By Trey Rusk
Law enforcement is one of the few occupations where to a degree retirees are still on the job. This became the law of the land when in 2004, President George W. Bush signed HB218, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.
This law was designed to protect retired police officers and to put additional weapon carrying retired police officers on the street. It has been tweaked a couple of times to allow retired military police, Coast Guard boarding officers and others to participate.
Before HB218, a retired police officer was usually given a honorary badge and identification and possibly a reserve status from the department from which they had served. It was good in and around the city that the officer was retired from, but not much help anywhere else in the country.
HB218 solved that. There are still some stipulations such a annual qualifications and a few restrictions, but by and large law retired police officers may carry their weapons across the U.S.
I write this blog because a retired St. Louis Police Officer, Sergeant Ralph Harper was shot during a car jacking attempt. Sgt. Harper was armed and managed to wound a suspect during a gun fight. The suspect was arrested after a chase and Sgt. Harper succumbed to his wounds two hours later. Please see the excerpt from The River Front Times.
Sgt. Harper retired from the St. Louis Police Department in 2007, after 33 years of service, St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden told the Riverfront Times.
“This is…very close to home because I knew the sergeant personally,” Chief Hayden reporters outside the hospital, choking back tears. “We are all mourning together…This is a very challenging…very challenging time.”
Sgt. Harper came from a long line of law enforcement officers, St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) Business Manager Jeff Roorda told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Following in the footsteps of their father, Sgt. Harper and his three brothers all served with the department.
Altogether, the Harper family, one of the “most well-known families in the police department,” served the agency for over 200 years, according to Roorda.
“He was a sweet man, a genuine, caring individual,” retired St. Louis Police Sergeant David Bonenberger told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Even though he was a sweet, teddy-bear kind of guy, when it hit the fan, you were glad he was there with you. You’d follow him.”
Retired cops just don't stop being cops. They are still aware of their surroundings and have that sixth sense of when something is wrong. Rest in Peace Sgt. Ralph Harper. You were an asset to the City of St. Louis even after you retired. God Bless.
That's the way I see it.