Tag Archives: Cleveland

So, You Want to Go to the GOP Convention…

No.  Don’t.  Stay away.

It’s not that I don’t like Cleveland.  I’m not saying this due to any political feelings.  I’m stating this due to my perspective as a former Secret Service agent who has worked events like the Olympic Games, a couple of inauguration’s, and the 2000 DNC Convention in L.A.  Stay home.  Unless your home is in Cleveland.  Then, you should leave.

Any major political event has challenges and all draw emotionally charged people with conflicting points of view.  Even in election years when our society seems to have become polarized and the Democratic and Republicans have platforms so far apart the Juno spacecraft would have trouble covering the distance, most of the security challenges can be overcome to a reasonable extent.  Normally, there are countermeasures and logistical solutions to potential threats and disturbances.  Normally, manpower can be added and technological tools can be utilized to secure a site.  This is not normally.

This election season, guns and violence are not just part of the rhetoric used by factions of supporters.  Some prominent political personalities have actually encouraged violence while, in the same breath, expressing a love of guns.  The situation in Cleveland is compounded by the fact that Ohio has open carry laws, meaning people will be able to carry guns outside the convention location even in areas where glass bottles and tennis balls are prohibited.  This creates an impossible situation for police officers and security officials who are supposed to be able to determine, in a split second, who might be the “good guy with a gun” as opposed to an aggressor while wading through a panicked crowd.

Ohio is an open carry state.

Ohio is an open carry state.

A few months ago, the Cleveland Police ordered 2,000 sets of riot gear.  My first question was:  Is that gear going to have to be used inside OR outside the convention?  My second question was:  Will that be enough?  Forgetting that multiple police jurisdictions (each with their own concerns) will be assisting the Cleveland Division of Police (the department’s official name), the host department is still under heavy scrutiny after the Tamir Rice shooting and other incidents.  They aren’t alone as police departments all over the country are on edge as anti-law enforcement sentiment is on the rise and there are serious concerns regarding how police treat minorities and use force.   Police officers are already under the microscope.  Now thousands of officers will be gathering in Cleveland in an effort to keep the peace among a public that does not trust them.

This is their nightmare scenario.

The Secret Service can’t do it alone.  The agency depends on local and state support and this is no exception.  As I’ve written previously, the Secret Service has a specific role in these events and have no political agenda.  Earlier in this election year, they received negative media attention when an agent was involved in a scuffle with a photographer, although only half the story was told.  Regardless, they are being faced with a scenario in which some level of violence is almost certain to exist and the agency has to protect not only specific individuals, but also ensure the security of the entire venue.

This is their nightmare scenario.

Those who wish to demonstrate outside the convention location in order to peacefully express an opinion are likely to be caught in between frustrated groups who not only dislike each other, but may be armed.  Many of those in the crowd will be carrying deep feelings regarding racial inequality, economic disparity, and religion.  Many will be carrying deadly weapons.  The peaceful and well-meaning will be right in the mix of things.

This is their nightmare scenario.

Regardless of what happens during the actual GOP Convention, one thing will not happen.  Healing will not be part of this process.  If anything, I expect more cuts to be made and more scar tissue will show after the event.  You can watch.  But, watch it from a distance.

Feel free to comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

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Why the Rust Belt Cities Shine

As anyone who has read my novels knows, I’m a huge fan of Pittsburgh.  When my wife and I moved to this area from Washington, D.C. several years ago, we didn’t arrive with extremely high expectations. Okay… the truth is we set the bar of expectations so low that we would have had trouble tripping over it. At some point in the past, we had accepted images of an industrial age Steel City as being relevant to this century. It didn’t take much time for us to realize Pittsburgh is a vibrant and exciting city moving in a positive direction. But more importantly, the city had something I had sorely missed during my time in D.C. – which is a place where few people seem to actually be from. Pittsburgh, like many Rust Belt towns, had a personality.

city 1Pittsburgh

The Forging of a Populace

I think this is the case with most of the so-called Rust Belt cities. Cites like Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Detroit were forged with hammers and sweat. Gears turned, sparks flew, and engines roared due to people with calloused hands and severe dispositions. They were – and are – people of will, character, and pride. They built their cities from the ground up and now some members of the subsequent generations have resuscitated, and put their own stamps on, towns that declined due to changing economic conditions. A culture of perseverance thrives when a city’s citizens are molded by the fire of experience. This is something one could take for granted if he has never lived elsewhere.

DetroitGM Headquarters in Detroit

History Doesn’t Always Equal Identity

Obviously Washington, D.C. has a rich history unlike anywhere else in the nation. However, the transient nature of the population and the cookie-cutter developments of the suburbs can leave one feeling the area lacks an identity. The same can be said for other cities that have either not had to take punches that echoed for decades or have lost their own identity because of economics or population decline.

Reversal of Brain Drain through Adoption

Regarding that decline, one of the issues the Rust Belt has faced has been that many of those who have fled have been young people with college degrees. I think this trend is not only slowing, but is being affected by people like me who have moved into the area, fallen in love with it, had kids, and have developed a positive attitude about the region that will likely rub off on future generations.   And interestingly, transplants into the Rust Belt don’t necessary dilute the blue-collar, pride-filled personality that exists.

Rock and RollRock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland

Instead, the personality of the area becomes part of the transplanted individual. I think we (transplants) feel the need to step up our game and live up to the expectations of cities that don’t take excuses. You can’t cry over spilled milk, because the guy next to you is wondering why you aren’t drinking a good beer. You don’t blush if you fall down, because the people all around you have been there – done that. And you don’t make fun of Rust Belt sport teams because… well… you just don’t.

