I have always respected talented musicians. This may be in part from having only a trace of musical ability myself. Maybe I simply respected their confidence in performing even when the audience seemed inattentive.

In undergrad, for some reason, I associated primarily with musicians—-percussionists, guitar players, keyboardists--and enjoyed their performances immensely. I even was a roadie at a few summer concerts for a friend’s band, but of course they broke up when school started again. Back then, I seemed to be more aware of the ignored beauty of music.

I even took a few months of piano lessons as a sophomore, but really struggled to plink-out a two-handed version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I found the lessons more entertaining just in watching the mannerisms of my instructor. She was a graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School and offered instruction in her home-—lessons that included distractions from time to time. She seemed frustrated or perhaps underappreciated.

At least once per visit, her young children would storm into the house rough-housing, and my teacher would transform into a professional bouncer (grimacing with muscles bulging), scold them in a loud threatening outburst, and send them back outside. She was probably glad that I stopped the lessons after a semester in that I drove her crazy with my preference to memorize the practice pieces instead of sight-reading them.

YouTube has been wonderful for me to see gifted yet unknown or not well-known musicians. It reinforces my believe that there is talent all over the world, and despite what music promoters want us to believe, Blessed musicians are not shaped from a cookie-cutter and who work as undergarment models on the side.

The lack of respect that many talented musicians receive is also thought-provoking. One of the guitarists that I most admire has a Tube video showing him playing on a street corner somewhere in Europe, as people walk by ignoring his performance and collection hat.

I was especially saddened by this video of Tony MacAlpine, an accomplished musician, playing piano at a trade show several years ago:

MacAlpine is performing several difficult compositions by Chopin (Correction: the audio of MacAlpine playing Chopin's Etude #4, Opus #10 is here) and barely attracting a handful of listeners. You would think that the attendees would at least stay until he was finished—-maybe that is just the Southerner in me.

Philosopher Erich Fromm stated: “Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.”

Perhaps, while immersed in my own issues, I am missing some grand performance as the people in the video did. Maybe, with some reflection, I still have time to alter my course; to stop and see the precious smile on my daughter's little face, and to listen to that Chopin playing before the final note.

Sometimes Saying Nothing is Better

Note: For those patiently waiting for my next Gricar case post, I apologize for the delay, but I am still working on examining the new information received and combining it with my own thoughts. I hope to have something in the next few days.

On January 17, 2009, concerned neighbors entered the home 93 year old Marvin Schur and immediately noticed the cold air. Inside, the windows were frosted and the faucets were frozen. Mr. Schur was found dead lying on his bedroom floor. He was dressed in four layers of clothing and wrapped in a winter jacket. Mr. Schur lived alone as his wife had passed away a few years earlier and they had no children.

An autopsy confirmed that Schur’s death was due to hypothermia, and that he most likely suffered a painful slow death.

A few days early, a regulator had been installed on Mr. Schur’s power box due to unpaid bills. The power company, following an established policy, made no contact with Mr. Schur or anyone else, and instead taped a note to his door informing him of the action. Unfortunately, Mr. Schur did not see or did not understand the note.

Neighbors and relatives have said that he had the money to pay the bills. Residents remember seeing Mr. Schur spend time over the years sitting in his chair watching television.

When interviewed about the incident in his community, Bay City Manager Robert Belleman stated this:

I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors…When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department.
What? A tragic and preventable death in Mr. Belleman’s community occurs and this arrogant response is his contribution? He seems to be blaming neighbors for not knowing something was wrong.

I don’t think “neighbors” were notified that the power company was going to limit Mr. Schur’s heat usage due to unpaid bills or that the energy control device was either going to fail or that Mr. Schur may not understand how to reset his heating unit. In fact, "neighbors” were not notifed at all that something was wrong at Mr. Schur's home and they were the ones who actually discovered the body.

In the winter time where I live, I barely see my neighbors. If the same scenario occurred on my block, I doubt that I would notice signs that someone’s heat had been shutoff—-until it was far too late.

Finger-pointing at the neighbors is the last thing a executive in his position should be doing. If he wants to accuse anyone of being at fault, he should be critical of the power company as their policy would be a more deserving target than the local machinist, marketing director, janitor, college student, or whoever lived next door to Mr. Schur.

On a lighter note, here are other quotes that I would assume reflective persons wished that they could retract:

1. "It's not based on any particular data point, we just wanted to choose a really large number." — a Treasury Department spokeswoman explaining how the $700 billion number was chosen for the initial bailout, quoted on Forbes.com Sept. 23.

2. "Beyond its entertainment value, Baywatch has enriched, and in many cases, helped save lives! I'm looking forward to the opportunity to continue with a project which has such significance for so many."--Actor David Hasselhoff

3. "Anyone who says we're in a recession, or heading into one — especially the worst one since the Great Depression — is making up his own private definition of "`recession.'"--Commentator Donald Luskin, the day before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, The Washington Post, Sept. 14.

4. "In today’s regulatory environment, it’s virtually impossible to violate rules.” Bernard Madoff, money manager, Oct. 20, 2007 On Dec. 11, Madoff was arrested for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme that may have cost investors $50 billion.

Partners: A Second Look

While reading the comments regarding a recent post on patrol partners, K-9 constable and blogger extraordinaire Sandra Glendinning reminded me that my discussion on two-officer units was not as relevant outside the US--as partners in policing are the norm in many other places.

She also said this:
...Sometimes I relished the opportunity to work alone, if only for a brief change of scenery...

Selecting a partner is serious business - in my career I've only had four, which may seem like a lot, but each partnership ended when one of us was transferred to another section. Each of my partners was like an extension of myself - in one case, the two of us shared a form telepathy (not kidding...). And because I spent more time with my partner than I did my spouse, it was very important to ensure we got along...
Her discussion on partners made me think: If given the choice, would US patrol officers prefer to ride solo or be assigned to a partner?

My personal thoughts were that officers did prefer to work alone, but I started with the research literature and found several studies that examined this issue. In sum, officers assigned to solo units were determined to respond to calls faster, and have the same risk of assault as two officer units.

Also, studies like one of the San Diego Police Department in 1977 (Boydstun et. al), found that one-officer units made more arrests and were, in general, more productive than two-officer cars. As a result of such studies and the cost savings involved, one-officer units are more commonly used in the US.

Two studies addressed officer perceptions of unit assignment. The same San Diego study determined that officer's felt safer and more productive in two-officer units in contrast to the research's actual findings.

Another study took a different approach rather than evaluate the question in terms of efficiency (response time, arrests, etc.). In 2003, Alejandro de Carmen and Lori Guevara studied a small sample of officers in a metropolitan police department in Texas. They measured the perceptions of officers as to one and two officer units. In contrast to the San Diego study of 1977, they found that officers believed, in general, that they would perform the same no matter the assignment. Also, the officers agreed that two-person units were necessary in some instances, but largely preferred being assigned to a solo unit.

And, what would a blog positional post be without a completely unscientific poll? I conducted such a poll over at Officer.com and was pleased that 66 respondents took time to vote. Thirty-seven respondents favored riding solo, 24 wanted to have a partner, and 5 did not have a preference. I was surprised that the results were not more in favor of one-officer units, but I think the representatives from larger departments, where partners are common, were well represented in the results.

So, that is convincing, right? I have some limited academic studies in combination with an unscientific poll that supports my assertion that US officers prefer being assigned to solo units. In contrast, to the literature, I think the officer arguments in favor of solo units are primarily unrelated to police work (productivity and safety), and have more to do with personal preference. I believe that officers would prefer the freedom that riding alone provides, rather than having to entertain someone else for a shift on a regular basis.

I think the time difference in the San Diego and Texas studies supports this thinking. In 1977, partner policing was commonly used and shifting to solo units would have been a drastic change to the norm. In contrast, Texas officers in 2003 were used to riding solo and having a partner represented, for the most part, the drastic change.

