Inspiration and Consternation
Matias Ferreira, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lost both legs below the knee after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, became the first double amputee police officer in Suffolk County, New York last week. Ferreria and his fellow Marines were on a night mission searching a compound for terrorists when he stepped on the IED.
An immigrant from Uruguay, Ferreira was twice a hero even before taking on the rigors of the police academy. Back home on Long Island after his rehabilitation, he saved a baby trapped in a burning vehicle he happened to pass on his way to a wedding.
He was chosen to be class president by his fellow academy recruits, and has been assigned to patrol duties in the First Precinct.
What a thrilling and inspirational story! I felt vicarious pride, inasmuch as I had gone through the same academy in 1982, a terrific and memorable experience which gained me both unmatched experience and life-long friends.
So I was understandably chagrined (a polite way of saying very pissed off) to hear from some of those friends that there was a naysayer amongst us; not just any naysayer, but the Commanding Officer of an elite SCPD unit.
I found this almost impossible to believe.
On the other hand, it got me to thinking about the breadth of the hypocrisy that has permeated law enforcement since I was a kid.
The reported basis of the complaining CO’s lament was that Ferreira – now “Officer” Ferreira – should not have been afforded any “special treatment” at the academy. This immigrant, Marine, Wounded Warrior, who saved the life of a child before it was his job to do so, this quintessential example of an American hero…was this jerk kidding?
Anyone who has been in public service knows how many, many people are accorded “special treatment”, whether a consequence of Affirmative Action, Political Correctness, nepotism, some political juice, or whatever.
I have personal knowledge of individuals being hired by police departments as a direct result of being given extra points on the written exam due to race. Same with promotions. And commendations. (*In this vein, I myself was involved in an almost unbelievable situation, filled with bittersweet ironies, that is a perfectly offensive example – but I will not mention names, in order to avoid embarrassing people I like.) I have personal knowledge of recruits “passing” their fitness tests, only they didn’t. Most often due to their gender. I’ve known people of questionable character – who ended up being fired – who never should have been hired, but were.
The SCPD called me up in late 1981. I had been to Headquarters to be fitted for a uniform and was about to start my recruit training, when I was notified that our class of 50, each of whom had earned our spot by scoring highest after very competitive testing, had been reduced to 40 – to make room for 10 minorities who scored far lower. Now, I was a law school graduate (who wanted to be a cop, not a lawyer) and college athlete, from a police family. I daresay I was qualified.
We were told we’d have to wait. For how long, who knew? I was finally called the following April.
Ironically, one of the recruits who took my place was later indicted for criminal sale of a controlled substance. Although she was acquitted (i.e. not proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt) it galled me that 10 of us had to put our lives on hold, were denied what we had earned, fair and square, for the likes of her.
Getting back to the CO, you can bet he knows damn well about all this bullshit! To complain about Matias Ferreira, whose only special treatment was being permitted to use his Government issued prosthetic legs in place of the two he sacrificed in service to us – well, in my mind that called for what cops used to call a “blanket party”.
There are cops who I would not care to ride with despite high scores on written tests, superior physical performance, and even high quality character. (Hell, there are a few “Marines” I’ve know with whom I wouldn’t have a cup of coffee; they apparently never learned the meaning of “Semper Fi”.)
The reality is that there are intangibles, such as heart, courage, and loyalty, which cannot be accurately predicted, and certainly not by reliance on a civil service test. But Officer Matias Ferreira has been tested for these things – by life. And he passed with flying colors.
I’d ride double with him any time – with or without legs.