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War Stories

By Thonie Hevron

As you know, I host this blog every Sunday morning related to law enforcement. Currently I have several retired LAPD veterans who write posts, like war stories at briefing. While their readership is growing, I’ve been thinking of mixing it up a bit—with prompts. I ask and you answer. “Tell me about the time you…”

A retired deputy friend of mine, Will Wallman, gave me an excellent idea: When did you first know you were no longer a rookie cop?

Some future prompts might be like this:

  • When did you realize you couldn’t tell civilians what you did for a living in a social situation? What did you say was your occupation?
  • Do/did you experience burn-out? If so, what do/did you do about it?
  • What do you do to stay sharp on the job? To decompress or blow off steam?
  • Talk about the proudest moment of your career.
  • What was your idea of the best job ever?

To answer, click on “reply,” then “accept” cookies and type your comment in the “reply” box. You may have to create an identity in Wordpress but you will be prompted if you need to. If you have an idea for a prompt, feel free to PM me or send me your ideas at

Situational answers are great, one-liners work, too. My audience is mostly mystery writers and other cop-like folk. Caveat: please, no politics or religion unless it relates to the story.

Here are a few examples of real answers to “When did you know you were no longer a rookie cop?” from a private LE Facebook page I belong to:

TB (Northern California rural deputy): The first time I thought I might get shot on duty. Or, when I drove around the corner after making a death notification for a 5-year-old girl, who was spending the night at her cousins, and started crying. Time on the job sometimes doesn’t mean a lot, but experience does.

WM (suburban municipal police Northern California): It was when I graduated from SRJC (Santa Rosa Junior College) Police Academy! With no prior police experience just 8 years in the military, as a supply clerk. I was on my own about 2 weeks after I was hired. No FTO. I had been on the street pretty much in solo units for 18 months before starting Academy. California police work was a lot different back in the 1960’s.

KG (small northern California municipality): My father died from suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, I knew one day that call would come. I remember it being all business on scene but later it hit me. I didn’t have a meltdown or anything and I’m pretty sure I didn’t cry. As time went on, I actually felt pretty good about being able to do the job and checking my personal stuff at the door. I had maybe two years’ experience then, and the rule was rookie for 5 years, but I knew then I was capable so in my head I was no longer a rook.

CL (rural California sheriff’s deputy): Hired by HPD after being a reserve for a few months. First day on the job it was me and the chief. My first call was from the chief and it was “10-50x at Silviera Pontiac. We were using the old nine code back then and I had no clue what I was going to and wasn’t going to ask! Drove there kinda fast and it was a VIN verification. Not a veteran yet.
That took six months and a big bar fight at Norm’s and a head injury requiring a trip to ER, stitches and time off to let the swelling go down.

Please feel free to share (anonymously if you wish). We’d love to see your answers.


Next week, Ed Meckle will be back with a few stories about Wilshire Detectives.

By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold, and With Malice Aforethought
all available on Amazon
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Assault With a Dead Weapon

By Jim Hasse, Retired U.S. Postal Inspector

I observed an altercation last week in the seafood department at Safeway. The argument was over freshness. An irate and intoxicated customer threw a large chunk of Atlantic Salmon at the seafood manager and hit him in the face. A bloody nose was the result.

Being a retired law enforcement officer, I stepped in and made a citizen’s arrest. I told the customer he was being arrested for Assault with a Dead Weapon.

When the police arrived, they complimented me on my creativity, but just charged the man with Battery and Drunk in Public.

Jim Hasse’s Bio: I had a 28-year law enforcement career. I worked as a deputy sheriff and a detective in Madison County, Illinois, early in my career, but served as a U. S. Postal Inspector for 20 years, retiring in 1998. The short answer is: Jim Hasse, retired U. S. Postal Inspector from Walnut Creek, CA.