With all of my efforts in exploring officer preferences for assignment, I think I have simplified reinforced one long-standing reality in policing: that officers are resistant to change (Argh...) and that such planned alterations should be backed with evidence and given time before any of the expected results can be obtained.

Setting Out the Welcome Mat

One aspect of the recent grisly murder of a Virginia Tech University coed reminded me of the difficulties that international students face in pursuing their education in the United States. The victim, Xin Yang, had just started her first semester in Blacksburg, VA, and reportedly had reached out to establish relationships with others from several on-campus groups:

She went to social events with international students, got in touch with the campus center that works to help them adjust and appeared to be making friends as she settled into her accounting program, those who had met her said.

But one of the friendships may have led to her death: Police say she was decapitated with a kitchen knife while having coffee with a Chinese doctoral student in a campus cafe Wednesday night.

It appeared Yang had met her accused attacker, 25-year-old Haiyang Zhu of Ningbo, China, only recently, said Kim Beisecker, the director of Cranwell International Center, which works with international students. Zhu, a doctoral student in agricultural and applied economics, had been assisting her in adjusting to life at Tech, something the 500 Chinese students often do for new members in their community, she said.

They both attended functions for international students, she said.
In addition, the suspect was listed on the victim’s emergency contact list, and authorities are investigating whether they first met on campus or had known each other in the past.

In late 2007, my friend and inspiring woman, Danette (Royland) Velez, died much too early at age 36 from cancer. She left behind a husband and five young children. I had not spoken with her in years, but in the past, her quiet confidence and radiant smile were always a welcome sight.

As a father, she had all of the qualities that a dad would want in a daughter—-humble, intelligent, wise, hard-working, caring, charitable, confident, and a strong Believer. One time, I remember seeing her wearing a white shirt, and a shower of light on her naturally very blond hair gave her almost an angelic presence. When I told her about it, she told me to stop with the nonsense, blushed, and changed the subject.

During her illness and after her death, her younger sister began publishing some of the entries from her journal. A gifted writer, she would have made a fantastic blogger.

One of her entries was specifically relevant as I thought about how one person could make a difference in the lives of others—-specifically those new to a country and who have few if any social connections. This is from Danette’s journal in a posting entitled “Travel the World” (dated October 1, 2008):

I don’t know much of other cultures firsthand. I am a white American, with European ancestry. My western, Caucasian perspective is limited, but I have always desired to travel the world, knowing that experiencing how others live, would help me live my own life to the fullest.

In college I joined a group called 50/50. In it, an American student was paired with an international student, with the intent that each share their world with the other. Each year I was introduced to a new friend, and I then spent the next 9 months widening my perspective.

I got to go to Chinese New Year celebrations with students from all over Asia. I sat and drank tea the traditional Chinese way, with one ounce tea glasses, and a small teapot, amazed to find my tea cup full as the head male (a fellow student from Taiwan) kept our tea warm and filled. I watched the news of Desert Storm with a crowd of students from Thailand, Singapore, Turkey, and Iran. The memories are among my best when I think back to college days. I got to travel the world without ever leaving Oklahoma…
A club that matched local students with new international students to help them get acclimated? What a fantastic idea in that it offered a "welcome mat" to this special-needs population. As Danette described, I am sure all of the participants learned quite a bit about each other. I regret that I was not smart enough to participate in offering a welcoming and helping hand to someone else in need.

I wonder what I can do today to support similar efforts involving international students at our local college?

Lesson Learned: Via a Sledgehammer

In 2005, the following letter of complaint appeared in the Arizona Republic:

--A Letter to the Editor--

Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show?

Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune!

Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns' early-bird special?

Any response would be appreciated.

-Tom MacRae, Peoria
Four days later, the newspaper published a response from Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, United States Air Force, who was assigned to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona:

--Regarding "A wake-up call from Luke's jets"--

On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt Jeremy Fresques.

Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30 (Memorial Day).

At 9 a.m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.

Based on the letter writer's recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I'm sure you didn't hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son's flag on behalf of the president of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured.

A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects.

The letter writer asks, "Whom do we thank for the morning air show?"

The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresquesand thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

-Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, Luke Air Force Base
To his credit, the complainant Mr. MacRae, issued a written apology which was published in same newspaper on July 9:
--Regarding "Flyby honoring fallen comrade" (Letters, June 28)--

I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter to The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby ("A wake-up call from Luke's jets," Letters, June 23).

I had no idea of the significance of the flyby, and would never have insulted such a fine and respectful display had I known.

I have received many calls from the fine airmen who are serving or have served at Luke, and I have attempted to explain my side and apologized for any discomfort my letter has caused. This was simply an uninformed citizen complaining about noise.

I have been made aware in both written and verbal communications of the four-ship flyby, and my heart goes out to each and every lost serviceman and woman in this war in which we are engaged.

I have been called un-American by an unknown caller and I feel that I must address that. I served in the U.S. Navy and am a Vietnam veteran. I love my country and respect the jobs that the service organizations are doing.

Please accept my heartfelt apologies.

-Tom MacRae, Peoria
Mr. McRae's story represents a powerful example of why it is imperative to think before being heard...

*Note the full version of this story can found here.

The Country's Current Worst Job

As of yesterday, Monique Bond officially has one of the worst jobs in the country. Monique is a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department and was responsible for briefing the media yesterday regarding one of the most unbelievable police stories that I can remember hearing. Reportedly, a 14 year old police impersonator worked a shift at Ms. Bond's agency without the ruse being discovered (until the shift was over or near over).

Here is a shortened version of the story with the numbers referring to my comments below:

…The boy, who has been charged as a juvenile with impersonating an officer, walked into the Grand Crossing (3rd) District station, 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave., dressed in a Chicago police uniform, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. The boy, who reported for duty about 1:30 p.m., partnered with another police officer for about five hours (1).

The boy identified himself as an officer from another district but was detailed for the day to Grand Crossing and also was savvy enough to sign out a police radio and a ticket book, according to a source. The source also said the boy went on traffic stops with the officer he went on the street with.

Bond said the boy "did not write tickets" and said there was "no information to indicate that he [was] ever behind the wheel."

At an afternoon news conference police said the boy had no interaction with the public (2).

...(A source said) the boy had an empty holster and a newspaper in place of a ballistic vest in his vest carrier. (3)

"The boy was not armed and the matter is under investigation with Internal Affairs," Bond said...(4)
1-Some of the officers on Officer.com were most critical of personnel not realizing that the impersonator was only 14. I think the age is less troubling in that he could have waited for 3 years, and tried the same thing at age 17. I have seen 14 year olds that looked 22, and appearance can certainly be deceiving. My point is that even the most basic security measures at a law enforcement agency should prevent this situation from occurring. If looks are an agency’s primary defense against impersonators then their security protocols are porous. It also makes me wonder if he or someone else (maybe older) has not successfully pulled this hoax off previously.

2-I don't believe that an officer out on patrol for five hours had “no interaction” with the public. Patrol work involves dealing with the public and is an interactive job. I think they meant to say "limited interactions."

3-I had to look up the term “vest carrier” to verify that I knew what they were talking about. I am a strong advocate for wearing a ballistic vest all the time when in uniform (making the carrier unnecessary). The only reasonable argument that I have heard from officers opposed to mandated vest wearing is for those sworn who work in 100+ degree weather consistently in that the extra gear makes it too hot. Having worn one for years (occasionally on 100 degree days), I realize that they are uncomfortable regardless of the temperature, but this incident occurred in frigid Chicago—-officers should be wearing a vest while in uniform.

4-A teen with no badge and no gun walks into the station and says “Ok, I am ready to work today.” Not only did supervisors fail to follow even the most general of security measures, it tells me that the station lacks or uses antiquated technology. Shift personnel data should be coded at the beginning of a shift, when the supervisors entered the roster for that period, something should have flagged the suspicious newbie based on his employment information. Also, personnel should not be permitted to float from precinct to precinct without documentation that accompanies them.

