Don Stratton: Ending a major phase of my life

Jan. 10, 2024, marked the end of a significant phase — one that outside of God and family has pretty much dominated my life. It is the date that my resignation as an auxiliary police officer took effect, and it is the date that marks exactly 64 years of my having been a certified, sworn police officer.

It was on Jan. 11, 1960 that I walked into the old police station at 117 E. High St. to be sworn in as a patrolman with the Lima Police Department. There were three major thoughts on my mind that day: Was I making a big mistake? Would I be able to support my family after taking a 40% pay cut from the salary of my old job? Would I successfully get through the required one-year probationary period?

Little did I know that it would be one of the best decisions that I have ever made, and that I would complete over 28 years of active duty and over 35 years as an auxiliary officer.

I couldn’t even dream on that first day that it would be a job where I would almost always be anxious to get to work, always looking forward to the interesting and challenging events of the coming work day. I recall many times driving a patrol car down the street and thinking of a couple of my previous jobs that I hated and where I dreaded having to even show up for work.

I had no idea that even after retirement, I would be able to contribute in a small way by volunteering my services on several occasions. One of those occasions involved five years of volunteering to work the front desk for a full eight-hour, 3 to 11 p.m. shift every week. That one was an eye-opener, with my old-school policing mind having to deal with the way both society and police work had changed after over 20 years of retirement.

During those 64 years, I saw and heard things that the average citizen would not believe. Some of them were funny, some sad, and some heartbreaking to the point that I cried when they were over. I saw things that I enjoy talking about to this day, and things that I still don’t want to talk about. Even when I wrote an Amazon book several years ago about my police experiences, there were things that I deliberately left out, either because I didn’t want to bring back the memories or because no one would have believed them anyway.

I saw murderers and their victims. I saw the heartbroken families of both sides of that coin. I saw people who had just lost everything that they had. I had to notify people that their loved ones had just died. I had to deal with mangled victims of car/train collisions. I saw the body of a person who had accidentally — and unnecessarily — fallen out of a fifth-floor window, and then I had to deal with the attempted cover-up of the incident by the organization that owned the building.

I observed both the best and the worst of human nature, but through it all, I enjoyed far more positive events than the number of negative ones that I endured.

I know from personal observation that I worked for one of the best police agencies in the state of Ohio. One memory that has stuck with me for over 40 years is the day that I was talking to the commander of the police academy at the London Correctional Institution. He told me that he always knew that if he saw an active member of the Lima Police Department in a class, that person would finish at or near the top.

Age, health issues and sometimes onerous and redundant state-required in-service training requirements may have forced me to finally quit, but the life-long friendships and the great memories will be with me as long as I live.

Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.