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Guest Post: Uniforms on Halloween

By Belinda Riehl
October 31, 2018

Halloween houseNot in costume or with satchels to Trick or Treat at 10 o’clock in the morning, the first uniformed officer rang our doorbell. We saw him on the porch through the dining room window. A younger, leaner uniformed officer stood in an “at ease” but ready position down three steps six feet behind the first officer on the walkway with his right thumb tucked in his uniform pants pocket just below his holstered weapon.

My husband, Danny, opened the front door. With a smile and a strong but friendly voice, he said, “What brings this show of force to my door?”

“We’re looking for Shannon,” the first officer said with a soft smile, his right arm bent at the elbow and the heel of his right hand casually resting on the butt of his holstered gun.

In Danny’s usual way, he didn’t offer what he knew about Shannon, the former tenant who’d lived in this house we’d recently rented.

“What crime did she commit?” His habit of answering a question with a question wasn’t muted by police officers at his door.

“We got a call from her family in Oregon.”

“This is a lot of manpower for a welfare check. I was a police officer for thirty-eight years. Good deployment of personnel, though,” Danny said as he looked beyond the front yard to the third uniformed officer on the sidewalk. There were no police cars in sight.

“Oh, you’re from L.A.?” a fairly obvious question given that Danny was wearing his blue LA Dodger cap. “What department?”

cop and policewoman“LAPD for twenty-seven years, then the L.A.D.A.’s office for another eleven. You probably know my son; he’s a Deputy D.A. here.” They exchanged names and laughs. The third officer from the front sidewalk moved up onto the front yard to hear the light-hearted conversation about attorneys and prosecutors. The officer with the sergeant stripes, the most experienced officer on the scene, appeared from a place of cover between our two parked cars in the driveway.

“You know why they bury attorneys eight feet down instead of six?” the first officer asked. “Because deep down they have a good heart.” They all laughed.

The young officer closest to the first officer casually rested his forearm on his holstered gun. Clearly, they weren’t going to need to deploy tactical force.

In my full-length robe and uncombed hair, I made myself more visible to the officer at the door, still behind Danny as he took up most of the space at the wide-open doorway. “We just moved in last week,” I said. Danny stepped aside slightly. “Shannon lived here before us. She told our landlady she was moving to Oregon where she’d bought property.”

“That fits what we know,” said the first officer. “We got a call from her family in Oregon that she never arrived.

“She also had a business here in town,” Danny said.

“We checked there too,” but offered no further information.

“I’d be happy to give you our landlady’s name and number,” I said. “She might have a phone number or email address, but I know she didn’t leave a forwarding address because we’re still getting her mail.”

“Thanks. That could be helpful,” the officer said.

While I stepped away to write down our landlady’s information, the two officers facing each other at the door continued their police banter. Danny, the confident, retired, equally strong dog had sniffed the butt of the confident, younger, seemingly capable first officer who’d gingerly sniffed Danny’s butt. The two watchdogs meant each other no harm and their tails wagged as they shook hands.

I handed the officer my note and said, “I hope she’s okay.” I didn’t step too far into the doorway. No need for the whole neighborhood to know I was still in my robe at ten in the morning.

“Thanks for the information,” he said.

Everyone said, “Have a nice day.”

After he closed the door, Danny said, “They’re looking for Shannon for something else.”

“What makes you think so?” I often accuse him of being cynical. Sometimes a bad driver is just a bad driver and not trying to piss him off; but, sometimes his suspicious nature is warranted. His career experience and wisdom have served him well.

“First, there’s no way they send a sergeant, and three officers to do a welfare check and park half a block away. The sergeant between our cars, the third officer a distance from the house on the sidewalk, another uniform behind the guy at the door—that’s pretty tactical deployment for a missing person. It was more in line with looking for a violent offender.”

“I heard the guy on the sidewalk say it was a training day when you said this is a lot of manpower.”

“I was going to tell the training officer he was standing too close to the door,” Danny said with his typical wide grin.

“What do you think? She left town with too much debt?”