I hope for the department's sake that there are many mitigating factors that are determined later in the investigation. Effective policing is based on trust between officers and citizens. This successful and easy deception of department officials has shaken public confidence in their police department, and the agency will have to work that much harder to regain that trust.

I do not envy Ms. Bond as she will continue to try to answer questions about an incident that has the public rightfully questioning the intelligence of all involved and will make her agency the punch line of an endless stream of jokes for years to come.

When Google Isn't Enough

In building on my recent post of Google Yourself, some employers are taking more aggressive steps to ensure that new hires don't embarrass their organization. Recently, the New York Police Department began forcing recruits to provide login information for their MySpace and Facebook accounts. An article by Gothamist includes this:

...The Post reports that one recruit's page featured a picture of him pointing a gun at a friend and a couple of others "whose networking accounts included boasts of gang membership, or photos of the applicant sporting gang-related tattoos and making gang gestures."

Previously the department's only policy had been to Google candidates and view what their public material—now they're being forced to log in. A 2007 investigation by the Daily News found accounts for a cop who proudly displayed videos of police brutality, one who had pictures of flashing women in front of their squad car and a rant from an officer irate against the indictments for officers in the Sean Bell case...
One of the images found on a recruit's computer was this one--certainly not something that a recruit trying to maintain a spotless record wants linked to him/her (from the Daily News):

Exercising additional controls on candidates and new hires is not an unusual strategy for police administrators. When I attended the police academy, we signed waivers as recruits that allowed supervisory personnel to search our vehicles when parked on agency property.

The results of these searches did not impact any members of our recruit class, but one employee was disciplined from a previous class for weapons (unloaded) found in his car. That employee managed to graduate, but was terminated a few months later for a separate incident.

It will be interesting to see what additional efforts police agencies use to identify the best candidates for police officer.

People Dogs, Ball Dogs, and Dog Dogs

The Sports Guy has a wonderful but sad tribute to his recently deceased family dog (Daisy/The Dooze). He is a gifted writer and here is an excerpt:
..I know goldens stereotypically love tennis balls ... but The Dooze took it to another level. Within a few months, she could repeatedly bounce them off the ground and catch them like she was dribbling a basketball.

Our first apartment had high ceilings, so we'd watch TV and bounce balls off every inch of the wall for her. That's how I spent the 2004 Red Sox season -- sweating out games and dinging balls off that 10-foot wall. Soon she was chasing down ricochets like a four-legged Ozzie Smith.

On walks, she sniffed out any stray ball within a 100-yard vicinity, dragged us over to the ball's precise location, somehow locating it even if it was buried inside some 6-foot bush. There was one hill a few blocks away -- the front lawn of someone's house -- that she would race atop, then drop the ball so it would roll down. She loved the way it rolled. We'd throw it back up, she'd chase it down like Jim Edmonds, then she'd drop it back down and watch it roll. She never wanted to leave.

In the mid-1990s, I introduced my dog theory. The way I see it, there are three labels that can best describe the behavior of a family dog: 1) Ball Dogs-—prefer chasing a ball, Frisbee, or stick over doing anything else; 2) Dog Dogs—-prefer the company of another dog. They will drop whatever item that is in their mouth and disregard owner commands to smell/greet another canine that has entered the vicinity; and, 3) People Dogs-—prefer the attention and company of humans—not just their owner.

Dogs can have tendencies that reflect all three labels, but only one preference will be the predominant preference. The Sports Guy’s dog with her insatiable appetite for tennis ball play was definitely a Ball Dog.

In contrast, my dog, Sara the Springer Spaniel (60 lbs. of energy and pictured above), was a People Dog. When she was a puppy and I walked her at my apartment complex, she would beg and cry to anyone in sight (out walking or running) for an ear scratch and other attention. She always wanted to be near someone, and if I was sitting, she would sleep up against my feet-—knowing that any movement would signal her to action.

During my policing days, I worked an occasional extra job. My criteria for an extra job was that: 1) It had to pay a ridiculously high hourly rate; and 2) it was highly probable that I would not have to do any law enforcement stuff so that I could get homework done, read, or otherwise be productive.

One temporary job that fit within those parameters involved me working overnight once a week at a huge old building that was being remodeled to accommodate a music industry business. The structure had been emptied and they were doing structural work. They had off-duty officers watching the building at night to prevent vandalism—-even though it was not in a high crime or transient neighborhood. I had an enjoyable experience being paid to basically watch the stars.

I drove my personal car to the job, and brought two things: Sara the Springer and books. We had a great time for seven hour shifts—-walking the grounds and playing. Other officers and the building’s security director would stop by and give the wanna-be police dog lots of pats and attention. She even got to where she would wait by the front door on weekend evenings hoping that I would put on my uniform and indicate to her that tonight was a work night.

Sara died in 2006, but I treasure those memories of her and the time that we spent together--both working and playing. I was sorry that our younger children as infants only got to meet her briefly, and did not get a chance to spend time with a true People Dog. With a closing thought that I can relate to, the Sports Guy poignantly states:
The day after The Dooze left us, our little boy woke up and my wife carried him downstairs to feed him like she always does. I was still half asleep and could hear her footsteps. Then I heard this: "Day-zee. Day-zee."

That part didn't make me sad. The part that made me sad happened three mornings later ... when my wife was carrying him downstairs again and he didn't say anything.

Part IV: Ray Gricar Missing Person

This is the fourth post of a multiple part series on the Ray Gricar disappearance. Gricar was a district attorney in Central Pennsylvania, and disappeared in 2005. On the day he went missing, he told his girlfriend that he was taking a vacation day from work, and driving about an hour away from his workplace to do some shopping. His car was found abandoned the next day, and his laptop computer was later recovered submerged under a bridge near his parked vehicle.

In Part III, I discussed suicide as a scenario to explain the disappearance, and will continue with another possible explanation in this post.

Scenario #2: Crime Victim
Making the case that Gricar was the victim of a random street crime in Lewisburg is difficult based on the available information. Any street crime in Lewisburg on a sunny Friday in April would be a big story. Adjacent to the shops and parking lot where his vehicle was recovered, is a public park. Normally there are lots of vehicle and foot traffic in that area (shoppers, residents, university students, etc.). Water Street (where the parking area is) is used by hurried motorists going west from RT 45 to bypass downtown Lewisburg and get over to Route 15.

Arguing that Gricar was the victim of a crime while traveling to Lewisburg seems even less likely. This scenario is not impossible in that Gricar’s work against dangerous criminals is well documented. It would be easy to find out where the DA lived, and for some persons to follow him one day.

What does not support this assertion is his route traveled on the day he went missing (assuming that the information police have on his travels is accurate). The speed limits on Hwy. 192, a rural road with only pockets of sparsely settled areas, average 55 mph which means folks drive 70+ mph—making it tough to kidnap someone in broad daylight.

Also, with Gricar’s car being parked in Lewisburg next to the antique shops, I don’t think someone would go to the effort of harming him on rural 192 and then driving his vehicle to Lewisburg--his vehicle would have been dumped somewhere less conspicuous.

The most plausible of the crime victim theories is that Gricar met someone he knew in Lewisburg and that led to foul play. In my opinion, three pieces of evidence support this scenario.

First, on that fateful trip, Gricar brought his laptop with him, which was considered by colleagues as unusual. My initial thoughts were that he brought his the computer with him to Lewisburg either because he was the DA and he could use it if work called him, or that he kept antique toy prices and information on it and used it while he was shopping. Graciously, a member of the Gricar family member stated to me that he did not believe the second assumption was valid—that Gricar was not known to keep computer databases related to his collectible interests.

As a result, it is unclear why he would he be carrying his laptop (also missing are his wallet, keys, and sunglasses) with him to meet someone. His cell phone was recovered in the car. If the laptop was in the vehicle when Gricar disappeared wouldn’t the suspect be taking a big risk by going back to his car to search it? Perhaps this was a calculated risk knowing that the hard drive contained critical information, but less plausible than assuming something happened to him while the laptop was in his possession.

