Bowing Heads in Honor, Not Bowing Out

Bowing Heads in Honor, Not Bowing Out

By Stephen Owsinski

While the anti-police noise continues to undermine public safety, cops assailed and/or killed in the line of duty persists. And the same ole’ hives of hypocrisy —otherwise known as politicians— continue to sidestep responsibility for defund-the-police fester. America’s cops, however, keep on keepin’ on.

One of many stand-out formidable traits among law enforcement officers is the unique bond and camaraderie forged while fighting the good fight on the mean streets of America.

New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell echoed our topic when she previously offered the following when one cop succumbed to his wounds while his beat partner clung to life in a hospital gurney: “We struggle for words to express the tragedy, to endure the pain of losing Officer Jason Rivera as we pray for Officer Wilbert Mora. And while things feel unsure now, what I know we can count on is their fellow Finest continuing their courageous work and honoring Jason’s legacy.”

Recently on these pages, the NPA honored these two NYPD cops murdered in the line of duty. At their respective funerals, both police Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora were posthumously promoted to detective first-grade.

Soon after Detective Rivera’s and Detective Mora’s funerals, their 32nd Precinct squadmates convened in the roll-call room where all of them stood for briefing before hitting the streets.

(Photo courtesy of the NYC Police Benevolent Association.)

NYC Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch (pictured in a suit above), not one to silence his vocal cords when it comes to NYPD cops and the tremendous work they do, addressed these resilient comrades of the fallen: “…the squad-mates of hero Police Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora are turning out for their first tour back on patrol. The roll call will never be the same again. #FidelisAdMortem.”

Fidelis Ad Motem, translated to mean Faithful Unto Death, is said to be an NYPD credo. Respectfully, I see it as an empirical mantra exuded by all of America’s law enforcement officials. No matter where one serves, the vow is the same. The attendant needs of citizens are addressed by someone with a justice shield. The perils endemic in policing are stratified, whether a one-officer department or a 35,000-member strong mega outfit such as the NYPD.

To stand elbow-to-elbow in a room for shift readouts is a customary ritual in policing America. Some roll-call rooms have seats while others congregate on an open floor while a sergeant or higher-ranking supervisor and/or watch commander briefs the troops on fresh activities of which to be cognizant aka Be On the Lookout (BOLO).

The NYPD squad pictured above stands with slightly more elbow room since the shooting deaths of Detectives Rivera and Mora. I know they’d give anything to be more compacted together once again (plus two) while tacitly harboring the Fidelis Ad Mortem mantra.

Long ago, I was in such a situation.

The tragic death of a fellow officer, with whom I shared a midnight shift squad until he was promoted to detective, hit like a torpedo.

All of us took on enormous emotional flux, choking back our waterworks while calls for service persisted unrelentingly. It is the nature of law enforcement, whose precinct lights never extinguish.

For quite some time, that proverbial elephant in the room occupied the department’s psyche. Like being stuck yet full-knowing you had to move forward because there was the population each of us attested to protect and steward over, certainly the same for our police families.

That fallen colleague’s police funeral is etched in my cranium as if it were mere hours ago.

Enduring as best possible, exhibiting that resiliency we often refer to, one shift worked the streets while the burial-site contingent mentally geared to relieve them hours later.

“The beat goes on” reference is not necessarily only lyrics in a musical rendition. It is a literal doctrine in the world of policing, referring to the fundamental principle of walking a beat (or zone or sector) in an assigned territory of professional responsibility. Doing it all, again and again, continually showing up for roll calls.

The loss of our quite young brother in blue impacted mercilessly. As I neared the end of my career, it was the hardest loss among many losses. It still is.

Came across the fallen officer’s picture today, in full uniform, smiling, doing a job he adored. It clicked: I drafted the piece you are reading.

When our blue brother died as a detective, doing the job he envisioned as a child, his casket was filled with dress blues pinned with a detective’s badge.

The very next morning, his Criminal Investigations Division colleagues divvied his caseload and carried on the pursuit of justice. Some of the detectives with whom he worked cases together were promoted to supervisory roles, retaining the mindful honor of having shared big busts. Of reporting to victims and their loved ones that bad guys were jailed. That they were now safe. That evil was confronted. New cases flowed in daily; the cycle continues…

The beat cops with whom he once filled shifts went on to promote to detective, sitting at desks across and around the one formerly occupied by a true blue man of great character and principles…one who adored the job and lived Faithful Unto Death.