Whenever I think of my dad and have a moment, I’ll turn my radio on to WGN. Amidst the hog and farm reports and pesticide commercials are the old voices my dad liked to listen to. I don’t mean that the moderators are fossils, but they are familiar voices that my dad enjoyed hearing and the ones that in part, I grew up hearing. For my dad, these included the distinctive voices of Orian Samuelson and Paul Harvey, as well as Frankie and Johnny, Dean Richards and Spike O’Dell.
Co-winky-dinky, as Kim Komando would say, I just received an email from Danny Smith. For any of you late 4th of July revelers, tonight when the clock stricks midnight and July 4th becomes July 5th, check out WGN’s Nick Diglio’s program on 720 AM. Danny will be talking about his book, “On the Job: Behind the Stars of the Chicago Police Department.” You can also listen online. I’ve read the book and commented on it.
Since this is the day we often reflect on independence, freedom, and all things that make us feel a part of being US Americans, we also often honor those who ensure that we can continue to feel relatively safe. The sense of being free and being safe are concepts, but they are also related to our physical experiences and environment. Those who serve, including our firemen and police, do their part to make this a reality for us on a daily basis.
For any of Chicagoans who were ever curious about what it’s like to be a Chicago cop, I would suggest you check out “On the Job: Behind the Stars of the Chicago Police Department” by Daniel P. Smith. On the Job is an easy read, gives some history of Chicago and most importantly, gives the reader a glimpse into what is considered by most civilians to be a closed culture. I’ve had friends who were cops: patrol officers, a tact team cop, a detective and a Sargent. Three of the four have worked the west side, which is synonymous for saying they made their bones and lost their rookie status in an accelerated manner. One of them, a friend of the family, was in his early 40′s when I met him. I was shocked to find out his age because he looked every bit like a 55 year old man who didn’t age well. He worked homicide for most of his early career, hostage negotiation and a lot of gang crimes and eventually worked as a Chicago detective with the FBI. Small wonder he looked like he was on the rapid aging program.
Most of my knowledge of cop culture has come from knowing cops, especially a dear friend of mine who has been on the job for over 20 years now. He too has worked the west side, has had his nose broken by dealing with unruly arrests and has other scars to show for it, yet he considers himself “lucky” in that he’s never gotten seriously hurt. Because this friend of mine shares so much with me, I’ve been privy to a lot of what goes on in being a Chicago cop. There’s untold misery, seemingly brutal tragedy and the occasional beauty and joy of being able to help people out in sometimes seemingly amazing ways.
Personally, I’ve never seen a murder victim nor personally known a rape victim, nor anyone who was a victim of a violent crime. My cop friends have seen this almost daily in many cases. If I go an entire lifetime without this personal knowledge, that is fine with me. Cops see the underbelly of society, and they see and know about almost everything that makes our city run because they have to. Cops deal with some of the seamiest things that go on here, so that most of us civilians never have to. Sometimes we forgot that, and we forget or are unaware of how intense what they deal with on a nearly daily basis can be like. Daniel Smith’s On the Job can help give you a glimpse into this world.
You can check out the author’s blog with links to interviews on NPR (which is how I heard about the book) and other media coverage he’s received.