“By the way she left this house and yard in such a mess, it’s hard to believe she could run a business. Looked to me like she left pretty quickly. I’m guessing check fraud or grand theft. Maybe a warrant. Even the neighbors said her tweaker boyfriend had brought her down. I don’t know why the police are looking for her, but I have a feeling she doesn’t want to be found. No forwarding address. Didn’t arrive where she said she was going. Family in Oregon looking for her. If the boyfriend is looking for her, that’s where he’d look too. Who knows?”

“They sure didn’t offer any information,” I said.

“I don’t usually tell people I’m a retired cop, but I thought they’d offer a little quid pro quo.”

“They definitely stayed tight-lipped,” I said.

“Did you hear what they said when the neighbor across the street asked what was going on when they were leaving?”

“No, but I’ll bet he was a little disturbed by his new neighbors bringing the police to his neighborhood,” I said. “What’d the police say?”

“One of the officers answered, ‘Somebody stole a baby stroller.’”

“Do they teach that in the police academy, how to never give a straight answer and redirect the conversation?”

Danny chuckled and said, “You tell ‘em what they want to hear. Don’t leave ‘em scared. They don’t need to know the truth. They might try to help and get themselves hurt.”

“I’d like to have known the truth,” I said.

“Need-to-know basis, Sweetheart…”

Belinda Riehl
Associate Editor 2018 Redwood Writers anthology Redemption–Stories from the Edge; author of “Security at the Inn,” a fictional story told in 2020 after surviving the 2017 Sonoma County Wildfires included in Redemption; author of “Lighter Load,” a 100-word poem about the loss of her beloved dog in RW 2018 poetry anthology Phoenix–Out of Silence, and then…; author of “Wallet Karma,” a true story published in Sonoma Seniors Today, January 2018 issue,; author of “Speak in Ink,” a poem published in online magazine,; winner of Redwood Writers 2015 Pullet Surprise for exceptional volunteer service to Sonoma County writers.
Please visit my blog: to read Occasional Musings by this writer.

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The Lonely Wheelchair

By Keith Bettinger, Retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police

Keith’s first Just the Facts, Ma’am post about the shooting was here on October 9th, 2017.

View_from_the_Foundation_Room_(24089601122)October 1, 2017 will always be remembered as Las Vegas’ day of infamy. Death and injury rained down on country music lovers from the heights of the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, stealing the lives of fifty-eight people and causing injury to more than five hundred others.
Survival instincts and fear gripped the attendees and performers and people began running away from the scene onto Las Vegas Boulevard as well as through the open fields being used for parking.

People ran for blocks seeking shelter in other casinos. Some broke through fences and then broke the windows of ground floor offices seeking shelter within from the bullets raining down on them. For those that kept running, many wound up on the McCarran Airport runways, taking cover in the adjacent rain channels. Others attempted to hide at the scene under bleachers or under canvas canopies, hoping out of sight also meant out of the assassin’s mind.

Aerial view of Las Vegas, focusing on the Luxor Hotel "pyramid."The murderer killed himself. The shooting stopped, and the sun eventually rose that Sunday morning. All anyone could see were the remnants of the carnage that covered an extremely large crime scene; the likes of which few law enforcement officers had ever seen.

It would take weeks to photograph, recover, inventory, process and eventually return items to either the rightful owner or their surviving family members.
The hard-packed dirt field just east of the stage and audience area was filled with cars, tractor and trailers, buses and motor homes. The cars belonged to the concert attendees. The trucks, buses and motor homes belonged to the performers and their crews.
For days these vehicles did not move as evidence technicians processed the overwhelming crime scene. Eventually the evidence was gathered, and the vehicles were released. Some were driven from the scene. Others were towed back to the rental agencies by a caravan of tow trucks since the lessees had left town. As they left the field, you could see the shot-out windows, doors and fenders. The performers’ vehicles didn’t fare any better. They too had to wait days until they were allowed to leave what should have been a wonderful evening’s entertainment instead of a night of terror and carnage.


When the field was emptied of cars and trucks and the blood was disinfected and cleansed from the ground, just one thing remained; an empty and overturned wheelchair.

