“THIS WAS ABOUT INDIVIDUALS” or THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK

It starts in school… no, I’m wrong, it starts as a toddler, at home. You break something. When mother or father discovers, all siblings respond it was done by “I Dunno”. I Dunno is a notorious breaker of vases, taker of precious or not so precious items, and all manner of indiscretions. Then once you start school, you have a whole new set of excuses for homework not passed in. From the dog ate it to your baby sister tore it up, to all manner of slightly more creative excuses. I had a friend in high school who would top her story every time. First of course it was the dog – except to get a laugh the dog peed on her homework. Then there was the Russian spy who stole it for the government secrets she had translated into Latin. And the band of Gypsies who had forced the car over on the Thurbers Avenue curve to make off with her Latin homework – at gunpoint. By the end of the year, she was hard pressed to keep outdoing herself – doing her Latin homework might have been easier. A slight variation is the failure to claim the child who did the nefarious deed. If little Johnny brings home an A in math mother meets father at the door praising Johnny and his A. But if Johnny gets a D, mother greets father with, “YOUR son brought home a D in math today.” We Irish have always been victim to our own variation on this phenomena. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “British Actor Richard Harris today was awarded the________.” But get in a bit of trouble, “Last night, drunken Irish Actor Richard Harris was ________.”

So it isn’t just something little kids do. Adults do it. And they do it in every area of their life. Work especially. Personally, I am no saint but I have a simple philosophy about telling the truth – it is easier, so much less to remember.  If I screw something up, I immediately jump up and go in to my boss. I don’t try to fix or undo it first, I leave it right there. Probably because a computer has always been a part of my work and I learned quickly that you can compound an error if you try to fix it and you don’t know what you are doing. If you screw it up and try to hide it, there is always some jealous bitch who will go running to your boss and now you have two strikes against you – the screw up and the cover up. But my way, I drag my boss out to my desk, tell him what I did, and he laughs, says, “No big deal”, hits a few keys and voila, it is fixed. And I’m not in trouble. More people should try it.

In Rhode Island public life, we have many practitioners of “The Dog Ate My Homework Principle” but today’s guilty party is Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman. And let’s be honest, he is a constant practitioner – a rival to my high school friend. I could go on with dozens of examples or go on about what an arrogant, boor he is, but we have Buddy Cianci to do that. Any time there is something good said about the Providence Police Department, and they are sadly few and far between in recent years, we hear it is all about the leadership, the improved moral, the community policing, all the improved procedures, the elimination of the “corruption of the previous administration”, etc. it is not because of the efforts of the individual officer. He was of course part of a team, a department, a well oiled machine. But multiple members of the department are nailed in “Operation Deception” and it is another story altogether. I would not begin to consider every cop to be a crooked cop. I know more than my share, I come from a cop family. But I know that this does not happen in the kind of department that Dean Esserman likes to pretend he has. Pretend is the key word. So as far as I am concerned, “It was about the individuals” is just another example of a man that never outgrew “I dunno” or “my dog ate my homework”. In other words, not a man at all. And isn’t it time, that if Mayor David Cicilline wants us to take him seriously as a candidate for congress, he fix this mess he created in the Providence Police Department first?

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