On Leaving the Department

Chris Helgert

In April 2011, I attended two retirement parties and, sadly, a Fire Department funeral. If you are a firefighter or a cop, this is the only way you leave your department.

On April 7th I was invited to an affair that honored the retirement of Police Officer Chris Helgert. Chris is an interesting man. He started serving the public as a Highland Park, Mi. firefighter. That job lasted until Highland Park decided to institute a public safety arrangement where the police department and fire department are combined. This works well for the bean counters but is an inefficient system that usually costs lives and loses property. Chris became an arson investigator and worked with some of the elite Detroit arson officers like Bob McClary, Marv Monroe, and Otto Wandrie. Chris soon migrated to the Southfield, Mi. Police Department. He became one of the best cops to ever work on the Southfield PD. Evidence of this fact was proven by those who came to the retirement party.

The people who came to help Chris and his wife, Naomi, celebrate were the cream of the crop of police officers, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, and firefighters serving the public in Southeast Michigan. Most impressive was Chris standing in front of this august group and introducing each one individually and explaining what they did and how important they were in his life.

There were laughs and tears. Getting off the public service train is not easy. When the party is over, you know your buddies will be moving on without you to face the unknown dangers and horrors that are part of being a cop or a firemen. It was a great party and as I left I wished Chris a long and happy retirement. Chris leaned close to me and whispered, “ I enjoyed being a firefighter most of all.”

Stay safe my brothers and sisters.

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