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Veteran Officer Retires after 43 Years of Service

Patrolman Richard McCormack, Badge No. 1, can still remember the first shooting he worked as an officer for the Lorain Police Department.

The incident took place on Vine Avenue in the late 50s, during a time when shootings and stabbings were a regular occurrence. He caught the suspects that night as a rookie cop walking the 28th Street beat.

But after 43 years working, by choice, as a patrolman, the soon to retire officer does not want to talk about that first shooting or any of the other hundreds of thousands of calls he has answered on the South Lorain beat for more than half of his 69 years of life.

'One thing you see is a lot of human emotion and misery,' McCormack said. 'You have to get it out of your head and not dwell on it.'

While he chooses not to think much about the names or incidents of the past, the outgoing officer does look back fondly on a previous era of law enforcement.

McCormack, who is well known for the old-fashioned flair he still brings to police work, said he misses, 'the good old days that are gone.'

'It's a different world now,' said McCormack, who used to cover his beat on foot with no radio and virtually no contact with other officers or the department. 'It was a lot better in the old days. It's too technical now. It used to be simple, easy and quick.'

Filling out reports, driving around in 'pretty' police cars and increased paperwork tend to bog down the officer, who has been known to make an arrest as a citizen and who once ticketed a former mayor's car for illegally parking, he said.

Current Police Chief Cel Rivera, who is credited with helping to modernize the current force, recalled the time when he walked the beat with McCormack, for whom he holds a tremendous amount of respect.

'He reminds me of all the things that cops that came in with me are nostalgic about,' Rivera said. 'He just loves being a cop. He knew every nook and cranny of his beat. He knew every person.'

McCormack, who said he wears badge #1 as a medal of honor, loves being a beat cop but said he has had to build a shield at times. But, witnessing his share of trouble and gore on the streets of Lorain has not made the job any harder. His years of experience give him an edge.

'You become hardened, but you better still be nice to people,' said McCormack after waving to people walking down the street and patrons who recognize him at the Three Star Restaurant on East 28th Street. 'I can find out anything I want to find out.'

The veteran officer, with his white hair and face that holds years of experience, said becoming friends with people in the neighborhoods he watches helps, but it also makes it harder to leave the force.

'It's a roller coaster,' he said with a sigh. 'It's hard to go; it's hard to stay. I don't want to go, but I can't stay forever.'

McCormack's son John, said his father does his job like it's some kind of involuntary response.

'He does police work like you walk down the street, like you breathe,' said John McCormack. 'It's habit for him.'

Many people have questioned McCormack's love of being a patrolman. He never wanted to apply for promotions because he wanted to be on the streets, with the people, he said.

The young men at the Three Star Restaurant yesterday began yelling hellos to McCormack before he was through the front door. He walked over, offered his hand to the acquaintance and sat down at a nearby table for a cup of coffee at the familiar diner.

'I knew his father and his grandfather,' he said of the patron. 'Now, they call this community policing. I've been doing this the whole time, and I didn't even know there was such a thing.'

Throughout his career, McCormack has accomplished many things. He was patrolman of the year in 1980, and honored by the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives on separate occasions for dangerous calls he handled heroically. Many similar local awards fill a wall in his den at home.

The longtime patrolman has also been challenged as an officer. In 1981, he was injured in a struggle during an arrest. He was suspended for 30 days in 1973 on charges of kicking a jail inmate.

In 1964, he was suspended for two days for behavior unbecoming an officer. The two-day suspension was for informing a Lorain man his wife was seen talking to another man in a local tavern, according to previously published reports.

He was suspended for six days in 1962 after then-Safety Director Edward Firment said he used poor judgment in helping capture a disorderly youth.

Born in West Virginia, McCormack moved to Lorain in 1950, only to be drafted into the Marines during the Korean War. When he returned to Lorain, he became a police officer. As a young officer, his orders were simpleó'carry a gun, and keep it loaded,' he said.

At the time, officers were not required to graduate from a police academy nor were they required to undergo any training before being assigned to a beat. McCormack is the only Lorain officer who did not attend a police academy.

Despite the four decades of stress on his body, physical capability has never been an issue for McCormack, who has a seventh-degree black belt in judo. He carries a strong upper body on a now somewhat wobbly pair of legs that have walked uncounted miles across South Lorain.

The sport, which he calls 'fancy wrestling,' has been a part of his life since he was 32.

'I'm in excellent physical shape because I've been on the judo mat three days a week all these years and never stopped,' said McCormack. The veteran officer's wife of 38 years, Patricia, and four children are also involved in judo.

'Martial arts has saved (me on the job) more times than I can remember. An untrained person cannot fight a hard-trained person, that's all there is to it,' he said.

Rivera said McCormack used to be able to make arrests in large crowd situations without assistance. McCormack, who chuckled at such recollections, said he once responded to a large fight and had matters under control when the back-up arrived and said, 'Well, I guess we weren't needed.'

McCormack's work never came home with him in a negative way, said his proud son, John. Although he is supportive of his father, it is time for the veteran officer to retire, he said.

'I'm glad he's leaving,' John McCormack said. 'He needs to enjoy life now. He's done enough. He's seen it all, done it all.'

Mayor Craig Foltin, who presented McCormack with a proclamation at last night's City Council meeting for his 43 years of service, said McCormack's work should be honored.

'I don't think we're ever going to see another officer serve for 43 years, for that long of a time,' Foltin said. 'It's something that should be commended. He truly loved serving and protecting the citizens."