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The old guys still have something to offer Tom Basinski | Fri, Aug 06 2010 04:00 PM

Gathering of former cops is a great reminder for current chief

Retired and former members of the police department started the Chula Vista Police Alumni Association about 20 years ago when six former CV cops gathered for lunch a few times a year.

Fifteen years ago, that same group put together a dinner party that became annual for all former sworn members, either retirees or those who moved on to other ventures. A barbecue is held in the summer. Families are invited.

There is no agenda, dues or bylaws. About 50 usually show up for the "cops only" meeting. The party is good on a couple of different levels. First, it's just fun to see everyone. We've learned that it now takes at least three old cops to collectively remember enough details to repeat a favorite story.

Over the years we've learned the best answer to the question: "How are you?" It is: "I'm just fine. How about you?"

When you ask some guys how they are, you get a history of every ache, pain, stent, biopsy, X-ray, scope and scan. You find yourself inching toward the bar.

Because we're so old, instead of "Happy Hour," we have "Grumpy Hour." Looking at and listening to the guys, I now wish I would've invested in hearing aids and Rogaine as a young man. (Keep your Viagra comments to yourselves. We don't discuss that.)

We have members who became cops around the time I was born. Cops barely made enough money back then. Many had second jobs, or a trade they practiced on their days off to make ends meet.

Guys became cops because they needed work. As time passed, they grew to love the job. Their skills in seeing what was wrong with a situation sharpened and they became keen observers. They understood telltale signs people exhibited when lying. Those who didn't love the work moved on to other professions.

The guys who loved it paved the way for us "college boys" who learned about the laws of search and seizure, stop and frisk, the exclusionary rule, and when to give a suspect his or her Miranda rights.

When Carlos Miranda, brother of Capt. Leonard Miranda, hired on we, used to tease him that he would say, "Sir, I am now going to read you my rights."

These old-timers were tough when tough was needed. Today's cops owe these guys a debt of gratitude. Even though their "book learnin'" was not like ours, the oldsters had PhDs in common sense and street smarts. Well, most of them did anyway. The cops who didn't ended up being the subject of many of the stories told at our functions.

Cop stories are great because we continually see people in embarrassing or compromising situations. We see them floundering to get out of the pickles they get in. Most of the stories are humorous or even downright hilarious. We don't talk much about the tragedy we have seen.

I do get concerned that many of today's recent alumni don't have the sense of history they should. Some of them think history started the day they were born. Very few of the newer retirees come to the reunions. It's disheartening.

This year we invited new Chief David Bejarano. He met some of the old timers and he seemed to be impressed with our little group. Even though he isn't an alumnus yet, we reminded him that one little perceived misstep, whether true or not, could put him in the ranks of "former chief."

Rick Emerson was there to reinforce that idea. Got to keep the council and city manager happy, you know.

Basinski is a 35-year police veteran, 17 of them with Chula Vista. His column appears the first and third week of the month. Basinski lives in Chula Vista. His website is www.tombasinski.com.


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