Saturday, March 23, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, "The Dog Ate My Retirement"

You’ve probably heard about the kid’s excuse for not being prepared for class, “The dog ate my homework.” In this chapter, you will learn how a dog radically changed my retirement, though he did not actually eat it.


I retired after 21 years on the New York Police Department. Often a policeman retires after only 20 years, but I stayed an extra year and then decided I really had had enough. One of the old timers once told me that I would know when it was time to go. How right he was!


Things were changing. We were getting a new type of recruit, younger, and in some ways less educated, despite what their school records might indicate, and some even having prior arrest records. As a detective, one of my responsibilities was to read all the reports generated by the police in our precinct each day, and this averaged about 50 reports a day. It was painfully clear to me that the quality of these reports was declining. Somehow, despite their many years in school, these new recruits often did not know how to write.


Five of us retired at the same time, including a sergeant and my captain, for whom I was pretty much his right-hand man.


I went to the pension section at the Woolworth Building in Manhattan and sat with a retirement counselor, discussing various options, going over what my financial situation would be in retirement, including accrued vacation and other details.


On the day of retirement, our “gang of five” went there together, turning in our shields. What struck me was how little impact that action seemed to have. The response was essentially silence, no one else seeming to care, much like the silence that greeted me when I graduated from the Academy some 21 years before.


They have you turn in your official shield, and they compare it against a special mold that is designed to check that it is the official shield, not a duplicate. The duplicates are made to be just slightly different from the originals, with the difference almost invisible to the eye. Once the shield checked out as official, it was then tossed into a box with many others.


That was it: no handshake, certainly no brass band, nothing. It was a bit like turning in the expired license plate on your car to your Department of Motor Vehicles.


We then went back to the precinct to finish the rest of the day. Back at the precinct we did not go out on any calls. Perhaps like the last day of a war, none of us wanted to be in an altercation in our last few hours officially on The Job.


As I drove home that day, I still felt I was a member of the NYPD, on vacation. That feeling lasted for another few weeks, when it hit me that I really was out.


While I could afford not to work, I decided that life would be more interesting if I maintain some kind of work activity. My partner and friend, Joe, and I first went to work as security guards at a high school in an affluent suburban area nearby. It was terrible. The work was boring. We got no respect from the rich brats, whose behavior was often worse than the poor kids we had known from our work in the Bronx.


A mutual friend of my partner and me was the Director of Security for the Orange County Community College, and offered us security jobs that paid almost twice as much as the high school positions had. Our NYPD pensions limited us in such a way that we could only work 30 hours per week on this job. The people were nicer, the work more interesting, the setting more attractive. And yet…and yet…it was not challenging enough, not exciting enough.


I could feel myself becoming less mentally sharp, almost as though my brain were stagnating. I needed to do something more intellectually stimulating, more difficult, more challenging.


I next started working with local private investigator companies, doing investigations. As they found what my skills and experience enabled me to do, they tended to give me their harder cases. They could not handle these themselves, despite the high prices they were charging their clients. I realized that I could do private investigation work better than these competitors by being my own boss, charging people less money for it. Perhaps it was time to go into business for myself.


It was the dog that finally got me out on my own, however. My dear wife several times saw a pitiful dog chained in a rundown yard, with a crummy doghouse, often without water in his dish, a heartbreaking example of neglect, even cruelty.


The dog’s chain was only a couple of feet long. His area was filthy. We talked with the local animal control officers several times without success. I finally called their supervisor and volunteered to do whatever I could to help.


The supervisor appreciated my concern, and told me that the problem was that there were no investigators on the staff to assist in the animal control activities. A true investigator would have sanctioned Peace Officer status, to allow investigation. I asked if I could volunteer right now. She was delighted, and so I did.


It’s an interesting fact that New York State agricultural laws allow an SPCA Peace Officer more power in some ways than local police have. In the case of this maltreated dog, the owner was dating a local politician. The papers that we submitted became “lost.” We had the power to move the case from Newburgh’s jurisdiction to Goshen‘s. Although the dog had a reputation for being vicious, when I approached him gently, with a dog treat, he allowed me to put a leash on him and bring him back. We got the dog removed from the site and adopted. I felt so good about the resolution of this case, that I decided I needed to go back into active investigating, and I set aside the security work.


I had become registered as an SPCA state-authorized Peace Officer, and I started an SPCA investigative unit that now has three volunteer investigators and staff. As we got more help for this activity, I phased out my involvement with the SPCA and began my own private investigations agency, Gold Shield Investigations, LLC.


So, in some sense, that poor dog did indeed bring me out of retirement. I have continued to be pleased with being much more active than I was during my brief retirement.


I might add here that one of the things that I have recently enjoyed has been writing this book, and I am hoping that those of you who read it will find it worthwhile.



This is an excerpt from THE SHIELD OF GOLD, by former NYPD detective Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published in 2012 by Outskirts Press and available from OP and from and in paperback and ebook formats.

Golino heads Gold Shield Elite Investigations,
Cooper aids authors through









No comments:

Post a Comment