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The last watch: Reflections on a police career

Today, as I wrap up my last watch, I thank God that He has kept me safe and provided me with gatekeepers who’ve directed my path


What’s the motivation for a man to risk his life as he puts together an explosive charge to blow down a door as he and his SWAT team prepare to battle a cop killer barricaded in his home?

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What makes a man run toward the sound of gunshots as other men run for safety?

Why would a man be willing to sacrifice his own life for a stranger he has never met?

How can a man face his own son the same day he held another child tightly in his arms, watching helplessly as that child slowly died from injuries sustained in a crash?

Why would any man subject his kids and family to working a midnight shift, working most weekends, working most holidays, and missing so much of what normal families take for granted?

How does a man return home — exhausted from a 20-hour SWAT standoff with a barricaded gunman who spent the night shooting at him and his SWAT team — and not even alert his wife to the dangers he just faced?

Why does a man volunteer to stand in sweltering heat and frigid cold to bury his fallen comrades? Why does he build a playhouse for a fallen comrade’s daughter in her new home without her daddy?

What would compel any man to continue providing public safety to a city after burying one of his shift partners who was murdered in cold blood while writing a report in his cruiser, leaving behind a beautiful wife and daughter?

Pulling the Pin
During a lifetime in law enforcement I’ve never been able to truly nail down what motivates me to do what we do — until now.

Today, after a long career, I retire.

Thoughts and emotions have streamed uncontrollably through my mind for weeks, but now I feel I have clarity about what makes us want to be law enforcement officers.

We do it for the little children who look at us with so much curiosity, admiration, and innocence.

For the times we do save somebody’s life.

For the satisfaction of slamming the cell door shut on the deserving slug inside.

For the Christmas cards sent every year from the surviving family of a homicide victim whose case we investigated and successfully prosecuted.

It’s for those citizens who move mountains to take care of our surviving spouses and children when one of us makes the ultimate sacrifice.

And ultimately, we do it for the people who can’t do it for themselves.

So Many Thanks
Today, as I wrap up my last watch, I thank God that He has kept me safe and provided me with gatekeepers who’ve directed my path.

I have great sadness that this day has come so soon. It seems like yesterday that I left my Army platoon for a career in law enforcement.

I will miss the good times and the sad times of being a cop. I will miss the adrenaline dump after a hot run, car chase, bar fight, or SWAT callout.

Most of all, I will miss those warriors who stood by my side, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, in all the hairy and dangerous situations we encountered over the years.

That is a bond that only warriors share. I am humbled and honored and grateful to have shared that bond with so many.

Of all the worthy farewells, the ones that feel most appropriate at this moment are those involving family.

To the Sawyers family — badge number “76” is forever inked on my right hand and etched in my heart until Mark and I meet again.

To my oldest two children whom grew up as “the cops kid” in Metro Detroit and sacrificed their time with dad during the holidays, weekends, and sporting events — thanks for understanding.

To my youngest two children, I hope to remain as “cool” in your eyes as a civilian as I have been as a cop.

Most importantly, to my wife who stood beside me through it all. You are responsible for the success in my career and in our family. Not many women endure what a cop’s wife will, but you are an inspiration to all that do.

I’m blessed in so many ways and I embrace the next chapter with excitement. Although my breast badge will sit in a display case now, I’m grateful that I’ll still be connected with you warriors as we continue to train together and the continued opportunity that Police1 provides me to share my thoughts and experiences.

Until the next training course or the next article, stay safe and watch your six!

Sgt. Glenn French
Last Watch: 6/28/13

Glenn French, a retired Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 24 years police experience and served as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and supervisor of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 16 years SWAT experience and also served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.

Contact Glenn French.