HAVE YOU HUGGED A COP TODAY?

May 8th to the 15th is designated as Police Appreciation Week. This article is dedicated to my comrades in law enforcement, and their families.

Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy. A thousand deaths is a statistic.”

We are constantly barraged with death numbers. Plane crashes, earthquakes, war. But numbers obscure the story of individual suffering. This is about some of those numbers.

2007 will go down as the deadliest in history for the sentries of law and order with 181 police officers killed in the line of duty. That doesn’t even mention the 65,000 more that were wounded and seriously injured fighting battles in the streets so that you and I can rest easier and feel safer in our communities.

Last year was unusually high. On average, 162 police officers are killed annually in this nation. That’s 162 families wrecked, hundreds of kids stripped of a mother or father, shattered dreams, lost friends, eulogies and graves. All for one reason. The badge.

Each harbored feelings of love and hope, and of commitment to their profession. Each left for work like any other day kissing loved ones, unaware it would be their final embrace. Each knew the hazards of the badge. But there was something alluring about the job. It’s worth the risk.

Or is it?

One never knows when it will strike next. Or who. Or where. It happens in urban jungles like Chicago and Miami or in remote suburbia. But, it will strike 162 officers a year. After thirty years on the job, I could tell a hundred stories from a personal perspective. Here’s one of them.

April Fool’s Day, 1976. Seven detectives were assigned to the Auto Theft Unit of the Miami-Dade Police Department. By the end of the day, there were only four.

Clark Curlette, 28, seven years on the job, married, no kids, veteran of Viet Nam.

Frank D’Azevedo, 31, ten years a cop, two weeks from his wedding day, U.S. Army veteran.

Tom Hodges, 32, seven years a cop, married, three kids under six, U.S. Air Force veteran.

All left for work that afternoon filled with dreams. Each became a statistic. They were my friends.

The detectives were checking an area of Miami Beach when they spotted a suspicious Lincoln Mark IV parked at a one-story motel. It had been a popular model for stolen cars. Hodges and Curlette questioned the motel manager about its owner. By the time they ambled down to the suspect’s room, the word was out. Curlette got it first. Ambushed through a window with a 12 gauge shotgun before he knocked on the door. Hodges was next. Neither had time to unholster their weapons. From across the street, D’Azevedo heard shots and knew the circumstances were dire. He gave chase on foot as the suspect fled, firing wildly with his revolver. The suspect stopped and turned. D’Azevedo got hit in the gut.

The suspect was a fugitive who swore he would never go back to a prison cell. And so he didn’t. He was found in a clump of seagrape, killed by his own bullet.

Senseless. Pathetic. All because they were cops. No other reason.

Many more of my friends within the Miami-Dade Police Department — of all racial, ethnic and genders — have gone to an early grave. Cop killers don’t discriminate. I knew young Officer William Cook, whose bullet-proof vest couldn’t save him in 1979. A lunatic shot him through the side opening where the bullet passed though his aorta. Black officer, Detective Harrison Crenshaw, shot by a crazed gunman in 1974. Officer Cheryl Seiden, shot and killed by an armed robber in 1982. Officer Jose Gonzalez, killed in 1989. And Officer Joe Martin, son of a career cop, shot and killed in 1990. The beat goes on.

Some are more fortunate, like the young detective who served an arrest warrant at a Miami apartment only to take a bullet in the leg by an over-protective girl friend. Talk about luck. Had the muzzle of that rifle been aimed one centimeter higher, he would be just another statistic. That detective was me.

In the last two centuries, more than 17,000 officers have been killed in the line of duty, 1,635 in the past decade. That’s 1,635 funerals in ten years. That’s 1,635 broken families.

Stalin was right. We hear numbers but lose sight of the human factor. Cops are a staple of urban warfare, a common dot in suburbia, a fixture in the streets, same purpose, same name: Officer. Every one of them, no matter what city of town, face peril. All because they are cops.

They are the prey of America’s media who will scrutinize them to the nth degree. They are the subject of arm-chair judges and Monday morning quarterbacks. They are the ones actually walking in the shoes of danger every day, their lives — and the lives of others — dependent upon split second decisions. Sometimes, they go wrong. To err is human.

I’ve known police officers who served honorably for twenty years, protecting people, saving lives, apprehending robbers and killers, then find themselves facing the wrath of society for a single mistake…unforgiven…prosecuted…castigated, as though the twenty years of service and valor never existed.