Since it was county-owned computer I am certain that access was protected, and it would be of little value other than to hide Gricar’s private email account activities, Internet site browsing, etc. It is possible that unknown persons wanted extra time to think about what to do with his laptop after the item was taken from Gricar. Maybe they did not want to leave the computer with him, and after checking the equipment or realizing that they could not access any of the information, they decided to discard the laptop.

In sum, Gricar did something unusual on the day he disappeared--he brought his laptop with him on what was believed to have been a shopping trip. This in itself brings the stated intent of the trip into question and supports the crime victim theory.

The second piece of evidence that supports a scenario where Gricar was taken against his will is the recovery location of the laptop.

I’ll post more information on the scenarios soon, and here are the links to Part I , Part II, and Part III.

Maybe I Am Not So Old

With last night's media frenzied coverage of all of the official and unofficial inauguration parties, I got a laugh out of the MTV-hosted ball. The Youth Inaugural Ball was a reasonable $75 per ticket, featured popular musical acts, had a formal dress code, and was for "youth" ages 18-35.

"Thirty-five?" I did a double-take at the television.

How many people consider themselves youths at 35? What about at age 30? Is 25 years old pushing it? Personally, I think my youth began slipping away at 22, and by 25 was a distant memory as real-world responsibilities extinguished my ability to spontaneously jump into a car and just disappear on a trip somewhere.

After thinking about it, I have concluded that there must have been one or two super hip and attractive people aged 35 who the sponsors of the event really wanted in attendance. My guess is that it was some wealthy jet-setting celebrity or celebrities who act as if they are 21, and are in denial regarding their true age (and that have successfully deceived the in-crowd to be included as one of the young).

Perhaps I need some inspiration. In the book 1003 Ways to Stay Young, Ann Hodgman includes these suggestions:

Use "I have to do my homework" to get out of stuff.

(Remember that) The oldest still-living tree is over 4,000 years old.

For heaven's sake, stop making those little groaning sounds when you stand-up and sit-down.

Just for the record, I will continue grunting when standing or sitting as that is an important component of my defensive strategy against the little gang. After hearing those annoying sounds from mom and dad, they are less likely to pelt us with plastic fruits and vegetables-—realizing that the grunts and groans become more audible with each strike of the snow pea.

Caylee Anthony Insights Update

When I last discussed the Caylee Anthony case, I was disturbed by reports that the meter reader (person finding the little girl’s body) had notified authorities three times regarding his information. I talked about what a responding officer’s approach might be to a similar call including why he/she might be reluctant to consider such a report as credible.

Orange County officials announced a few days ago that the deputy had been reassigned pending an investigation of his actions. The meter reader insists that the deputy did not take his information seriously and failed to handle the call properly. As I discussed in my previous post, the public is not being provided with the complete picture of what transpired on that call. Someone is not being completely honest, and hopefully, the internal investigation will provide additional information.

Calls like “check on information related to a missing person” are common in policing. Unlike police dramas, patrol officers take a multitude of missing person reports. As a patrol officer, I can’t recall the number of missing person reports, both adults and juveniles, in which the person making the report was sure that the victim’s disappearance was related to crime. Fortunately, all of the missing persons cases that I investigated were not related to foul play and were eventually closed.

As with the meter reader’s call, officers many times are required to go against their gut-feeling and do a complete investigation of a report that they may feel is bogus. For instance, I remember getting a call from an anonymous citizen regarding a child’s park left in a field. The citizen suggested that the bike could be related to lost child. No further information was available. My gut feeling was: "why am I in this field looking at a dirty bike that has obviously been here for weeks? Don't kids leave their bikes laying around all the time? Are we not backed up on more important calls tonight?"

Thankfully, there was nothing to this abandoned bike call, but in instances like this, an officer's professionalism has to take the lead. Despite his/her feelings about the call, the officer needs to follow due dilligence and handle the incident properly--closely examine the scene, check through the current missing person information, talk to people near the scene, etc. Officer intuition is an important aspect of being a good officer, but it is certainly not 100% reliable.

Whatever the invesigation reveals as to the meter reader and/or the officer's actions in the Anthony case, due dilligence is required to not only provide citizens with the highest level of service, but to also prevent an officer from prematurely closing an incident that later is determined to have significant case implications.

A Polarizing Decision?

I have some other posts that I worked on this weekend, but with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday today and the firing and replacement of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden this weekend, I wanted to touch on a difficult subject: race in professional football hiring.

Last Friday, the Bucs ownership fired longtime head coach Job Gruden. The decision was not unexpected as Gruden had missed the playoffs in 4 of the past 6 years, and the team collapsed at the end of this season; barely finishing with a winning record.

What was surprising about the move was that almost immediately, the team announced 32 year old Raheem Morris as Gruden’s replacement. Morris had just been named as the Bucs’s defensive coordinator after serving previously as a positional coach. Not only is Morris young and only ten years removed from being a graduate assistant, he has never been a head coach at any level of football. He has also never served as a number two coach (offensive or defensive coordinator) in professional football.

His supporters state that Morris has an excellent relationship with the players, is considered an upcoming star coach in the league, and excelled at his previous lesser assignments in the organization as well as in college. His detractors point to his lack of experience and describe him as unqualified to be the lead administrator of the team; while even some have asked if the hire of Morris, an African-American, was influenced by race.

Whatever the owner’s reasoning for hiring Morris, I would argue that they have made a polarizing decision due to:

Reason #1: No Interview Process
Management decided not to go through an interview process for the head coaching position. Allowing candidates to interview for a position is the best method to properly evaluate applicants. Judging persons based on paper qualifications or because of opinions about them are not as accurate as the results produced by a formalized process. Despite Morris’ lack of experience, he may have interviewed very well and proven his merit--at least the owners would have been able to argue that a process was followed and that he was the best applicant. Instead, Morris is seen by some as being promoted without the proper qualifications, polarizing fans to one side of the debate or the other.

Reason #2: He was Part of the Team’s 2009 Demise
Morris and his fellow defensive coaches are coming off of a lackluster season in which the team lost four straight games to miss the playoffs. The defense was dreadful in the final few games, and was the primary reason that the team could not win. Morris’s secondary and the overall defense fell out of the NFL’s top 10 defenses, and are a question mark headed into the coming season. Oddly, Morris was still named defensive coordinator with very little time for thought or evaluation.

Reason #3: Will Face Unwarranted Criticism
Some commentators have made the comparison of the Morris hiring to that of the second year head coach of the Steelers Mike Tomlin. Tomlin, an African-American who was also with the Bucs as an assistant, has gained a national spotlight with his team making to the Super Bowl this year. I don’t see much of a comparison-—since Tomlin was qualified (had previous coordinator experience) and won the opportunity after going through an extensive application and interview process for that head coaching job. In addition, Tomlin benefited from the Rooney Rule that was not a factor in Morris' hiring.

With questions about why Morris was hired lingering, advocates and opponents of promoting opportunities in the NFL for minority candidates will now be watching Morris’ results more closely—-waiting to cheer or jeer and make a definitive pronouncement on minority hiring plans in the league.

From management’s perspective Morris represents an energetic guy that is well liked by the players. He is a hire that will, in general, be seen as promoting diversity in the NFL and supported by people nationwide (though I may have to rethink this as the morning radio guys on a Fox station were perplexed and questioning the hiring). Also, he will save money short-term for the organization in that, with little experience, he will be one of the lowest paid head coaches in the league.

Though I am hopeful that Morris wins many games as the new coach, I believe the Bucs made a polarizing decision that may haunt them in a few years. The team should have posted a job opening for the coaching job, evaluated and interviewed applicants, and let the process support their selection. Instead, Morris will be watched more closely. Supporters of the team and fans in the NFL are forced to defend or support the hiring in a polarizing fashion--based primarily upon conjecture.

