Fitz column mug

David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

When TPD officer Erik Hite was killed in the line of duty in 2008 I was honored when his kid, an impressive young airman, asked me for an image for a memorial tattoo. “My dad had a meaningful life.”

Good cops live lives rich with meaning. To the fullest. In service to others.

When I arrived at the Safeway on January 8th, 2011, I saw familiar faces behind the badges doing what needed to be done.

Good cops deal with astounding horror with cool professionalism.

When I entertained a gathering of motorcycle cops from around the region participating in a Motor Rodeo I concluded these cowboys are insane. You know you’ve got an iffy activity if you have an ambulance on standby.

Good cops love adrenaline. Good cops always maintain control.

A pal, a Pima County Sheriff’s deputy, treated me to the FBI Academy shooting range in Phoenix. Harder than it looks. Good cops have to be firearms virtuosos.

Good cops cannot make mistakes.

I was on a ride along when I asked the deputy why I was referred to as Alexander Henry on the radio all night.

“Duh. A.H.”

Took me a second. Good cops have a healthy sense of humor.

I was 6, playing outside with the little girl next door. Her dad asked us, “You kids smell a dead body?” Horrified, we sniffed the air. He popped the trunk of his patrol car. With his bare hands he lifted a roadkill out of his trunk and tossed it in front of us. We jumped 10 feet.

Good cops are the worst practical jokers. The worst.

When I was a teen I had a terrible accident on my way home from work late at night. A man stepped out of the dark directly in front of my car. It was too late to stop. Sirens came. Then the flashing lights and the cones.

Good cops go into the smoke. Good cops bring order out of chaos.

One of TPD’s finest read me my rights. Every good cop has to be a legal scholar.

We headed downtown in the officer’s patrol car, for my pro forma interrogation. Radio was on. We could hear the conversation in the ambulance. The man moaning. The medics listing his horrifying injuries. The officer turned it down. He talked to me the way a father would talk to his kid. All the way into the station. It’ll be all right. You’ll be all right. Good cops are compassionate. I never forgot it. A good cop can forever shape your attitude about law enforcement.

For decades I was the entertainment at the Pima County Sheriff’s Awards Banquet. One year I was rolled onstage like Hannibal Lecter. Another, I rode a bomb disposal robot onstage. “Want to be attacked by one of our K-9s?” I met the officers at the park for practice, put on the bite suit and before I knew it a cross between a cheetah and a great white shark was running straight at me. The beast leapt and latched onto my arm. I spun the dog around. The deputy yelled a coded command. Cujo released and returned to his master’s heel. Amazing.

Good cops are fearless.

I watched a cop return a seeing-eye dog to a drunk, surly blind man. How I came to know this surly, blind man is another column. The young officer was kind, patient and concerned for the man’s well being. “Last thing I want to do is bring a blind man in for drunk and disorderly conduct.” He listed every social agency in Tucson and insisted he get help.

Good cops are patient. And firm. And, often times, creative problem solvers.

When my son Matt was a little demon, he dialed 911. Our doorbell rang. Embarrassed, I recognized the deputy. I encouraged him to speak frankly to my son. He did. My brat listened to every word.

Good cops teach character. Good cops model character.

A deputy I knew was called to a west-side trailer park. Domestic violence. He came to adopt all the residents. Found social workers and social programs to help every hard life in that trailer park. Good cops make the world better.

I have been blessed in my life to know so many good cops, deputies, marshals and troopers in this town. Their numbers eclipse the bad. And this year I can add another one to the roster of the good.

My nephew, Chris Manns, possessing all the qualities I listed here, has chosen to make the world better. When his fellow DPS graduates see this column they’ll razz him mercilessly.

(Chris, I would never dream of telling them I heard that when you were little and pretending to shoot a gun you would shout, “Ping! Ping! Ping!”)

Good cops love to razz each other mercilessly. Enjoy the razzing Arizona State Trooper Manns. Proud of you. Love you. Be safe.

David Fitzsimmons: tooner@tucson.com.