Every cop’s life is on the line every second he or she wears that uniform. Think about that the time you see one or two sitting at a counter eating donuts. Think of that when you might complain about a speeding ticket. Think about that when you hear about an officer accused of misconduct and give him/her the benefits of the doubt afforded others. And when you see those blue light flashing in the rear view and your heart pounds through your chest, remember this: You may know who he is, but he doesn’t know who you are.

Folks who visit Washington D.C. should be aware of a lesser known attraction on Judiciary Square where the names of 17,000 cops are inscribed on marble walls. The National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial honors those fallen warriors who have given their lives for no less a reason of soldiers who died in Viet Nam or Iwo Jima. Only their war was right here, in our streets. Your streets.

Perhaps some of you who knew a fallen officer, or the family of one, might visit and search for their name on the marble walls and pay homage in your own way. Or, you can look for the names of Clark Curlette, Tom Hodges, Frank D’Azevedo, William Cook, Harrison Crenshaw, Cheryl Seiden or Joseph Martin and remember this little tribute.

Then ask yourself a silly question.

Have you hugged a cop today?

28 Responses to HAVE YOU HUGGED A COP TODAY?

  1. Larry your old vagabond May 7, 2008 at 4:26 pm #

    Hi Marshall – It is so true. We, “the public” don’t think about the quite often dangerous job that is done by everyone “on the job”. We are stunned and mournful when we see on the news the long cortege of cop-filled cars following the hearse of an officer (one cortege is too many) and Chief Bratton (here in L.A) standing in front of hundreds to deliver the eulogy.

    Soon enough we are flinching the next day as we hear the siren and see the flashing lights behind us as we drive. Our first reaction is to fear what the officer nearest us wants to do. Is it I who has caught his attention? But, don’t we feel comforted by the officers who form that always vulnerable “blue line” between “us” and “the bad guys” over there.

    Please keep our loved ones as safe as possible and, if there is violence to be dealt with, please take care of it. Then the nightly news (newspaper, Internet, etc.) will show what happened to me and I will watch from afar.

    All of you are so brave so that I don’t have to be.

  2. Ed Hensley May 7, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    Here’s your hug for today Marshall, but ya
    gotta set through a 4:26 video, for the
    full warmth of this hug. Trust me & smile.
    To make moments like this possible, is why
    you wore the badge so long and other brave
    men and women will always follow you.
    AMAZING 6 YEARS OLD GUITARIST
    >
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2pj7QHCDT0&feature=related

  3. John Krysakowski May 7, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Marshall: thanks for sharing those real life heart renching experiences with all of us. Thankfully I was personally spared these types of tragedies in our department but did experience other members losses in surrounding communities, at the local state and federal level. I have attended such funerals, both police, fire, EMT and military and you never forget the experience. The Chief of Police in my department (also my best friend and Barbara’s Godfather and I broke him in) was President of the Connecticut Chief’s of Police Assoc. (I was also a member). He was directly involved in getting the police memorial up and running. Great article, and thanks again. John

  4. Tom May 7, 2008 at 5:04 pm #

    We work with policemen and women every WEdnesday at the local Sheriff’s building in our home town. I like the guys and gals we have met there and feel fortunate to live here in Citrus county, the least of crime counties in the state……

    We are fortunate to have Sheriff Dawsey and his group of dedicated officers.

    Of course if I hugged one of them they would knock me on my behind………….I will leave that up to my wife.

  5. Sheila Lozowick May 7, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    I will definately hug a cop today. Hope I do not get arrested. I have been so lucky to have met my friend Marshal who gave so much to Miami Dade police force & has a kind giving heart to all people. HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON TO COLLECT THAT HUG. Sheila

  6. Jeffrey B. McBreaity May 7, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    Marshall,
    I have always had the utmost respect for the police in my town and across this nation because the have a thankless job from my point of view.
    I always make sure to go out of my way to say thank you in person and to shake their hand and when I meet a police offier on the road, I always wave to them.
    They are doing a job, just like any other job, only, it happens to be enforcing the laws of this land.
    If everyone would mind their own business an stay out of trouble, the police would not be bothering them.
    So, today, I say thank you to each and every police officer across this great lad of ours and keep up the good work.

  7. Jeffrey B. McBreaity May 7, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    Marshall,
    I have always had the utmost respect for the police in my town and across this nation because they have a thankless job from my point of view.
    I always make sure to go out of my way to say thank you in person and to shake their hand and when I meet a police offier on the road, I always wave to them.
    They are doing a job, just like any other job, only, it happens to be enforcing the laws of this land.
    If everyone would mind their own business and stay out of trouble, the police would not be bothering them.
    So, today, I say thank you to each and every police officer across this great lad of ours and keep up the good work.

