Today we said good bye to Officer Patrick Becker who retires on Friday after 25 years of service.
Although his official last day is Friday, today fellow officers and city employees got together to wish Pat well as he starts his new life. He told me he is ready and that it is his time to go. And that big smile on his face convinced me that its true. Long time officers like Pat know that this is a physical job and as a person gets older it becomes more difficult to go out everyday into events and challenges that can be a trial physically and mentally. Pat did it, faithfully, every work day for 25 years. The bad guys are not getting older –there is always a new and younger group but the cops do get older.
When I first met Pat he was a young guy not too far out of college on his first policing job. He has always been athletic and up for any challenge. He served as a patrol officer working the street, as an interim detective investigating cases –including a famous one that involved a son who turned in his father for murder in a fascinating case. He was a member of our Directed Patrol Unit who worked specialty traffic assignments; the Southeast Oakland County Crash Investigation Team, a shared service between ourselves, Troy Police and Bloomfield Township Police to investigate traffic crashes in an efficient and effective way; an evidence technician, bike patrol officer and many other things. He was the union president for a time and I remember that we had some debates. But he never held a grudge. The next day he was back with a smile on his face.
We have all watched him move into the stages of life: marriage, babies, young kids and now teenagers. But Pat’s main identity was as a cop. The shadow box he is holding (below) contains mementos of his career. He has all of the badges that he wore, the arm patches, his awards and challenge coin. It has an engraved plaque with the dates he served. We hope that when he looks at the box he recalls a career that he was proud of, with a department and community he was proud to serve.
Saying good bye is always a bitter-sweet moment. We are happy for him to have achieved this milestone–for cops it means that they made the finish line alive and healthy. He moves on to a new life that will be different — no more worrying about working nights, weekends or holidays. No more considering what the suspect might do in an arrest situation. He told me that as he stood in the cold today on a crash scene, he thought about how this might be the last time he has to do that and he was ok with it.
His wife told me that she thinks about what it will be like for him to find another identity–the non-cop identity. And we all laughed when he was teasing his kids that he planned to spend more time driving them to school and checking their homework (they made faces). Life will be different for the Beckers. But, knowing Pat, I’m sure he will make it a GOOD difference and a good life. All kidding aside, I know that he plans to be with his family more to make up for all those times he was working when he wanted to be with them.
Thanks for everything, Pat. Have a good life.