Through the Eyes of a Lawman: The Cultural Tales of a Cop, Lawyer, and Intelligence Analyst

Through the Eyes of a Lawman: The Cultural Tales of a Cop, Lawyer, and Intelligence Analyst

by Michael J. Butler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475934489
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/14/2012
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

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Through the EYES of a LAWMAN

The Cultural Tales of a Cop, Lawyer, and Intelligence Analyst
By Michael J. Butler

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Michael J. Butler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-3448-9

Chapter One

The Beginning

This chapter is dedicated to the memory of the Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Dominic. Without the intercession of these wonderful women, we would have never learned how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Without their incredible patience, we would not be able to read, write, think, and pray. Finally, without their training in penmanship, I would have flunked out of law school in the first semester.

Life is filled with reflection—as a young boy in Brooklyn I was immersed in the culture of the World War II veterans. I knew them and their antics intimately. Years later, in my early twenties I was surrounded by the next generation of warriors, and I discovered they weren't very different at all. Robert "Bob" Hayes was career military, a multilinguist, a Bronze Star recipient, a Vietnam veteran (having served there twice), and an Army sergeant first class. For the kids of the late '60s and '70s, Bob's wartime service seemed less dramatic than that of World War II veterans. Robert, like many of the returning military, might tie one on occasionally when he came home from overseas. One late night we were at a local Irish pub called Katie Daly's to celebrate Bob's recent retirement. Somehow he lost his grip on the bar rail, and as he leaned back on his barstool, he fell backward from the barroom through the swinging wooden doors into the kitchen, where his momentum was halted by the hot grill and the stunned cooks. Reversing direction, he stumbled forward, arms in the air, back through the swinging doors, landing neatly and unhurt back where his short journey had begun. Kieran, the Irish barkeep, visibly angry and trying to make sense of the event, yelled at me, "Michael Butler, don't you ever bring a goddamn stuntman in here again!"

In kind, I replied, "He's no goddamn stuntman. He's my uncle, and he can only do those tricks because he's goddamn drunk!"

While now predominantly Asian and Spanish, in the 1950s, Sunset Park was working-class Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Swede, and Spanish. It had a certain combination of order and grit. The area along the dark brown waterfront was industrial, with docks and long warehouses. The centerpiece was a complex of industrial buildings called Bush Terminal. The streets away from the docks were tidy and clean, with attached two- and three-story buildings, some in the fashion of brownstones, others called "railroad" apartments. Railroad apartments were narrow residences that required passage through one room into the next. Generally, there was only one hallway on each floor, and the layout might have a bedroom next to the living room, or parlor. It was something like walking through a railroad car with connected rooms on one side.

I was brought home to 734 Fifty-Eighth Street, a railroad apartment building owned by my grandparents, Mary Winifred "Winnie" and Michael "Mike" Butler. My grandmother, a tall, very thin woman with long black and gray hair, was a native of Sag Harbor on Long Island. Grandma was a woman with a somewhat stern manner who would get down on her knees and pray for and receive anything for which she asked.

Winnie had a smooth, quiet voice with, surprisingly, an ever so slight Irish accent. "Ah now, don't you know it's time to go to bed, boy?" "By and by we'll talk again."

Mike, also religious, was an Irish immigrant with a thick brogue, deep voice, and erect posture. He had a large, balding pate and was lean with reasonably broad shoulders. My grandfather had won his US citizenship through his Army service in World War I. He had seen combat in France and was a proud veteran and a proud American. There were family rumors that held he and an old friend, Patty O'Flynn, had fought the British in the Irish Republic before arriving in America. Nothing was ever proven, and my recollection was that Mike was closed mouth about the whole matter.

John Hayes and Mary Irene Hayes, my maternal grandparents, were lifelong New Yorkers of Irish extraction. They were a bit more secular than Mike and Winnie.

John was slightly above average height, with a thin build and thinning hair. Pops, as we called him, was a union printer with the New York Journal American newspaper and worked mostly nights in downtown Brooklyn. After each work shift, he took the Fourth Avenue BMT local toward home and stopped at a local tavern, Mannix's, on Fifty-Seventh Street, where he would drink beer and meet with friends to discuss politics and current events. John presented himself well and was a bit formal in his manners and speech. "Pardon me" always preceded any interruption.

