I just finished going through the proofs for Shallow Grave to catch any final errors. Even though I wrote it, rewrote it, edited it, and read it numerous times, one scene still brings up memories of my days at Oakland PD.
Homicide Sergeants Sinclair and Braddock are the main characters in this series, and in the third book, they’re tasked with investigating the murder of their former partner, Phil Roberts. The scene in the final chapter begins as follows:
Sinclair, Braddock, and the other four pallbearers, wearing their dress uniforms, sat at attention on the raised platform on one side of the podium. Guest speakers and dignitaries sat in a row of chairs on the other side. Four members of the department’s honor guard stood at parade rest alongside a flag-draped casket in front of the podium and dignitaries.
A row of people in black suits and dresses sat directly in front of the casket—Abby, Phil’s daughters, and other family members. Beyond them were row after row of men and women in the OPD dress uniform and white gloves. Gloved hands occasionally rose to their eyes. Beyond them were more rows of dress uniforms in many colors, representing officers from departments around the Bay Area and throughout the state as well as smaller contingents from major departments across the nation.
Behind them were thousands of people in civilian clothing: investigators and agents from other agencies, judges, attorneys, probation officers, retired police, and nonsworn employees of the department and the countless agencies that worked within the criminal justice system, as well as thousands of citizens who never worked with Phil or knew him but were there to pay their respects for what he had done as a law enforcement officer.
Unlike many crime fiction authors, I didn’t have to do any research to write that scene. I attended too many funerals just like it. In the twenty-five years I worked at OPD, eleven officers were killed in the line of duty. For a department of 700 sworn, that’s a lot.
Four years after I retired, I flew back to Oakland from my Connecticut home for the funeral of four officers killed during one tragic incident. I knew them all. One had been a homicide investigator when I commanded the unit, two were on the SWAT team when I commanded it, and the fourth I talked with just about every night during my last year on the department as a patrol watch commander.
I was among the 20,000 people, half of whom were uniformed law enforcement officers from around the country that filled the Oracle Arena, the same place the Golden State Warriors plays their NBA games. We were there not only to honor the four who gave their lives, but also for the thousands of others who do the job every day, knowing they too could pay the ultimate price.
When I began writing Shallow Grave a year ago, I wrote the dedication page:
The fifty-one Oakland Police Officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.
For the thousands of officers in Oakland and around the country who do the job every day with the knowledge they may do the same.
I hope that by the time Shallow Grave is released in July, that no one will read the dedication page and think I missed an error because there are now more than fifty-one names on the memorial wall in the lobby of the Oakland Police Administration Building.
Lieutenant, Oakland PD, Retired