  8. bob swan May 7, 2008 at 6:49 pm #

    Hello Marshall,
    God, how you bring back memories. I was a rookie officer assigned to the midnight shift at the time Harrison Crenshaw and Simmons Arrington were killed. If I recall, they were both killed about three days apart. At the time, the thought was that they were targeted because they were cops. I was riding as a one man unit on the mid to 8 shift in Central District—now, Northside District. I have to confess, I was scared to death. I so wanted a partner those nights. I was literally shaking as I drove through the district, because I thought for sure I was going to get shot at every stop sign. Obviously, I made it through the shift and the rest of my career—33 and a half more years—but as you know, any cop who says he was never scared on the job is probably a liar. And of course, I remember the other tragedies that followed—-Curlette, Dezavedo, Hodges, Cook, (DiGenova and Edgerton who were shot at the same time), Cheryl Seiden, who was my close friend, Martin, Boles, Strazlkowski (hope I spelled those right)—-and the list goes on and on as you know. What is almost as bad as being around for those sad situations, is reading the e-mails on all of the young and old current and retired cops who have recently died from health related causes. kind of makes you want to take a personal inventory if you know what I mean.
    Sincerest good wishes—I’m headed out to get some hugs.
    Bob Swan

  9. Bill Bell May 7, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    Good Evening, Marshall,

    Thank you for your fine article. I have also enjoyed the congratulatory responces that it has generated.

    Regards, Bill

  10. Bill Solen May 7, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    As you know Marshall, I retired from the same Dept as you did. We saw so many officers killed over the years I lost count. I ran so many police motorcycle escorts I lost count. Sadly but understandably, as you mentioned, most merely became statistics. When I was a rookie we put black electrical tape over our badges to honor our dead comrades. By the time I retired we used elastic bands that could be reused over and over. What a sad commentary for society.

    I had a great uncle, Sidney Crews, killed in 1929 while working for the City of Miami. Can you believe he was trying to kill a rat with a BB gun when the prisoner who had complained about the rat wrestled his revolver away from him and killed him with his own gun. The prisoner was shot and killed by a City detective that was in the building at the time.

    That of course was long before my time. Tom Hodges however hit closer to home for me. Tom and I went through the PSD academy together, Class 50, and we kept in touch after the academy days. I will always remember what a genuine nice person Tom always was. He once told me that he really needed to get out of Central District uniform. He told me that when he got a burglar alarm call, most times there was a bad guy in the building, not many false alarms in Central. He told me other stories that would cause most normal people to look for a safer occupation. When he heard of his transfer out of uniform you would have thought he got promoted. “What a relief not to have to ‘suit up’ every night and work the streets of Central District”. How great to work Auto Theft and for the most part just investigate stolen cars. Pretty much cut and dry stuff with minimal dangers.

    When friends are killed it becomes more personal and often emotional for those left behind. Cops become immune for the most part after they have seen a few deaths and after a dozen or so the deaths merely become statistics. Because of Tom’s personality and his words about getting out of uniform central, I thought of Tom Hodges for a long time after his death. I’m thankful that he’s never become a statistic with me.

  11. bjb May 7, 2008 at 8:55 pm #

    Years in an emergency room, night shift mostly, I developed a great admiration for the law men that work to keep us safe. I took a few courses of the 2 year law enforcement program at a time when the concept of a degree was new so that I might better understand what they had to know. The Miranda law was fascinating. Most of the men I knew taking the program were doing it in addition to working full time. It would be a few more years before women were on patrol as well. I can hardly count the times that having an officer in the ER was a welcome addition to my feeling of safety. I have believed for many years that teachers, firemen and police are GROSSLY underpaid. I wish we had more than hugs to give them for their efforts on our behalf. A serious increase in salary might do, but somehow their service and presence doesn’t seem to be recognized or valued. Heroes, one and all.

  12. Lisa Ballantyne May 8, 2008 at 7:31 am #

    Marshall…greetings former neighbor! Thank you so much for sharing this awesome piece. I immediately forwarded it to a Charlotte County Sheriff’s Deputy with whom I have been friends for over 30 years, to say “thank you” to him, and now a thank you to my favorite ex-neighbor and retired detective.

    Our law enfordcement officers risk their lives each day to do an often thankless job. It’s time we stopped taking for granted what they do to keep our communities safe around the clock, and instead took the time to express our gratitude for all that they do and stand for.

    Best regards.

