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Things were different then Tom Basinski | Sat, Dec 31 2011 12:00 PM

In the late 1960s a tobacco company marketed a slim, delicate cigarette hoping to attract women. Their slogan was, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
The promoters wanted women to believe their lot had improved immensely since the stifling days of suffragettes, etc., and it was time women could enjoy a cigarette designed just for them (lung cancer notwithstanding).
That same slogan could be applied to the National City Police Department. They have come a long way.
When I hired on in 1970, Chula Vista interacted with the National City cops on a regular basis, both professionally and socially. National City was a wide open, rough-and-tumble place, and their cops fit that description.
Even the names they gave their municipality gave testament to how the city was perceived, even by its own cops.
They referred to National City as “Nasty City” or “National Sh!##y.”
Times were like that.
It was rumored that when patrolmen would chase an armed crook they would shoot first then holler, “Stop, Police!”
Times were like that.
If the rank and file needed to contact a member of the NCPD administration after 5:01 p.m. those command guys could be found at a certain watering hole on Highland Avenue sitting at the bar well into the night.
Times were like that.
The officers themselves were a rugged bunch too.
As a rookie I worked undercover narcotics because I had police experience in Michigan and no one in Chula Vista or National City knew me.
One night we were at NCPD headquarters preparing to do a buy bust. Their lead detective knew I had studied to be a priest and he wanted to see if he could rattle me. He handed me a Polaroid photo of a smiling young woman sitting on a desk — nude. “Pretty good, eh?” he asked.
I studied the photo, looked around the room and said, “This is your office and your desk.” He laughed, disappointed I wasn’t shocked. I eventually met her.
She was under no duress in her undress. She was working as an informant. She wanted to be there and wanted to be sitting on that desk, wearing what she was not.
Times were like that.
If we needed help on search warrants, surveillances or buy busts we would call National City. Our reciprocal relationship extended to socializing and even to athletics.
We combined to form a softball team that took a medal in the 1977 Police Olympics. We also competed against NCPD in some spirited basketball games over the years.
By “spirited” I mean there were extracurricular pushing, shoving and technical fouls to keep the referees busy. We liked those cops, unless we were playing them.
Unfortunately, some of the good times turned bad. One assistant chief, who we all knew and liked, climbed into the bottle big time. He either was fired or retired prematurely due to excessive drinking.
Another captain, a terrific guy and a pretty good athlete, fell into the same hole and became involved in a hit and run crash and was convicted. An otherwise illustrious career that ended badly. A chief fell into the same fate. He was involved in some DUI scrapes and his career ended.
Before progressive chiefs such as Terry Hart took over, NCPD didn’t even have a department policy book.
I once asked a guy how they handled citizen complaints. CVPD had a very formal, standardized way to deal with complaints.
“Easy,” he said. “If someone came in to complain about an officer and he had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on him, the desk sergeant would reach across the counter, grab him by the collar, yank him over and arrest him for drunk in public. If the sarge couldn’t smell booze, he’d tell the person to contact their city councilman.”
Times were like that, back then.
Things are not that way today. I’ll write more on the “new improved” NCPD next week.

Basinski is a retired police officer living in Chula Vista.

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