Looking at the wheelchair in its lonely state left one wondering trying to answer so many questions. Who was the occupant? Did the person make it this far on his own only to topple over? Was someone pushing him? Did someone carry him to safety? Was he pulled to safety behind a parked car? Did people, terrified and fleeing, leave him to fend for himself?

Eventually the wheelchair was not alone. Two evidence technicians walked across the field, righted the wheelchair and pushed it into the evidence processing facility.
The wheelchair was no longer alone. It joined the other evidence waiting to be processed.

But it left one important question unanswered – WHY?

About Keith Bettinger:

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 19 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents. Keith has written three books, FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME “DAY AND LENNY, END OF WATCH AND MURDER IN McHENRY. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: I Pledge Allegiance, Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.
It is my pleasure to host my good friend, Keith Bettinger. In addition to the things mentioned in his bio, he was also at the 9/11 Ground Zero. Being the author who reviewed the manuscript for my first book, “We Are Different Now – a grandparents journey through grief”, he had a big impact on my first becoming a published author. We hope you’ll leave a comment to let us know you stopped by to enjoy his article.

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Guest Post: Danny

Please welcome Keith Bettinger, a retired police officer from Suffolk County, NY. Keith has offered us several stories which we will see in the coming weeks.

By Keith Bettinger

Being the guest speaker chairperson for the Shields of Long Island at the time, I needed to find a Christmas meeting speaker for the December meeting. I was fortunate to find John Carlsen. At that time, John was a Deputy Inspector with the Nassau County, N.Y. Police Department. He and his wife, Kathleen had a son named Danny. John came to the Shields meeting because he had a story to tell, a story about Danny.

boy-in-a-wheelchairDanny was a unique child. Prenatal ultrasound showed a condition named hydrocephalus, or commonly referred to as “water on the brain.” Suggestions were made to terminate the pregnancy. After a great deal of discussion, prayer, and tears, Kathleen and John said no. They would have their child and love him no matter what.

On June 6, 1983, Danny was born. Not only did he have hydrocephalus, but he also had spina bifida. Within an hour of his birth, Danny underwent dangerous surgery. Danny wasn’t expected to survive, but he did. Doctors said he would never walk or talk. Kathleen and John never gave up hope.

Danny grew up to be a loving, wonderful child. He went to school. He had many friends. None of them looked at Danny as being handicapped. Danny just used special equipment to get around and get around he did. He competed in the New York State Games for the Physically Challenged and did so for six years, winning more than twenty gold medals.
Danny also became a Youth Ambassador for March of Dimes. He was a natural for the job, having a warm smile, and the gift of gab. He was a born politician. Helping the March of Dimes was important to Danny. Every time his photo appeared in the paper, he called his father at work and said “Hey, Dad, I’m famous again!”

Being different from other children never stopped Danny or his family. He and his parents did everything other families do. They went to baseball games. They visited Disneyworld. They even toured the Smokey Mountains by helicopter. Danny was so well known and liked, that in 1994, his community invited him to be the official lighter of the village Christmas tree.

Danny endured many surgeries during his childhood. He seemed to give strength to the people around him. He had an amazing sense of humor and a quick wit. At the same time, he was sensitive. He wasn’t embarrassed if hugged and kissed in front of his friends. As John said, Danny was one of a kind.

Danny visited his father and the officers assigned to the bureau. Danny loved police officers, and the officers enjoyed his visits. Like many kids, Danny wanted to be a cop. At home, Danny would write his own police reports about the activities in the neighborhood. He told his parents when he grew up, he was going to be a police officer.

Maryland State PoliceThis troubled John and Kathleen. As Danny grew up, they always encouraged him to do his best, that he could be anything he wanted to be. After all the encouragement given their son, how could they tell him, the one thing he really wanted to be, was beyond his reach?

