The salty-tongued Bill Leahy
, a retired St. Louis City cop, has just published a new book called Curbstone Justice
, which recounts the rough-and-tumble antics of local cops (and crooks) during the 1950s. Read some excerpts here
He recently called us up to speak his mind. RFT
: The title of your book refers to the scornful comment, made long ago by
someone in the LAPD, that policemen in the Midwest preferred to dispense justice
on the street instead of in a proper court. Are cops today hamstrung by
: We had a lot more latitude in those years. I would say we had more
freedom to use good judgment; the times didn't require the restrictions
[of today, which are now in place] because of civil liability issues,
mainly. I don't know that I'd have the patience for it today.
As I said in the book about high-speed pursuits, today the police siren
is competing with boom box music and cell phone users in air-conditioned
cars. Sooner or later innocent people are killed and there is public
outcry to stop all that "senseless" chasing....So now, you must get
permission to pursue [a fleeing suspect] and there must be
justification...pray tell how do you know what you are dealing with
until you have corralled the bad guys?You're a regular presence on the website, ST. LOUIS COPTALK,
an uncensored forum for officers old and new. Do you think it's good for
the department to have young officers on there, airing their
It wasn't supposed to be a public forum. I think
there's times when they say things they shouldn't. But that's just me.
They're young. It's a really young force. They could certainly use some
guidance. I told one the other day, 'It takes some time to grow into
that blue shirt.' What's the biggest difference between being a cop back in the 1950s and today?
at people that came back from war. It was a much more diverse group of
people. [Cops] ranged from one guy who had been in British naval
intelligence to another who'd been a circus strong man. [In the SLMPD]
there was a big Irish and German presence, with a sprinkling of
Spitkowskis in there. But they came from all walks of life. Do any cop shows really capture the essence of being a cop?
don't watch cops shows. Especially when I was putting this material
together. I was concerned about commingling what I'm seeing with stuff
I'm grying to put together. You're reaching pretty far back when you're
writing about stuff 50 eyars ago. A lot of cop shows is same story
you've heard 100 times with a different setting. How's the book selling?
book is selling tremendously. I had 500 books on Dec. 17 shipped in.
Now I'm down to 140. They're going out the door pretty fast. I'm gonna
get some more. Only because that website, I'm selling books on the west
coast, east coast. I didn't thing you could sell these things any place
but locally.You left the police force in X and sold insurance for decades. How was that adjustment?
was like joining a cloistered monastery by comparison. But the things
you learn in [the police] business will carry you through life. It's a
good education for anybody. If I could do it again, I'd do exactly the
way I did it. Those were good times.