Being seen as a current experiment in the influences of race in hiring (whether it is fair or not), creates attention for the wrong reasons. Future hiring of similar candidates (qualified and unqualified) may be based on Morris' performance. The microscope-like attention will mostly likely be a distraction for the coaches and the team--one that Morris could do without in a job that offers a full plate of on and off-field distractions already.

Buried Treasure: The Beale Ciphers

Imagine this situation in an eighth grade classroom:
Teacher: Ok, I know it is early on Monday morning, but let's open our mathematics books to page 198.

Students: Groans and moans.

Teacher: This morning we are going to build a foundational understanding of cryptography. After our studies, you will be well versed in the basic algorithms that comprise the formation of ciphers.

Students: Algo what? I thought that word meant tall in Spanish or something--no wait that is alto. This sux!!!

Teacher: Now class, before I have a full scale riot on my hands, we are then going to apply our cryptographic knowledge to a practical project. You are going to try to solve a 180 year old mystery that involves buried treasure worth millions of dollars, hidden texts, and secret messages.

Students: suddenly, everyone is sitting erect, pencils in hand, and are attentive to the teacher Wow--let's roll...

Ok, this story never happened, but it would have been a dream day in eighth grade for me. As a child, stories of buried treasure always captivated my attention. Tales of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to Blackbeard the Pirate, provided many imaginative trips when I was in elementary school (contributing to my limited intelligence). One my favorite hidden treasure story complete with rumors of lost precious metals and secretly coded maps is called the Beale Ciphers.

Tale Summary From Wiki:
The Beale ciphers are a set of three ciphertexts, one of which allegedly states the location of a buried treasure of gold and silver estimated to be worth over 30 million US dollars in the present time. The other two ciphertexts allegedly describe the content of the treasure, and list the names of the treasure's owners' next of kin, respectively. The story of the three ciphertexts originates from an 1885 pamphlet detailing treasure being buried by a man named Thomas Jefferson Beale in a secret location in Virginia in 1820.

Beale entrusted the box containing the encrypted messages with a local innkeeper named Robert Morriss and then disappeared, never to be seen again. The innkeeper gave the three encrypted ciphertexts to a friend before he died.

The friend then spent the next twenty years of his life trying to decode the messages, and was able to solve only one of them which gave details of the treasure buried and the general location of the treasure. Since the publication of the pamphlet, a number of attempts have been made to decode the two remaining ciphertexts and to find the treasure, but all have resulted in failure...

The code that was broken was very simple. The coded letter contains a serious of numbers that corresponds to a word (the first letter is used) in the written key. Using the Declaration of Independence in this manner, the second letter was decripted.

I invested a good amount of time as a young man trying to break those darn cipher codes. Combining my interest of history with treasure hunting, I tried every old poem and book that I could find--hoping that I would find the magic key to break the code. Unfortunately, I was never successful.

In retrospect and similar to the students in the dialogue above, I instantly became interested in a difficult school subject. My interest in the Beale Ciphers resulted in me spending a lot of my free time doing a form of math, and this experience showed me the type of academic investment and discipline required for complex problem solving.

After thinking about my future and the challenge of assisting three kids through college, perhaps I need to find a good shovel, buy a map of Virginia, and dust off those Beale Cipher books again--I am sure I was so close to breaking that code...

Man in the Water!

During the frigid winter months, when police officers are called to assist persons in rivers and other waterways, the outcomes can obviously be tragic. Fortunately, stories like this one last month in Mississippi show the resolve (or maybe the goofiness?) of the human body and mind:

A U.S. Marine startled Vicksburg officials when he went for a winter swim in the Mississippi River. Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoover, 25, was in his native Vicksburg on leave when he donned a wetsuit Monday and went swimming with the outside air temperature below freezing. Several people alerted authorities...

Coast Guard officials say Hoover was picked up by a private boat when its crew told him authorities were concerned and "suggested" he abandon his swim or law enforcement would come get him. He seemed unfazed by the chilly temperatures and strong currents.

Hoover says he was preparing for a future attempt to swim across the river. He said he carried a backpack of food that "would help keep me alive if the current carried me to hell or something." He said he had planned to swim several miles down the river then jog about six miles to his family's home...

As the child of a career Marine, we always believed that Dad and his fellow members of the Corps could handle any situation. Marine J. Tristani added the following Coast Guard incident report detailing the Mississippi River swim as described above. Take note of the last sentence in bold:
















I am not sure why, but the Marines who have read both pieces of information found the stories very amusing…

Movies and Roadkill

Political humorist Iowahawk has this to say about the movie industry (titled "Movies Are Your Best Entertainment Value"); tongue-in-cheek as always:

...As a professional filmmaker, I have to say I was as stunned as you when I read that the film industry suffered through another lackluster box office year in 2008. The chief reasons for this appear to be the economy and Internet pirates, or possibly that Raisinette ebola scare. Whatever the cause it’s safe to say that it had nothing to do with the screen product, because 2008 was also a landmark year for the kind of ponderous, preachy, high-quality cinema that Americans from Santa Monica to Silverlake are clamoring for.

Don’t take my word for it — just look at the record 5,362 awards Hollywood earned from itself last year, up nearly 35% from 2003...

I have not watched a movie at a theater in years. This can be attributed to parenthood, school, work, and other big people responsibilities, rather than being totally uninterested in the film selections, but investing three hours of valuable free time sitting in a dark room with popcorn stuck on my shoes is not high on my "to do" list." In parallel, plodding along a golf course for the same amount of time looking for a ball that I miss-hit into high grass is not fun for me either.

I do agree with Iowahawk in that, for the most part, contemporary movies offer little appeal for folks like me. In the post, he continues with "his" list of upcoming movies . Here is one:

Dark Spinach: Brooding, conflicted superhero sailor man (Matt Damon) must face his own inner demons and canned vegetable addiction to save his anorexic lover (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the violent screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. Featuring Mickey Rourke as Bluto.

Ok, maybe I did enjoy Popeye the Sailorman as a little one.

One final note on how to spend free time, Dr. Helen had a recent post(1/14) that discusses raccoon meat as a delicacy. She also reminded me of the legislation passed in my former home state that legalized eating roadkill.

Maybe popcorn stuck on my shoes is not such a bad thing...


What famous partnerships can you recall from television police shows? How about Starsky and Hutch or Cagney and Lacey? Do Ponch and Jon from CHiPs sound familiar? Going back a few decades, Malloy and Reed from Adam 12 may bring back pleasant memories.

One of the many misleading images about policing that television has provided for the public is that all police officers have partners. Working in a specific area these "partners" then develop close relationships that transcend into professional and personal lives.

In reality, two officer units are rare. If you see two officers riding together outside of a metropolitan area, you are probably witnessing a field training officer and a new officer receiving direct instruction. Used almost exclusively in large cities, the chances of you encountering a two officer unit in other communities is like finding that four-leaf clover--rare indeed.

The primary reason that two officer units are seldom used is cost. Agencies can allocate personnel more effectively if officers in single cars are able to respond to calls. Also, the more police cruisers in service, the more likely that citizens are to see a patrol unit in operation-—thereby, in theory, reinforcing the idea that a community is safe.

Initially, it was argued that two officer units were able to respond to calls faster than single officer cars, but studies conducted by researchers including David Kessler debunked this myth. Kessler determined that one-officer units consistently arrived faster than partner cars, and offered that peer pressure among responders competing to be on-scene first was a plausible explanation for the findings.

With personnel in single cars responding to calls, officers (except for small departments) will work with a variety of other officers in handling calls. As you can imagine, each officer's approach and style may vary and this can create obstacles in responding to incidents.

The following video is of a police incident in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I first viewed it on Officer.com. The police were called to the location to investigate shots fired, encountered three subjects, and one of them (the man in the video) was determined to be armed.


This video has been used in a variety of ways ranging from for sworn personnel to critique and learn from tactics used by officers in the incident to citizens in assessing whether the force used was appropriate. I think the video is relevant to the above partners discussion in that it shows two officers with very different approaches in dealing with a dangerous situation. Not to say that this is the case in this incident, but unfamilarity among the responders is more likely to result in increased confusion, unless police administrators implement measures to build cohesion among officers.

