I'm one of the truly lucky people. I've always known what I wanted to do and by the time I had to get serious about it I also had a pretty good idea how to get there. I never went through the 'I don't know who I am or what I want to do' phase. I have always known exactly who I am and what I wanted to do.
One of my earliest clear memories was when I was about 7 years old. We were living in St. Joseph Missouri at the time. Now, in 1966 you could let your 7 year old wander around town to his hearts content. There were undoubtedly dangers out there but we were at least ignorant of them. I was already hooked on bicycles and motorcycles and I rode my bicycle anywhere and everywhere. On this bright, summer day I had ridden downtown to press my nose against the window of the Moto Guzzi shop and dream little boy dreams. As I rode I saw a motorcycle officer parked next to the Five and Dime and was instantly awestruck. I stopped and just stared. He was at least 8 feet tall. He was wearing the knee high boots, leather belt with cross strap. His white half helmet had a gold shield on the front. He was sitting on a black and white Harley Davidson that was all hot oil, chrome and testosterone. He was the coolest thing I had ever seen and with my already burgeoning love for all things 2 wheeled I knew in that moment exactly the direction my life would take. I was going to be a Police Officer but more than that, I was going to be a Motor Cop.
Flash forward to 1978 and southern Utah. I was 19, married and a father already. I thought maybe my dreams were not to be. I had 3 jobs supporting my brand new little family. Full time as a printing press operator in what was to all extent a factory job. I hated that job but it paid relatively well and had benefits. Part time at the Conoco. I had also joined the Utah National Guard in 1977 at 17 years old. I did what I had to do until 1981 when I knew it was now or never. I checked with the Utah Highway patrol and found that they were hiring veterans almost exclusively. National Guard qualified but just barely. I decided that active duty was the way to go. I could serve, pay my bills and gain those oh so precious veteran preference points. My path was clear.
By October 1981 I had completed the enlistment requirements and got the UTARNG to agree to let me go. I took the oath on November 11th, 1981 and headed to Ft. Ord California. I left my wife and daughter behind until I could obtain housing. They joined me just in time for Thanksgiving. I was 22 years old and we were living away from family for the first time. It was especially hard on Lu who had never been far from home. She also worked full time and took care of home, child and husband. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have her?
My time in the Army was like most anyone else. I was in an Artillery battalion in an Infantry Division. I served honorably if not with great distinction. No special ops, no Ranger or Airborne. Just an Artilleryman. It was a decision I have never regretted. I am a Christian and I am still convinced I was walking the path that God had set before me.
By 1985 we had very much settled into the area. The plan had always been to finish and head back to Utah and the UHP but I started looking around locally. I decided to apply with the local Sheriff's Office. I started the process in the Spring. I went on terminal leave in September, took a job at a printing shop and waited to hear.
My discharge was final on November 10th and I was hired as a Deputy Sheriff and sworn in by the SO on December 10th. I spent a couple of months learning the ins and outs of the Jail and went to the Academy in January 1986. I finished as distinguished graduate and class president in April. In 1986 the Academy was 16 weeks. They're running about 28 these days.
After the Academy I worked for the SO for 20 months. It was good training and experience but not where I saw my career going. In those days they had two career paths, Patrol and Corrections. Unluckily for me I had been chosen for the Jail. To get out I actually had to re-apply to my own department. It was something I would have done except for one small thing. They had no Motor division. I looked around, found a local PD that had an excellent reputation, was hiring and had full time Motors and sent them my application. I was working as a bailiff so I went back to the jail on midnights so I could have my days free for the testing process.
Here's the process to get hired as a sworn, california peace officer. It's undoubtedly slightly different in other places and other times but the basics are the same everywhere. Send in an application. If it's accepted they schedule an oral board where you sit in front of veteran officers and answer questions. It's not a lot of fun to be grilled by people who have been there and done that and who have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who cannot cut the mustard. Get through that and it's a Chief's interview. Pass and it's on to a written test and a physical fitness test. Pass again and there's a physical examination and lie detector. Your background packet goes to an investigator and you wait. I got a conditional offer and gave my notice to the SO in August. They were not pleased. No, not pleased at all my precious.
I was hired by the PD on August 17 1987. I left the SO with mixed feelings. They had given me my opportunity and at was an opportunity. It costs a great deal of money to hire and train an officer or deputy. Getting your foot in the door can be the hardest thing about this career. I was grateful to them but they had set the rules; if you want out of the jail (and everyone did) you had to apply like a lateral transfer. If I was going to have to go through that process again I wanted a motorcycle as the prize. I did and it led to the culmination of the dreams of that little 7 year old boy.