We have all watched them: the Cop Shows: COPS, NCIS, CSI, Live PD and others. If you are really old, you may remember DRAGNET with Jack Webb and Harry Morgan.
Viewers got really excited watching car chases (through the streets of San Francisco), gun fights, brawls, foot pursuits over fences and a whole host of other obstacles. Recalling those scenes, most folks understand it when they heard someone say, “Cop work is a young man’s job.”
I recall during my academy one of the instructors say that, “Cop work is 7½ hours of boredom mixed with 30 minutes of sheer panic.”
Most civilians don’t realize that, in real life, when a cop collars (a/k/a arrests) someone, it is typically followed by many hours of paperwork and other administrative BS. (Thank you to the courts and attorneys.)
TIME FOR THE DOOR
In the trade it’s termed, “Pulling the pin.” To a civilian it means submitting your retirement papers. Most American agencies enable a cop to retire after 20-25 years of service. A pal of mine hired on at an agency that had a twenty-years-and-out policy when he was kid of 19 years old. That means he can retire with full benefits at 39.
Yes, you read that right. I think that I have socks older than that.
Even though they are eligible to retire, many stay on the job. Think about having 33 years on the job for example.
Some stay because they have nothing else lined up and they don’t want to spend the remainder of their life in their La-Z-Boy watching TV.
Often, they stay because they still have family obligations. Consider a 40 year old man with two kids in high school and a third in college. He will tell you that, “I can’t afford to retire until the kids are out of the house.”
But there can be cops who remain well past the age of being, “a young man,” e.g. into their fifties or sixties.
In most of those cases, who is kidding whom? Can you picture most men at the age of 60 repeatedly jumping backyard fences in a foot pursuit? How about in a fistfight with a brawny young buck of twenty-two?
Ain’t gonna happen.
I recall a rude awakening I got very early in my cop career. I was working with a senior officer assigned to the traffic bureau. That meant we conducted traffic stops, issued tickets and investigated / reported on traffic crashes. In the course of a conversation during the shift he casually said, “My paycheck is the same if I write fifty tickets this week or if I write two. Why should I bust my ass when I don’t feel like it?”
It was an “aha” moment. I learned that he was absolutely correct.
Then there was the partner who acknowledged a radio call sending us to a traffic crash with serious bodily injuries. As we were driving along at a nice leisurely pace of about 30 mph (limit was 45), I asked why were weren’t running code to the scene.
“Let the EMTs get there first. They can clean up the blood and gore before we arrive. It leaves less for me to do.”
Another “aha” moment.
WTF? The boss can’t fire a guy because he is undergoing the natural changes associated with aging, like slowing down. A little less ‘piss and vinegar’ is how some would term it.
FINDING A SPOT
Although I try hard to avoid the use of words like “always,” or “never,” in this case it is pretty safe. A new cop going to work in a local law enforcement agency almost always starts out in the patrol division. He is a rook (a/k/a rookie) who is learning cop work from the ground up. These skills are the fundamental skills he will use no matter where he goes later.
After time on the job, a cop is given many opportunities to change the focus of his career.
- He may test and be promoted to the role of a supervisor like sergeant, lieutenant and so forth.
- He may test to work in a specialized bureau like traffic, criminal investigations, narcotics or arson investigations.
- Then there the ‘high powered’ stuff like the bomb squad, undercover drug unit and others.
However, many (like me) became a cop to be a patrolman. They spend their entire career in uniform, pushing a patrol car around the streets of their city looking for and arresting bad guys.
Those are the cops who are the focus, here.
What have agencies historically done with a cop loses his desire for street work or for physical reasons, can no longer do it? The public rarely thinks of this issue. But, if we look, we can find them in a few places:
- Court officer
- Working at the airport, mostly greeting passengers and giving directions
- The records bureau where citizens go for copies of reports
- Any one of many administrative roles like internal affairs, planning and research, special investigator, etc.
- And of course, there is the School Resource Officer
The young, hard-hitting cop wants no part of these kinds of jobs. They want to be out on the street catching bad guys.
NOWHERE IS SAFE
Americans’ beliefs, opinions and judgements about “Where am I totally safe?” has radically changed in recent times:
- Southerland Springs, TX where 24 churchgoers were killed by a crazed man with a rifle
- New York City where 8 bicyclists where killed by a madman with a truck
- Boston Marathon where two were killed and hundreds injured by two brothers using bombs housed in pressure cookers
- Austin, TX was hit by a serial bomber who killed two and injured four
- Parkland, FL where 17 people were killed by a teenager with a rifle
WHAT NOW, MY LOVE?
Historically these were places and assignments where cops who were “Retired on Duty” could be assigned.
The public didn’t know.
We cops knew, though.
For their entire career, these senior officers loved the public they were sworn to serve. For the most part, they had worked hard at the jobs they had been given throughout their years of service.
During most careers, a cop is called upon to put his life on the line in service to others. I was. You probably have been, or will be.
Today, many of the “old timers” are tired-out physically or emotionally.
Sadly, as we witnessed in Parkland, some can no longer make that ultimate sacrifice if called upon to do so.
The question for today, “What Now, My Love?”
This is really tough issue. Unfortunately, there aren’t any answers where everyone ends-up smiling with the outcome.
Whether you are one of the Brass or a fresh-out-of-the-box rookie, you need to be considering the options for when your time comes.
This issue will directly affect you.
Or someone whom you should be protecting.
Just like it affected 17 people in a Parkland, Florida High School last month.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
Jim enjoys hearing from his readers – EMAIL
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