I read this book on a recommendation from my dad, a retired Hartford Policeman of 30 years. It’s a fictional memoir written by a Hartford Cop in the 60s – 80s who served during the infamous riots. My dad went into the force in 1970 so he worked with him for a little over 10 years. The riots were over but the tension remained high.
I want to start by saying that I have the utmost respect for police officers. Like in any profession there are dishonest and dirty cops, but I truly believe that most that enter the field do so with the purest of intentions. They want to make a difference; they want to keep us safe.
I remember those kids in the projects. Their eyes glazed over with the thousand-yard stare, surrounded by violence and empathy, they battled to survive. They pondered their future and wondered what swallowed them. I would like to think I helped some of them and made a difference. I can only wish that I could of helped them all, but that just could not be.
Being a police officer is most often a thankless profession. They face criticism and put their lives at risk on a daily basis. The author did a great joy of portraying that. He served during a time when cops walked the beat without radios and had to rely on store owners, call boxes and skeptical home occupants. Cages that currently separate the accused from the police officers weren’t there for protection.
I felt the pride that I feel for cops like my dad swell in my chest when I read the speech that the author received as a new recruit from his Chief:
Starting tomorrow you will be assigned to squads within the ranks of the Hartford Police Department. You will fill the gaps on the thin blue line! You have chosen an honorable profession, but I warn you, it will take all you can give. Most of your career will be spent dealing with unsavory types, lost souls. You will be called upon repeatedly to show personal restraint. You will be asked to place your heart and soul, even your life, on the line on a daily basis. You will be constantly under the scrutiny of the public you serve. You will be harried and criticized over and over by the media and political bodies who govern them. Yet you will remain silent and go about your business in a professional concise manner. You must stifle rear, grief, and at times loneliness. As you go about this great calling, you will be besieged by temptation everyday of your careers. At times, you will be a psychiatrist, a teacher, a minister, and motivator of life. You will bring life into this world and you will see countless lives leave this world. As police officers, you are given a sacred trust. Men and women of society will trust you with their homes, their property, their children, even their lives. It is a trust given by man but monitored closely by our maker. A trust I would hesitate to violate.
The author provides a compilation of countless stories of the life of a Hartford cop. Even though the author admits to embellishing, the stories still feel true. You feel the fear, the tragedy and the camaraderie. He details the strong bond between all service workers and you can really appreciate the brotherhood. Men of all races come together like they do on the battlefield. Men, black and white, had momentarily laid down their arms forgetting about hate. They had risked their lives to save what they had placed in peril: innocence. For a moment, out in the turmoil and civil strife, time had stood still and smiled.
The grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book were a little distracting, but as I understand it the publishers got the wrong manuscript so I tried to ignore them.
I was very happy to see his tribute to the wives of cops at the end of the book. Throughout the story, I was surprised that the author’s wife was not portrayed more. He certainly had his share of brushes with death and I think it would have added a personal element to focus on how that affected his wife and children.
I remember once, watching TV with my mom. The media was filming a bomb call that my dad was at. The next thing we knew we were watching as the windows of the building blew out. We had no idea what was happening and could only think the worst. I can’t remember if my dad had a cell phone at that point, but I do know that it seemed like forever before we found out that he was ok. It was agony. Spouses and families of cops go through this every day. When the phone rings or as you watch something unfold on TV; you hold your breath and pray that today isn’t the day you find out that you’ve lost them to the job.
So, his tribute that he shared was very close to my heart:
Tribute to a Cop’s Wife
To my beautiful and loving wife
I’m sure you’ve heard times during our married life
From those who ask, aren’t you proud to be a policeman’s wife?
But let me say this; it’s you I’m proud of,
And they would be, too.
To be a lawman, is no easy task to do,
It’s what we have to do,
But it’s a much harder job to be his wife,
And it takes someone special like you.
And I know God chose you to be with me in this life.
Because he knew you had the quality and strength to be a cop’s wife.
Some may say that I have courage and I’m a hero and that sort of thing,
And when I hear it this thought to my mind it always brings,
It’s you, you’re the courage behind the man’s badge, don’t you see,
And it’s you who’s the real hero, not me.
And I know you get lonely and frustrated at times and wonder it it’s worth it all,
But if you ever left me, this brave, courageous, hero would be no man at all.
And I know you worry about the temptations I face on the streets, of the women of the night and girls I met,
But let me tell you this and you listen good,
There’s nobody on this Earth who could replace you,
They certainly never could. And I know there are times when I go to work and you kiss me good-bye,
That you must worry and wonder if this is the day I’ve been chosen to die,
And honey, if that should even happen and someday come true,
Remember, my very last thoughts on this earth will be of you