One day in August 1995, Danny woke up with what appeared to be a cold. His parents looked after him that morning. John was sitting on the bed with Danny when Danny stopped breathing. He had developed myocarditis. His parents called 911 and Danny’s heroes – the police responded. They came with their patrol cars and ambulances. John gave his son CPR and the officers helped. They rushed the child who wanted to be just like them, to the hospital. Doctors did their best, but to no avail. If you ever tried to save a child’s life and lost, you know the anguish. Few people know the agony of trying to save their own child and losing that battle.

hearseAs devastated as they were, John and Kathleen decided to let Danny give the gift of sight to those in need. Doctors harvested his corneas and sent them to other hospitals.
At the funeral John and Kathleen were amazed to see how many people loved Danny. More than one thousand people attended his wake. Everyone came to pay their respects; friends and relatives, school bus drivers, teachers, and of course his police officers, all came to say their goodbyes.

The day of Danny’s funeral he received full police honors. Members of the Emergency Services Unit were his pallbearers. There were rows of police cars outside the church. Police Officers stood at attention and saluted while bagpipes played. School Crossing Guards stood in formation. Motorcycles escorted the procession to the cemetery where an honor guard waited for Danny; mounted officers, and his friends from Emergency Services. Officers saluted, crying.

John and Kathleen wanted to share Danny with the people who received his eyes. They contacted the eye bank and asked for a meeting. After a while, a letter arrived. One of the recipients, wanted to meet them. He wanted to thank them for allowing Danny’s cornea to be donated and giving him the gift of sight. Kathleen and John wanted to let this young man know what a wonderful child Danny was.

When they met this man, Ray, they realized once again, God and Danny work in mysterious ways. Ray was about to lose the sight in one eye due to the infection. Danny’s cornea saved not only Ray’s sight, but his job as well. The job Ray was able to keep is the job he wanted and enjoyed; Ray is a New York City Police Officer.

Danny finally got the job he always wanted.

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County, NY Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for over 25 years and has received 18 awards for his articles, stories, and books. He has written two books, Fighting Crime with Some Day and Lenny, and End of Watch. He has also contributed his writings in many anthologies including the recently released, I Pledge Allegiance…



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By Anthony Morgan, Retired Oakland PD

Anthony wrote this tribute to a fellow cop in 1983. It stands the test of time.–Thonie



Funeral for Phoenix Police Officer Issac Ros
Funeral for Phoenix PD Officer Isaac Rossario


A friend of mine passed away a few days ago. His name was Joe-the last name is not important. He was 74 years old. Joe was a cop. He retired about 14 years ago after 33 years’ service with the San Francisco Police Department. If my math is correct he started in 1936. Joe was a cop up to the day he died. He loved the profession and he was immensely proud of the Inspectors badge he carried for a good portion of his career.
Joe fit the role of the detective in the old “B” movies of yesteryear. A man of medium height and ruddy complexion, I can picture him wearing a freshly laundered white shirt, grey suit and tie and the ever-present hat. Donning a knee length overcoat to go out on a case on a foggy San Francisco evening always seemed to complete the plainclothes uniform. His stories of the “old days” conjured up images of Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon”. The cops back then, he said, solved cases by wearing out the soles of their shoes. The old guys got the job done by hard work and a lot of luck. Joe said that the detectives of today have the luxury of computers and new-age technology. God knows what he would think of today’s investigators. But, he would probably say that all cases are still solved by hard work and occasional luck.

After his retirement Joe remained in touch with law enforcement and his fellow co-workers. He became involved with the Veteran Officers Association. Joe worked hard to insure the rights and benefits of the active and retired officers remained intact and free from tampering by the City. He was a battler and one to give up without a fight over an issue he thought important. Occasionally someone would comment that he was wasting his retirement years working so hard. It wasn’t a waste of time for Joe. He enjoyed helping others and it gave him a sense of purpose.

Back in the early 70’s, I told him that I wanted to get into police work. He sat there for a moment and then he told me to go to Oakland. I thought for sure he would steer me toward S.F.P.D. Joe said the police department was having some troubles. It was mired in some pretty heavy and negative politics and stuck in a hiring freeze. He saw a strike on the horizon. He mentioned that the Oakland Police Department had the finest training and had the reputation of being a progressive police agency. Joe felt that it would take the S.F. Police Department years to recover. Armed with his advice, I applied for O.P.D.

