Early in my career as a journalist, I was a regular on Time-Warner Cable’s Reporters Round Table. This was a biweekly program where I, along with Walt Shepperd of the New Times, Sheryl Nathans of Channel 9, and Bob Haggart of the Post-Standard (two reporters who are no longer with us), would discuss various topics of the day.
What we were discussing had something to do with the District Attorney’s Office and it was a heated debate. Once the show aired I received a call from the D. A., Bill Fitzpatrick, “Mr. Jackson you got something wrong and I wanted to give you the correct information.” I was stunned, was he going to come to my house and arrest me?
I come from a place in time where law enforcement officials were to be avoided at all costs’ because saying something will get you in trouble with “The Man.” So being corrected by the District Attorney himself was a revelation. Revealing a D.A. who was concerned that the correct information regarding law enforcement and his office’s operations trumped emotion.
He wasn’t accusatory he wasn’t angry we had a matter-of-fact conversation after which I felt better informed to have this ongoing conversation with the urban community.
I heard that the measure of a person’s character is what they’ll do when no one’s looking. And I’m not talking about Tina Bennett’s hot topic ala carte, campaign finance accounting.
I’m talking about a man who took action after hearing a sitting judge refer to a murder victim as a “Nigger,” turning him in to authorities who, after investigating these claims, removed the judge from the bench. As much as it may have been an unpopular stance to take against a popular judge, it was the right thing to do. I even chastised the D.A. for “taking Judge Kevin Mulroy out.”
Let’s face it: In real life, ex-“Law & Order” D.A. and current Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson’s not an exciting character. Neither is our District Attorney. Fitzpatrick’s just the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Onondaga County. He’s not Barney Fife, Andy Griffith or Aunt Bea or that guy on “Law & Order.” As they’d say in the old 15th Ward, he’s “The Man.”
The most telling thing about Bill Fitzpatrick is his compassion for human life. Ask any victim of a domestic violence about the vigorous campaign Onondaga County has in place to prosecute those who would physically abuse their partners. In addition there are various programs to deter potential abusers after domestic disturbances. He’s even gone as far as exhuming baby corpses when there’s evidence of possible infanticide.
My final thoughts on D.A. Bill Fitzpatrick are the untold story of compassion he gave to the dying. When Syracuse media icon Sheryl Nathans was diagnosed with lung cancer she choose to “go quietly in the night” instead of enduring radiation, chemo and other treatments.
At a hospice in Pennsylvania, the man Bill Fitzpatrick, not the Onondaga County District Attorney, was at Nathans’ side. He offered comfort to a dying woman many in Syracuse area media had written off as she transitioned from Channel 9 to Channel 5 and then out of the television news business altogether.
So, when I hear sounds like a bleating lamb emanating from his opponent shouting, “Justice is for sale in Onondaga County.” I don’t listen, because whether I disagree with him on issues such as Operation Impact or techniques used in the urban war against drug addicts, I think he is the best honest choice to continue as Onondaga County’s District Attorney.
Yes, he’s “The Man.”