It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.

How can such a simple question have such a complicated answer? It should be a simple yes or no answer … But it’s not that simple.

The other day I arrived at the radio station where I work and greeted two of my co-workers. A few years after retiring from the Baltimore Police Department, I began to pursue a career as a radio broadcaster, doing both talk radio and music radio. I’ve been in broadcasting for over 20 years and the last 15 plus as a full time radio DJ and part time talk show host.

We were standing outside of the radio station when two police cars went zooming by with their lights and sirens activated. I find it nearly impossible to not notice police vehicles when they are responding in full emergency mode.

One of my co-workers must have noticed, he nodded his head towards the police vehicles and asked, “Do you miss it?” I gave my quick, rehearsed reply of, “I miss the police I worked with, but not all the insanity and violence of the job.” That is the standard answer I give to people that have never worked in Law Enforcement. I’ve found that it is the easiest for me to remember and the one that is easiest for them to digest.

Baltimore Police

The Baltimore FOP maintains that BPD is in need of over 1,000 officers. (Photo courtesy Shawn Sipes via Leonard Sipes)

You were a police officer?

The other co-worker, also a radio DJ, asked with a bewildered look on his face, “You were a police officer?”

I replied, “yes.” It’s funny, over the years when non law enforcement people ask me about my police career, my answers have become very short and quick.

Of course, his next question was “where”?

Baltimore was my reply. Then came the inevitable facial expression and look of concern on his face with the audible “holy crap.”  I’m sure that most of my Baltimore Police brothers and sisters know the look and reaction, for like me they’ve probably gone through it hundreds of times.

Television shows made them experts.

Thanks to television shows like “Homicide, Life On the Street,” “The Wire,” “The Corner,” all by writer David Simon, everyone seems to think they are an expert on the violence and crime in Baltimore. Plus, thanks to his depictions of Officers on the Baltimore Police Department, most of these television viewers are experts on the subject of law enforcement and how to do the job.

Before I go further, I know David Simon. No, we are not friends. He has many fans in the Baltimore Police Department, I am not one of them. I wouldn’t even say that we were friendly, but that is a discussion that would probably fill a novel. It is definitely too long of a subject for an article on this site.

community leaders

Baltimore police holding the line. (Photo courtesy Elvert Barnes)

The Question!

The next question from my amazed co-worker, “Did you ever shoot anyone?” Boom, there it was! The standard question that everyone seems to feel totally comfortable asking. They ask it as if they have a right to know, and that it is standard water cooler conversation.

Most of the time, I shun the curiosity seekers that ask that question, but my co-worker is a good guy and so I gave him the Readers Digest condensed version. “Yes, I’d been in 4 shootings in a little less than 12 years. The first two I never even returned fire, the last two were long drawn out gunfights. By the grace of God none of the suspects, nor I were killed. The last shooting ended my career, due to permanent line of duty injuries, that involved multiple surgeries with steel plates. But, no I was not shot. I was injured in the life and death struggle for my service weapon.”

It was as if he could read my mind, that I didn’t want to talk about it and his line of questions stopped when he said, “I’m glad you made it through, thank you.”

It’s amazing to me that after all these years of retirement, those questions and that conversation can bring up a host of difficult memories and emotions.

pessimism

(Courtesy Baltimore Police Historical Society)

Do you miss being a police officer?

That left the original question they asked “Do I miss it?” It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.

The vast majority of the time I don’t miss the job at all. I did almost everything one can do in a law enforcement career and had nothing left to prove to anyone when my career was cut short. But, at the same time I have to say “yes” there are parts of the job I miss, mostly the police I worked with. I’ve never found the same bond and camaraderie since.

I love being a radio DJ and the host of the Law Enforcement Today Radio Show, but will forever be proud to call myself a retired Baltimore police sergeant. I loved it and am proud and honored to have served with the best!