Police Open House, the Memorial Day Ceremony & Parade; it was that time again. Time to lead what I have come to believe is the world’s smallest Non-Memorial Day, Memorial Day Parade.
For our town, we always hold it on Sunday, the weekend before Memorial Day, not sure exactly when that switch and tradition began, but it has been several decades at least. We also host the Police Open House that same day following the parade and a local Memorial Ceremony in honor of our Country's veterans that gave their all for their country.
I call it the world’s smallest parade, but that is by no means any official status, at least not that I am aware of. What it does mean is that the route is only about 4 blocks long. It consists of a lead police squad car carrying "McGruff the Crime Dog", thanks to one of our Public Service Officers who endures the costume for hours on end, and of course some local children.
'Behind The Badge' by Al Hobbs is co-sponsored by the Spooner Police Foundation
We have a few more Police and Fire Department vehicles, all with lights and sirens going. We are followed by various local groups and merchants walking, waving and tossing candy to the kids that line the roadway. I have driven the lead vehicle for several years and really enjoy seeing all the families, the kids and of course their dogs.
I have never experienced community participation and involvement like I do here in this Illinois town. I do believe every family in town shows up with every dog in the neighborhood. You can’t slide a piece of apple pie between the folks smiling and waving, yelling out "Thank You" to us as we pass and wave back.
America, in general, loves their pets, especially their dogs, yes cats too, but for me, I’m one of those people who believe that dogs rule the day. And I am on a first-name basis with many of the resident’s pooches. There’s Alice, Maggie (the older of three labs) Carmel, Toby, and the rest, you get the idea.
We often do a "Walk & Talk" where we get out on foot and interact with people on the street, just to say hi, how are you, etc. It's very community-focused but for me, this is more of a walk, talk, and pet.
Any day on the street you can find me with a few Department-provided lollipops and well as some dog biscuits in my pocket. The dogs know this and will actually come up to me when out walking knowing I have treats. Of course, just like with the candy for the kids, I always ask if it's okay to give their kids, 2 or 4 legged, a treat. I also carry Junior Police Badges and other non-eatable items for kids that may not for one reason or another have candy.
With only about 4 blocks of a parade route, a ton of people to impress with our fancy equipment, and not to mention the walkers behind us, we do a rip-snorting 1 to 2 MPH the entire time with lights and alternating sirens blaring taking 30 minutes or more to go a whopping 4 blocks.
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Last year a wonderful lady, a very senior citizen who could barely walk, got out of her wheelchair as I approached in the lead squad. In horror, I watched as she inched her way towards the center of the street, directly towards my vehicle. Mind you this dear soul had to start walking while we were still almost a block away.
As we got closer I could see she was holding a small American Flag on a short wooden stick. I stopped and she handed me the flag and said in a very fragile voice, "Thank you son, and may God bless you and our country!" I swear I could even hear McGruff choke back a tear.
After accepting her flag and thanking her, we again began moving on, again very S-L-O-W-L-Y. Actually, now that I remember that day, I can’t remember who was slower, this sweet lady or us?
For the entire route, we always run our lights and sirens. Just because we’re the police, doesn't mean we don't like flashy lights and super irritating sirens too; donuts, lights, and sirens. Does it get any better?
About the only thing louder than the sirens are the screams, yes screams and howls and barks of the dogs. The loud noise must be horrific for them. You can tell the people who are familiar with this yearly tradition because some actually bring winter ear muffs for their dogs, which is quite a sight indeed!
For at least a week following the parade, these dogs look at me as the sole object of their doggie nightmares and the single cause of all problems on earth. Eventually, however... they forget that I was that guy.
Before too long they are again wagging their tails and dragging their owners over to me when they see I'm out and about. This also means drooling all over my uniform for the treats they all know I have. The cleaners love me, they probably think I work in a zoo based on my uniform pants!
Eventually, all the canines forgive me, even Jack, the Smiths old sheepdog comes over to me once again, all smiles. And why not, I may have made a lot of noise, but I am the guy that chauffeurs King Dog McGruff around. So really, how bad could I be, especially when I’ve got treats!
Al Hobbs is a Law Enforcement Correspondent for DrydenWire and writes on a wide-range of topics on Law Enforcement but focuses mostly on the human element of being a cop in his weekly segment titled: "Behind The Badge". Al brings a unique writing style that allows him to connect with his readers. You can read his introduction to DrydenWire here.
Al is a retired police detective from the metro Chicago area. He has been a Law Enforcement Officer at the City, County, State and Federal level in excess of 35 years. His career has taken him all over the nation and the world. Al has been involved in all aspects of criminal investigation as well as general police duties. He is once again on the street as an active LEO for a North Shore community, just North of Chicago in Illinois.