The following situation has happened to me many times. I will be in a public place, such as the supermarket, and I’ll notice another shopper staring at me.
Eventually, this person will come over and say, “Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but I’m a big fan of your writing on Facebook.”
I’ll smile and say, “You’re not bothering me.”
Then the enthusiastic person will call their husband over. “Honey, come here quick, this is the guy who writes for the Pensacola Police Department’s Facebook page.”
“No,” I’ll say. “You’re thinking of Steve Davis. We’re both redheaded writers from the same part of Florida. I’m Sean Dietrich.”
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”
“That’s okay, Steve is a good friend.”
“Well, your writing is really good, too.”
Then this person avoids eye contact and walks away.
The first time I ever met Captain Steve Davis, I was giving a speech at the Rotary Club in Pensacola, years ago. After I had successfully put 32 elderly Rotarians into comas, Steve introduced himself to me.
He was somewhat of a local celebrity, and we were both writers, so we hit it off. Then he asked if I wanted to eat authentic Mexican food with the entire Pensacola Police Department.
Truthfully, I was intimidated to be around so many cops. After all, Pensacola was the biggest city I knew. I am a Walton County kid, to me Pensacola was Manhattan.
Pensacola was where old people from my town traveled for serious medical procedures and elective dental surgeries. Pensacola was where you bought your used cars, did your Christmas shopping, and got your gallbladder pulled. This was the big city.
And here was a captain of the police force asking me to hang out. I was flattered. I ate so much salsa my gastrointestinal tract was never the same.
Over the years, Steve helped me become a small part of the Pensacola family. I am not exaggerating when I say that he made me feel like I belonged to this city. He was sort of like a big brother, always introducing me to new people, and helping me find good stories.
Steve is a sort of unofficial mascot for the City of Five Flags. Everyone knows him. Since the age of 19, he has been patrolling every byway, side street, back alley, Dumpster, chicken house, dog house, outhouse, and Waffle House.
He has checked every door knob on Palafox. He has inspected every donut shop for quality control.
You walk into Publix with Steve Davis and it takes six hours to get through the checkout line because everyone wants to shake his hand.
Steve’s pièce de résistance, however, is his writing on the Pensacola Police Department’s Facebook page. Everyone I know follows the Pensacola Police Department account. Celebrities follow Steve. The hosts of “Good Morning America” follow Steve. If the Pope has a smartphone, he’s a fan, too.
I was once delivering a speech in upstate New York, near the Canadian border, where I met people who were avid followers of the PPD’s page.
Still, above all, Steve is more than just a crack writer. He’s a nice guy. He’s kind and funny, and he’s nothing like the cops you see portrayed on TV who chew gum at funerals.
He’s a good man who has aided his city throughout every devastating hurricane, each tropical storm, natural disaster, act of God, life threatening emergency, turbulent time, and Cox Christmas Parade.
He was among the first to text me when my mother-in-law died. He was the first to call when the Braves won the Fall Classic.
He is a civic Samaritan who has initiated more acts of goodwill than anyone will ever know about. He is a cop’s cop. A dad. A dog lover. A man who has saved lives by laying his own on the line, repeatedly. And as a first responder he has waded through trenches where average men dare not go.
I’m proud to say I have sipped beer on his porch, I’ve sat beside him in the Blue Wahoos ballpark stands. I’ve gone for joyrides in his unmarked car, and he even let me play with his handcuffs.
Anyway, I wish I had something more eloquent to say about this man because today he’s announced that he’s retiring from the force after 34 dutiful years of service. He deserves something better than these few lines. But I’m afraid this will have to do.
Besides, I suppose the best retirement gift I could give any cop is to be a law abiding citizen, to respect my fellow man, and to act like a decent human being.
Which is exactly why you will never see me picking my nose at a traffic light. Because the last thing I would want is for a motorist nearby to see me and say, “You know who I saw picking his nose at a red light? Steve Davis, that’s who.”
Because as I say, Steve is a friend.