After my graduation for the Academy he wrote me a note. It read, “To the new Cop-good luck and best wishes for a great career. Have fun.” It was signed “an old has-been.” I always thought that it must have been pretty dull being a police officer in the “old days.” After all, everything seems to happen so fast today. It wasn’t until I had some time on the job that I began to see some similarity between his years and mine. A number of his war stories were the same as mine, just the names and settings were different. It just seemed that the people were a bit more civilized back then.

Joe would get fully involved in his stories. He would start rubbing his hands and occasionally poke the listener in the shoulder just to emphasize a point. His voice would rise and fall in the old San Francisco Mission dialect-a little Boston Irish taint. The Mission accent would become even more pronounced as he reached the end of his tale. He always tried never to end on a sour note. He added humor and always tried to make a point.

One time I asked him what the high point of his career was. After a pause he replied, “I went 33 years without ever having to use my gun on someone. I was very fortunate.” He wished the same for every cop.

At the funeral service I saw some of his buddies from the job. All of them were about the same age as Joe. Their posture was stooped, their walk a little slow. There is a tinge of sadness in their voices as they recalled the old days. Their ranks are thinning. They all know that the day will soon come that no one will be left to tell their stories of accomplishments and failures. I looked hard into their eyes of these men. I could tell they were cops. Or, as Joe would say “They ARE cops.” He felt the saying “once a cop, always a cop” was true.

Joe had a lot of respect for the title “COP.” He always greeted me with “Howya doin’, cop?” He felt that cops were something special. He loved the word “cop.” He mentioned that being a cop meant being strong and having integrity. He expected cops to fail occasionally but what made them different was their ability to get back up and face the troubles head-on. Being a cop in his day was something to be proud of. In thinking about it, being a cop today still is something to be proud of.

Joe, to you I say thanks for everything, for being a mentor, and…so long, COP.

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Guest Post: What is Your Badge or Star Worth to You?

By Anthony Morgan, Retired Oakland Police Department

What is your badge or star worth to you?

To the new officer it is a sign that says “Look at what I have accomplished, look at what I am.” It doesn’t take long for the badge to become a part of the owner and the owner part of the badge. Maybe that is because it was earned through the trying months of the academy and field training, a successfully completed probation and becoming part of a team.

In the early years of a career the badge rarely leaves the officer. When not adorning the uniform it can be found on the pants belt or filling a badge wallet. It would not be a surprise to find that it was pinned to a shirt while sleeping. Before the newness wears off, the owner’s hand will periodically check to see if it’s still in place. Woe to the person that loses his or her badge.

As the years pass less thought is given to the badge. It becomes part of the daily uniform donning ritual, as common as just putting on a pair of socks. After a shift it frequently remains pinned to the uniform shirt and hung up in the locker to await another shift. Short of an occasional buffing no unusual thought is given to it.

As law enforcement officers we place a black band across the face of the badge in memory of a fellow cop who has fallen in the line of duty. We take a closer look at it and may start carrying it more often. We may think about the meaning of that piece of metal and appreciate it a bit more. When you see the badge of the fallen officer handed over to a family member you are made aware of the value it holds for the spouse, a child, a parent. They rub their fingers over the number, the agency name trying to get a sense of their officer.

It really isn’t until one leaves the police service that the importance of the badge is realized. That badge—your badge—was issued to you a long time ago. It was the ultimate sign that you took the “test” and were found worthy of that piece of designer metal. You were one of dozens, maybe hundreds, of individuals who attempted to meet the standard set so high for police officers.

Each day validated your fitness to be called a cop. You earned the right to wear that symbol of law and integrity by taking on the tasks that others could not or would not do. You sacrificed your youth to wear that badge honorably and to make a difference.