  13. Susan Neuman May 8, 2008 at 9:38 am #

    Yes! (Retired Cops count, don’t they)
    :)

  14. Thom Tansey May 8, 2008 at 10:29 am #

    I served on the Honor Guard of the Miami-Dade PD for a few months, during which stint I was assigned to stand guard over the coffin, at a wake, of a downed fellow officer shot to death with his own gun by an illegal immigrant who was being transported out of the country through Miami International Airport. It was a sad and sobering stint for me that night, made more so by the weeping widow seated in the front row close to where I was standing.

  15. Rich Moore May 8, 2008 at 10:59 am #

    I knew Tommy Dazavedo, and his brothers sacrifice will not be forgotten..Tommy was a deputy with Metro as well, and I worked several cases with him not long after the murders on Miami Beach…a real tragedy.

    My Dad was almost killed by a crazed junkie when he was with Miami Shores many years ago, and I know how close many come to death, in addition to those who fall in the line of duty. We all value the officers whyo place it on the line every day.

    However, a majority of these deaths could be avoided if the phony and failed war on SOME drugs were terminated and regulatiopn was the policy. Most cop’s that die do so because of the disproportionate penalties that drug ‘ crimes ‘ carry. If some thug knows that he will do 20 years for a bag of crack, no wonder he will take a chance on shooting a cop and trying to flee and avoid that.

    In the old days most criminals, especially career ones, would surrender rather than risk hurting a cop and drawing not only their wrath but a long sentence as well. A burglar knew that he would be out in 6 months or a year so why fight the cop? Bad for business.

    But today, with the drug war nonsense creating an 85% increase in prisoners over a decade or two we see many times that the suspect finds it more sensible to fight and flee rather than face draconian sentences..mandatory minimums have killed more cop’s than any other cause. Anyone with a gun and a desire to avoid a long term for crimes that are totally associated with Prohibition…denying the people what they want…a market driven venture, no doubt will try and get away and if that means killing a cop then they know that they will get no more time for that than for the drugs anyway…it makes sense to them.

    Want to see far fewer cop killings? So do I. But the ONLY way to avoid the vast majority ( mental cases aside ) of cop killings is to adopt the recommendations of every mandated study ever done and decriminalize and regulate drugs…all drugs, thus eliminating the crime associated with it and taking the money away from the criminals and taxing it, like we do the other ‘ sin ‘ things like alcohol and tobacco, using the funds ( billions ) to offer treatment on demand for those few that have a problem with their personal habits and ‘ vices’.

    Normally law and policy is made by means of using intelligent and proven facts as a basis…but in the war on some drugs, that is not the case at all. Slogans and rhetoric and lies and posturing by bureaucrats are all we see. A new Drug Czar comes in and talks about winning the war while every town in America has any drug wanted, more pure and cheaper than ever before.

    Of course the DEA is chasing medical pot patients in states that have legalized it…if they had to go out and tackle the real issues the numbers would not look good on Fox news …and every time that they get close to the top of the world heroin and coke market the CIA and MI5 shove them away…wonder why?

    But this is supposed to be about honoring the dead hero’s who protect us…but I cannot help but think that a tribute that does nothing to address the roots is a hollow sounding trumpet calling Taps…we can count on hearing those mournful strains over and over as long as politicians remain too weak to do something that makes sense: End Prohibition and educate and tax…and save lives, cop’s and civilians alike.

  16. Joe Haymes May 8, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    I have to tell you: Walker, Texas Ranger, is my greatest hero on TV, along with his team. Actually, they should please even those people who don’t think highly of the police, because they never use their guns until absolutely necessary.
    Yes, I am a great supporter of the police, because in my adventures as a Sniper in WW2 I faced the “kill or be killed” situation all too often. I never hesitated, and that is the only way I could have reached my present age of 83. In the same situations I would do the same today.

  17. Grace Urrows May 8, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    Why do people join the police force? It isn’t like the Army where the person in uniform is defending the nation. I think you are all romantics… good guys chasing the bad guys
    and the rest of us lucky that you are. I’ve never met a mean or rotten policeman like I never met a rude Frenchman, tho’ many Americans claim the French are not courteous.Maybe it has something to do with the respect one has for the other. But I don’t know any policemen to hug, other than you, and the middle of a church service doesn’t seem appropriate. So, I send you a virtual hug, right now. grace

  18. FJM May 8, 2008 at 9:01 pm #

    Marshall,

    Once again you have hit the nail on the head. Having lost two very good friends to an early grave, just because they wore a badge, and many others that were just brothers of the badge, this article hits home. The month of May is full of Police Memorials all across the country and I ask that everyone reading these messages get out and participate on at least one of these memorials.

