A story to tell – Over 20 years later
I pointed an authoritative finger at a Plymouth speeding in a school zone. The front end of the miscreant's car nose-dived, indicating his initial compliance, if not terror. Somewhat more relaxed, I lowered my arm and reflexively concentrated on the plate number. The front end immediately rose back up and there was the tell-tale sound of an accelerating motor as the car headed directly for me, a clear indication the driver did not want to speak to me.
I quickly dove into my scout car, dropping it in gear at the same moment the Plymouth came along side. Having many years of experience with motorists trying to run my radar location, I sensed trouble and caught up to the vehicle in no time. Activating my roof lights caused him to veer in front of another vehicle to turn down a side-street. This driver obviously was experienced at eluding police and knew this manoeuvre would slow me down. His desperation to get away was puzzling, since he was driving a four-cylinder car. The dispatcher confirmed my suspicion that it was stolen.
We rolled around the circuitous subdivision streets at speeds which maximized the Plymouth's engine but hardly challenged my eight cylinder police car. The vehicle stopped suddenly in the middle of the street and the driver raised his hands in the air. I'd seen this many times before and opened my car door; as expected, it was simply a tactic to get me out of my car. He took off again, made a few more quick turns, stopped again and then veered onto a cul-de-sac. "Okay," I thought. "Now it's my move."
He exposed the left side of the car as he spun into the curve of the dead-end street. I aimed for his front left wheel and the impact drove the vehicle onto the boulevard and against a hydrant. I jumped out with my gun drawn and ordered him out of the car. His hands dropped down and he lurched backwards. Surprised, I darted back to my scout car.
The battered vehicle was now driving on the brake drum, gouging the road surface. I quickly reversed, crashing into the back end. The driver's door flung open and the suspect dashed toward a fence, with me in hot pursuit. We both cleared it and ran across a back yard. He cleared the next fence, landing hard on some ice and falling. I slipped on the same ice and suddenly felt a sharp pain run up my left hip toward my spine.
I looked up and saw my suspect scramble toward the street and realized, to my horror, that in my haste I had left the scout car door open, keys in the ignition and gun on the passenger seat. My adrenalin surged as I realized my fate depended on my ability to catch this thief.
My pain became worse as I closed in and, with one last effort, lunged for his legs and tackled him. His head slammed down hard on the sidewalk and I could see blood flow from his face as he squirmed desperately to escape my grasp. I reached for his belt, raised myself up and fell on top of him as I grabbed for my handcuffs. I suddenly became aware of a man grabbing the thief and holding him down for me. I thanked him as I felt the pain in my back and hip increase.
"Do you know who's yard that is?" the helpful neighbour asked with a smirk. "That's your chief's house – Jack Marks; he is away on holidays in Florida." The irony of this would be magnified over the coming years.
I was diagnosed with a permanent disability and the future of my career was in doubt. Freedom of movement without excessive pain was to become a life-long limitation.
The Toronto Police medical bureau bogged me down with paperwork, reporting processes and medical tests over the next year. It first disallowed my claim; after considerable arguments in my favour from doctors and specialists, it then handed the case over to the provincial compensation system. Alarmed by an aggressive, adversarial compensation system, I felt my financial security was in peril. The future needs of my wife, two young children and myself were now at the whim and pleasure of the chief and police services board. The car thief got two years less a day but I got life.
Retirement was suddenly a clear and present reality and if I had any ideas about another career, they had to be kicked into high gear – there was no time to lose. Thus was the genesis of Blue Line Magazine.
It was initially only a dream and began as a hobby just to see if it could work. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually could and consulted with a few confidants within the department about applying for secondary employment. My most trusted adviser, S/Supt Mike Coulis, advised me to say nothing to anyone and simply begin publishing. I didn't understand why but knew he was in the know. Over the next several years, unbeknownst to me, his hand quietly and anonymously supported me.
My biggest asset was Mary, my wife of 13 years, biggest ally and strongest supporter. There was no better business partner. An energetic self starter, she was well educated and had an extremely well developed business acumen. Shear energy and drive brought her through three university degrees, ten years of teaching, a decade as a retail merchant and a loving mother of our two daughters.
I explained the realities of our future; she paused for a few seconds and stared intently at me. I wondered what her next words might be. She simply shrugged and asked "well then – where do we start?" A 20 year history full of joys, angst, excitement, mystery and revelations ensued. To deny the Lord's guiding hand in my life would be a forced will of blindness.
We worked hard in our off hours to get it all together. I had the knowledge, background and connections from my past. Before becoming a police officer, my chosen career interest was journalism. I worked briefly with a weekly newspaper and absorbed enough ink in my veins to decide it would be an ideal retirement job. As a training constable I was given the job of publishing our district newsletter, working on the photocopied journal for about four years before moving on to other tasks.
Defining the needs
We decided on a few concepts for Blue Line Magazine before beginning. Editorially, it had to be directed at the front line officer, with the goal of encouraging loyalty to the profession and not necessarily the patch on the sleeve. The need to understand police work was too important to be left to haphazard agency training courses. Many police officers across the country received little or no information beyond basic training and, for the most part, the idea of keeping abreast of new industry developments was absent.