John, like most men at the time, wore a suit and tie to and from work. After a late night and perhaps a few too many at Mannix's, Pops grabbed a jacket on his way out of the bar. While close in color to his suit pants, it was actually a lighter brown. For months after, when he wore the outfit, he graciously yet reluctantly accepted the compliments he received for his "flashy two-tone suit," saying wryly, "Thanks, I just got it."

My father, with thick, curly black hair, light blue eyes, and heavyset build, resembled a young Jackie Gleason. He was named after his maternal grandfather, James Slowey. Like his father, who was an infantryman in World War I, Jimmy was a proud combat veteran of the next great war. Mike and Winnie sometimes called him "Juney," short for junior, based on his namesake and grandfather, James. Jimmy served in Europe and North Africa, mostly as a tech corporal machine gunner, for more than thirty months.

He had attended Army basic training at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, and shortly after completion was sent into combat. The day he left, Grandpa Mike walked "Jimmy," as he was known outside his immediate family, to the subway station to say good-bye and tell him how proud he was of him. Winnie prayed for my father throughout his tour of duty. His infantry company, commanded by Captain Stevens, suffered a casualty rate of almost two-thirds. Except for a broken finger, Jimmy came home untouched. My father's and his contemporaries' service in WWII was revered by a generation of kids who watched army movies on TV and played "guns" for outdoor entertainment.

My father's closest friend was Charles Gathercole, known alternately as "Charlie" and "Gatch." Thin and standing just over six feet tall, Charlie had classic good looks—a distinctive mouth with narrow eyes and a confident gait—a bit like John Wayne. He was articulate, always concluding a conversation with "See my point?" He graduated from a Catholic high school in Brooklyn, where he had been an exceptional baseball pitcher. He was a smart and tough competitor, yet he wrote poetry.

After high school, like most of my father's friends, he joined the Army. He was invited to attend Officers Candidate School (OCS) after basic training. His one desire was to serve overseas, but his high marks in OCS earned him a job as a stateside trainer. Charlie eventually married Mary Peters, a registered nurse who had graduated from Kings County Hospital. Ironically, Mary got to serve overseas during World War II as a commissioned officer.

After the war, Charlie maintained his reserve commission and began selling insurance in the city, but he was unsatisfied with the business. At the time, the subway systems in the city were changing, and Grandpa Mike, as a motorman, was a frontline observer. Immediately following World War II, transit police were considered railroad patrolmen and of a lesser status than city police. My grandfather discovered that the transit police were to be designated New York City Transit Authority Police and that the new force was to expand and professionalize. He convinced Charlie to take the test for the new police department and take advantage of the growth and promotion opportunities presented by a new agency. Charlie accepted and went on to become a patrolman, a plainclothes investigator, a sergeant, a lieutenant, and a captain before retiring at the rank of deputy inspector.

Charlie's most interesting story was when he wounded a "berserk" former marine who attacked him on a subway platform in downtown Brooklyn late one night. Charlie was off duty and on his way home. The attack was unprovoked—the guy just saw Gatch and went after him, and at one point the two combatants were wrestling over Charlie's gun. Charlie shot the marine in the back of the upper leg, "right in the ass," he later said, and the fight was over.

Charlie Gathercole always projected a sense of calm. He was hard to rattle. In the mid-1960s, we were celebrating a birthday at my family home on Long Island. Charlie was of course invited to the family affair, and as usual he arrived wearing an expensive, well-tailored suit, having just left work in the city.

At that time, sheet cakes with icing were popular party staples. My mother had placed the large flat, rectangular cake with thick icing on the coffee table in the crowded living room. Charlie, with drink in hand, was holding court with the crowd, and began to back up to sit on the couch as he continued his "presentation." He felt the back of his long legs hit the coffee table and, figuring that it was the couch, he sat down directly on the cake. Without betraying any indication of his error, he continued to talk and slowly wiped the vanilla icing from the seat of his pants, never once acknowledging the event. Everyone in the room held back a smile but nonetheless stood agape.