  19. Lou Diecidue May 9, 2008 at 10:51 am #

    Marshall:

    I worked Homicide for 11 years and saw many tragedies, but the one that effected me the most was Frank D’Azevedo, Curlette and Hodges. As you remember, I was the Sergeant in charge of that investigation. Frank D’Azevedo was a close personal friend who begged me to help him get into the Homicide Section every time he saw me. When I arrived on the scene of the shooting not knowing who was involved, I almost lost control of my emotions when I saw them.

    I relived that nightmare several years later when another friend was gunned down; Officer Joe Martin, whose father is also a close personal friend. Every time I read of another police officer getting killed on the job, my mind drifts back to that April Fool’s day l976.

    I will relive that scene until the day I die. I spent 40 years behind the badge and many scenes bounce through my head, but these two will always stay with me.

  20. Ryan Sherman May 9, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    I have given a cop a hug everyday for the past 7 months. Ever since Officer Chuck Cassidy of the Philadelphia Police Department died, it has affected me but not all that bad. Ever since Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski of the Philadelphia Police Department died, it has affected me alot harder than when Officer Cassidy died. I grew up in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia where Sgt. Liczbinski was shot and killed in responding to a bank robbery call. I met Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski 3 times and all we would ever talk about were the Philadelphia Flyers and life. I, myself, always wanted to become a cop for either New York or for Philadelphia. I just recently signed up for the United States Marine Corps. After I do my 6 years in the Marines, I am going to apply for a job as a Philadelphia Police Officer or a New York Police Officer. R.I.P. SGT. STEPHEN LICZBINSKI AND OFFICER CHUCK CASSIDY!!

  21. Helen Bennett May 9, 2008 at 5:56 pm #

    Do you know the song “I Love a Cop” from “Fiorello”? If not, you should listen to it and learn to play it.

    Helen

  22. JOHNNY MCKAY May 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm #

    THANKS MARSHALL,I REMEMBER WHEN EDDIE SPISAK WAS SHOT WHEN HE STOPPED THREE ARMED ROBBERS FOR A TRAFFIC VIOLATION.OFF DUTY PSD MOTORCYCLE OFFICER SMOKEY EARL JOHNSON WAS KILLED IN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT AS HE RESPONED TO THE POLICE RADIO CALL OF OFFICER SHOT.SMOKEY HAD BEEN CLEANING HIS POLICE MOTOR IN HIS YARD WHEN HE RESPONED.MANY OTHER POLICE OFFICERS ALSO ANSWERED THE CALL AS WELL AS MY SELF.THE SUBJECTS BAILED OUT OF THEIR CAR AND WERE CAUGHT.ONE OF WHICH WE CAUGHT BEHIND BUSHES IN A NEIGHHOOD YARD.I AM SURE MANY OF THOSE READING REMEMBER!!!!!

  23. Ed Hensley May 12, 2008 at 9:01 pm #

    While Police Appreciation week is still ongoing, I request that we all remember a
    young officer who died in small town police
    service on October 22, 1975.

    Exeter, CA (pop. 9,000 or so), near Visalia,
    CA, in Tulare County operates it’s own P.D.

    In October 1975, my late Uncle Henry Fry, was the Exeter Chief of Police. The Fallen
    Officer, Thomas Schroth, 27, at EOW, left a
    widow and 8 month old baby girl. Ain’t that
    all too typical, for our fine men and women
    who sometimes must “Give All,” for us?

    A sad story is told, in part, at ODMP.org >

    http://www.odmp.org/officer/11910-patrolman-thomas-j.-schroth

  24. Ed Hensley May 16, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    Garden Grove, California remembered it’s 5
    fallen officers in a moving ceremony, with
    this story of high honor told well, in a 12
    picture online photo album @ >

    http://www.ocregister.com/slideshow/officers-officer-blum-2044187-police-dallies?pos=0

  25. Paul Storer May 25, 2008 at 6:25 pm #

    Marshall, remembered Snow Crenshaw, was my partner in Central District and Tommy Hodges, D’Azavedo and Curlette all partners in uniform in Central District. Truly a sad day for all of us that wore the Dade County Brown. Thanks for an outstanding article. Left Dade County PSD in 1978 and joined the FBI and as you know we had our tragedy in Miami with the deaths of Special Agents chasing crazed bank robbers in South Dade. Proud to have been a Dade County Officer from 1969 to 1978.

  26. t z November 2, 2009 at 7:32 am #

    william cook lived 3 houses on the right of me. and joe martin lived 3 houses on the left of me in the late 70 s i cut cooks yard for him and went to school with martin joe loved the beach miss both of them

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