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Commentary

Commentary: Getting Old And Having A Cop In The Family
By Mitch Traphagen mitch@observernews.net
Aug 3, 2006 - 6:04:00 PM

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Having A Cop In The Family

It goes without saying that stories of murder are bad news. Stories about murder also tend to be clinical — it is the job of the reporter to inform the public about such events using facts and quotes from law enforcement officials. The information in such a story is based upon what law enforcement decides it is able to share without having a negative impact on the case. But even for a community newspaper it is important to print — crimes such as this do have an effect on the community as a whole.

But here is the non-clinical rest of the story. Major Jerry York is in charge of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for South Hillsborough. I've known him for nearly five years now and I hope he's OK with me sharing this with you: Jerry York — along with all of the officers in his district — take crimes like this personally. That someone could be murdered in South Hillsborough is akin to someone in his own family being murdered. That is not an exaggeration — he truly feels a sense of responsibility for every single one of us down here. My conversations with deputies reveal the same — a crime such as this — or any crime where bad things happen - has an impact on all of them.

During his tenure, Major York has placed a big emphasis on community policing — he wants his officers to be involved in the community with the idea that some crimes can be prevented. He's right — it has been working. Given the population of South County, we are much safer than many (if not most) comparable places. I am grateful to him for the job he's done to make that happen.

But despite those efforts, bad things still happens. And given that, I'm glad that York and his deputies carry the attitude they do — when bad stuff does happen, they want to do everything they can to fix it. After all, it's more than a job to them - it's like family.

Looking In The Mirror

When I was in my early teens I promised myself two things: One is that I would always wear Levi's rather than "old guy pants." The second is that I would remember what it was like being a teenager.

I still wear Levi's — at least when it's not a billion degrees outside. And I do still remember what it was like being a teen.

I remember being intensely, almost painfully stupid.

I had reason to browse around Myspace.com recently. Myspace is one of the hottest sites on the Internet — it's a place where people can put up information about themselves and friends and strangers can post messages for them.

And here's where the teen stuff ties in: I may have been painfully stupid at 14 but at least I didn't advertise it to the entire world. My short view of Myspace revealed a nightmarish place filled with stupidity that left me terrified for our future.

This, and I am not making this up, is a direct quote (at least what can be printed) from a message on Myspace: "aint tht some [deleted], ahaaaaa wht u do now?"

Yeah, like this kid is going to somehow manage to grow up, actually get a job and be able to contribute to the Social Security checks I am foolishly hoping to receive.

What will happen? These kids apparently are unable or unwilling to write in English. I can see the job interview now:

Hi, welcome to Microsoft! So you're interested in a high paying job here?

aint tht some [deleted]!

Excuse me?

ahaaaaa wht u do now?

Uh, yeah. Well, thanks for coming by. We'll get back to you.

Now I regularly slaughter the English language through the pages of this newspaper — but at least I often try to use some grammatical standards. And I do admit to occasionally making up a word or two but what the heck is "ahaaaaa wht u do now?"

But in writing all that, I realize that when I look into a mirror, there is an old guy looking back. I have forgotten what it is like to be young.

I grew up in a time when fear was coupled with hope — even if the hope was misguided. I remember nuclear attack drills in elementary school where we were ushered into the hallway and told to sit down and put our heads between our legs — and above all — do not look at the flash of the nuclear explosion! It was scary and it didn't matter that we were in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota, and probably not a major target for Soviet warheads.

But even growing up with the fear of instant annihilation, we still had reason to believe that things would be OK. After all, every afternoon, re-runs of Andy Griffith provided a glimpse into a calmer place where the sheriff didn't even carry a gun, the sole occupant of the jail was Otis the town drunk and the biggest problem was that Ernest T. Bass was throwing rocks again.

But today we have wars, terrorism, high gas prices and apparently little in the way of permanent, easy to come by solutions. Things have changed for kids and maybe Myspace is a place for them to not have to worry about the harsh realities of life. Perhaps it's a high-tech, somewhat jaded version of Mayberry, complete with the town drunk and guys who throw rocks.

Yeah, stuff is bad out there. But just when it seemed things were at the bottom, I opened my mail to find a beautiful watercolor by Sun City Center artist Roberta Synder — she painted it from a picture I ran in the paper of my wife on a beach. Later I received an email from another reader — Georgia has become a good friend - and though we've never met her words always cheer me.

And just today, I had reason to visit Marwan Auto Service (c'mon, I drive an old Porsche — I always have reason) and was met with a smile and good, honest work at a fair price. In fact, Marwan amazes me — judging by the steady stream of traffic at his shop, he doesn't need my accolades but he deserves them. He and Luke are really honest people and they really want to make things right for their customers.

And that, of course, is the attitude with which this article began — people wanting to do right. Despite all of the bad news in the world today, there is good news as well. More often than not, that news is more personal but the bottom line is that there are good people in the world — they just don't often make the news.

I have a feeling we'll be OK. Aint tht some [deleted].



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