The social aspects of police work have been studied, dissected and covered for decades. In my opinion there are no stronger bonds outside of family than those between members of two professions: the military and law enforcement. I believe those bonds are crucial to the success of the mission. In both professions, knowing the individual in front of you, beside you and behind you can be counted on to do the job and do it right is crucial. Much of a unit’s success stems from the working relationships it forms.
Off-duty, those relationships grow even stronger. I’ve spoken of my late partner, Candido Suarez, who died too young and was the best cop I ever knew. He was more than a fellow officer – he was my lifeline, and I was his. We counted on each other, confided in each other and worked well together.
But I was also close to a lot of other officers on my department. We regularly had cookouts and get-togethers. We hung around after hours, went to one another with our problems and helped each other make it through a profession that was exhausting, exacting and often brutal.
I had fond memories of my field training officer and my first captain who saw promise in this rookie officer. The old timers – the guys who were nearing their 20 or 25 or 30 when I came aboard – were icons to me. I looked up to them and never lost interest in their stories of past glory, hair-raising near misses and goofy escapades.
The officers I served with – on patrol, in detectives and throughout the department – were characters all their own. Some were memorable for all the wrong reasons (there was this one officer who shut the patrol car door on his own head) and for all the right reasons (sitting stake-out with an officer on a hunch after a series of break-ins and catching the guy). Most of them were terrific. All of them were memorable.
So, I ask, do you ever wonder where all of those guys and gals are now? What they’re doing, how they have adjusted to life at their new departments or out in the civilian world? I often did and I discovered others had, too.
My spouse is on Facebook. I am not, but that’s because I am suspicious of social networking in general. It’s not in my DNA. But he keeps up with a lot of our old police friends on Facebook, and not too long ago he informed me that several former officers and a couple of current ones were planning a kind of a reunion.
That reunion ended up being a four-hour social followed later that evening by a dinner. I’m not sure what the final head count was, but I saw dozens of officers I with whom I once served.
Attendees were given nametags with the year they started their service. The earliest start date I saw was 1954, with every decade represented, right up to the present. My first captain was there, as were many officers I served. They came from all parts of the state, and a couple even traveled from out of state to be there.
We had a great time. Someone brought tons of pictures and we caught up on one another’s lives, recalled the good times and remembered good friends we had lost. We relived cases, rekindled old friendships and resurrected that feeling of camaraderie that comes from working alongside someone who will never let you down, no matter what.
Have you kept up with the officers who were instrumental in your career, the men and women who backed you up, listened to your problems and griped about the brass with you? If not, maybe it’s time you did. Don’t see good old friends only at the funerals of other good old friends.