Who Made Who?

Perhaps the magic of the Rust Belt is that transplants don’t adopt the cities, but the cities adopt, and transform, the people who move there. The buildings may scar; the streets may crack; and the bridges may tarnish. However, they can be – and are being – rebuilt. Some of the hammers are being replaced by scalpels and the vats of molten steel have been largely supplanted by keyboards housed in Fortune 500 companies.  But the hands wielding these tools belong to people who either were raised in a city where fortitude is a must, or adopted by a city in which the bar is continuously being raised.

Regardless, there are some new sparks flying around in Rust Belt cities.  And when sparks start showing up in those towns, you know something serious is going on.

What are your impressions of the Rust Belt?  Feel free to share your story in the comments!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Police and the Use of Force

Throughout the past few months, the topics of policing, racial relations, and rules regarding law enforcement use of force have taken center stage in what have often been emotional and contentious debates.  On many occasions, the conversation has been hijacked by opportunists looking to self-promote and media personalities seeking ratings.  I won’t attempt to dive deeply into the issues as they are complex and much too important to attempt to dissect in a simple blog post.  In this piece, I am not making any judgments regarding the most recent occurrences that have been played out in the press.  However, I would like to mention a few things to keep in mind when entering into conversations regarding the recent incidents in Missouri, New York, and Cleveland or even if addressing the issues in a broader sense.  Here are some things I hope everyone will try to remember:

 

  1. When police use force, we can’t assume race or economic is a factor

This has been an unfortunate leap many have taken, partially because some media outlets have linked the two together.  The fact of the matter is that stories dealing with race relations get more attention than some that do not.  Was race a factor in Ferguson, New York, or Cleveland?  I don’t know, but I’m not going to assume so.  As a law enforcement officer, I was involved in several physical altercations and I can honestly say the last thing on my mind was the other person’s skin color.  Call me selfish, but I was much more concerned about doing my job well which, in my mind anyway, included staying alive.

Are there racist cops?  Absolutely.  The same way there are racist computer programmers, airline pilots, and politicians.  Should racism be tolerated?  Of course not.  But, I’m not going to assume race is a factor even if racial tensions exist in particular town or neighborhood.  Police officers are human beings and every officer and incident needs to be evaluated objectively.

  1. Police use of force rules are widely misunderstood

Officers and agents are trained to abide by a use of force model, or continuum, that calls for the officer to escalate force only if necessary.  In most models, an officer’s mere presence is the first step followed by verbal direction, hand control techniques, non-lethal means (pepper spray, Taser, blunt impacts), and lethal force.  An officer or agent can leap over one or more steps if the situation calls for it.  If the officer believes that there is an imminent threat to life (the officer’s or another’s), lethal force may be used.

There are many, many misconceptions about the use of force, but allow me to focus on one.  The use of a firearm is always lethal force.  One of my pet peeves is the Hollywood depictions of an officer shooting an aggressor in the leg or arm as a means to stop him.  This is pure fiction.  Even if you ignore the fact the femoral artery runs through the leg and the brachial artery runs through the arm, bullets don’t often follow a straight path once they enter the body.  Bullets bounce around, they mushroom, and they leave fragments that cause severe damage.  The argument that an officer should have shot a person in a non-lethal way is invalid.  Can you imagine the following interaction between a lawyer and an officer involved in a shooting?

Lawyer:  “Officer, did you intend to kill Mr. Smith.”

Officer:  “No, I shot him in the leg.”

Lawyer:  “So lethal force was not necessary?”

Officer:  “No, that’s why I shot him in the leg.”

Lawyer:  “You shot a bullet into Mr. Smith and didn’t think that it might kill him?”

Officer:  “Right.”

It seems ridiculous because it is just that.  The officer would probably be prosecuted in criminal court and certainly be sued.  Just as ridiculous is the argument that an officer should have used non-lethal means if being confronted aggressively with a knife or other dangerous weapon.  Pepper spray, Tasers, and batons have a very limited range and are sometimes ineffective.  I have personally seen demonstrations where an attacker with a knife can reach an officer standing over 20 feet away before the officer can react appropriately.  These things happen in the blink of an eye and the speed and chaotic nature of assaults should be considered.

One last consideration regarding use of force – EVERY encounter an officer has involves a weapon because the officer is carrying one.  Every time an officer goes to the ground and has to wrestle a suspect, the suspect’s hand is only inches away from a gun.  All it takes is for an officer to lose consciousness or to be at a severe tactical or physical disadvantage for a suspect to obtain that weapon.

http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/officer-safety/use-of-force/Pages/continuum.aspx

 

3.  Video clips and sound bites are not thoughtful analysis

A few months ago a short video clip emerged from a gay rights parade in Pittsburgh.  The clip showed an officer punching a female participant in the parade and gave no other context.  Immediately, some individuals and entities latched on to the clip and claimed it was an example of police brutality.  Several days later, information came out that prior to the officer punching her the woman had attacked a parade protester and then had kicked the officer in the groin when he attempted to take her into custody for the assault.  None of that was shown on the video clip that had gone viral in a matter of hours.  This is an example of why it is so important to reserve judgment before all of the facts are available.

http://www.wtae.com/news/gay-pride-parade-arrestee-pleads-guilty/29274810

 

A Simple Test When Debating This Topic

Whether or not the individual you are talking with believes the police are evil; or that a particular race, socioeconomic group, or ethnicity is to blame; or members of a specific political party are at fault, just ask the person the question:  “All of them?”  If the person responds in the affirmative then you may be wasting your breath, but don’t give up.  Words can be polarizing, but they can also reverse the tide.

Have any thoughts?  Leave a comment!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology