D. E. Gray’s first book “The Warrior In Me” was a collective memoir of his 42 year career in Law enforcement, 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department and 14 years with the Escondido Police Department in the North San Diego County.
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The Warrior In Me by D. E. Gray
It was the day after Christmas, 2008. This would be my last day as a sworn police officer. After 42 years I was hanging it up. At 64 years old, you just don’t jump as high or run as fast as you use to. It was not an easy decision. When you have always had a job, it just didn’t seem right quitting when no one was making you quit. Still, I know that this was the right time for me.
During those 42 years, I had the opportunity to work for two law enforcement agencies. The first was the Los Angeles Police Department. After 28 years there, I spent the next 14 years working for the Escondido Police Department located in the north county of San Diego, California.
With all the years I had working in LAPD and Escondido PD, I always believed that the two organizations were comprised of two groups of people; “Warriors” and “Administrators.”
Administrators worked their way up the ladder through promotions. They set policy and handed out discipline. They were blessed with operational hindsight. When an officer screwed up in the field, they could take hours, days, weeks or months to decide if it could have been handled a better way. Even so, being an administrator kept them out of the field and off the streets. It was an important part of the structural ladder or also referred to as the “Pyramid.” The Chief was at the top of the pyramid and the patrol officers were on the bottom of the pyramid. The bottom of the pyramid was really the foundation. Without a strong foundation supporting the structure, the pyramid would crumble and collapse.
I viewed patrol officers as the “Warriors.” They were the first line of defense. They were the first ones to show up when you called the police. They had to be ready for anything, a suspect with a gun, a violent drug induced asshole who was impervious to pain, combative suspects of all kinds including, juveniles and female DV victims who didn’t want their husbands arrested even though they were the ones who called the police on them. The “Warriors” got punched, kicked, slapped and spit on just because they wore a uniform. They were required to solve everyone’s problems to their satisfaction or face a formal complaint because it didn’t come out the way they thought it should. Because they were in uniform, they weren’t allowed to show feelings or overreact, if they did, they had to face the wrath of the “Administrators.”
Up until the very end of my career, I always considered myself as a “Warrior.” It was “The Warrior In Me” that kept me on the streets for 33 years and I loved it. While there may be officers with more time on the job then my 42 years, there were only a handful who spent 33 of them in the streets. Regardless of all the hazards, being in the streets was where the excitement was. You had to make your own decisions based on the information you had at the time. A lot of times, you had to make split second decisions and hope for the best. Sometimes you were lucky and sometimes you weren’t. Even during my last nine years working as a background investigator and training officer, I missed working the streets and the dangers and challenges associated with it. My job until I decided to retire was to find the next street “Warriors” who were qualified to wear the badge and carry a gun. Through them, they would be my connection to the streets that I loved and missed.
The Warrior in Me
D. E. Gray
Three Stars (out of Five)
It is rare to find a street cop—a “warrior,” in the author’s description—who spent more than four decades on the front lines. Gray spent twenty-eight years with the Los Angeles police force, many as an elite “motor officer” (patrolling on motorcycles), and then another fourteen years with the Escondido department. Such a career invariably generates a catalog of sad, funny, and informative anecdotes. “Motor officers could always depend on a fireman to pull a prank on them whenever we would visit their firehouse to get out of the cold,” D. E. Gray writes. “You could almost always expect to find your motor helmet in the freezer on a cold night when you were ready to leave.”
Gray wasn’t an administrator who set out to “work his way up the ladder through promotions.” He writes, “I always considered myself as a ‘warrior.’ The ‘warriors’ got punched, kicked, slapped, and even spit on just because they wore a uniform.”
The Warrior in Me covers Gray’s early life in one chapter, but the next twenty-three follow him from the Los Angeles Police Academy, through a probationary period, and then onto the streets as a patrol officer. Gray even did a little “movie work,” a lucrative sideline for some officers. “Andy Griffith, Katherine Ross, and Sam Elliott were all friendly and would talk to us,” he writes. But there were tough assignments too: DUI patrol, riots, being thrust into security for the funeral of the soul singer Marvin Gaye, Jr.
Gray worked in Los Angeles during the Hillside Strangler scare and the notorious Rodney King incident and its riotous aftermath. His take on the King incident comes from the point of view of a veteran street cop who has been forced to use his baton. Generally, though, Gray is frank in his assessments of the foibles of his fellow officers; he has changed names to avoid embarrassing those who cannot defend themselves.
The author’s Escondido memories, however, are filled with admiration for local officers and administration. To his delight, that city’s force was small enough that an officer could follow an incident from reporting stage, through investigation, to formal charges. Gray ended his career as a field training officer and a police applicant background investigator.
This memoir is detailed but dispassionate and isn’t quite successful as an introspective chronicle of a life in law enforcement. Considering that police officers must remain in control of their emotions, readers might empathize and sit back to enjoy the anecdotes. Less acceptable, considering the author’s writing ability, are the occasional vocabulary missteps—for example, “finely” for “finally.”
The Warrior in Me isn’t a drama-laden page-turner. It is, nevertheless, an informative and educational book. Give a copy to anyone who talks about joining a big city police force; keep a copy for yourself and remember to be polite, cooperative, and empathetic next time you meet a police officer.
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