Neither Jimmy nor Charlie had great taste when it came to booze. Price trumped quality every time. One Saturday, years later, Dad was preparing for a visit from Gatch and he and I went up to the local liquor store to stock up. Choosing a scotch at a lower price, Jimmy proudly asked the clerk for a quart of "Clan MacGregor." With a slight smile, the clerk said, "Bad case of athlete's foot, right?"

My mother was the oldest in a family of three children. Her brother Jack, keeping in step with cultural custom, served in the Navy in the late fifties. Jack was a tall character with a sharp wit. He was bright, liberal, secular, and urbane. Later in life, he distinguished himself by his shaved head. Mom's other brother, Bob, was a decorated career US Army sergeant, and an occasional "stuntman" in Katie Daly's pub.

My mother was a petite woman of exceptional good looks, with blue eyes and dark hair. She was well proportioned and a talented singer. A graduate from a Catholic girls high school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, she met and married Jimmy in 1948 after a brief courtship. She was a secretary by training but an actress and singer by desire. Her looks drew attention to her wherever she went, and she was an articulate advocate for whatever cause she adopted. She was a master at assigning fault, and her efforts were aided by the proclivities of a guilt-ridden Irish Catholic family. She represented an emerging modern mother of the times—always with a job of some sort on weekends and at the same time a dedicated housewife. Perhaps she helped set the path in some sense for the evolving "working woman," a different version of the stay-at-home mom.

The parish where we grew up was filled with WWII veterans. It did not have a regular conventional church but rather a basilica, a large ornate house of worship that resembles a cathedral. The grammar school included Irish, Italian, and Spanish children, both boys and girls. The high school was a girls' academy and served the local area. Both schools existed as part of the large Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) complex, which encompassed a square block in a densely urbanized area. All these people shared certain common traits. They were members of a traditional family. While some were religious, some secular, and some ambivalent, they all had been exposed to the Catholic religion. Such exposure may not have provided a capacity to worship, but it always seemed to provide a sense of ethics—not black from white, but right from wrong. Although plenty fallible, each was equipped with a moral compass and the innate need to provide for and serve family, community, and country. Relativism was a foreign concept.

The men and the families from our neighborhood thrived on service and kindness. Our friends and our family belonged to the Knights of Columbus, the military reserves—they were cops, nurses, firefighters, priests, nuns, brothers, and church ushers.

My father believed in two fundamental ideas, among others. He believed that the icon of the Fighting Irish was not a myth. Jimmy believed that the Irish, particularly Irish-Americans, were a tough, honorable, and courageous yet somewhat bellicose people who always fought on the right side, or at least in defense of it (despite the fact that Ireland was neutral and maintained relations with the Nazi government during WWII). Additionally, if you were born Irish Catholic, you were always Irish Catholic. An Irish Catholic who converted, fell away, or renounced remained Irish Catholic for life. You couldn't separate those two elements any more than you could separate the Irish whiskey from the cup of coffee in which it was mixed.

When I was a youngster, perhaps seven, one early evening my father brought home a book he had captured—probably from a colleague at work. With the bound volume in hand he sat down with me on our large couch. The book was about those who had earned the Medal of Honor. My father read from the pages as they told the story of the enormous courage exhibited by each recipient in each of those brief moments of greatness. He read the individual stories with emotion and said to me afterward, "These men are what make America great." In a brief exhibition of bias he couldn't resist pointing out all those with Irish surnames listed in the tome.

My brother Jay, who eventually became a New York City cop, was born in November of 1953 and joined the household on Fifty-Eighth Street.

In a somewhat strange coincidence many years later in an event similar to Charlie's, Jay, also an off-duty New York City officer and returning home after work one night, was accosted by two men. Like Charlie—looking for no trouble—he had a problem to solve. He similarly found himself suddenly involved. As he approached their vehicle, which was blocking the roadway, he began to suspect the two might be in a stolen car. Jay identified himself as a police officer. The men became agitated and irate. It was a cold and clear night, and my brother's efforts to get to his car trunk, where his service gun was stored, were complicated by the icy road. As he opened the trunk, he was attacked by the men. He fell, and the light within the trunk illuminated the gun for all to see. Although the two assailants probably didn't actually see the gun, Jay couldn't assume that important fact. One of the men kicked Jay in the face just below his eye, while the other punched and kicked him all over his body.