Since widespread use of two-officer units is economically unfeasible (reducing the reponse consistency that is expected with partners), this incident illustrates the need for police to work together as a team so that personnel can respond uniformly in handling potentially deadly situations.

Fortunately, no one was injured here.


The image entitled “Speechless” pays tribute to the voice talents of Mel Blanc, who brought to life almost all of the Looney Tunes characters, for more than fifty years. As illustrated in the picture, the death of Blanc in 1989 silenced the original voices of so many childhood favorite cartoon characters (e.g. Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, etc.), changing them forever.

The wisdom in the illustration Speechless resonated with me acutely this week. First, I completed Tony Hillerman’s final police novel “The Shape Shifter.” With Hillerman’s death late last year, this was his final work in a series of eighteen fictional mysterious that were written over four decades.

The setting of the series was in and around the expansive Navajo Indian Reservation that borders four western US states (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah). His main characters including the clumsy yet admirable officer/sergeant Jim Chee and the meticulous thinking lieutenant/retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn, as well as a host of other regulars, were silenced with Hillerman's passing and will remain forever speechless.

Though “The Shape Shifter” was not my favorite work in the series—-I thought Leaphorn acted inconsistent with his previously established character-—Hillerman’s ability to craft a historically and culturally accurate book describing the challenges of the Navajo people as well as the difficulties in policing on a reservation is unmatched. As I read, I thought about if Hillerman knew that this would be his last work. My guess is that he did know as the story includes closure for Chee (marriage) and the widower Leaphorn (retirement and an agreeable relationship with a university professor).

After reading many books in the series and becoming close to the characters, it is disappointing that these officers will never embark on a new adventure. A useful review of the book is here.

Second, this week, we learned of a pregnant friend and her unborn child (12 weeks) who were killed late last week in an automobile accident. She had volunteered to work an extra shift at a local retail store, and lost control of her car on icy roads on her commute home. This friend was always eager to greet us as our rowdy pack of little ones entered her store—-she even bought them a small Christmas gift with money that she obviously needed for her own family. It saddened us to think that our family will no longer enjoy her friendly face and kind words.

With these events, it was a week that “Speechless” was a fitting description. From 2 Corinthians 4:18:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Part III: Ray Gricar Missing Person

This is the third post of a multiple part series on the Ray Gricar disappearance.

Case Summary: Gricar was a district attorney in Central Pennsylvania, and disappeared in 2005. On the day he went missing, he told his girlfriend that he was taking a vacation day from work, and driving about an hour away from his office to do some shopping. His car was found abandoned the next day, and his laptop computer was recovered submerged under a bridge adjacent to his parked vehicle.

In this part, I begin my discussion of three plausible scenarios to explain the Gricar disappearance.

Scenario #1—Suicide
In 1996, Ray’s brother Roy, a recent federal retiree, told his wife that he was going to buy mulch and never returned home. His vehicle was found parked near a bridge on the Ohio River and his body was recovered several days later from the water; he apparently had committed suicide.

In the weeks prior to disappearing, investigators determined that Gricar was at the least “distracted,” his girlfriend stated that he was taking more naps than usual, and another defense attorney described him as looking depressed. Also, he was characterized by friends as being reserved and always as someone who preferred to keep to himself. In contrast, Gricar’s medical records showed no sign of mental illness or depression.

Despite the apparent suicide of Ray’s brother and the disappearance of both men (in or near their retirement), this scenario seems to hold the least viability. Gricar’s life at the time of his disappearance appeared to be going well--his relationships with family and friends appeared to be positive. His finances did not seem to be a problem-—as more questions linger as to what his money was being spent on as opposed to concerns over debt.

Gricar appeared to colleagues as excited about his upcoming retirement and was planning trips to the Northeastern US. His girlfriend and daughter passed polygraphs regarding not knowing any further information about Gricar. Also, the Susquehanna River at the location where Gricar’s car was recovered is too shallow for a body not to have been found if suicide was involved.

In considering suicide, other questions are relevant. Why would he end his life without giving some closure to his daughter or other family members? Why would someone make detailed formal plans to go on trips with his girlfriend after his retirement, if suicide were the intended action? If he committed suicide in in this fashion, his bank accounts would just sit there--relatives would need to exert time and money through civil process to gain access. Why lump this burden on your family?

With no note, no body, no other indications of Gricar taking his own life, I list suicide as the least likely of the scenarios.

In review, here are my ratings for this scenario:
+1 Previous suicide in his direct family
+1 Approaching a life altering experience (retirement)
+1 Reports had his mood as possibly depressed
-1 No body recovered
-1 No note or other strong indications of suicide
-1 No major financial, relationship, or family problems evident

I’ll post more information on two other scenarios soon, and here are the links to Part I and Part II.

Google Yourself

Have you ever Googled your own name to see what results are listed? How about using Google to see where your email address is posted? Common names like John Brown make using this technique more difficult, but less typical names like Byron Hansperd can offer surprising results. Authors David Taten and Scott Allen offer suggestions in basic name and identity searching that any Internet user can perform.

Employers in the private and public sectors commonly use Google and other Internet search tools to assist with background checks for potential hires. When I am involved in hiring, using the Internet for background research is a standard practice. According to a 2008 survey of employers, over 20% of hiring agencies reported searching MySpace and other websites for information on job candidates.

For police officers, employers also search online resources for information on current personnel. Posting objectionable materials to a public website has result in trouble for more than one officer, and here are two examples in
and Ohio.

Even when the material posted by the employee is questionable, that worker will have to face the embarrassment and hassle of being investigated and temporarily reassigned pending the outcome of the agency’s probe. In this case , the officer’s posted comment was investigated and turned out to be related to a video game that he played regularly—-he was later cleared of any departmental wrongdoing.

In sum, whether you will be applying for a job or are happily employed, take a few minutes and enter your information into Google search. You may be surprised at the results from a search of your name and email address.

Part I: Great Pop-Pop Gets His Medal

The following true story was wonderfully written by Marine G. Johnson. Since I don't believe it is available online, I am publishing a slightly shortend version--divided into two posts.

The story begins:

[a true story dedicated to my great wife]

In 1986, one week after the birth of our first born child, a special ceremony took place on the grounds of the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia. This was a unique ceremony, but not un-similar to others, I'm sure, that have occurred before--and since. This particular ceremony the Marine Corps conducted was in honor of an enlisted U.S. Army soldier who had performed honorable service to his country during World War I.

Now this individual wasn't a great war hero of any sorts in the military sense. He saw combat and did his duty to the best of his ability. He bravely fought America's fight, before returning home to become a chemist with the DuPont Company for the majority of his life. He was just one of many citizen soldiers who answered his country's call to arms in "The war to end all wars" -- The Great War.

Now a little more background on this is probably in order. During 1986 I was completing a tour as an instructor at the Marine Corps' Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico. I had been married a year and we had just welcomed the arrival of our first child. My wife's grandfather, Albert D. Reidinger, had served in the U.S. Army as a private during World War I. He had fought with the 78th Division (The Fighting Demons) as part of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). He saw action at St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and the Defensive Sector.

'Great Pop-Pop', as he was called within the family, did not return to the states with his unit when the war ended. A Princeton man, he was given an opportunity to stay behind for a few months to take some academic courses at a prominent university in Paris.

[Fast forward to 1985....]

One weekend, while visiting Great Pop-Pop at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, I was helping sort through some of his belongings. Great Pop-Pop, a widow, and now 89, was beginning to get a little forgetful. It was time to move him into a place where he could get better attention and care. My duty assignment that weekend was to take care of the attic. There were a lot of old newspapers lying around that I began gathering and stuffing into plastic trash bags.

After working intently for several minutes I was about to throw another piece of paper into the bag. But there was something about it that caught my attention. I stopped and unfolded it. It was a military map of the Argonne dated 1918 with a penciled FEBA (forward edge battle area) line annotated, along with observation points and other position information.

