A Good Man
In 1988 I was a Patrol Aide for the Virginia Beach Police Department. It was a stepping stone to becoming a fully certified police officer. Four the previous three years all I could think about was being a cop. My best friends father was the very respected Captain Thomas Irving. His son Warren had told me that when his dad retired they actually carried him out of the dispatch offices on their shoulders. I do not know if this story was true but it stuck in my head. The idea that there was group of people who worked together and showed that much love and respect for each other pulled a string deep,deep in my heart. I was determined to be a police officer. I went to college and during the summers of my college I was a Patrol Aide.
So I return back to 1988 and a chance encounter in the old Second Precinct. I was close friends with another Patrol Aid name Zol Rainey. Zol and I were in the muster room when we first met Sgt. Joe Palmer. What made this a memorable meeting was that he was wearing the ugliest, MC Hammer looking pants we had ever seen and we gave him a hard time about it. He reminded us that he could one day be our Sarge and with a smile I could never forget he sent us on our way. A year later I was a certified officer and one of my first supervisors would be Joe Palmer. The first muster I had with him I was reminded of the ribbing I gave him about his pants and that as a rookie I best be careful and again that smile lit up his face. He was the best leader a rookie could have. He stayed fair and was constantly making sure your development went well. I don’t mean that he hovered over you and micro managed you but he legitimately cared about you becoming the best officer you could.
I can remember asking Joe for a day off one evening and he said the only way I could get a day off on short notice without an emergency was if I was going to be “rubbing bellies” that evening. I had never heard that term before and have never heard it used since but it never fails to make me smile. On another occasion I had a call with two other officers in 222 zone. A group of kids were at a gun shop trying to buy bullets for a Glock. I pulled up behind the group of kids with another officer. The third officer was walking straight toward the group but did not yet see them. I noticed one of the kids take a gun out of his belt line and we drew down on him demanding they all raise their hands. Turns out he was probably trying to ditch the weapon but I was not sure and if the weapon was loaded they had a clean shot at the officer walking toward them. Following department protocol I held my weapon at a low ready while the other two officers patted the group of kids down. We took the kids home and went about our night on patrol. An hour later Joe called me to a place near where the kid that had the gun lived. When I got there he told me that the kids step father was a Norfolk Cop and he said I was waving my gun in the kids face and being abusive to him. I told Joe this was not true. He said, “Andy, I know this and you are going to go with me to tell his step father his kid is full of……”. Before we could head over to the family’s house dispatch advised Joe that the Norfolk Cop had called back. Joe called the man and said that his boy had recanted his story about the events involving me. I have not carried a badge for over a decade but I am pretty certain that there are very few if any supervisors that would trust his people enough to treat a situation like that the way he did.
In my last few years on the department I was involved in a very difficult marriage. Joe pulled me aside one day and he tried his best to let me know what was going to happen if I continued to try a save a marriage that should have never happened in the first place. He really cared. Being a dumb young man I did not take his advise and that very marriage would help end my career as a police officer. Joe tried to help me even though he had no obligation to do so.
In my years as a police officer there were very few people that made such a deep impact on me like Joe Palmer did. He cared about those around him and was quick to teach you with examples of mistakes he had made. He never, failed to make me laugh. I never heard anyone have any issues with him. He was firm but no one challenged him because they respected him too much. When I went into the civilian world I was quickly taught that leaders like him are rare. People with his kindness are rare. Joe Palmer was rare in the best of ways. When I read in private page I am lucky enough to be involved in that he had passed I was crestfallen. I have not spoken to him in years but his influence on me never ever left me. I did have many good leaders in my time as a police officer but none as memorable to my heart as Joe Palmer. I wish the best to his family and the officers that still know him. I love you brother. PEACE!!!