John Kass, one of the last respectable writers for the once proud Chicago Tribune, wrote an article on why people would want to become police officers. He wrote his views from the perspective of a long-time journalist living in Chicago his adult life.
I would like to expound on his thoughts; only I am writing from the viewpoint of a retired Chicago Police sergeant with over thirty years of diverse service to the people of Chicago.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS …
I would like to start this journey with a story an old friend and co-worker once shared with me. Al was sitting at his desk in sixth grade at his Catholic grammar school when Sister Mary Agnes told the students to open their math books to page 66. All the students obliged while Al just sat there staring at his book’s cover.
The elderly sister walked up to Al and once again directed him to open his math book to page 66. He responded by saying he didn’t need to because he would never use math. When she questioned why that was, Al responded that he was going to be a policeman and didn’t need math.
With one mighty swing, Sister Mary Agnes knocked Al to the floor. While standing over Al sitting on the floor, the good Sister announced, Officer Al, please sit in your desk and open your math book to page 66.
Al, as I, became Chicago Police Officers, but possibly for different reasons.
If you ask a police officer why they chose law enforcement, and police work in particular, most will liking say that they wanted to help people. I too, wanted to help people – but I had personal motivations. My father and grandfather were Chicago Policemen. Both had history and legacy behind their chosen careers.
SONGS OF THE HEART
I worked the streets of Chicago for over thirty years and enjoyed the majority of the time.
- I helped gang members leave their gang and enter a realistic future of family and employment.
- I repaired door frames for elderly burglary victims.
- I was able to steer local students into healthy lifestyle choices.
- I adjusted the tricky ventilation system for some aging condominium residents.
- I cleaned the snow off of numerous mature drivers’ vehicles.
- I drove needy people to rehab instead of jail.
- I gave money to real homeless and needy street people.
Get the point? I did what we entered law enforcement to do. It was gratifying and enjoyable.
THAT WAS THEN … THIS IS NOW
Then times changed. I observed fellow officers being disciplined for doing real police work. I saw officers reprimanded for chasing gang members. I witnessed supervisors turning their backs on officers who made legitimate mistakes. In short, I witnessed the death of police work.
At the end of my career, I worked in the prime district in Chicago. I worked the day watch and had seniority, which meant I had choices and freedom in assignments. And I was five minutes from my district.
In the last few years, I found myself getting angry during the short ride to work. The assignments weren’t as much fun as they used to be. The reports were routine and the excitement left me. When I lost my compassion, I knew it was time to leave.
After 30 years, 3 months, 15 days and 2 hours, I became a regular, ordinary citizen once again. I originally joined the police department for the legacy of the Casey family, and for the pension. One is gone while the other is intact.
THE ‘FAT LADY’ HAD FINALLY SUNG
I retired 13 years ago and never looked back. After retirement, I taught Criminal Justice at a local college for 10 years. My standing advice to my students was to avoid a career in local law enforcement. Go Federal or at the bare minimum, find work in a small suburb.
Attempting to do real police work is a lost art.
Skilled police officers not only contend with criminals, but officials looking for the next copper to throw under the preverbal bus in order to advance their phony political careers.
Sadly, policing, as I knew it, is dead.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
Larry enjoys hearing from his readers – EMAIL
View Larry Casey’s website: www.StoriesofaChicagoPoliceOfficer.com/ and review his book by the same name.
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