Peter Berghammer, left, worked closely with law enforcement and was a supporter of the SMILE (Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement) Conference from the get-go. Here he's speaking with Capt. Mike Parker of the LASD. Photo Dale Stockton
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Law enforcement lost a brilliant and abiding friend when Peter Berghammer died unexpectedly last Saturday, just 51 years old, from heart failure.
It may seem the sort of cliché overstatement you would expect at such a moment, but there truly was no one else like him. Anyone who knew him would agree.
I met Peter at the SMILE (Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement) conference in Washington, D.C., back in April 2010, at which he spoke on security matters. They called him Dr. Doom.
“Doom” because, well, he could seem a little paranoid at first. One of his talks was about the dangers posed by open wireless networks, which many people use without a second thought. But he knew what he was talking about to a startling degree—hence the title “Dr.” What seemed paranoia revealed itself in the course of his presentation to be prudence. It was a sort of one-two punch, this Dr. Doom.
After the conference I joked with him, “I’m still using those Starbucks networks without a hitch!” To which he replied: “I know you have, Crawford. Very interesting stuff you’re looking at.”
Soon after, we discovered a mutual passion for philosophy. Having studied philosophy at UCSD and the Goethe Institute, Peter had a particular love for Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) and Baruch Spinoza (Ethics). Two of the most rigorous philosophical books in the western canon, these were the books he turned to understand the world in which he lived.
Peter and I shared more superficial interests as well: 1980s punk rock and surfing. And there was this happy coincidence: His daughter, now 19 months old, was born six months before mine.
Peter and I discussed fatherhood extensively—keeping electronic devices to a minimum, the encroaching outside pressures as they grow older, reading and so on. Nothing had ever made him so happy, it seemed, and I think this was something of a surprise to him: He was a natural father. “You know Crawford, everyone talks about how difficult fatherhood is,” he recently told me. “For me it’s easy! It’s so much fun.”
The list of Peter's accomplishments is astounding, almost unreal. From pioneering in Internet commerce to working in military intelligence to founding multiple technology companies—how could one man, so humble and kind, do so much? Add to this the many boards on which he sat and the numerous associations to which he belonged, the fellowships, and so on—how could this man, in pale suits and bright ties with horn-rimmed glasses, do it all?
Peter most recently worked as a senior strategist for PC/W Communications, working closely with public safety companies, including Nixle and Raytheon. He was a partner, with an eye that always settled on what’s good for public safety. Law enforcement lost a one-of-a-kind friend.
He is and will continue to be missed. Contributions to an education fund for his daughter can be sent to 19744 Beach Blvd., Suite 398, Huntington Beach, CA 92648.