Eventually, the day comes that you walk into the Personnel Office and lay your badge on the counter. A part of you goes with it. That badge said who you were and what you have become. It accompanied you to every disturbance, every heart-wrenching call and, to every funeral. It is the symbol that made you stand apart from others who were not fortunate to wear the badge. That badge is yours. It sat on your chest next to your heart and became an extension of it. When that “cheap” piece of metal, which was paid for at such a high price, is handed over, so goes a piece of your soul and heart.

It is on that day that you remember what that badge did for you the first time you held it. The pride and the excitement that coursed through your mind and body. On your last day you are now aware how important that thing is to you and that it wasn’t just part of the uniform. For good or bad, it is you. It accompanied you on the path of spirited rookie to wizened veteran. And now retiree, who must hand it over.

Some departments have a badge waiting for the newly retired officer. It is something that can be displayed with pride in the following years. Often it is just a substitute for YOUR badge which will probably be resurfaced and reissued to another spirited rookie. Some departments issue a flat badge or nothing at all.

I was very lucky. My Sergeants star was an older style with a different design. I never compared it to any of the others, so I didn’t notice any difference. The Personnel officer said “wow, is that one old. I haven’t seen one of these in a few years. We’ll get you a new one with the ‘RETIRED’ flag on it.”

No way. I wanted my star. He assured me that he would get it back to me after the flag was attached. He was true to his word after many months of waiting. I still carry my star in a wallet to this day.

I happened to write a letter to my chief asking permission to have a copy of my Sergeant Star and my Police Officer Star made for a shadow box. I must have caught him on a good mood day. He granted my request. I have my Sergeant Star #209 and my Police Officer Star #426 hanging side by side along with other mementos on a wall in the house.

It is amazing that a cheap piece of metal with a shiny covering could mean so much. A lifetime of memories and dreams are embedded in each star. Each one is important to its bearer. I hope that everyone who wears a star or a shield will feel the same way.

What are my stars worth to me? They are priceless.

Anthony Morgan
Oakland Police Department



View from the Tower

View From the Tower: Stations

By John Schick, Retired Department of Corrections, California

(This post was originally a comment to Hal and Ed’s post about their police stations. It was so good, I had to post it on John’s own column.–Thonie)

Prison_guard_tower_(2967623823)Ok, so we’re talking about antiquated work buildings. CIM (Ca Institution for Men where I worked)) was opened in 1941. It was the only prison ever built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during WW-II. Originally it was a honor farm work camp: It had no walls. It has four facilities: Reception Center West, Reception Center East, Reception Center Central (RCC), and CIM-Main (minimum custody level 1 inmates.) The entire facility (with additions) held 6,500 inmates. We ALWAYS had more. It was the ONLY Reception Center in southern Calif. until Otay-Mesa (Donovan) was activated in 1987. We used to receive jail buses from the counties of LA, Riverside, San Diego, Orange, and San Bernardino. It made for a busy day every day.

Prior to the installation of electric cell doors EVERYTHING was gang box manual cell control. If you’ve ever toured Alcatraz, you saw manual levers for opening and closing cell doors. Ours was very similar. It took some getting used to. Ofttimes the doors wouldn’t lock, so we had to secure them with handcuffs. Almost every cell block had three tiers. After 8 hours of running up and down stairs you were ready to hit the gate UNLESS you got ordered over due to staff shortages. THEN you got 16 hours of stairs to handle. No overweight people were overweight for long.

On the West yard where I worked most of my career we had one story 150-man dormitories. They were a dilapidated to say the least. Toilets were clogged. The showers quit working. The heaters broke. A/C? Nah! Every Spring the dorms would be overrun by termite queen swarms. They were crawling on the walls. They were flying in your face. They would fill up the overhead light covers. You had to shake out your uniform and belongings to make sure you didn’t take a queen termite home with you. Our maintenance department was ineffective, to say the least.

