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That partner I never wanted was the one I needed

Sometimes all you need is a second chance.

By Daniel Linskey

It was June of 1990. I was returning from two days off, excited to get back to work.

It sounds crazy, but before I had my family I saw days off as wasted time that stood between the job and me. I loved going to work and chasing calls. I had enough seniority on the shift, which meant I was being assigned routinely to a two-person rapid response car. Rapids had the “hot calls” and the most chance of making arrests.

Some guys had promoted or transferred out, making it possible for me to have a shot at being in a rapid permanently with the same partner. I was wondering who my permanent partner could be when I walked into the guardroom.

I saw a guy who was standing off to the side by himself. He was older than me and looked like a Boston Police recruiting poster. He was wearing a uniform that seemed like it had just been purchased. His shirt and pants were starched and pressed. His gun belt and leather jacket appeared to have been brand spanking new, and I noticed a motorcycle patch on his sleeve. You didn’t earn that patch without some time on the job, but this kid looked like a new recruit. I tried to place him, but I was sure I had never seen him before in my life. He was obviously nervous and pacing, going in and out of the locker room.

I gave him a quick head nod and he nodded back, but looked away. He left the room and went to his locker again. I looked at one of the senior guys on the shift and asked, “Who’s the kid with the motorcycle patch?”

“Piece of shit. Stay the $%#@ away from him, Danny. He got fired like five years ago. He got tangled up with coke and they canned his ass. He sued, and they had to give him his job back. He’s a piece of shit.”

That’s all I needed to know. The guy I was talking with was a solid cop. I wanted to be him when I grew up in the department. Enough said. My chest swelled with pride as I fixed a hard stare at him and his motorcycle patch as he re-entered the room.

Captain Farrahah came in to do roll call. Something must be up. In those days captains were gods, and they rarely did roll calls. He read the assignments and welcomed the cop with the motorcycle patch to the district. Farrahah said, “You’re going to be with Danny Linskey tonight. You guys have a fixed post at Academy Homes for the tour.” (Gang violence had led to numerous shootings in the development. So, the department stationed two cops to park their cruiser in there, and stay there, around the clock to prevent any more shootings.)

I was pissed. Not only was I going to be stuck on a fix post at Academy Homes for eight hours, unable to chase calls and arrest bad guys, but I was going to have to share the car with a coke head cop. I devised my plan. I never read the newspaper at work, but today would be the day. I was going to get The Herald, The Globe, and Reader’s Digest. I would go to the assignment, park the car, and read all tour. I wasn’t gonna say a word to this guy.

I put my plan into motion, stopping at the store to purchase my supplies before driving to our assignment. I put the car in a position where we could be seen while ensuring our flank and rear could not be approached. I pushed my seat back and started to read. He clearly got the message. I was showing him what the men and women of Area-B2 thought of him.

Have you ever tried to spend eight hours in a car with someone without saying a single word? As pissed as I was, I was making myself uncomfortable. As he stared out the window I grumbled, “You want this?” I motioned with the paper I just read cover-to-cover. He took the paper as I said, “You know, no one is happy you’re here.”

He shook his head and said, “I know, I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have taken a cop job if you’ve got a coke problem.”

“I know. I actually don’t have a coke problem. I’m an alcoholic. I would get blackout drunk and have no idea what I was doing. The coke thing just happened while I was on a booze bender. I had no idea what I was doing. My big problem is I’m a drunk. But I’m sober today. I have been sober for five years trying to get this job back. And I am working really hard at being sober tomorrow. I go to AA meetings all the time at the East Milton group. I am trying to do the right thing.”

My own dad had died the year before, and it was like he reached down from heaven and smacked me right upside the head. I suddenly realized there was a reason that Motorcycle Patch and me were in the same car. My dad was an alcoholic who got sober for 17 years before he died. He and some others were the ones who started the East Milton AA group. Once sober my dad had been given lots of second chances to make up for the things he did while being a drunk. The message was clear, Motorcycle Patch deserved a second chance and I needed to help him.

We talked about my dad, and it turned out he knew him. We talked the entire shift about the program and the job. The captain kept us riding together for over a month. Motorcycle Patch liked to work and was a tough kid who could handle himself, but he also had great compassion and treated people with respect.

A short time later, the captain called me in and thanked me for getting Motorcycle Patch adjusted to the district. He told me the Rapid Car was mine and I could pick my partner. I said I’d stick with Motorcycle Patch.

We continued making great pinches and were always backing guys up. Slowly but surely, guys accepted him as someone who screwed up but realized he was a good cop, especially in a tight spot. We spent many great days together. Eventually, both of us got opportunities to do other things.

On April 15, 2013, right after terrorists attacked our city, I was hustling out of that horrific scene to setup incident command. That’s when I spotted Motorcycle Patch gathering together some of our guys, many whose uniforms were soaked in blood. I paused and asked him, “You got this?”

He nodded and replied, “Yeah, you okay?”

I replied, “Yeah I’m good. Take care of the troops.”

He certainly did. Motorcycle Patch had been convinced by his Chief (yours truly) to give up his cushy job at the range and take over as the head of our Peer Support Unit and Critical Incident Stress Management Team. When our folks saw things that no one should ever see and their souls were shattered, he helped them put the pieces back together. He oversaw the rebuild of that unit and was always there for the men and women of the Boston Police Department. There are dozens of men and women, as well as family members, who owe him a debt of gratitude.

On several occasions, he was the difference between preventing several cops from taking their own lives and helping others live full ones. One of those cops was the senior guy on the shift who first told me to stay the $%#@ away. Motorcycle Patch stood by his side as he too went through dark times.

Thanks Dad for the message. There but for the grace of God go I.

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