Jay finally took control of the weapon and shot one of the men in the chest. The other, in a provident sense of self-preservation, stopped the attack and raised his hands compliantly. Jay was appalled at the lack of assistance from the residents, who watched from their windows but did nothing to help, even after he identified himself and called out for assistance.

For several hours at the hospital, the seriousness of Jay's eye injury was unknown. The greatest fear was that he would lose his eye or sight in the eye. The story was all over WCBS Radio in New York that Saturday morning, with conflicting details as to what had occurred.

I spoke to Jay and his wife, Pat, that morning by telephone and asked Jay if he was comfortable with the fact that one assailant was seriously wounded.

"He should be dead," he said.

The city later ruled the shooting justified. Only in litigious New York could the right become wrong. The man survived and eventually sued New York City and received something significantly more than a nuisance settlement.

* * *

In the summer of 1956, my family moved to 200 Beacon Avenue in Lindenhurst on Long Island. I was almost six, and my brother Jay was almost three years old. My father, who had briefly attended Brooklyn Poly Tech for some engineering courses, changed companies, leaving the Brooklyn Union Gas Company for the relatively new Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). Long Island was expanding rapidly as the World War II veterans returned home, and many of their houses, my father rightly believed, would need gas heat.

My father's work at LILCO introduced him to many new people, many of them characters in their own right. Tom Kenny, a LILCO gas salesman, was a large, heavy man with a shock of light brown hair. He was a Navy veteran who had seen serious action in the Pacific. He had a deep voice and took the opportunity to sing on any occasion. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America and in his parish church. A humble man, he would sometimes apologize to my father for not having served in the infantry.

George Twigg was also a heating representative in LILCO. He served with the US Coast Guard in the treacherous waters of the North Pacific during World War II. Using a phrase popularized earlier in the war, my father referred to George's service in "Hooligan's Navy." George was a small, handsome man with dark hair. He was married to a taller, attractive woman named Ann. She and my mother became close friends and shared an interest in cold beer and menthol cigarettes.

Right on time, Mary Beth was born in August of 1956, and after her arrival home from the hospital, my mother placed her bassinet in the master bedroom right off the dining area. Mary Beth was a healthy, average-size baby and was fed bottled baby formula. Breastfeeding was not a popular activity in the family at the time. Like all babies, she smelled of powder, baby lotion, and formula. It was perhaps the formula that attracted the mice. At some point, the baby woke up crying. My mother went to fetch the child and discovered her bassinet filled with several mice—some crawling on the baby's face. The term "nervous breakdown" does not adequately describe my mother's reaction. She was horrified and probably sick to her stomach. She frantically checked to make sure Mary Beth had not been bitten by the rodents. Satisfied that the baby hadn't been bitten, she stopped screaming and vowed, looking to the heavens (like the scene in Gone with the Wind), "As God is my judge, I will get those mice." Now Pat, along with my father, was going to solve "the mouse problem." In fact, they declared war on the little gray critters. Predictably, Pat and Jimmy purchased numerous mousetraps. I can recall viewing television in the living room and watching mice continually scamper across the darkened kitchen floor two rooms away. The traps couldn't keep up with the population of mice. Although they continually caught mice in the traps, there were always more mice to catch. It was our landlady who recommended a cat. But not just any cat. It had to be a "mouser," she said.


Excerpted from Through the EYES of a LAWMAN by Michael J. Butler Copyright © 2012 by Michael J. Butler. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Beginning....................1
Chapter 2: The US Army....................27
Chapter 3: The Army Security Agency....................37
Chapter 4: The Police Academy—The Fundamentals....................65
Chapter 5: On the Job....................73
Chapter 6: Gee, Boss, I Wish I Had Thought of That....................107
Chapter 7: It's Lonely at the Top....................119
Chapter 8: Headquarters and the Fifth Precinct....................131
Chapter 9: The Law and Its Principles....................145
Chapter 10: Just Give the Cook the Job....................171
Chapter 11: Terrorism....................187
Chapter 12: Where High School Meets College....................217
Chapter 13: The Drug Enforcement Administration 2009–2010....................233
Chapter 14: Charge to the Sound of the Guns....................275

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