I recently had a long conversation with a fellow SWAT officer who retired some years ago. We discussed life after the LAPD and our retirements.
Now there are retirements and there are retirements. Some individuals are immensely popular with their colleagues and the event is commensurate with such respect and esteem. Others could be held in a telephone booth with room to spare. I have known of both and have always eschewed the telephone booth retirement. I mean what’s the point?
With the really memorable retirements there is an aspect of hilarity, irreverence and unexpected revelations, which come as a surprise to no one in the law enforcement community but are nothing short of shocking to immediate family members and friends. When a speaker (this occurs in the really, really good one’s where there are many speakers) elicits an audible gasp from the wife or kids or mother and father of the retiree…you know you’re in for a good party.
The food served at most retirements is comprised of rubber steak, rubber chicken, and some sort of sea creature, which to this very day remains an oceanic, saline mystery. A basic roll, some generic salad of tossed lawn clippings finished with some overly sweetened cake usually tops off the affair. After that if the retiree is still surviving those that feel obliged to remain will do so for many hours uncorking even more salacious details and so on.
Now there are always the perfunctory plaques, City Proclamations and awards that are presented by numerous individuals to the honoree. These are always good for the “I love me” wall. The real good ones however, are inventive and one-of-a-kind awards, which have never and will never be replicated. I’ve got some of those and they are very treasured. Some have language inscribed upon them that is not even fitting for a drunken sailor on leave in Hong Kong. A very special one I received was that of a stripped down LAPD black and white vehicle door. On it, everyone who attended was able to inscribe any comment they wished to. The day after, I read the comments and they cover the gamut from respectful, to downright offensive, which of course, are always, always the best ones! The door hangs in our office to this day.
Most retirements here in Los Angeles are held at the Police Academy in Elysian Park – that’s the one depicted in Dragnet and Adam 12 among other Hollywood fare. They are almost always on a Friday evening. To put that in context if someone shows up they really wanted to be there. I care not from what point of the compass you are arriving you will most definitely hit traffic. I’m not speaking of that sissy traffic which inconveniences you for a mere 20 minutes…no sir. This is smog laden, infuriatingly, brain-deadening bumper-to-bumper traffic which adds hours to the commute. If you came – you cared. It’s a great barometer to observe who and who is not regarded well during their tenure.
My retirement was held at the Staples Center. Brett organized it along with some very good friends on the LAPD. We did not have rubber anything and as a point of fact, all consumables were readily identifiable. We had an Air Support flyby with sirens and all in addition to an, on-air TAC 1, LAPD broadcast of my departure. Stories? You bet. Embarrassing? Oh yeah. But what an event!
As time goes by there will always be fewer of us around. This is inevitable as time stands still for no one. As an example, of the 67 men I worked with during my time in SWAT almost 20 are gone now. Some of their inscriptions are on that very car door and they are a constant reminder to me of a time and era that once was. Great retirements are to be remembered for a long, long time.