The 68-year old map looked practically new despite the fact it had been laying exposed to the elements in a humid attic for at least 58 years. Also, among the clutter in the attic, was Great Pop-Pop's World War I 'Dough Boy' helmet, and a German bayonet he had secured as a souvenir -- items which remain two of my most prized possessions today.

Coming down from the attic, I began quizzing Great Pop-Pop on his military service. Fortunately, Great Pop-Pop's long-term memory was still good. In fact, it was great. He recalled in great detail events of a war long ago. (Combat seems to leave an indelible imprint in the minds of those who have experienced it.) Great Pop-Pop showed me his dog tags and some medals the state of New Jersey and his hometown of Morris Plains had conferred on him when he did eventually return from France.

When asked where his U.S. World War I Victory Medal was, he stated that he had never received one. Since he did not come back with his division, I guess the processing of his medal fell through the proverbial crack.

A few days after returning home from the Delaware visit, I set to work contacting the U.S. Army about getting Great Pop-Pop his medal. Within about three weeks, the medal arrived. We were close to the delivery date of our child and knew that a Christening would take place the first Sunday in April. Great Pop-Pop would be coming down for that. And that, I thought, would be a good time to give him his medal! But in thinking it over, it came to mind that perhaps a little more pomp and circumstance would be in order. After all, a veteran of World War I who has waited more than 67 years for it should be entitled to have someone certainly more distinguished than myself present it!

Now during the course of my instructor tour at Quantico, the Commanding General, Lieutenant General David Twomey, had taken an interest in my dating habits. He was noted for that, according to friends of mine who had previously served under any number of his various commands. In the course of wooing my future wife, I'd take her to the numerous receptions, presentations, and other social get-togethers that come with the territory.

Considering the numerous events we attended, it was only a matter of time before the general got to know Madeline well. And before too long, my boss, Colonel J.J. Carroll, would call me into his office periodically and tell me the general had told him to tell me to "...not let that girl get away!" Of course, being the dutiful officer I was, I soon complied...

For Part II: Great Pop-Pop Gets His Medal, go here.

Part II: Great Pop-Pop Gets His Medal

The first portion of G. Johnson's article is included here: Part I: Great Pop-Pop Gets His Medal. Continuing with the story:
...One morning, during early-March, I got the courage up to visit LtGen Twomey's office. I asked if I might have a moment of the general's time. My request was granted. But to my chagrin, most of the staff's senior colonels were in the general's office when I entered. The general asked me what I wanted. I explained the story about my wife's grandfather and asked if the general might be so kind as to let us bring Great Pop-Pop into his office so that he could be presented with his medal by a real live Marine Corps general.

"No, Major!" the general replied abruptly.

Snapping quickly to attention I replied: "Aye, aye sir. Thank you for your time." I was about to turn and exit the general's office when he cleared his voice and said "No Major, we'll have a parade!" Stunned, I looked at the colonels in the office and could see them looking at each other with raised eyebrows.

"Oh no," I thought to myself, "what can of worms have I opened here?"

"Sir," I stammered with some hesitation, "that REALLY isn't necessary. A simple office..."

Sternly, the general cut me off and replied: "Major, we'll have a parade. That is all. You are dismissed."

"Aye aye sir" I answered, and then departed. (Let it be said, let it be done!) The general and his staff went back to working on whatever it was they were doing when I originally entered his office.

So, on one fine, beautiful cool Spring Friday morning at Quantico Marine Corps Base (not far from the Chapel where my wife and I had our wedding ceremony), immediately following the posting of the colors, a special ceremony took place in front of the Commanding General's headquarters building. A compliment of two companies of Marines, staff, guests, curious onlookers, and the Quantico Marine Corps Band assembled by the flag pole to pay tribute.

A white haired, dapper, gentleman (in every sense of the word), Albert D. Reidinger, Private, U.S. Army, emerged from the crowd (when summoned) to be recognized by the United States Marine Corps for service and dedication to country -- albeit 68 years after the fact. A citation, written by the staff, was read and presented. General Twomey pinned on Great Pop-Pop's medal adding that this was a special honor for him to bestow, particularly since his own father was also a recipient of the victory medal for services set forth in "The Great War". Private Reidinger, to his family's delighted surprise, then popped the general a sharp salute which General Twomey, matter-of-factly, returned.

Following the presentation, General Twomey directed Private Reidinger to 'bout face before stepping into position next to him. A special serenade of World War I songs, performed by the band, followed. At the conclusion of "Over There" the band transitioned into a rendition of "Happy Birthday," in honor of Albert Dudley Reidinger's 90th birthday -- that same 30th day of March 1986. It was a great morning to be an American!

Now I really felt bad about the imposition being laid on the Headquarters staff and its Marines that day -- having to participate in the extended morning formation-standing activity. But I must have been the only one that felt that way! After the ceremony concluded, the Marines didn't leave. One by one, a significant number of them formed a line in order to file by and shake Private Reidinger's hand. And this wasn't orchestrated in advance! They did it because they wanted to.

Now you'd think it couldn't get any better than that -- but it did! Not only did the young Marines file by to shake his hands; several took the time to say wonderful things to Private Reidinger. I was suitably impressed. Where were we getting such Marines I asked myself? (Our recruiters were obviously doing one heck of a job!)

There were no dry eyes among the Reidinger clan that day. Nor, might I add, a certain Marine major named Johnson. Both twin sons of Albert Reidinger (one a World War II Marine Corps lieutenant; the other a World War II naval officer) witnessed the event with great pride, passion, and pleasure. Additionally, one brand new week-old great grandson, a little confused about the whole procession, also looked on. [I might add here that that great grandson is now an Army lieutenant currently attending Army Ranger School.]

Albert Reidinger would live close to another four years, dying peacefully, and with typical grace, at age 93...

Our family will forever remember, with great pride, the special event that took place on that great Spring day during March of 1986. The Marine Corps looks after its own, but it seems there is always plenty of room for them to look after others also. But that's really one of its missions if you think about it. Just one more essence of a Corps that serves this nation splendidly.

Being from a Marine family, I always hold a special place for inspiring military stories such as this one.

New Officer Describes Troubling Incident

Recently over at Officer.com, a new officer posted a thought-provoking comment about an experience from his probationary training:

I just now, at age 40, became a cop. I was not in LE until age 38. My mom suffered from mental illness and took her own life in 2003. Long story short, the week before it happened, she was certifiably nuts . . . auditory and visual hallucinations . . . the works.

So in my job, I'm seeing that again. I was transporting an involuntary commitment, and the officer I was with said, "he has to be faking it, nobody is this outta touch. Nobody goes from normal to completely crazy like this in a matter of hours." I knew differently, but what could I say? Do I give him a life lesson about seemingly "normal" people losing touch with reality, or do I just agree with him? I chose to agree and then changed the subject.

Am I alone here? Does anybody have any thoughts about this? I respect everyone's views. Mental illness is very hard to understand.

My reply to this and other follow-up comments that he had posted included this:

...it sounds like you handled that difficult situation with dignity. I believe that it is common for officers to make fun of most everything. I saw it less of an issue of lack of compassion, and more related to survival through a coping strategy.

No matter how good a police training academy prepares officers for the job, a newbie’s adventure truly begins when he/she hits the streets. As with any job, you will find good field instructors and less than adequate ones. As with the example above, some comments can be wrong, hurtful, or offensive, but one important lesson for green officers is to always keep a level head. The officer above was able to do just that.

In contrast to the patrolman above, I cannot recall a similar personal experience where I was with an instructional officer and he said something that was overly offensive. For my rotations, I was fortunate to have three excellent field training officers who were patient and exhibited their own style of policing. My field training allowed me to experience police calls in very diverse areas—ranging from the housing projects to affluent parts of town.

I was very Blessed to be assigned to my first instructor. At our initial meeting, he told me: “For these first few days, I don’t want you to do anything but watch and listen. Absorb what is going on around you, get used to listening to the radio, ask lots of questions, and we’ll discuss how each call was handled.”

