This cover story can trace its origins to an email that came to me in February 2013. Jane Malin wrote with a mother’s pride about her son Timmy Malin, a New York City police officer. The 1999 Notre Dame graduate had an impressive set of credentials and experiences with the NYPD — at Ground Zero, at the South Bronx precinct known at “Fort Apache” and working on an advanced degree from Harvard while on the force.
A good part of the story’s appeal was its distinctive quality — not many New York cops among Notre Dame’s alumni. And a gritty story, from the front lines of urban battlefields.
But when I contacted Timmy Malin he said no, not now, too busy to help.
Twenty months later, however, in November 2014, Timmy Malin’s life was much less burdened, and he said let’s do it. But he noted that he was not the only Notre Dame alum on the force. There were other stories to tell; here are some names.
I asked John Rudolf to do the telling. John had ventured to the Everest base camp for us, and to mental asylums in Guatemala, and the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and into the middle of public health battles in southern Indiana with Notre Dame alums on opposite sides.
As he was making his contacts and setting up interviews and arranging trips to the city, getting clearance from the brass, from public information officers, the story took another turn. It became much more timely. When arrests of young black men in various cities resulted in their deaths, police became the focus of anger, outrage and racial turbulence; two New York City policemen were killed in apparent retaliation while sitting in their patrol car.
These were new minefields in the landscape. And we have new stories planned to further explore that landscape in upcoming editions of the magazine.
Meanwhile, John Rudolf’s NYPD story is not the only piece in this issue with flashpoint triggers. Terrence Keeley ’81 was an invited observer to the Vatican’s synod on the family, a convocation that re-opened Church discussions on homosexuality, divorce and birth control; he has written a loyal yet forthright essay on the challenges facing the Church and the family today. And Brendan O’Shaughnessy ’93 offers a well-researched, conscientiously reported piece on the widening gap between rich and poor that divides and threatens our nation; his take won’t please everyone.
Of course, the purpose of dialogue isn’t necessarily to make everyone happy. It’s to talk things over, sort things out, so the divides aren’t ignored, dismissed or covered up. Because then you have real problems on your hands — as we have seen in recent months.
Kerry Temple is editor of this magazine.