Honor slain officer by taking back the streets

April 16, 2002|By Othello Rollon

EVERY TOUR of duty, police officers on patrol put their lives on the line going head to head with thugs and drug-dealing vermin infesting the mean streets of Baltimore City's Eastern District.

Police patrol these minefields of death with the knowledge that at any moment one of them could become the ultimate police statistic, another officer who'll never again get the opportunity to see the beauty, feel the warmth, smell the aroma, taste the sweetness, hear the melody of family.

As a retired New York City police detective, I am filled with anger, hatred, sadness, depression, empathy and sympathy over the unprovoked, wanton and heinous killing of Baltimore Officer Michael J. Cowdery a year ago.

I direct my anger and hatred toward the vicious urban predator who callously took the life of a decent, young urban soldier who was trying his best, against all odds, to make a difference in a community devastated by drugs and violence.

My sadness and depression are evoked by the loss of yet another "brother in blue."

My empathy and sympathy, as a father of three boys, go out to Officer Cowdery's family, particularly to his mom and dad, who are bravely bearing the burden of their son's death, enduring the pain of this crown of thorns, waiting patiently for the scales of justice to bring some semblance of balance to a situation out of balance.

For a son is not supposed to predecease his parents.

The loss of a police officer for me is more disturbing than it would be for the ordinary civilian who hasn't experienced, from a police perspective, the rhythms of the street or the camaraderie of "blue" brotherhood.

Few, if any, can fully understand the nature of police work and the bond that develops among fellow officers unless he or she is or has been there. This unwritten covenant among police officers is tantamount to that of soldiers on the battlefield. It's a relationship of interdependence in which one's life, particularly in combat situations, often depends on the actions and reactions of his or her partner or other fellow officers.

It's the essence of true brotherhood.

Officer Cowdery was the son of a Philadelphia police detective who didn't want Michael to become a police officer. Jan Rollon, my son, is a detective in the Baltimore City Police Department. I didn't want Jan to become a police officer, either. Both Officer Cowdery and my son were members of the East Side Initiative, an elite unit set up to combat crime in the Eastern District, especially drug-related crime.

On the night Officer Cowdery was slain and as reports of "Shots fired, officer down!" blared through police radios, my son and other officers raced to the scene to aid the fallen officer and chase the fleeing felon.

A short time later, the assailant was apprehended by officers near the scene. My son scurried to his fallen colleague, only to have his worst fears realized. He found Officer Cowdery lying face up, a gunshot wound to the head, an arm draped limply across his face as if shielding himself from the cold rain beating down on his lifeless body.

Soon after my son's arrival, attendants put Officer Cowdery in an ambulance. Standing in the rain, peering through the ambulance window, tears welling in his eyes, my son watched the attendants working feverishly on Officer Cowdery. Their efforts were to no avail. The ambulance went on its way. My son, in an unmarked police car, followed it to the hospital.

It was a scenario I'd experienced much too often.

My son could just as easily have been lying there on the mean streets of the city. This is a fear my wife and I live with every night, one that won't go away until our son has left the minefields of death and is giving playful chase to his children instead of deadly pursuit of criminals.

I have no sympathy for the killer. Though I personally oppose the death penalty, I have no problem with imposing it in a cut-and-dried murder case such as this.

In honor of Officer Cowdery, all of the city's leaders must actively fight crime and work unswervingly toward taking back the streets from the thugs and returning them to the decent folks who are now prisoners in their own communities. Or Officer Cowdery and others like him will have died in vain.

Othello Rollon is a resource teacher at Middle River Middle School. He lives in Perry Hall.

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