Sunday, September 15, 2019

Netflix's 'Unbelievable' Is A Dramatic Story About Rape, The Aftermath And the Police Investigation

My wife and I recently watched the eight-part Netflix series Unbelievable.

The series, based on a true story, is a serious study of rape and aftermath, as well as a fascinating and dramatic police investigation, was outstanding. 

Kaitlyn Dever portrays “Marie,” an 18-year-old woman raised in the foster care system in Washington State, who was raped in her apartment. Confused and traumatized, she offers conflicting statements about the rape and she is disbelieved by the detectives investigating the rape. 

The detectives have her recant her story and later charge her for false reporting the rape to the police. 

Dever, whose performance was excellent, shows Marie’s subsequent spiral downfall.

The series also depicts the two women detectives, portrayed by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, who investigate other rapes that they tie to a serial rapist in Colorado.

Dever, Collette, Wever and the other cast members are first-class, as are the direction and writing of this initially sad and depressing, but ultimately uplifting series. 

If one is looking for a fine drama series to watch, I recommend Unbelievable

You can read the article that the series was based on via the below link:

You can read my Crime Beat column on the Philadelphia Police's Sex Crimes Unit via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of Kaitlyn Dever. The next photo is of Toni Collette and Merritt Wever.

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'Lincoln's Spies: Their Secret War To Save A Nation'

The Washington Times published my review of Lincoln’s Spies: Their Secret War To Save a Nation:

Much has been written about the Civil War and students of military history know much about the great battles and the generals who led and fought those bloody battles.

But perhaps less well known are the Civil War spies who fed those generals the intelligence they required to engage their enemy. Douglas Waller, a former reporter for Time magazine and Newsweek, and the author of “The Commandos: The Inside Story of America’s Secret Soldiers,” “Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage” and other books on intelligence and the military, offers a comprehensive look back at the men and women who risked their lives to provide vital intelligence to the Union Army during the Civil War.      

In Mr. Waller’s “Lincoln’s Spies: Their Secret War to Save a Nation,” readers learn about the Civil War’s military intelligence officers, counter-intelligence officers, secret agents and informants. Although there are numerous historical characters portrayed in the book, Mr. Waller stated he wanted to write an ensemble biography of four Union spies during the Civil War. According to Mr. Waller, two of the spies were heroes, one was a failure and one was a scoundrel.

Lincoln’s Spies” is the story of Allan Pinkerton, Lafayette Baker, George Sharpe and Elizabeth Van Lew — important Union agents who operated mainly in the Civil War’s Eastern Theater, which included Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The U.S. government, of course, ran intelligence operations elsewhere — against Confederates in the Deep South and the western campaigns, for example, and to root out pro-Confederate subversives in the northeastern and northwestern states. To cover all the spying that went on in the Civil War would consume several volumes,” Mr. Waller writes in his note to readers.

“This book focuses on the espionage and counter-espionage of these four operatives in what became a crucial region for the war. The Eastern Theater, in which these agents fought in secret and the Union Army of the Potomac battled the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the open, included the capitals for the two belligerents, Washington and Richmond. On its fields and in its towns and cities were waged many of the largest, costliest, and most consequential battles, which helped determine the outcome of this tragic conflict and the fate of a nation.”

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Washington Times Review of 'Land Of Wolves'

The Washington Times published my review of Craig Johnson’s Land of Wolves. 

I first became acquainted with Craig Johnson’s fictional modern-day Western sheriff by watching the A&E TV series “Longmire,” which is based on Mr. Johnson’s novels. (The show is now on Netflix).

Australian actor Robert Taylor portrayed Walt Longmire and Katee Sackhoff portrayed his deputy, Victoria “VicMoretti, a transplanted South Philly Italian-American and former Philadelphia cop. Lou Diamond Phillips portrayed Henry Standing Bear, Longmire’s best friend, and the series also offered a good number of other fine cast members.

I liked the Walt Longmire character, a big man who is tough, taciturn, intelligent, fair, and possesses a dry sense of humor. I also liked the rural crime stories, so I began reading the series of novels.

In his last outing in the novel “Depth of Winter,” Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, headed to Mexico to take on Tomas Bidarte, the head of a vicious drug cartel, who had kidnapped the sheriff’s daughter. He rescued her and killed the drug lord in a brutal fight, which left the sheriff’s body, as well as his mind, scarred.

In “Land of Wolves” we find a thinner, weaker and more reticent sheriff, who loses himself in moments of staring off into space. But the hanged body of a migrant Chilean shepherd, Miquel Hernandez, which may be a case of suicide or murder, moves the sheriff and his deputies to investigate. 
… “When you see a wolf, you can’t help feeling impressed,” Walt Longmire, the novel’s narrator tells us. “Maybe it’s because we’re so used to being around their more domesticated cousins, but this animal is something else. Aside from all the crap that you see on TV and in the movies or even in badly written books, they’re not the slathering beasts just outside the glow of the campfire; there’s only one word that comes to mind when I’ve ever seen one in the wild: empathic.

“It’s like they’re reading your mind, because they have to know what you’re thinking to simply survive.”

