By Trey Rusk
I began my career in law enforcement when I was 19. I saw many things that would make others leave the occupation early on. I was taught to do my job by rough men who I admired. Most of these men are dead now.
Cops were admired, respected and feared. If a person decided to fight a cop back then it was a sure thing that they would get their ass whipped. However, they wouldn't get charges stacked on them or wind up in the penitentiary for fighting. Most of the time they would be thrown in jail with a knot on their head and charged with disorderly conduct or simple assault. They would also go to court the next morning and pay a $200 fine to the local judge. Usually their wife would show up with the money and chew them out for getting drunk and acting a fool on the way out of the door. It was a simpler time.
When I was 24, I was promoted to detective. The cases were mainly thefts of property, small drug dealers and robbery with an occasional rape. Teenagers from single parent homes usually were the night time thieves. Once caught, if they didn't have a previous offense and if their Mother would sign off, I would take them to the local Army recruiter who would gladly send them off to boot camp.
I don't believe I worked a homicide until I was 27. A body was dumped in a rural area and the men who kidnapped and killed her had been drunk. They left a trail of evidence that was easily followed. They confessed. Back then justice was swift and they went to the penitentiary for life about three weeks after the crime. I worked several after that one that weren't so easy to solve. DNA evidence wasn't even heard of on the coastal plains of Texas.
There is no honor among criminals. Snitches were easy to come by and drug cases were mainly made through informants that I released with a promise to come get them if they didn't provide information on a bigger case. This was the Starsky and Hutch era of law enforcement. I even drove an unmarked Ford Torino.
It was fun! I enjoyed going to work. Snitches had my pager number and I would respond. Police chases were common and fighting suspects were put down hard. I sat many hours at the local ER with a suspect that had been injured during the arrest.
Cops were soon tasked with doing everything. Mental Health, Victim Assistance and specialized functions added by the legislature. Each call demanded separate paperwork for tracking and even though it was needed it was too much to lay on the police.
I retired last year because the job wasn't as much fun and I was getting older.
I have touched on some of this before, but because it is National Police Week I wanted to recognize how the job has changed. Now police officers are better trained and specialize in different functions that ease some of the burdens off the patrol officers.
Tomorrow I will be attending the Police Officers Memorial Ceremony. I hope to see old friends there, but alas they are becoming fewer in number.
I can truly say that because of my career, I lived an exciting life that I wouldn't trade.
I miss it.