Just back from an out-of-state college and without a sheepskin to show, I began bar tending while waiting for law enforcement to call. My first night at the popular location, I was introduced to the other barkeep. A Cuban-American football player from the local university, who was still deciding whether to return to Miami or make a go of it where he graduated.
Behind the long, polished counter-top we were introduced by a mutual friend, who being Mexican-American, introduced me in Spanish. I thought, Oh, great here we go with the gringo chatter. Also, speaking Spanish I understood his introduction, and replied to my new partner communicating the same language.
A giant smile exploding, supported by his six-foot plus and 275 pound athletic frame, he stuck out his hand and said with a Cajun-Cuban slur, “Hey, Brother.” As I reached out for his thick hand, I could feel energy coming from his body. The moment our hands clasped, we were friends.
We both shared a passion for joining law enforcement and his decision to stay in the area depended on his ability for securing a job. Becoming inseparable, we waited on our dream jobs while slinging drinks each night. Then it happened. I was hired in April of 1990 and the hardest part was breaking the news to him. I may have even apologized and definitely encouraged him to keep trying.
Four months flew by as I prepared for attending the police academy. I studied law books, went from good shape to great shape, and listened to anyone willing to give clues about cadet life. Despite this whirlwind life, I never lost touch with my “brother.”
The night before reporting to the academy, while ironing my uniform so stiff it could have attended without me in it, a loud bang exploded at the front door. It was him, and I opened the door with an expectation of well-wishing for the first day. There was no greetings of good luck. He tossed a rumpled shirt at me and said “here.”
Ox in uniform
It was a city police department class A uniform shirt, and it needed to be ironed for Monday. He was heading to the academy also. He had been hired right after me for an undercover assignment, but could not compromise the operation. I could have kicked him for leaving me to feel so bad about starting without him. Of course, I understood and respected his commitment to the assignment.
A graduation academy, several years, and a change of assignment brought us working together in a multi-jurisdictional drug task force. This was a dream job and situation. We made cases like mad men and the jurisdiction was much safer because of our close and relentless effort. The positive energy flowed to the other agents and the group of Narcs became close, while working hard.
Ox during his days working narcotics
This was sadly short lived. Most undercover agents are nomadic, and he too, moved to a neighboring jurisdiction for promotional opportunities. Our careers mirrored as both led respective drug task forces, and commanded SWAT units, and of course continued our close friendship.
Ox at wedding
Friday June 16, 2006, as I awoke before duty, the television was on but not attended to. My cell buzzed consistently as I surfed the metro news stations. Just to stop the annoying sound of it rattling around on the wooden nightstand, I answered to someone sobbing. It was a SWAT Operator and partner, I could barely make out what he said, “Ox.”
I turned to the flat-screen to see the live coverage about an officer shot. Not shot, but ambushed and murdered. His body drug into a ditch and his assigned tactical gear stolen. The manhunt ended with the murderer surrendering after taking an elderly man hostage.
I had become disillusioned with policing, and though I loved the job like a call to ministry, this loss weighed heaviest. Losing friends in the line of duty was not new. Losing the brother you loved deeper than the bond of being blue caused serious conflict of commitment.
Octavio Rafael Gonzales was given a hero’s going home celebration. Hundreds of officers from agencies arrived in SWAT gear paying homage to his beloved assignment. The Special Operations community is a tight network, and the loss of an Operator is felt deeply among all. Though the SOG requested tactical gear worn to his funeral service, I chose my dress blues and commander’s jacket. There would be no more special ops in my career. Murder changed me.
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Chief of Police Scott Silverii, PhD is passionate about positive change. Over 22 years in policing gives Scott the experience and vision to believe there is always a better way of doing business.
His passion flourished while growing up with a close-knit community in south Louisiana’s heart of Cajun Country.
Scott’s life is seasoned by the Mardi Gras, hurricanes, oil spills, humidity, and crawfish boils. This gumbo of experience serves up a unique perspective in his writing.
But don’t let the smile fool you. Chief Silverii spent 16 years working in policing’s special operations groups (SOG) with years of undercover narcotics and SWAT missions. He has bought dope, banged down doors and busted bad guys. He combines his experiences with academic research designed to bring you the best and most compelling details of what life is like on the other side of the “thin blue line.”
Share Chief Scott Silverii’s vision at http://brightblueline.wordpress.com/
A Darker Shade of Blue: From Public Servant to Professional Deviant; Policing’s Special Operations Culture sneaks you behind the badge, revealing the mystique of police culture’s “Thin Blue Line.”
Come on-duty, undercover and after hours as Chief Scott Silverii, Ph.D. escorts you through a multi-year, cross-country examination into the fraternity of law enforcement.