Kirby: 30 years ago, I gave up my badge, but I’ve never given up my cop memories

Robert Kirby

Exactly 30 years ago Friday, I ended my career as a cop. When a request for vacation time was grudgingly approved, I considered it a two-week notice. My resignation was on the chief’s desk a few minutes later.

Few things would satisfy me more than to say that I never looked back. However, I didn’t realize that such a thing would never be up to me. Few careers leave their mark on a person quite like public safety.

Cops, fire, military, emergency medical services — we all end up with closets full of monstrous images, smells and sounds crammed behind a door we lean against for the rest of our lives.

That’s the bad part. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some great parts as well, events I’m happy to remember.

I love being able to walk into a police department and within two minutes be completely understood. The best comparison I can manage is the feeling of speaking one’s native tongue again after long being forced to rely on a foreign one.

There are excellent memories as well, like the time a head-on collision with a truck killed three of our city’s most prolific burglars. I helped birth two babies, six puppies and a colt.

I found some lost kids, breathed life back into a toddler, got a kid’s head unstuck from a wrought-iron fence, pulled a woman out of a burning car, and threw a guy down a flight of stairs because he knocked out his wife’s front tooth. Maybe it was a couple of flights. It was a long time ago.

Then there was the time I wrote myself a traffic citation for accidentally running a stop sign. I had it coming. Hell, I saw myself do it. So I pulled me over, wrote me a ticket, and I argued with myself before I signed it.

I appeared, as promised. I may not have been a cop all that long, but I knew how things worked. There was no way I wanted to arrest myself for failing to appear.

The judge made it clear he thought I was mental, but let me off with a stern warning not to run stop signs or waste his time like this again.

Me: “Yes, your honor.”

Him: “Now get out of here and go protect smarter people.”

I fondly recall the night a drunken guy tried to stab me and instead ended up poking a hole in his own neck. He was furious because — according to him — it was my fault that his new shirt got blood on it.

Even though it’s been decades, I still smile about the guy who was so plastered that when I asked for his driver license, he handed me a Polaroid picture of his own doodle instead.

Mostly I recall the really ugly things, some so horrible that they still wake me in the middle of the night. I’m grateful that there are women and men out there still willing to get between my family and those things.

As my grandkids set off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, I watched Herriman police roll past on patrol, and I heard the sirens of the Unified Fire Authority. I thought about the people whose job it is to make independence still worth having.

Thanks, all, and be safe.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.