Monday, June 18, 2012

Where Are All the 'Old' Cops?




Have you ever wondered what happens to old cops? Whenever we think of police, we conjure up images of young, flat-stomached men and women in uniform stopping speeders, chasing crime-doers in high-speed chases, or walking a beat in a retail area. Police officers are seldom thought of as old, pot-bellied, or grandparents. But, of course, we age and do other things.
The primary thing to remember is that police work is a young person’s job. One has to be in good physical shape, able to run and work nights, weekends, and holidays. Sometimes the hours are long. One does not break off an intensive investigation because it’s quitting time. The first 48 hours in a major investigation are the most important. Whether it is a murder, rape, missing child, or some other major incident, the primary investigator continues to work the case as long as humanly possible― or until it’s solved. I’ve known investigators who have worked 18, 24 and even 48 hours without going home. I’ve done a few of those stints myself.
Police work can be hard, dirty and physically and mentally exhausting. For me, it started to take its toll by age 35. It took longer to recover from injuries received in a fight with a PCP user. Changing work shifts each week was like being in a constant state of jet lag. People telling lies, domestic abuse, child molestation, and other repulsive actions made me leery of anything anyone said. Decomposing bodies; drunken kids mangled in car accidents; telling parents their child, wife, husband or close relative was dead― all of these things are burdens carried in the back of an officer’s mind.
To be an active street officer requires a young, agile person in mind and body, and that’s why most police retire after 20 or 25 years, if they can last that long. But to retire at age 45 or 50 is too young to stop working. Police retirements are not overly generous. Most officers have families who need food, clothes, orthodontists and college educations. So, retired cops go into other things. Due to contacts, training and experience, most go into security or investigative occupations. Some start businesses. I know of outstanding police officers who went into landscaping, home building, window blind manufacturing, and horse breeding, to name a few second careers. I asked one old cop why he started an auto repair shop. He said because it had nothing to do with police work.
Every police officer eventually has to face the prospect of retirement and becoming a normal human being again. For some, it’s hard to leave behind the excitement, respect, or even the power of being a police officer.
For others it is a relief.
                                                          ―James King

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