Local author, John DiGirolamo, has a passion for policing and was inspired to tell the officers stories after listening to a summer full of negative portrayals of police officers in the media in 2020.
“There was a constant drumbeat yet you never heard the officers side, especially that of small town rural officers,” DiGirolamo said.
The result was “It’s Not About the Badge” – six stories about real cops including five from Chaffee County and one from Omaha.
The stories tell of the dangers they face in their work of protecting the public, often when a “simple” call turns into a dangerous situation that could cost them their lives. But even more interesting are the stories of why they got into law enforcement.
“My daughter, Megan DiGirolamo, is a police officer in Buena Vista and the first School Resource Officer there for grades K through 12,” DiGirolamo said. “We’re very supportive of her choice. She introduced me to some people and they opened up and thus the book happened.”
Each officer tells five or six stories about his/her work, giving insight into not only what happens on the job but why they went into this work and how it affects life with their families.
For example, how does one come home at the end of a shift after dealing with trauma and drama and settle in to family life leaving the events of the day in the patrol car?
Local officers include Jesse Cortese, Chaffee County SWAT Team Commander, Dean Morgan; Buena Vista Police Chief, Mohamed Lamine Mullenas; Deputy Sergeant, Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office; Megan DiGirolamo, Buena Vista police officer; and Jesse Mitchell, corporal with the Buena Vista Police Department. The sixth officer, Jamey Murray, is a road Patrol Officer in Bellevue, Nebraska.
Officers’ days may start out routinely and end up tragically, often with only seconds to decide what to do.
For Dean Morgan, then a member of the Park County SWAT Team, Sept. 27, 2006 was one of those days. A call from a teacher at the Platte Canyon High School alerted dispatch that a gunman was in the school.
The scene of students being evacuated was reminiscent of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
Six female students were taken hostage. Before the day was done Emily Keyes, a sophomore, was shot dead by the gunman.
The individual stories of the officers gives the officers perspective on their work.
“Most of the American public never hears that,” DiGirolamo said. “I wanted to give them a voice.”
Names of the criminals, witnesses and victims have been changed with the exception of the Platte Canyon High School story which was all public information.
DiGirolamo is a columnist for the Winter Park Times and published a collection of short stories when he was in his 20s.
“Then I decided I needed a better paying job,” he laughed.
He is now a retired Certified Public Accountant.
He’ll be signing his books from 8 to 10 a.m. April 24 at Brown Dog Coffee, 713 U.S. 24 South in Buena Vista and 3 to 5 p.m. April 25 at Deerhammer Distillery, 321 East Main St. in Buena Vista.