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Pentagon Flag On The Anniversary of 9/11

In the above photo an American flag is displayed over the west wall of the Pentagon at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial at dawn on the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2019. 

The U.S. Navy photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paul L. Archer.

My Washington Times Piece On The Defense Of Border Patrol Agents

The Washington Times published my piece on the defense of Border Patrol agents.

While visiting San Antonio, Texas, a few years back, I had a couple of drinks with an off-duty Border Patrol agent in a local bar.

I mentioned that as a young sailor long ago I had often crossed over the border from San Diego to Tijuana and I had witnessed the Border Patrol agents at work.

Like many of the cops and agents I’ve known over the years, the agent was an entertaining and enlightening storyteller. At first, he talked about his odd and amusing experiences, but later he became solemn and talked about the tragedies he had witnessed on the border, and the dangers he and his fellow agents faced every day, especially with the increase in illegal border crossings.

I thought of the Border Patrol agent when I came across a July 4 statement from the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) executive committee that stated Border Patrol agents were being unfairly criticized.

The NBPC, an organization that represents and supports non-supervisory Border Patrol agents and support personnel, stated, “The men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol have been unfairly scrutinized, criticized and attacked by radical members of Congress, Immigrant Rights groups, the Fake News Media and the general public.

“These groups have made some ridiculous allegations against Border Patrol agents, going as far as saying that Border Patrol agents make detainees drink water from toilets, that Border Patrol agents engage in child abuse with detainees, and that Border Patrol agents engage in inhumane behavior with those that come into our custody.

“These allegations are without merit and are not based in fact. To attack Border Patrol agents without evidence does a disservice to the American Public, the rule of law, and law enforcement nationwide. Border Patrol agents work tirelessly to keep our country safe and are honorable, decent and hardworking public servants that risk their lives day in and day out. These groups should be ashamed for trying to demonize us, dehumanize us and for attempting to turn public sentiment against us.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At A New York Cop's 9/11 After Action Report

Below is my Crime Beat column on 9/11, which originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine:  

I covered the Police-Security Expo in Atlantic City in June and heard Joseph Dunne, the former New York deputy police commissioner during 9/11, speak to the attendees. 
Sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police, the theme of the expo was to prepare to act and respond to terrorism. Previous to 9/11, counterterrorism was largely a federal responsibility, but now police officers have become front line soldiers.
I sat in on a seminar conducted by Joseph Dunne, who retired as New York's deputy police commissioner. He gave what we used to call in the military a commander’s "after-action report" on the 9/11 attack. 

Dunne played tapes of some of the 911 emergency calls, one of which had the voice of a young woman on the 110th floor pleading with the operator to tell her what she should do. The woman paused and told the operator that she was pregnant. The audience was a tough group of cops and security people, but most of them were touched by the woman’s frantic call for help.

While standing near the towers, Dunne said he thought debris was falling around him, but he discovered that it was people. This, he said, left an indelible image in his mind.
"Consider the state of mind of the people who elected to jump and end their lives," Dunne said. "What awful choices these poor people had."
Dunne said that the Port Authority and NYPD quickly closed tunnels and bridges and kept the lines open for rescue personnel. This quick action saved countless lives, he said.

Dunne recalled hearing a plane overhead and tensed up, "Don’t worry," someone told him. "It’s one of ours." Before 9/11, a conversation like that took place only on a foreign battlefield.

"The people in the buildings were innocent victims and rescue officers voluntarily rushed in," Dunne said, proud of his officers.

Dunne spoke of one officer who was filling out his retirement papers when the call came in. He left the retirement papers on his desk and rushed out to help. Like 22 other NYPD officers, he lost his life that day.

Dunne rolled out some gruesome stats: 19,000 body parts were signed into the morgue and they collected 12,622 DNA samples.

"No one signs on to policing to deal with the collection of bodies and body parts," Dunne said sadly.
By Dunne’s account, 25,000 lives were saved thanks to the NYPD’s rapid and skilled response.
"As memories of September 11th fade, we have to remain resolved," Dunne advised. "It’s going to happen again."

9/11 was perhaps America’s worst disaster, but the acts of heroism and humanity that followed the attack lead me to believe that we have the resolve to win the war on terrorism.
Note: The above photo shows the Statute of Liberty and beyond it the World Trade Center on fire on 9/11. The photo beneath is of Joseph Dunne.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Look At The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

As tomorrow is the anniversary of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, readers might be interested in viewing the Pentagon 911 Memorial.

On Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, killing all 64 people on the plane and 125 people in the Pentagon. The Pentagon Memorial is the first national memorial dedicated to honoring the 184 people whose lives were lost at the Pentagon that day, their families, and all those who sacrifice so that we may live in freedom.

The Pentagon Memorial captures a specific moment in time - 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, when 184 souls were lost. The $22 million memorial sits on two acres of land right outside where the jetliner struck the building.

There are 184 memorial benches dedicated to each of the victims, and they’re organized in a timeline of their ages, from the youngest victim, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, to the oldest, 71-year-old John Yamnicky. 

You can read more about the memorial and view photos and videos via the below link:
You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the attack on the Pentagon via the below link: