Last Day At Work

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?”

How young we were. How filled with enthusiasm and energy! We were on the cusp of a new frontier; a threshold never crossed until then. An actual full time driver training facility for our department, with four full time driver training instructors! Our first day? August 28th of 1998. There was huge work to be done. Clear the land: 40 acres. Build a classroom from a dilapidated mobile home. Beg surplus items from the military. Literally mill, with a huge engine and a diamond-stoned terrazo grinder, a glass-like surface for a water-flooded skid pan into concrete. And then design all the driver training courses necessary to meet POST standards and keep cops safe.

We had to literally clear the land with an ancient tractor and weed mowing attachment begged from a nearby golf course. That was my first job; mowing the 4-to-5 foot dry weeds, bouncing over rolling terrain abandoned by the US Air Force in 1996. I couldn’t see what I was driving into. Consequently, I rolled over chunks of concrete, electrical stanchions, huge rocks. I killed many blades. Eventually I killed the tractor.

This is where we were, on a former SAC Alert pad. All the brown area you see above, that’s what I had to mow. In 105-degree heat, with choking weed dust. We were cops, mowing weeds, stealing desks and chairs, begging local venues for equipment we didn’t have. We hammered nails, put up wallboard, built ceilings, painted wood, “appropriated” rows of classroom seats we “found.”

Our first classroom presentations were on a 1950s overhead projector with clear plastic overlays. We left plum assignments to be there; I left Homicide, for example. That’s how much we believed in training; that’s how much we believed in what we were doing. There was never something so exciting as getting into an entirely new program and having the freedom, the investment, the duty, the responsibility, of being able to design something entirely from scratch and then embracing it, making it your own.

The area, once worked, was beautiful. We kept the place as immaculate as possible.

Then the unthinkable happened: one of our deputies was killed in December of 1998, due to a small eye-placement driving error — an error that WE knew how to easily correct. After that, commissioning our EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course) site became a priority. Unfortunately, a deputy had to die on duty to make it so.

We had great crews. Work was a joy, not just a job. Deputies came and went for various reasons. The experience and knowledge was passed on, as would be expected.

We chalked down exercises. We bought cones. We had our courses officially certified. We had 2,000 deputies to teach. These were stirring times, filled with electricity and energy.

We initially started with one small trailer, above, for all the offices of our instructors. There were five instructors, for example, crammed into a miniscule room no room than about 10-feet long. We were so grateful; the air conditioner actually worked in the blazing-hot summers. Our bathrooms, as you can see, consisted (for years!) of Porta-Potties. Running water, ceramic toilets? Not so much. . .

I was lucky enough to be one of the founding instructors that year, in 1998. I designed and wrote all our courses, had them certified. I worked at EVOC from 1998 to 2001, when I was promoted and then worked in Communications. I next became the department’s Rangemaster. A few years later, I was able to tranfer back to my first love: EVOC. I’ve been there ever since.

This is my last day at work. And I’m the end of an era. I’m the last of the people who opened up this show for our customers back in 1998. And we’ve gone from one Lieutenant, one Sergeant and five deputies to, as of this Sunday, one Lieutenant and three deputies — perhaps soon to be only two deputies. Budget cuts and Draconian measures.

Overall, I had the time of my life here. And I’m making this post today as much or more for me than for you; I can come back here and relive these memories.

I still have a job, yet with 30 years on the department I didn’t have the juice to stay, nor could I save my “baby.” I fear it’s simply dying, given a little more time. But it is what it is, and so is life. Things change.
There is so much more I could say but, as I write this from my wife’s house in the absolute stillness of Thursday morning, at 2:30 am (haven’t been able to much sleep since Dad’s death earlier this year), I have to wrap up because, now, as I check the clock, it’s almost 4:30. And I want to be there, standing just outside my office for one more day, to see the sunrise.

BZ

12 thoughts on “Last Day At Work

  1. Kudos for your service in training your fellow law-enforcement officers. The training has saved the lives of officers and citizenry alike. It is something to be proud of.

  2. That looks like fun! A dirtbikin’ buddy of mine has been “cop-riding” for a while now. Doing the cones and super-slow stuff that motor officers have to learn. He bought a former CHP Kawqasaki off eBay, and now has two! He’s been out West here (lives in MA) to the training facility in the East Bay (Pleasanton) and taken classes provided, and returned to work with his local LE guys to train them. He’s very good.
    I’ve always wanted to drift a Crown Vic through a corner with the end kicked out – but prefer dirt to street for such maneuvers and two wheels over four. 🙂

  3. BZ,
    Retirement for us is tough. You put your heart and soul into a job you love and it’s hard to stop. The tough part is it is a love that is unrequited. Cities/counties/states have a love/hate relationship with the police.

