By Hal Collier
In the last Ramblings I discussed being G.P. General Public. That just means that I don’t have an automatic source of information from my former employer because I retired. I’m still a cop and will be until I die!
I spent thirty-five years developing that cop sixth sense. My training and experience made me a product of my environment. I still sit with my back to a wall facing the door at restaurants. I still open doors with my left hand, leaving my gun hand free, although I’ll admit that I don’t carry my gun everywhere anymore.
I go shopping with my wife and I see shoplifters. I have gotten away from seeing blatant traffic violations and screaming, “Where’s a cop when you need him?” I can drive past a donut shop and not want to stop for a cup of coffee; I still don’t eat donuts. I’ll admit that I drink Starbucks coffee now with the sissy sleeve so you don’t burn your hand, but when I order coffee it’s still only one word, COFFEE. No half this, half that and no squirts or splashes of anything else.
So, what does a retired cop do to pass the time, known as the “Golden Years?” It depends on the cop. Some retire after twenty years and take a second job. They get their smaller pension and collect a paycheck as well. I had lunch with a retired cop the other day and he was collecting four pensions. Twenty years with LAPD, and three other smaller pensions. Before you call some investigative news team, he earned every pension. .
Others spent thirty-five years with LAPD to draw a bigger pension and retire for good. Some higher-ranking officers retire from LAPD and become Chiefs of Police for other departments. Quite a few start their own businesses, usually police-related. Security, private investigation, personal bodyguard. Then there’s that strange group of officers who write books, following in the footsteps of Joseph Wambaugh.
A lot of cops retire and travel. They spend time with their spouses to make up for the time they missed while working. Sadly, some die within five years due to the stress and challenges of a difficult job. Many retired cops have disability pensions and others just have bad backs, worn-out knees, or post-traumatic stress. Yea, just like a war veteran.
I still have police dreams, you know the ones where your gun won’t fire, or you can’t run away from danger.
Some get divorced and their spouse takes half of their pension. So much for that long-range financial plan. Some care for an elderly parent or ill spouse.
What do those that retire for good do? Some of us became childcare experts. Hopefully, not our own, but the grandkids. I have changed more diapers since I retired than I did when my own kids were toddlers. I have watched more Disney Channel shows than Walt ever did. I can sing the entire song, “Hot Potato,” from the Wiggles. I have bought large sets of Lego’s and Lincoln Logs, again!!! Who threw out my old sets and while I’m at it, where the hell are my baseball cards?
I have dressed a Bratz Doll with my granddaughter as well as armed Luke Skywalker with a light saber for my grandsons. Bus service, to and from school also includes stops at McDonald’s, Jamba Juice, and Burger King.
A lot of cops catch up on home repairs and some learn to cook, without a microwave oven. I mean cook, not BBQ. They just don’t have their own cooking shows, yet. Others garden and some do nothing but attend retirement lunches. More on retirement lunches later!
A large group can’t wait to get out of Los Angeles or California. Cops tend to move to areas that have life styles more conducive to the politics of cops. They also have a desire to save their pension checks from tax collectors in states that will double dip. Double dip means that some states will tax your pension, after California has already taxed it. Ouch!!!
Retired cops change after they retire. Some grow long hair or wild mustaches, most of us don’t shave everyday unless we want sex, which is not the priority it once was. I once was given spare change while standing in line at Taco Bell!! I guess I needed a shave and a haircut. What the hell, I ordered an extra taco. Retired cops don’t care about being politically correct anymore so be careful if you ask for their honest opinion. You’ll get it and a lecture as well.
A lot of retired cops fish, hunt and golf more than our spouses like, but then I have spent more time shopping than I ever did when I was on the job. Did I mention that I see crooks in every aisle of a store?
The first few years after retirement I would stop by the station where I spent thirty-three years and say hi to old partners. Later, I didn’t know anyone and they didn’t know me. Once some rookie cop wanted to direct me to the senior citizen building. Most retired cops will tell you they don’t miss the job but really miss the partners. Partners bond for life. I few years ago I attended a Hollywood reunion and after five minutes, old partners I hadn’t seen in a decade were my best friends again. The internet lets you stay connected.
A growing trend among retired cops is retirement reunions or monthly lunches. A group of cops living in a geographical area will meet once a month and have breakfast or lunch. Some groups meet every three or four months but have a three day party. Some meet in Las Vegas, Laughlin, Idaho, Montana, or Missouri. A lot meet in L.A. or surrounding counties once a month. Some will drive 50/60 miles for a meal with old cops. That police experience is a bond that never leaves you. It gives us a chance to tell those stories that our spouses don’t want to hear again. One story sparks a memory and then another story is told. The good thing about retired cops is that their memory has failed them and you can tell the same story every month.
Retirement is good but the road to get there was great. Hal