I’ve been out of operational law enforcement for over two decades. But because my 6 years in the military and my 20+ years as a cop were so significant to me, I stayed in touch with several of my fellow ‘Nam vets as well as a few of my cop buds.
Late last year I went up to NY to attend a police function sponsored by our PBA. Historically, this banquet was always held to honor our retirees as well as thanking a host of local civilians; those private citizens and businesses who help out with the annual Santa Cops functions and police summer camp for kids. While on the Job I went every year.
Even after I retired, but before leaving for FL, I attended a couple of those functions. These events are normally held in early- to mid-November and were meant to coincide with the post-election results. In addition to honoring all our still-living retirees, it was also customary to introduce those newly elected local politicians, as well as those tenured pols who made significant contributions to law enforcement, and to briefly introduce the new slate of Union officers. An additional purpose was to note any extraordinary accomplishments of a few active duty officers. Lastly, those retirees who went on to noteworthy careers were also introduced to the audience.
I admit that my attendance at these soirees since relocating to Florida have ceased; but I wanted to attend last year’s to not only visit some family, but to also to check in with a few of the older guys who are in poor health. Except for the family/friend visit, I was sorely disappointed.
During the dinner, after the list of recently elected politicians was introduced, most of the remaining airtime was given to the slate of newly elected Union officials as well as calling up to the stage those active duty officers for what appeared, in my humble opinion, to be seemingly insignificant arrests/investigations. Sadly, no retirees were even mentioned let alone introduced. And I must say, the accomplishments of many of those retirees were pretty impressive; and while not every retiree on the below list was there, those who were there weren’t even acknowledged at a dinner that was supposed to be, in part, in their honor.
Here’s a sampling. While neither was in attendance, two retirees went on to serve as municipal court judges. More than a few retired officers earned advanced degrees and were hired as associate or adjunct CJ professors at several local colleges. Two were hired as Police Chiefs at either college security departments or local police agencies. One who missed the dinner was hired at a national bank and named Executive VP for Internal Security for the entire northeastern United States. One who did make it was a reservist who remained in the US Army. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and became a pilot. Another missing retiree, a former Navy SEAL who stayed in the reserves, went active and deployed to Afghanistan where he was wounded in action. He received the Purple Heart. However, none on the above list were ever acknowledged. Those who were there sat politely as those active duty officers received mounds of praise for making arrests, solving crimes or earning seats as Union officers.
I’m proud to say none of the ignored retirees seated near me ever commented on this most obvious slight, but the looks on their faces said it all. I sat with two other retirees; the aforementioned retired Lieutenant Colonel, and a retired police sergeant who became an associate professor at two area colleges.
I’m still vacillating on whether I’ll venture up north for another one of these events. That annual banquet was the one time all of us police retirees could gather together and reminisce about the good old times.
As I get older, family and friends will no doubt pass on which will necessitate a trip up north. But the “all about me” attitude on display at this event by these Union officers left a sour taste in my mouth. The retirement badge and ID card stamped RETIRED in big red letters, just don’t cut it. That’s the reason the Annual PBA Honorary Banquet was established.
Cops are heroes. Every man or woman who’s ever pinned on a badge deserves the utmost respect and recognition especially our active duty street dogs who work daily in today’s hostile street environment. But the history of this event for the past 70+ years has always served a dual purpose; primarily to honor and pay tribute and thanks for those retirees who gave 20, 25 or even 30+ years of honorable service to our community irrespective of what they went on to post-retirement. And secondarily, to thank the civilian community who support local law enforcement.
I’m not sure how long ago this long-standing concept ended or when this annual event evolved into a Union Installation Dinner. It certainly was never advertised as such. Indeed, the invitations sent out were printed to read the “Annual PBA Honorary Banquet.” Admittedly, I’ve been out of state for a few years, but it’s evident that the primary purpose of this banquet, i.e., the recognition of those who formerly served, has been abandoned.
I’m sure I’ll get some heat from the Union over this piece, but after ‘Nam and 20 years on the street, I can take it. “Sour grapes” they’ll yell. But notwithstanding my 12 years teaching the Street Survival Seminars for Calibre Press, Inc., for which I will always be proud of and thankful for, I never did much post retirement which would warrant any significant recognition. I never finished grad school, never became a judge or a VP of a national bank. But I hope the powers-that-be at my local PBA might understand that someday they’ll be retirees, too, just longing for a little taste of “thanks for your many years of faithful service” from their Union.
Just my thoughts. Yours?
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