The next decision was frequency of publication. Early on we decided that there was more than enough information to fill a monthly publication. The big question, of course, was whether we could afford to put out a monthly magazine. Production, printing and postage costs were the big hurdles we had to clear.
Blue Line Magazine had to survive as a monthly, we concluded. Anything less would not satisfy our readers' needs. We tipped the usual publishing paradigm upside down. Most magazines look for copy to fill the white space between the advertisements, but our challenge was to find advertising to support the large volumes of copy we wanted to print.
How would the new publication be received, we wondered. Although wanting to go national, we decided to err on the side of caution and begin with an initial print run of 1,200, confining distribution to Ontario.
It was January 1989 and I was working at Toronto Police headquarters when the first edition landed on the desks of every police service in southern Ontario, including mine – and the chief's.
A senior member called to say the chief wanted to see me and the meeting that followed was surreal. Bracketed by S/Supt Don Banks and Public Affairs Manager Adrienne MacLennon, Marks began speaking to them about the concepts behind the magazine and the dangers lurking for the department's image if it messed up.
To my relief, both senior members defended me well, regardless of any reservations they may have had. I was ordered to submit an application for secondary employment and have it approved. A half-hour after returning to my desk a smiling Supt Bob Brown dropped a paper on my desk and told me to take it upstairs to the chief. I was astonished to see it had been signed and approved up through the chain of command in less than 30 minutes. I never saw nor heard anything about it again. Legend has it that it went into the chief's top drawer, to be acknowledged at a later date – if I screwed up.
A reality becomes clear
A hunger for the publication developed quickly. After the next edition it became clear that it must go national in scope. Every penny of profit for the next four years was pumped immediately back into the publication.
I continued working for the police service, engaged in a peculiar dance between vocal supporters and secret naysayers. Many saw my permanent disability as an excuse to publish a magazine. Few held a sympathetic ear to an injured worker who appears to be taking care of his own future. Although all saw the advantages of the publication, both management and association were torn about what to do with this potentially dangerous and/or embarrassing lone wolf.
I now completely understand their dilemma and finally see why no one was eager to find me a job which suited my injury. They could not tell nor order me to leave. With almost 23 years service, numerous letters of commendation, two merit awards and an exemplary service medal, the police association simply told me to go home. It and management were at an impasse about what to do with me. For the next two years I received no pay and was marked AWOL. The association insisted they were filing grievances on my behalf but nothing came of them – a sort of mutual consent or detente existed with my file.
My actions alone were my self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, and the magazine's popularity on a national scale placed everyone in a tough box that only I could correct. My wife and I realized that continuing with the police service was no longer a viable option; the magazine would have to take over our interests on a full time basis.
I left behind two years of lost pay but hold no regrets or grudges – the only pain which remains is from that car thief more than 20 years ago.
Articles by Morley Lymburner
- Let's get our emergency plans in order from May 2013
- Taking control of your career from April 2013
- A story of toothpaste and cops from March 2013
- Working in a micro environment with a macro vision from February 2013
- PUBLISHER'S COMMENTARY from January 2013
- Reading the Riot Act from December 2012
- The Brown Report five years later - 'how we doin?' from November 2012
- Mistakes are important from October 2012
- Warm fuzzy policing can result in cold hard reality from August / September 2012
- A public trust... from June / July 2012
- THE CRIPPLING POLICE TACKLING VIOLENT CRIME ACT from May 2012
- JUSTICE DENIED IS JUSTICE - IN SOME PLACES from April 2012
- A wise wielder of the judicial sword from March 2012
- Leadership is an attitude of encouragement from February 2012
- Working plan 'A' while preparing for plan 'B' from January 2012
- Politics trumps responsible gun ownership from December 2011
- Policing has a parallax view to consider from November 2011
- When Paranoia meets Schizophrenia from October 2011
- After actions are worth the review from August / September 2011
- Police own the streets and should act like it from June / July 2011
- A demonstration of leadership from May 2011
- Responsible gun ownership not an election issue from May 2011
- Are we paying attention? from April 2011
- Believing in the messenger from March 2011
- The many roads to law & order from February 2011
- Heed the storm warnings from January 2011
- Reflecting the communities they serve from December 2010
- Discretion is yours, sayeth the law from November 2010
- A fear of responsible gun ownership from October 2010
- Policing is the economic summit success story from August / September 2010
- Omnipotent policing from June / July 2010
- A contentious effort from May 2010
- Taking a sober, deep look at Canadian policing from April 2010
- A tale of man and “machine” from March 2010
- Police and military from February 2010
- A back-up to remember from December 2009
- Hilda was no ordinary store detective from November 2009
- Versatility meets form & function from October 2009
- Tradition must be your servant from October 2009
- Courage is in the eye of the beholder from August / September 2009
- RCMP incompetent at Tasering H1N1 virus in pig study from June / July 2009
- Ordinary people doing extraordinary things from May 2009
- Apologetic policing can cost lives from April 2009