Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive May  2, 2011)

Ding Dong the Witch is dead

By Bob Cooper




You always remember where you were when major events occur.  When President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas I was in elementary school.  When Princess Diana was killed in Paris I was with a colleague monitoring wiretaps.  I was playing golf in South Texas with 3 other cops when the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen with 17 sailors killed.  On September 11th, 2001 I was on my way to work when I heard that an aircraft had struck one of the World Trade Center towers.  The way it came across initially sounded like a minor accident involving a single engine craft that had lost control.  I was on loan from the Homicide Squad as an Acting Inspector in District 2 and I parked in the garage at 2120 Cambie Street and took the elevator to the 3rd Floor to grab a coffee.  When I walked in, the cafeteria was packed but there was total silence and I noticed that all present were glued to the two big-screen TVs.

Two hours later I was sent to RCMP Headquarters to act as the Vancouver Police Liaison Officer and I spent the next 3 days there.   In the Emergency Operations Center all major agencies (RCMP, VPD, CSIS, FBI, etc.) were represented and as we all watched events unfold live on TV monitors we didn’t really have time to absorb it because we had a job to do.  The Canadian/US border had been closed along with all American airports and most aircraft still in the air were being diverted to major airports in Canada.  We had at least 40 aircraft in-bound to YVR and each had to be isolated, the passengers and all of their luggage thoroughly searched.  In addition, all potential targets like the US Consulate and any other US assets in the city had to be protected as we simply had no idea of the scope of these attacks or what was coming next.  The logistics were staggering but the one positive aspect was the spirit of total cooperation between all the agencies present.  A couple of years ago I was given the honor of emceeing the retirement party of a good friend in the FBI and I recalled 9-11 as the day the rule book went out the window.   No international treaties or diplomatic red tape, if another agency needed something they got it and they got it right now.  No questions asked.  Sadly, the bureaucrats eventually regain control.

Despite the deadly serious nature of our business, a humorous moment (at least I can laugh about it now) occurred on the second day when Assistant Commissioner Gary Bass asked for fresh Bomb-sniffing dogs to relieve the ones at the airport that had been going flat out and needed rest.  Eager to help and thinking we had them, I said I would call the VPD Dog Squad and send whatever we could, whereupon VPD Deputy Chief John Unger leaned over to me and whispered “We don’t have any Bomb-sniffing dogs”.  I had to turn back to A/Comm. Bass somewhat red-faced and relay that information but tell him that if we had Bomb-sniffing dogs, he’d have been the first to get them.

One thing you get used to in law enforcement is that no matter what happens the job goes on and the next shift goes out at 4 o’clock.  At the end of Day 2, I remembered that the Annual VPD Homicide Seminar was going on downtown and I had to speak at the dinner that night.  At least a third or more of the 200 attendees were from the United States along with a number from the UK and all were stuck here as all international flights had been grounded by that time.  Needless to say, most of my previously written one-liners were discarded as we all sought solace in each other’s company as only cops can do.

A year later I was back in Homicide and we were once again hosting the Homicide Seminar.  On the first anniversary we had Police Officer Marvin Vasquez of the NYPD who was one of the first cops to arrive at the World Trade Center after the first aircraft hit the Tower that morning.  As Marvin narrated a stunning PowerPoint presentation there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, mine included and I’m not one bit ashamed of it.

This evening I was leaving the driving range when I turned on the radio and heard that Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan.  My first reaction, as a US veteran, was to hope that it was our guys that did it.  A few minutes later I walked in the door and heard that it was a Navy SEALS operation and that all of them came back unharmed.  I watched Times Square fill with people and crowds gather outside the White House before the President entered the East Room and made it official.  One thing that makes America unique is that at a time like this, politics are put aside, the President is the Commander-in-Chief and the country stands behind him.

Immediately, there were predictions of doom, gloom, and reprisal from some quarters but the free world must stand fast and not be deterred.  We’ve learned time and again the folly of weakness and compromise when dealing with this type of evil.  Our ability to locate and kill Bin Laden in a heavily populated city in Pakistan and get out clean with his body should send a message to those who would replace him.  As much as celebration is in order, and believe me I’m celebrating, I hope that Bin Laden is just as quickly forgotten and consigned to the dust bin of history along with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Saadam Hussein to name just a few.

Later on, CNN said that the US bent over backwards to ensure that the Islamic custom of quick burial was respected and that Bin Laden was ‘buried at sea’.  This would have been carried out on a US Navy ship and I briefly hoped that out of memory of their buddies on the Cole, the ship’s company would have treated him as a urinal cake as he went over the side but the professionalism and discipline of the US military would never have permitted such a thing, however well-deserved.

And that’s what separates us from them.  

Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011