January 9, 2009

Quite a Tribute

Senior Corporal Norman Stephen Smith
Police Department, City of Dallas

Cops have not always been my friend. Working on the streets I had some not so plesant encounters. I guess we’ve all had our ups and downs with law enforcement, but overall I’d have to say the bad ones I’ve had to deal with pale in the shadow of the good. I've known some paramedics I wasn't proud of either. It all evens out. For every jerk, there have been plenty rays of sunshine. So I won’t complain.
In every profession there are the really good ones. Better than good. Those who rise to the top. The ones who set examples and the others call leader. Some cops stand out so much they actually make a difference. It isn’t easy making a difference when you deal with the mean streets, but in Dallas there was a guy who managed it. He was one of those who maybe even deserved the much abused term, hero.
We buried him today. Senior Corporal Norman Smith would have celebrated 18 years on the force yesterday, if he hadn’t been shot in the head by a drug dealer the evening before.
Norm was in the Gang Control Unit. He was part of a squad charged with keeping control of the streets for the citizens of Dallas. Not an easy task, considering there are about six dozen gangs and 7,000 gangbangers, mostly concentrated in smallish hoods, and only a few dozen gang cops.
Norm apparently did a pretty good job of it. He believed in prevention. A big part of his focus was intervention, and he would go to area high schools several times every month, speaking to kids and trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. The path of the funeral procession passed near two of those schools. The flags at both were at half mast and the kids were out front; heads bowed. Several crying. Quite a tribute.
Norm was part of the communities he served. Everybody knew him. He was on the streets so much in one particularly troubled Dallas neighborhood the gangbangers gave him a nickname. They called him the “White Russian”. He stood out not only for his skin color, but because he was a very big man. A big, gentle man. At the funeral, and at tributes the day before, street kids who Norm had rescued from the gangs stood to speak out for the man they credited with saving their lives. Again they cried. Quite a tribute.
The funeral procession travelled over 25 miles, from the Potter’s House in Southwest Dallas to Restland Memorial Park on the city’s north side. The lowest estimate has the number of vehicles in the procession in excess of 1,500. over 6,000 souls attended that funeral. It took hours for the whole procession to make it across Dallas, shutting down some of the Metroplex’s major traffic arteries in the heart of rush hour. Motorists pulled to the side of the highway, got out of their cars and stood with heads bowed.
Thousands of them. All along the path. Vehicles and people lined the roadsides, the sidewalks, the bridges and overpasses. Citizens stood with heads bowed and hats doffed; some holding American flags over their heads. Police and fire departments from neighboring cities parked their vehicles along the path, standing at attention alongside the roads. It was moving. Quite a tribute.
Norm leaves behind Regina, his loving wife of 18 years. Norm and Regina had, as one of the local pundits put it, "the rare kind of marriage for which the human heart yearns – unshakably smitten, thunderstruck, goofy-in-love even after years of familiarity and routine." They had two kids. Even in his marriage Norm was a hero.
Quite a tribute.
Senior Corporal Norman Stephen Smith, Badge number 6613, was toned out for the final time January 06, 2009.

Video of the funeral may be viewed here.
Final tribute may be viewed here.



Mark said...

Damn it. Mule, I'm sorry. It sounds like a real light went out of the world, and this is the first I've heard of the man. I hope those who follow learn from his example.

MiniKat said...

Well damn. I hate it when good officers leave us too soon. My heart goes out to his family.

Anonymous said...

Sad to hear of such a man only after his death. . .

J.R.Shirley said...

I'm sorry.

Another sad casualty of the war on drugs, though I'm not naive enough to believe some of the current criminals wouldn't manage to behave criminally even if drugs were decriminalized...

Mule Breath... said...

J.R. Shirley,

Neither am I that naive. I do contend, however, that a regulated, free trade market would all but eliminate the profits currently enjoyed drug traffickers. The bad guys would, at the very least, have to find a new game.