Things I Miss About a Career in Law Enforcement

I miss it! That is my conclusion several years into retirement after serving as a career cop. I miss law enforcement!

The funny thing is that I was so frustrated with politics, politicians, and appeasing ignorance that I couldn’t wait to retire.

If police work simply involved “cops and robbers,” I would do it until my dying day. But the nature of our business has been hijacked by people who insist they know better, often disregarding the opinion of experts, all under the guise of reform.

Yet like so many avenues in life, we tend to remember the romantic aspects of our past while dismissing frustrating elements that made the profession untenable at times.

“These are the good old days,” a friend reminded me years ago as we basked then in the present-day afterglow of a big arrest.

Recently, I reminisced about the “good old days” when receiving an invitation to a reunion for the Orange County Narcotic Officers Association taking place this summer.

The bottom line is that I miss it—being a career cop—a great deal!

I miss those special moments that occur during a career, and then poof, they are gone. While I’m reminiscing, these are some of the things I miss most.

Trophy shots – These pictures occur following a big arrest. It could be a huge haul of dope, a weapons cache, or participating in the perp walk with a notorious bad guy who’s eluded law enforcement for a significant period of time.

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I am pictured on the right along with my partners Paul Sorrell, left, and Paul McInnis, standing, following the seizure of 923 kilos of cocaine circa. 1992. We worked this case with DOJ/BNE agents out of the Orange, Calif. field office. (Photo via Jim McNeff)

Finding a crook hiding within the perimeter – It’s a pleasure to make an arrest in a major investigation. Yet there is an added sense of joy when finding a crook who has temporarily eluded police, but is found within a well-established perimeter an hour or two after the knucklehead was lost—especially when a police K9 finds him.

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Coffee stops – As simple as it sounds, I miss daily coffee stops with my closest friends in the business. There is something special about drinking coffee behind 7-Eleven at 3:00 a.m. that bonds law enforcement colleagues. During these breaks we’d debrief everything going on in the organization—good and bad.

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Locker room banter – Dressing for work in the locker room is much like a sports team preparing for a contest. Except this game involves real life drama, and the stakes are much higher!

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Breakfast with the crew after early morning raids – If you wanted to catch gangbangers at home, the best time to do it is the crack of dawn. Whether serving gang-related search warrants or parole and probation searches, we come calling at sunrise—or a little before. Our “lunch” became a mid-morning breakfast following raids—unless you were the lowest ranking detective, then you were tasked with transporting/booking arrestees.

High-fives – The celebratory movements need to be in private, because they occur after OISs, dangerous pursuits, etc. Police officers congratulate one another after surviving these potential deadly encounters, not due to the demise of a suspect.

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So while you’re still engaged in your career, take time to recognize that one-day you will view today as “the good old days.” Revel in the joy you receive from being a modern day sheepdog. It’s a noble profession!

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Finally, I do not write these words with blinders covering my eyes. I know that contemporary police work is more difficult than at anytime in history. Police officers face fears today that never concerned me. As a result, many question their call to the profession.

Nevertheless, I urge the great men and women in law enforcement to bask in service to their communities, since some day you’ll find yourself on the other side, and you’ll miss it too!

Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today