Philipp served Austin well

Published 6:21 am Thursday, February 4, 2010

When a man retires after 31 years protecting and serving the public, they should hold a retirement party for him in the county jail.

Let him take a victory lap around the cellblock where lawbreakers, he or the officers he commanded, now reside.

Let offenders see a person who put public safety first ahead of his own.

Let them see somebody who wore a badge and a grin to work every day. The badge and blue uniform only made him a target.

Because of the job, they often suffered verbal, physical and emotional abuse.

Does anybody remember when police officers were called “pigs?”

When I was a kid, a long, long time ago, it was fun for a miscreant like me, to ask a friend “What are pennies made of?”

The answer was “copper” and when it was delivered with a shout, we would run away laughing from our childish act.

Calling a police officer a “copper” pales in comparison to the curses and epithets directed at police officers today in more than the English language.

I’m all for the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.  I just don’t want criminals to bear weapons designed for the express purpose of killing or maiming people.

Of course, not all police officers are perfect human beings.  Some are fallible to temptation, bad behavior and mistakes.  They break the public trust and other peace officers’ trust, and should be punished.

Paul M. Philipp is not one of those individuals.

Austin’s police chief was honored at a retirement party in the training room at the Austin Mower County Law Enforcement Center last Friday (Jan. 29).

The day before, he said “goodbye” to the men and women of the Austin Police Department.

Everybody was there.  Wife, son, mayors past and present, council members, the sheriff, county attorney, media representatives, and peace officers:  Everybody who appreciated his professionalism.

I don’t like to brag, but the chief and I go way back.

It was October 1990, when I wrote a story for the Austin Daily Herald, reporting his selection for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s academy for the nation’s top lawmen.

This Lee Bonorden effort was marred only by a misspelling:  an “S” appeared at the end of his last name in the headline, lead paragraph and throughout the story.

That’s “S” as in stupid reporter mistake.

I got it right in future police chief stories, but that faux pas lingered on my mind and came up in conversation at the chief’s retirement party.

The chief said he hadn’t forgotten it either.  I couldn’t tell if he was smiling or not.

The police chief was a hands-on officer.  True Story.

One day he came upon teenagers fighting in a street.  He arrested one of my granddaughters for being one of the combatants.

Actually, it continued a lengthy series of Austin police officers’ interaction with my grandchildren who misbehaved.

I’m not proud of this, and the only reason I share it publicly is to underline that I’ve never considered myself a suck-up to people who bear a badge.

That’s why I felt semi-comfortable calling the two men appointed to fill in as interim police chief as “half-chiefs.”

Nobody followed me home after the chief’s retirement party in a black-and-white, so it must not have hurt anybody’s feeling or they just considered the source.

Before announcing his retirement, the police chief made headlines for another reason:  A complaint of misconduct was filed against him.

(Everyone in Austin knows how another police officer’s felony conviction in court tainted the image of all police officers.  That episode should be put behind us.)

True to form and the man’s character, he said the allegations were unfounded, but an investigation in to the allegations was warranted.

I don’t know what others think and frankly I don’t care.

Paul M. Philipp was a damn good police officer and served Austin well.

My confidence in the men and women of law enforcement is not shaken.  When I need help, I’m still going to call 9-1-1.

Who are you going to call?