By Hal Collier
This Ramblings took me a long time to write and it’s Part 2.
I try to keep most of my Ramblings fun and on a positive note but the fact is that there are a lot of negative aspects of police work. If you work for over three decades in a dangerous job, there’s going to be some tragedy.
I saw a lot of partners seriously injured and pensioned off. Some couldn’t even work other jobs. Think of being sentenced to watching soap operas, or Oprah every day. It’s just like being retired but without good health. Believe it or not some of them were the lucky ones.
I attended more police funerals then any cop should have. In the Police Academy they had a class on officer survival taught by Bob Smitson. It was very graphic with pictures of dead cops on a morgue table. The class taught that you had to survive any confrontation. After the class, I walked to my car with my hand on my gun—and I was at the Police Academy. A month later, I was sent into the streets of Los Angles praying that I’d never be in the pictures shown in that class.
I wasn’t even off probation when I attended my first police officer funeral. My training officer told me that I had to attend; it was my duty. I was a training officer for twenty years and made my probationers attend at least one police officer funeral. It’s something that you will never forget. You see an American Flag-draped coffin, knowing that it contains a police officer who last week was doing the same job you did last night. If it’s an open casket, seeing a cop lying there in uniform is a sight you’ll never forget. You see the grieving wife, kids and family. It’s a real wake up call. You suddenly realize that you’re not invincible.
I couldn’t tell you how many cop funerals I attended, but it was more than I should have. For a while I attended every LAPD officer’s funeral, and a few LA County Sheriffs. There were also a few smaller city officer’s funerals. It was the least you can do for officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The news media will make an appearance and show a thirty second clip of the funeral on the 5 o’clock news. They will then show two minutes on a drug rehab for out-of-work actors.
A police officer’s funeral is a fitting tribute. I have seen officers attend from all over the country. All wearing their best dress uniforms, their leather gear shined to a high gloss.
All had that black elastic band across their badges. Some come thousands of miles to honor a fallen comrade. I have been at funerals where the procession of police cars stretched for miles, sometimes lined with citizens who appreciate the sacrifices we make.
The first funerals I attended just had the service and the 21 gun salute at the cemetery. My partner, Jim Tomer, collected a shell casing from each funeral we attended. Later funerals had a helicopter flyover with the missing man formation.
The LAPD Mounted Unit has a riderless horse with the boots reversed in the stirrups. Then there’s those bag pipes. Those damn bag pipes!!! I can usually control my emotions at funerals until those bag pipes play Amazing Grace. I have learned to bring enough Kleenex for both my partner and I.
Most of the funerals I attended, I didn’t personally know the officer. They were easier, if there is such a thing. You still see the grieving family and know that their Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries will never be the same.