Through his mentoring, I learned volumes in my first 60 days of patrol.

And a Free Set of Ginsu Knives

Atlanta radio personality Clark Howard has a wealth of consumer and financial common sense advise on his website. He has a section on products pitches that border on scams including one for the "Amazing Auger" where, through an infomercial, you are allegedly charged a low price for the item and then hit with a $100+ shipping and handling fee.

I have never ordered a product in response to television infomercial or related advertising, but a few years ago before my dog passed away, I did research the Auto Cool after seeing it advertised. Auto Cool is a small fan that when attached to a partially opened car window is supposed to create air flows to cool your vehicle's interior on hot days. After a short time reviewing information available online, I was not impressed with the company, and found numerous alleged complaints about the product.

My interest was to assist me with my vehicle (known back then by the family as the "Mobile Doghouse"). A couple of years ago, my wife was pregnant with twins, and my old blind Springer Spaniel had become so quirky with old age problems that the Mrs. could barely handle her anymore while I was at work. As a result, I began taking my old friend with me to the office. She slept most of the day anyway, so sleeping in the car or on the carpet at home did not make any difference to her--at least at work, I could let her out regularly.

The summertime was a challenge, but I used our shady parking area and large bags of ice in the backseat to create a freezer effect in the car. The Auto Cool was not advertised to allow for pets to stay in the car, but I wanted to see if it would help me with my self-created auto freezer. Fortunately, my research dissuaded me from any further consideration of this product.

I do owe product infomercials and special TV advertising a debt of gratitude. The memories of classic products like The Psychic Friends Network, Zamfir and His Magical Pan Flute, and Matthew Lesko: Get a Government Grant for Anything have provided me with many laughs throughout the years.

Now, if an offer includes a free set of Ginsu Knives, you have my full attention...

Part II: Ray Gricar Missing Person

This is the second post of a multiple part series on the Ray Gricar disappearance. I am continuing with my list of oddities from the case.

Point 3-Murky Financials
Gricar’s annual salary was over $100,000, but from the information released, it is unclear where his money was going. He was not making payments from his two previous divorces. He also did not own a home (lived with his girlfriend), hold any retirement investment funds, and possessed only about $100,000 in traditional accounts. When he purchased the Mini-Cooper that was recovered in Lewisburg, he paid cash and had the vehicle registered in his girl friend’s name. He told his girlfriend that the registration was necessary to protect the asset from any future litigation against him.

Point 4-Reappearing Evidence
Gricar’s car was recovered in the parking lot next to an antique store in Lewisburg. Items believed to be missing from his car were his keys, sunglasses, wallet, and laptop computer. The parking area is a short distance from the Susquehanna River and a bridge is visible that motorists use to enter and exit the town on the east side. The water in this area is shallow and was searched multiple times by authorities. Unfortunately, nothing was initially found.

In September of 2005, Gricar’s laptop minus the harddrive was recovered from the Susquehanna River near the Lewisburg bridge. How did it get there? Did authorities miss the laptop during the comprehensive search of the area? Subsequent searches were conducted of the water and area around the bridge, and again nothing new was located.

Two months later, a citizen found the hardrive near the bridge area--a short distance from where the laptop was found. Is it possible that police missed the hard drive again, or did someone return to the area and drop it into the water after the searches were completed?

As one can imagine, the areas adjacent to the scene of an incident will receive much attention from searchers. Since police were considering all theories including suicide, the area under the bridge was searched an inordinate amount of times. I can’t recall a case where more evidence was located in the immediate area of an incident scene that compares to the challenges in this investigation.

Point 5: His Occupation
As the county’s district attorney, Gricar prosecuted numerous felony cases, and certainly stepped on numerous toes. Gricar’s work resulted in the incarceration of robbers, murderers, molesters, and other defendants. Gricar is not the only recent case with Pennsylvania ties involving a district attorney. Federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna from Baltimore was missing and later found dead in Southern Pennsylvania—stabbed multiple times with his own pen knife. His vehicle and body were recovered in a creek behind a drilling company. As with Gricar’s case, evidence is inconclusive as to whether the Baltimore man’s death was a suicide or homicide.

I’ll post more information on this case soon, and the link to Part I of this series is here.

Part I: Ray Gricar Missing Person

This is the first post of a multiple part series on the Ray Gricar missing person case. My format for case postings will be provide some background, list oddities, and discuss the available evidence and the probability of certain scenarios that would explain the disappearance.

As with any police investigation, outsiders (like me) are only making an educated guess as to what happened. Obviously, many more details are known by investigators that are never released to the general public. In contrast, with the Internet and the ability to communicate directly with members of the missing person’s family, more case details are available to the general public as compared to ten or so years ago.

Case overview:
Ray Gricar was a district attorney in Pennsylvania for the area that includes Penn State University for 20 years. On April 15, 2005, he called his girlfriend and stated that he was taking a vacation day from work and driving to a town about an hour away to do some antiquing. He was reported missing when he did not return home, and his vehicle was recovered the next day in a parking lot next to an antique shop in Lewisburg, PA.

Gricar’s keys, wallet, sunglasses, and laptop were initially listed as missing. After a comprehensive search of the area around Gricar’s car, nothing was found. Strangely, in September 2005, Gricar’s laptop minus the hard drive was recovered submerged in the Susquehanna River a hundred yards or so near where the vehicle was recovered. Authorities again searched the area, and reportedly found nothing else.

Two months later a boy and his mom skipping rocks discovered the laptop’s harddrive in the shallow water a few yards away from where the laptop had been previously recovered. Authorities and private computer services were unable to retrieve any of information from the hard drive due to the extent of the damages.

What Makes This Case Odd
Point 1-Uncertainty (Crime or Left Willingly: In most missing person cases, the more the investigation moves forward, the likelihood that one of four scenarios occurred develops—either the person left voluntarily, was a victim of a crime, has mental problems that resulted in the disappearance, or was suicidal. With the Gricar case, indications that he could have been a crime victim or left voluntarily are both strong.

Other than having personality oddities, I did not get the impression that he had mental problems; and, with no body, the likelihood of suicide has decreased drastically.

Point 2-Minimal connections: Gricar had few connections to the area that have would prevented him from planning his disappearance. He was divorced twice, has an adult daughter who resides out of state, and was living with his girlfriend. He owned no property, had no investments, and was set to retire in a few months.

In phone conversations with his girlfriend on the day of his disappearance, he said that he would not make it home to let his dogs out. It could be argued that his animals, that would be cared for by his girlfriend, were one of the few bonds that he had linking him to his community. In sum, one would expect a person who worked in a community for so long to have more tangible connections to the area.

I’ll post more soon…

On Missionaries

I respect those who serve part-time of full-time in the missionary field. Maybe I am just deferring to persons who have seen more of the world than me--which includes almost everyone since my international travel experience starts and ends with Montreal, Quebec (at least the official language in Quebec is French). I consider friends and acquaintances who served others through missions as "the givers," and have supported them financially and spiritually for many years.

A few weeks ago, the Vatican reported that 20 of their missionaries and lay workers were murdered in 2008 while performing duties in foreign countries. I was curious about the number of protestant missionaries killed during service, but those numbers were more difficult to find. One article from 2006 reported 189 total deaths of missionaries (including all Christian denominations) between 2000 and 2006-—84% of them being homicides.

Despite criticism of short-term mission work labeled as "religious tourism," mission work is needed and rewarding, yet dangerous. One of my favorite poems (text was also used as a hymn) was written in 1905 by Princeton graduate and mission worker Howard Walter who died in his 30s while serving others in India . Verse one is:

I would be true, for there are those that trust me.
I would be pure, for there are those that care.
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend of all, the foe, the friendless.
I would be giving, and forget the gift,
I would be humble, for I know my weakness,
I would look up, laugh, love and live.

I find these words inspiring, as well as a fitting creed for those working to spread Christianity abroad.