“Nemo me impune lacessit"
That’s Latin for "No one wounds me with impunity."
In the city where I live, Houston, Texas, the law enforcement sector is mourning the tragic loss of a Harris County Deputy Constable who was killed during a routine traffic stop on Monday.
Jason Norling was a motorcycle patrolman who was struck by a passing motorist and tossed 90-feet into the air by the impact. The driver who hit the officer said he was talking on his cell phone just before the impact. Nordling was only 38-years old.
Ironically, that driver had already been involved in one accident Monday morning. Someone ran into the back of his vehicle… Can’t help but wonder if the person who hit him was also talking on the phone.
I knew Deputy Norling, although we’d never met.
I knew him because I used to watch him watch me as I passed by on my daily commute between the Radio studios and my office in The Galleria financial district.
He was a good cop.
Often, he would see me before I saw him.
On Monday, neither Norling or the driver who hit him saw one another in time.
Deputy Norling was praised by his colleagues as being a very proficient, professional lawman. Motorcycle cops are a different breed anyway, but Norling seemed to be a cut above the rest.
I could tell this by the way he’d set up to monitor traffic on the tollway he regularly patrolled.
Norling’s favorite strategy was to catch speeders heading east, into the rising morning sun. He’d position himself between an on-ramp and the mainlane of the tollway, at the end of the concrete divider. That provided some protection from traffic, as well as a bit of natural camouflage from which to beam his radar gun at approaching cars.
Many times Deputy Norling could slow traffic merely by sitting astride his parked cycle, a very visible reminder to heed the speed limit.
I recently passed Norling and a second motorcycle patrolman as they talked to a pedestrian who’d wandered onto the curbside of the tollway exit ramp I use each morning.
They were re-directing him out of harm’s way.
Didn’t want the guy to get hit by a car.
How sadly ironic.
Jason Norling’s family is calling for a statewide ban on cellphone use while driving. Not an unreasonable request, and I’ll bet Norling's death will give the Legislature the emotional mojo needed to pass some kind of restriction. State Sen. Garnett Coleman introduced a measure last session; Rep. Sylvester Turner says he will do the same in the next session.
There is also a movement afoot to re-name the Westpark Tollway in honor of Jason Norling, a most-fitting tribute to a most dedicated peace officer. Who knows, perhaps each time someone pulls onto the Norling Tollway, thinking of the Deputy’s loss might dampen speeds just a bit...or delay a phone call until you get where you’re going. Safely.
Thanks to Houston Chronicle photographers Gary Fountain and Nick de la Torre for their moving images.