Jul 032010

I think we can all relate in one way or another to this … especially the last paragraph! 
Thoughts from a Suffolk PD officer who retired in ’89. 

Just before retiring, some  young puppy was busting my chops about how law enforcement  has changed, and the system is improving for the best. I just smiled and gave him a little laugh.
He asked  what was so funny. I told him that I felt sorry for him.  When asked why, I told him, “Because in about 15 years, THIS  is going to be your good old days.”
We all saw the  change in our jobs. I came on in 1970. I used to tell the rookies that our academy lasted 3 months. They gave us a  stick, a gun, a dime, and kicked us out into the street.  They told us: If you need help, use the dime. If you can’t  get to a phone, use the stick. If using the stick pisses him  off, use the gun.
And the first order we received  when we were assigned to a precinct was from our field sergeant. His order was “Don’t you EVER bother me,  kid.”
Law enforcement then, was much different than  the current mission. We delivered babies, got rough in the  alley when we needed to, made “Solomon-like” decisions at  least once a tour, and often wound up being big brother to the kid we roughed up in that alley a year or so ago. And, for some reason, none of that managed to get on a report.  And the department didn’t really want to know. All they  wanted was numbers, and no ripples in the  pond.
Because of the changing times, and the  evolution of law enforcement, the modern young officers will  never see that form of policing, and of course this is best.  The current way is the right way… now.  But it was different then (ergo, the Dinosaur  Syndrome).
When it’s time to go, we wonder if we’re  going to miss the job. After all, other than our kids and a  few marriages, it was the most important thing in our lives.  Actually, it was the other way around. The job was first, but only another cop could understand how I mean  that.
But have faith, brother!  After a short time of  feeling completely impudent, (after all, you’re just John Q.  now), reality hits like a lead weight.
It’s not the  job we miss after all. It’s what we, as individuals, had accomplished while in this profession that we miss. The  challenge of life and death, good and bad, right and wrong,  or even simply easing the pain of some poor bastard for a  while, someone we will never see again.
We know the  reality of what’s happening out there. We are the ones who have spent our entire adult life picking up the pieces of  people’s broken lives. And the bitch of it all is that no one except us knows what we did out there.
I was once  told that being a good street cop is like coming to work in a wet suit and peeing in your pants. It’s a nice warm  feeling, but you’re the only one who knows anything has  happened.
What I missed mostly, though, were the  people I worked with. Most of us came on the job together at  the age of 21 or 22. We grew up together. We were family. We  went to each others weddings, shared the joy of our children’s births, and we mourned the deaths of family  members and marriages. We celebrated the good times, and  huddled close in the bad.
We went from rookies who  couldn’t take our eyes off of the tin number of the old timer we worked with, to dinosaurs.
After all, what they gave us was just a job. What we made of it was a profession. We fulfilled our mission, and did the impossible  each and every day, despite the department and its  regulations.
I think the thing that nags you the most  when you first retire is: After you leave the job and remove  your armor, the part of you that you tucked away on that shelf for all those years, comes out. It looks at all the things you’ve hidden away. All the terrible, and all the  wonderful things that happened out there. And it asks you the questions that no one will ever answer.
“Do you  think I did OK? Did I make a difference? Was I a good  cop?”
You know what? Yeah, you were a good cop! And  you know it!
In closing: the best advice I  got, by far, was from an old friend who left the job a few  years before me. He told me to stay healthy, work out and  watch my diet. He said “Cause that way, the first day of  every month you can look in the mirror, smile and say..  Screwed them out of another month’s pension!!”

Be  well!!

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