty, hat in hand. I addressed the chief with a very specific phrase, “Chief, I’m going to use words with you that I’ve never spoken to any man in my life; I’m begging for mercy!”
The desired affect of that wording fell on deaf ears as I was rebuffed in my request for a transfer out of Flanagan’s command. Now, mind you, this had NO EFFECT on the department whatsoever, wouldn’t cost a dime, wouldn’t affect manpower, nor was it a union issue; NOTHING. A simple stroke of a pencil, trading Julicher here and officer XXX here. In fact, it was a tactic employed by THEM to shake things up, a signal that an officer was a discipline problem, a scarlet letter of sorts. Nope. Not if it was my idea! I pleaded my case, explained that I had a genuine concern that Flanagan was after my career, and that the pound of flesh obtained only served to whet his appetite rather than satiate his bloodthirst. The chief explained that he “Didn’t believe in personality conflicts between supervisors and subordinates”.
“Really? Did you just say that, you moron?”, I thought to myself quietly.
Next, it was related to me that I had chosen to “step” to the Captain and that I was going to have to lie in the bed that I’d made. Again, really? I thought that I had played ball, was told to drop my issue, keep my mouth shut, take my unjust punishment and be done with it! So, now, I’m completely fucked; I have this psychopath boss, I’ve asked for a transfer, was denied, and have no other options? Not to mention that my lovely newborn is suffering from colic. Lack of sleep and increasing stress was starting to take its toll on my family and myself. Flanagan had me tied in knots, I was getting disciplined about once every couple of weeks, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about why this had all come to be; Telly Heath. I Kept pushing it aside until the straw that broke the camel’s back.
For all sixteen of my years as a police officer, I worked on what was the “west side” of our town; basically the area that touches the Niagara River. As was traditionally the case, senior officers received their preferences. However, with Flanagan taking command, some things (gross understatement) changed. Another officer had taken the night off, and he was previously scheduled to ride an east side beat. Normally, I would have been given preferential treatment, been assigned to a west side patrol, and a junior officer taking over the east side assignment. Well, this night, that didn’t happen; I was assigned to Patrol 6. Walking out of the briefing that evening, I grabbed a stack of paperwork (warrants, subpoenas, and the like) to be served on six beat that evening. When I surveyed the pile when getting into my patrol car, the very first name took my breath away; Telly Heath!
Now, I hadn’t seen this man’s name in eight years, hadn’t considered him until recently, and now, due to strange circumstances, there it was right before me. Well, I thought that the universe was trying to tell me something! I went to the house to serve the paperwork (they were the victims of Mr. Heath’s latest car acquisition). I asked them if they were familiar with Heath (they weren’t), but were told that he was incarcerated. Well, that sealed it! I had to try and correct my mistake. I had to try and atone for my failure. I had to meet Heath face-to-face and man-to-man and offer him what apology I could. It was my firm belief that if I didn’t do this that I was condoning his treatment that night. Furthermore, if I condoned his treatment, I couldn’t possibly be fit to be a parent. I was raised in a prejudiced household; I was taught to hate people (whom I’d never met) due to a summary judgement of their character, based upon the color of their skin. My enlightened self said “Really?” I mean, who could POSSIBLY think like that? Wasn’t that the height of ignorance? I had to meet Heath, confess my sins, and hope that I made things right with the Karmic deal. So I did…
April 13, 2005 “You probably don’t remember me, but I can’t forget about YOU”
I had gone through the formal channels to set up a meeting with Telly Heath, who was at the Erie County holding center in Buffalo, New York. My point in that sentence is that I wasn’t doing anything with malice or trying to conceal anything. I made the appointment and signed in the book, just like any civilian would have done. Sure, it was an odd feeling going to visit a prisoner, something I had no experience with, but this was different, this was personal.
I was seated in the visitation cubicle, waiting for Heath to be brought in. I had no idea how I was going to feel, or even what to say to break the ice. When he arrived, my heart sunk; I recognized this “kid” as if it were yesterday. Only yesterday, this kid had the barrel of a gun sticking out of his mouth, and today, the “kid” had filled out into a man, with eyes that reflected some life experience.
My mouth began before my brain, and something just spewed out; “Mr. Heath, my name is Joe Julicher and I’m here because I owe you an apology. We met on October 16, 1996; you probably don’t remember me, but I can’t forget about you.”
His memory didn’t seem to register, so I continued; “That night, you got involved in a car chase” His face reflected the rekindling of his memory.
“Now, it wasn’t my chase, but I became involved. Do you remember crashing out at Buff State? Do you remember ditching the car and then trying to run across campus and hide?”
“Well, I became involved in that, as backup. Me and another cop were running all over that campus trying to find you guys, and when we were coming around the corner, we heard all of that screaming going on. I saw what happened to you, laying there on the ground.”
The man before me showed pure terror and pain, in an instant; he graphically recalled that night!
“You was there?’
“Yes, I was there. And, that’s why I’m here. That night, I failed you. I failed you as a human being and I most certainly failed you as a police officer. Now, I don’t know if it has any value, all of these years later, but I feel that I must apologize to you. Somehow, the universe is telling me that I need to apologize to you, because the “ghost of Telly Heath” keeps popping into my life.”
“Man, that was some fucked up shit! I had nightmares about that night for a long time. I saw a psychiatrist while I was inside. They gave me medication. I couldn’t sleep. That motherfucker told me he was gonna kill me and I thought I was about to die!”
Oh, son-of-a-bitch! This feels even worse than it did before. Even though that I knew it could have gone badly that night, even though I knew we were literally a click away from having this kid getting his head ventilated, somehow, it had so much more of an impact upon me at this time. Here’s this kid, laying on the ground, face down, in handcuffs, a psychopath on his back, with NO way to defend himself. COMPLETELY and totally at this man’s mercy, and the man says “you’re gonna die, n*gger”. What the fuck? How freaking awful must this have been for this kid. To make matters worse, I fucking kept my fat mouth shut, possibly (probably) making it worse for him.
“I’m sorry”, I emotionally blurted out. I know I was fighting back tears, and I’m pretty sure he was too.
I explained that I understood if I was too late in my apology, and that I wasn’t asking him to forgive me, but I was somehow trying to make it right, if there was any way possible. I explained that the birth of my son, and the contemplation of my own upbringing had brought me to see him. We spoke of his family, and the assistance that they had tried to give him around that time. He related that he had a sister that lived in the area that I patrolled, whom I vaguely recognized by name.
Telly explained that when he had complained about the gun being stuck in his mouth, the intake at the holding center was led to believe that it was a flashlight being inserted in there, in some type of cavity search for contraband. Well, wasn’t that convenient? Chicken shit cocksucker loses his shit, sticks a gun in this kids mouth, then lies about it. Even worse, he twisted it into having some sort of “legitimacy”. I fucking HATE liars!
We talked for a while, mostly about the night in question, and his future plans. There was nothing more I could do, nothing more I could say, so it was time to leave. Upon leaving, I didn’t have the feeling that I’d wanted to have. I still felt empty. Maybe the weight was off of my shoulders, but something still didn’t feel right. Oh well, I guess my discomfort was my penance, or so I thought.
READ ALL OF JOSEPH’S POSTS ON CopBlock.org HERE.