Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Farewell Chucky

Today we held a farewell ceremony for one of our Captains. This ceremony is relatively new after our union decided that the former custom of "don't let the backdoor hit you where the good Lord split you" was ill befitting a honorable career in police work. So for the last few years forty or so of us assemble in the back parking lot with our honor guard, serenade the honoree with some bagpipe music and after some brief remarks give a final salute to our brother or sister who is going on to a well deserved retirement.

While I have attended a good number of these and and miss all of those who have left Chuck is a special case. You see, the police academy provides you with the basic skills you need to become a competent cop which in this day and age is a bit of a complicated affair. Unlike the days when guys like Chuck could get away with managing a domestic dispute in an informal way or kick a wise kid in the ass to get them on the straight and narrow today in law enforcement you have to be part lawyer, social worker, clergy and any one of a dozen other specialties rolled in to one disgustingly uncomfortable polyester shirt. Not that I am complaining, just explaining to the uninitiated a bit about the evolution of the job.

Chuck was a special case in that almost twenty five years ago when I walked in to the building a fresh faced rookie he was my first Watch Commander. While there are countless promotional classes that can be had to provide preparation to one day become a Sergeant or above in rank the actual nuts and bolts of being a good cop and then one day a decent supervisor largely rests in the actions of those who you work for early in your career. Early on, having set my sights on some lofty goals I decided I would watch the veritable buffet of personalities that our superior officers were and in my own way adopt the positive and cast off the negatives in order to acquire what I thought were good attributes. I like to think that the method has paid some dividends. While I am far from perfect I can say honestly it was men like Chuck who showed me the right way to do things.

While we didn't always agree and had our differences over the years I am in his debt for his guidance. In his youth (he was hired around the time Woodstock was being held) he was notorious for being in some of the most wild high speed chases ever in the annals of local law enforcement. Legend has it that in one episode he took the local toll booth at about 140 mph in order to catch a fleeing felon.

So good luck Chuck. May you have a healthy and happy retirement. May you celebrate with the glee that I am sure the Garden State Parkway toll workers are experiencing today knowing that being sucked out of their booth by the suction of a Plymouth travelling at light speed will no longer be a threat.

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