End of Watch…

The other night, I had the honor to attend my younger brother’s retirement party where he was joined by 70+ friends, colleagues, political figures, and family members. He managed to survive thirty years of protecting the general public beginning with his days on the streets as a budding police officer.

Throughout the years, he has shared many stories of his days in law enforcement. It’s a shame that the negative minority voice is given so much attention in the media when in fact, there are plenty of wonderful law enforcement personnel protecting our local streets with passion and are not “thanked” enough for giving their lives on a daily basis.

As for this evening, a worthy police officer would be honored for his magnificent years of service. 

It was fitting that my brother’s retirement party was surrounded by supportive chiefs from his different agencies and long-time friends who were privileged to be his partner along the way. I had learned a few interesting facts about my brother that I didn’t realize was happening in the law enforcement world. For instance, it was repeatedly stated that my brother was a diligent and thorough investigator of white-collar crimes. His reputation extended into the courtrooms.  The lead district attorney shared how lawyers would always retreat or find alternative ways to settle their cases because when they saw my brother’s name on the case files, they knew it was a guaranteed conviction! What an amazing testament to someone who took law enforcement seriously to protect the public from criminals.

We were reminded of one of his insurance fraud cases in which it was aired on 60 Minutes. Another officer played a recording from the county dispatcher who had (on a wide-scale apparently) broadcasted an End of Watch call to announce my brother’s retirement from law enforcement. This was usually reserved for fallen officers but the law enforcement community wanted to honor my brother’s retirement and years of service. The current chief read a “special letter” that was written (he noted) in crayon. Here is the quick note:

Dear People,

Thank you for taking care of my dad for me and for letting him take and borrow your car!

He had a very distinguished career and received many awards and commendations including letters from two U.S. Senators.  There was an open forum and funny stories were shared but the theme was the same – this was an officer who treated everyone with the utmost integrity. People were blessed when they had the honor of sharing their lives with him. He may not have been as big as some of the other officers but they knew he could hold his own.

Being the honored guest, my brother delivered a polished (and entertaining) speech about his life as an officer, how law enforcement has changed over the past 30 years, and what his friendships meant to him as an officer. He had to hold back tears when he acknowledged his wife and her support of his career. That was the start of many eyes being dabbed by tissues. I was able to see this because as my brother’s photographer, I walked the room and had a view of everyone.

During his closing remarks, he explained the three shooting positions for an officer – (1) On Target; (2) Low Ready; and (3) Holster Up. Then he proceeded to share with all of us his final thoughts on this (I will paraphrase it). My brother stated that when he was On-Target, he was in the prime of his career. As he lowered his gun in the Low-Ready position, he trained many officers to help further their careers. However, it was time for him to finally put his gun in his holster as a peace officer to Holster-Up and end his career on a high note. With all the strength he could muster, he leaned into the microphone as he motioned his hands as if to holster his gun and uttered the words – “My duty is done!”

From where I stood, many were shedding tears (myself included). Tough cops were trying to hold it in but could not do so very effectively. I’m sure my sister-in-law was proud of him while shedding her tears of relief as she will not have to worry IF he will come home every night. Needless to say, the standing ovation was long and well-deserved for such a humble officer of the law!

I was extremely proud of my brother that night! He will always be my little brother but to the rest of the public, he was a tenacious peace officer who was not only smart but cared for the people he served. Even before he left office, agencies were already lining up to offer him a second career. In the meantime, he will take a few months to adjust to civilian life and assess his options (as a good officer would).

As he moves on with his life, he is only beginning a new phase that will be more adventurous and ever meaningful for him. Most importantly, he will enjoy his family without the stresses of his former job. Carpool for his children will be a new task along with homework duties and possibly playing golf mid-week.

If you have a peace officer in your life, give them a pat on the back and tell them how much you appreciate their public service. They all need encouragement and support – let’s honor their badge!

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