The Thin, Blue Line Runs Deep

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This past weekend was a good one. Starting on Friday, I had LEOSA qualifications. LEOSA is an acronym: Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act for the United States. This federal law enacted in 2004 allows qualified law enforcement officers and qualified retired or separated law enforcement officers to carry concealed in any jurisdiction in the United States regardless of state or local laws, with certain exceptions.

Every year retired officers are required to qualify to stay current. What entails is really a mini reunion of sorts. It’s always good seeing the “old cops” you’ve worked, trained and had “choir practice” with. During my quals, I was sandwiched between one of my favorite firearms instructors as a rookie and a new retiree I trained when she was a rookie. This was a beautiful display of time and life.

It’s also nice catching up with current academy staff who run the LEOSA program. Being in the brotherhood of “the greatest show on earth” is unique, to say the least. And yes, I include female officers in this group. As a sworn officer, you’re entrusted the welfare of the citizenry. Sometimes this entails the handling of dire situations. Through training, the experience of senior officers and the grace of God, the outcome is usually peaceful. It’s during these moments bonds are established.

Time picks up momentum and before you know it, your service with the department, but more importantly, daily interaction with shift mates, is over. The brass ring is finally in reach. Retirement is bittersweet. The weight of the world is off your shoulders, but strangely, you liked it! Sure, we always complained about it, and everyone does, but deep down, you felt you were making a difference. You’ve been a cop over half your adult life, and it feels strange leaving the team.

New Beginnings

You’ll always have a special connection. When cops retire, they sort of step away for a while, not wanting to be “that guy” who doesn’t let go. Those who’ve been there know what I’m talking about. You start your new “civilian” life, missing not so much the job, but the camaraderie of working so closely with peers.

Early shift days…boy does time fly!

Besides being a convenient means of carrying concealed in all 50 states, LEOSA is a great way to see fellow officers from years ago. Some retirees pick up right where they left off when they’d daily hijack roll call from their “back row” seating position. If you ever want to know who the real leaders are of a shift, squad or unit, check the back row. These guys and gals could be paid entertainers, they’re that funny, but they’re the ones you’d want backing you up.

 

Retirements

Retirement parties are a great means for keeping in touch as you show support for a fellow retiree joining the ranks of the unemployed. As mentioned, after being a cop for over half your adult life, leaving is tough. Fellow retirees welcome you amongst the ranks, proving there’s life after the job, but they know how you’re feeling.

Saturday, I went to such an event. A former shift mate was retiring. I saw people I haven’t seen in years. Rookies and younger officers I worked with are now knocking on the door to their own retirements.

Again, it shows how time never stands still. Social media is great for keeping tabs on fellow retirees who’ve moved out of state. It also keeps us informed on the welfare of members. Lately, too many have left us too soon. As a matter of fact, it’s the reason I got into social media.

Moving On

The greatest thing I enjoy seeing retired cops do is move on to something they love. If they can make a few bucks doing it, so much the better. Friends are fishing boat captains, horse trainers/breeders, hiking guides, Karate instructors, teachers or driving instructors, while some continue their criminal expertise, going to Federal agencies. The nicest thing is seeing them enjoying life.

Others travel, while some enjoy their freedom in places they love. But mark my words, whenever a couple of old cops get together, the blue blood bond surfaces. The same holds true for military personnel, fire fighters, or any other first responders.

Lasting Traits

Even though I’ve been retired for nine years, there are certain things I can’t shake. When driving, I’m always aware of what street I turn onto, or mile marker I’ve passed. I can’t stop reading car tags and mentally call them out in my head. Of course, I always sit with my back to the wall…as well as am armed in public. Lastly, while I am mostly smiling, I’m still cynical to what strangers have to say until I get to know them —like after 10 years, or so. But I’m getting better. The thin, blue line runs deep, but boy do you get to meet a lot of interesting folks on both sides of it.