    I started the DARE program on my department. I went through the unfunded phase where I scrambled for money supplies. I was able to talk a local car dealer out of an old Sheriff’s cruiser on his lot and he donated it. I got flashy tires and rims, a stereo with big huge speakers to play music for the kids on the playground and a whole bunch of other “appropriations.”

    I was lucky to have a chief who believed in the program. When my retirement age came I like you, just didn’t have the juice anymore.

    As the shock wears off, you’ll be able to look back and be proud that you did a thankless, dangerous job with dignity and honor. Never ever forget that, BZ.

    My next piece of advice is to have something to move onto. My teaching is my new passion. I love it and I look forward to it everyday. I hope you have something like it.

    Lastly, congratulations. You made it intact and with your health, you’re alive and if you are like me still partially sane, and you are able to walk away on your terms. Well done.

    Welcome to the ranks of the retired cops. It’s nice on this side. Good luck to you sir.

  4. Just to know people as little as I do, like you and Law & Order Teacher, is humbling.

    Great men, great missions, great love for America…and who SHOW IT.

    You both have more greatness and integrity, I believe, than 1000 obamas. (maybe more..ya, more)

    Your last phrase got me teary…you’re a wonderful writer.

    I wish you WOULD get into politics!

  5. BZ, This has to so disappointing. Really, I have no words. Maybe with this gone, another opportunity is in the wings somewhere. when you first announced that you were leaving this job, my heart kind of sank a few feet or so. In the relatively short amount of time I’ve been following you, I could tell this was your passion.

    Good luck my friend.

    VW

  6. ASM826: I don’t think it’s fear so much as a loss; it seems this year has consisted of nothing but loss after loss, and the knowledge that, with each loss, I can’t go back.

    Tom: thanks; I told that very same thing to the troops on my last day.

    DirtCrashr: I first became a LE driver training instructor in 1984. I’ve been doing it ever since. Training was always in my blood. That’s the loss I feel: not being able to do what’s in my blood nor even be around it.

    TF: thanks. 2009 is one tough year for me.

    LOT: I’m not retired; I’m going to have to keep working. Before this budget crisis, EVOC instructors would retire then be able to come back, as extra help, to teach academies and In Service classes. We had, until recently, three academies a year. I was planning on doing that next year: retiring, then coming back for additional pay (no benefits, of course, just straight pay) teach the recruits and In Service classes.

    However, budgetarily, “extra help” has been cut and training will only occur via full time instructors in the Training Division. That excludes extra help. My supervisors job was cut, as was one deputy (and possibly two) at EVOC. That leaves fewer people to train the same number of persons. So there goes my ability to make post-retirment money working at the job I love.

    Z: thank you for all the kind words. Politics? Too many skeletons, alive and dead, in my closet that I’d rather stay quite unearthed.

    Shoprat: you’re absolutely correct. That’s a perfect way of phrasing it: it’s in my soul.

    VW: it is my passion, not just a job. Which is why, with the passing of my father, the selling of our family home, and the elimination of the job I love, things have been — uh, “challenging.”

    Hey, with little sleep this year at least I’m losing some weight.

    BZ

  7. I’ve been busy at home but realized something very similar… the one project I dearly loved to work on, is now nine years distant and the start of it thirteen years ago. As a near nobody I was able to be the key figure to bring in a new system to the agency I worked for in DoD. Against the resistance of many, but with the sign-off of HQ, I was bound and determined to bring in a system to allow the government to keep the skills and background of those folks in the manual area that knew so much about what we did for our soldiers to give them good data in the field.

    Some just wanted to ‘outsource it’ and loose the skills AND the understanding of the data, which stretched back nearly 25 years. I was shocked to realize just how much time had passed… and that the system I brought in is STILL at work and the people there STILL with jobs supporting the warfighter.

    I miss that work, even though it was draining, damned hard, and had me away from home for up to half a year, a week or three at a time. The fight to make the bureaucracy WORK as it SHOULD is far more difficult than anyone outside of government will ever know. I am proud of that work… now so distant… and that day is over.

    But I am not done, no matter what my body does to me, I continue. Now I play catch-up as I step out of the mists I was put in and see dark colors loom.

    So be it.

    My soul has already been tried.

    Now I’m a bit peeved.

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