Legacy of LeRoy
Back in the summer of 1983, I was a new recruit with only two weeks on the street. My FTO, to ensure a well-rounded training, had arranged for us to work the paddy wagon for two nights.
For those of you not familiar with a paddy wagon, it is a truck with a large box in the rear with benches for prisoners. The door can be locked on the outside and is used to transport prisoners to the lockup, and back then, DOA’s to the morgue and funeral homes.
In an emergency, it is always impressive to see this big beast of a vehicle race up to the scene lights and siren blazing away. On my first night on the wagon, a tact team put out a call of a fight in a tavern. I don’t remember what started the fight, but the entire team was involved in a brawl with the patrons of a very rough bar.
My FTO was driving that night and pulled us up to the rear of the establishment, backing into the rear door of the bar. He said it would be easier to load the wagon if there were a lot of arrests.
What greeted us as we entered was a scene out of a wild-west movie. There had to be forty or more people fighting. Not pushing and shoving, but throwing punches and bashing each other. I’d never seen anything like it.
We jumped into the melee to lend the tact team a hand. I saw one individual grab someone by the shoulder and spin him around and then punch him square in the face. I grabbed that guy to arrest him when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back and there was a big man with a bushy mustache and a big smile on his face.
With a gentle parental voice and a wagging finger, he said: “Uh uh uh, he’s one of ours.” I had been introduced to this big man back at the district a day or two earlier and knew him to be a police officer on the tact team.
Over the years this big man became a friend and I had the pleasure of working the same tact team as him for a while. Tall and strong, I have seen that always-present smile disappear on a few occasions and you knew someone was in big trouble.
Over the years he was always there to offer advice or a hand when I needed it whether on or off duty.
He was a carpenter off duty and was part of the group of police officers who helped remodel my mother’s home. She fondly told me how she was sipping a cup of coffee in the front window when this big bear of a man pulled up on his Harley Davidson. He had on his ragged jean vest and gloves, parked in front of the house and went to the door.
My mother said she was sure she was about to be murdered. She told me when she timidly opened the door this burly oak of a man politely introduced himself, “Mrs. Weisskopf, I’m LeRoy Baumann. I will be working on the remodeling with the other guys today.”
When I arrived, LeRoy was sitting in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of coffee cake telling stories to my mother that had her in stitches. LeRoy was that kind of guy. A big, scary guy when he wanted, but a tender heart of gold.
On the street, he could be a brick wall. I have seen him carry a large cast iron radiator down two flights of stairs when several others were struggling to get it down just a couple steps. His presence stopped many a fight since no one wanted to try to fight a someone as big and strong as LeRoy.
He was always encouraging me and patting me on the back as I accomplished something or got promoted. He did that for a lot of people besides me. He had a wild side, but he also was all about helping people. As a police officer and later as a Shriner he was dedicated to helping others.
I’m sure many of you have been fortunate to have a similar officer in your past. I hope you learned from that person. I know I did.
Today LeRoy Baumann, husband, father, police officer, mentor, and friend passed away and we are all better for having known him. Thank you, LeRoy.
Stay safe everyone. Run low and zigzag.
– Lt. Robert Weisskopf (Chicago Police Department, ret.)