In the RCC higher security building (erected in 1951) was a concrete dungeon. All it needed was a draw bridge. At night you could count on a visit from either Mr. Cockroach, OR Mr. Mouse, or both. There were THOUSANDS of them. The basement was an adventure. Usually half full of water it was a home to Olympic-sized cockroaches. I measured one at almost three inches in his bare feet! Despite efforts to eliminate their numbers they thrived. It was cool down there. It was moist and smelled like a putrefying bog. Perfect!

dairy cattleI should mention that CIM had a dairy herd of about 200 milking cows on grounds. The flies and smell of manure was in the summer horrific. The ammonia was enough to clear your nostrils! Not only did WE have dairy cows, but the entire end of southern Chino was at one time the largest dairy reserve in the world. So, there was an unending supply of manure aroma to satisfy the most sensitive noses. At night we would get thick fog that would pick up the manure scent and carry it into the dorms.

I heard an inmate complain one particularly stinky night, “Man! That’s 100% bullshit!”

I had to concur.

More Street Stories

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Thonie Hevron

Our usual post from our roster of coppers is taking a break today. For Hal Collier’s take on turkey day on the job, go to Thursday’s post.

We have a lot to be thankful for: if you are reading this, you likely have your own device be it pc, phone, laptop, or tablet. I am thankful that you have the mean$ to afford it. If you’re reading this at home, I’m thankful you have a roof over your head. If you’re at work, glad you have a job.

2017 has been a crazy year. I’m thankful that my career pays me not to come to work (Hm, maybe I should re-think that one, but retirement is worth it!). I’m thankful that I have a family that supports us and comes when needed, even when not asked (I’m not so good at asking for help). I’m thankful to be living in a wonderful small town, Petaluma, Ca. where both my husband and I worked for years–he retired from Petaluma Fire Department and I worked for Petaluma PD for ten years. I live in a block where three or four of my old co-workers live and thankfully, I see them regularly. This is HOME.

Speaking of home, my sisters Pat and Nancy are my home both here and long distance. Thank you for being my irreverent, silly, loving sisters. Cousins Sue and Sandie are the best!

I have some of the best friends ever! I thank God every day for Jan and Lori, Maria and Billie, and so many more. Thanks for holding me up when I need it and making me laugh–all of you!

I’m thankful for my goofy dog, Jimmy who makes me laugh and my kitty, Yaz, who give great cuddles.


Photo taken 4.01.2010 at Oakmont’s Quail Inn

But most of all, I’m thankful for my lovely husband, Danny. I cannot imagine life without him. For thirty-five years, he’s been beside me, walking this path of life. His humor, insights and morality inspire me daily. If not for him, I wouldn’t have found the focus (or time) to write.


But that’s another story.

I’m thankful for all the blessings in my life. And you, dear reader, are a huge part of that! I’m thankful for you.



View from the Tower

View from the Tower: Shadow Guard Returns

By John Schick, Retired California Department of Corrections
prison towerWay back in the 70’s a tragic event took place at California Institute for Men (CIM). A depressed employee went to his assignment on first watch in “A” Tower at the West yard.
Sometime during his shift, he put the barrel of his Ruger Mini-14 rifle under his chin and pulled the trigger. Apparently, he was grief stricken over the loss of his wife. Because towers are fortified with all steel walls, bullet proof glass, and locked from the inside maintenance was called in the wee hours to use a cherry picker to get in, and with local police assistance removed the body.
I guess it wasn’t very pleasant scene inside as one can imagine.
Thereafter, as long as I worked there that tower was the scene of weird events. In fact the administration changed the West towers from alphabetic designations (A, B, C, etc) to numeric leading to Tower “A” becoming Tower 15.
Anyway, over the years odd things happened up there. Inside, patrol sergeants who routinely tour the towers at night would call the tower officer, and ask who the “other” person in the tower was. He would see two dark silhouettes inside the tower instead of one. During shift changes it was routine to check all the ammunition to make sure it was accounted for before relieving the tower officer. Sometimes the 2nd watch relief would find a mini-14 round missing. No one had fired a round, and it was all accounted for, at last—relief. Weird sounds and such continued over the years. It was widely accepted by custody staff anyway that tower “15” aka “A” tower was haunted. In fact, some people refused to work it while others asked for it!
I wonder if it’s still there?

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