“Yet.” That’s an important word to me as a police officer – “yet.” Without it, the idea that haunts me every night is all the more vicious. Without it, I would be reminded there are people who committed murder out there, right now, who I haven’t caught. With it I am reminded that I just haven’t caught them yet. That “yet” makes all the difference.
I’m fortunate to work with some of the most talented people in law enforcement today. Our clearance rate is the envy of precincts across the city, but we’re not perfect. So every time I bring closure to a family, I save it. Nothing we do will ever bring their loved ones back, but closing that chapter of their life allows them to move on, and start a new one. Every time I see that emotion on a person’s face, I save it. It’s an emotion you can’t call joy, maybe peace, but I take that, and I save it, so I can remember it for the inevitable next time that we won’t be able to bring that closure. Yet.
I’m sure you’ll all remember the triple killer, 3XK. He escaped justice for so long, and much of that under my watch. Not a day went by that I didn’t wonder where he was, what he was doing, what he might do next. And when he struck again this year, it hit me with a particularly sharp breed of failure. As homicide cops, our focus usually lies on the “Serve” part of “Protect and Serve.” For the victims, someone, somewhere has already failed to protect them. But when we let a killer slip through our fingers, and kill again, that responsibility lies squarely on us. The responsibility for 3XK falls squarely on us.
What’s more is that he’s not even the worst of them. No doubt he is psychotic, but he lives in the shadows. I know what to do when I see a devil with horns and a pitchfork. The devil that frightens me comes with a smile and an outstretched hand - the devil that no one even knows they need to fear. That devil is out there. That man is out there. Smiling. Shaking hands. Planning his next deceit.
But then there’s that wonderful word, “yet.” He’s out there. So are far too many guilty people. But they’re not out there because we haven’t found them. They’re out there because we haven’t found them yet. Every night, and every day, I remind myself of that, and it makes me work that much harder. This fight isn’t over. Not yet.