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What's it worth to take a bullet? Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Nov 27 2010 12:00 PM

The retired cops I know aren't splitting time between their San Diego County digs and their Aspen, Colo., chateaus.They're not dining every night at Morton's or tipping valets $20 for fetching their BMW 650i convertible.

Some of them spend a week or so at the Colorado River jet skiing, drinking beer and swapping stories. Others are working second careers because they still have kids going through college. And still others are just getting by because of two or three nasty divorces and an economy that's slow to recover.

Meanwhile, some of the active cops I met during a recent ride-along laughed at the notion they're in a profession where they'll strike it rich. A few left higher paying, safer careers to join the force. Big paydays, either in the form of salary or pension, are the furthest things from their minds. Sure, they'd like job security and a decent retirement package, but who among their civilian counterparts wouldn't?

I know there's a lot of back and forth right now about the definition of "decent retirement package." Do cops make too much money now and when they're done patrolling? Guess it depends what your definition of "too much" is.

But consider that the men and women in blue with a badge do our dirty work.

They chase away homeless loiterers when we've decided their stink and wretched appearence is detrimental to business.

They quiet boisterous neighbors who are disturbing the peace with either loud music or voices raised in anger.

They search for and confront the just-a-little-off among us, the ones who have no second thoughts about stabbing someone because they live in the wrong part of town (or because they want your iPod).

Consider that cops, every single time they put on the uniform, welcome the possibility of taking a bullet for a stranger. They willingly accept the danger that's inherent to police work. I don't know about you, but it would take a hell of a lot of money to get me to do that day in and day out, year after year. And if I had a wife and a kid? Forget about it.

I don't consider myself a police groupie. I've had enough personal and professional encounters with officers that have left me far from blindly adoring.

But I recognize that, unlike a council person, a city manager or department director, a cop is willing to take a bullet while on the job.

How much is that worth to you?

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