Copworld Debut Post

This blog is an unabashed paean to James McClure, the now deceased author of  the non-fiction book  “Cop World: Inside an American Police Force.” Published in 1984, it closely examined the Central Division of the San Diego Police Department. I was a character in the book under the pseudonym of Luke Jones.

Luke Jones later reappeared in fictional form in my novel “America’s Finest” about a Shakespeare quoting rookie cop. I’m currently writing “Cop World II: Inside an American Police Force, Twenty-Five-Years later.” It’s designed to focus on the changes in policing since McClure’s successful and ground-breaking  book. During his many ride-alongs with me Mr. McClure confided his secret pride when citizens mistook him for a plain clothes cop and I confided my dream of becoming an author one day. Here’s hoping Mr. McClure would be proud of my efforts. I’ve enclosed a brief excerpt from “America’s Finest” in the form of the first chapter.

Please check back as I’ll be including additional excerpts from both books from time to time in addition to commenting on topics important to cops and the public they serve.

Chapter 1

Summer 1978

    Phillip McGrath was on his way to kill somebody.

He turned toward a home at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac where rusted children’s toys lay scattered in an oil puddle in the driveway. A dusty motor home rested near the stucco façade of the house and a basketball hoop drooped low over the crumbling asphalt.

The Toyota truck parked beneath a tangle of power lines.

Sweat dripped down McGrath’s neck, under his armpits and along the sides of his protruding belly as he hobbled toward the door. He slid the key from under the welcome mat and eased inside. A huge German shepherd stood in the entryway, his tail thumping against the door frame.

    McGrath patted the shepherd’s head and ran his fingers along its muscular back as it panted along beside him, its undulating tongue nearly licking the shag carpet. Dropping to his knees at the open door to the study, McGrath muttered words of affection to Max, his only friend, scratched the dog’s massive chest, and pulled gently on his ears.

Struggling to his feet a moment later, McGrath blocked Max with his knee and locked the door behind him to ensure privacy in case someone came home. He limped to the stereo, pulled a record from its jacket and set the needle into the groove. Walking behind a large oak desk, he opened a closet door, lifted an afghan and clutched the Winchester rifle beneath it. Sinking backward into a heavy chair, he pushed against the floor with his feet to scoot toward the middle of the room.

Nothing could stop him now.

He swiveled to face the door and listened to the strains of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert. As he closed his eyes, he saw the pianist’s movements in his mind’s eye as Jarrett’s chin slumped toward his heaving chest and his nimble fingers played a run of incessant notes that peaked and waned in a series of mini-crescendos.

Witnessing the public love affair between Jarrett and his piano again obliterated all his self conceits. What had happened to the passion that used to drive his life?

As he re-lived Jarrett’s sweetly tormenting performance for the last time, a run of ecstatic moans escaped the pianist’s lips and floated upward to dangle in congress with the music.

    As Jarrett’s music filled the room, McGrath spread his legs, propped the rifle between them, swallowed the barrel and pulled the trigger. With no regard for who would clean up the mess.



21 Responses to “Copworld Debut Post”

  1. Richard Holman Says:

    Does anyone know where I can learn more about this author and what else he’s written?

    • copworld Says:

      Hi Richard: I’ve written a police procedural, “America’s Finest” about a Shakespeare quoting rookie cop. I expect my agent will be shopping it for publication soon. I’m currently working on a non-fiction book about the central division of the San Diego Police Department that I’m calling “Cop World II: Inside and American Police Force, Twenty-Five Years Later.” It’s a follow up to McClure’s book “Cop World: Inside an American Police Force” that Pantheon published in 1984. I’ve written quite a few articles and op-ed pieces over the years for publications like “Arete” “Police Magazine” and the San Diego Union. Thanks for asking.

  2. Barry and Jessica Says:

    This is a great read and an interesting perspective. We look forward to hearing more. Good luck!

  3. bette Says:

    Hi Tim, I always wondered when I’d see some of your writing in print. We worked for the PD during some exciting and difficult times, and I love seeing them revisited. I still have a copy of Cop World-I’ll have to re-read it in anticipation of your sequel.

  4. phil hackwith Says:

    Brings back loads of memories, I was there in the middle, feeling and witnessing the events mentioned in “Cop World”. SDPD 1978/ 1991 Central Div, Vice, Narcotics, I can fill in a lot of “beween the lines” comments on the general subject of what it was like to be on the Strrets of San Diego in those years. Ask me anything PHil

  5. Harry O. Eastus II Says:

    I really enjoyed your Copworld debut. Mr. McClure was a ride along of mine during his book research. He was a really great man and a nice person. If I can help you with any information please feel free to contact me. Good luck to you. Harry O.

  6. Maureen Hall Says:

    I can’t wait to get my personalized sign copy. I’ll get two, one for Scott. I still read Cop World every couple of years. I loaned my signed copy to someone in PD and never got it back, but found another. I remember him sitting with my down in the pit when he was doing his research. Oh the stories you can tell Tim! Miss you!

    • Timothy B. Smith Says:

      Thanks Maureen. Take a look at the online “Cop World” reunion I just posted. I’m hoping to hear a lot of stories about the experience of others with “Cop World” and James McClure.

  7. Harlan Says:

    Hi, Tim,
    Thanks for the call and the good news. This looks very clean and interesting. Good responses.

  8. Mike Gibbs Says:


    Having grown up inside “Cop World,” from ’67 through ’04, I found your history compelling.

    Around the department, the change of car colors was accompanied by much talk of a color/crash risk study, never, did I hear mention of softening the department’s public image. Knowing Hoobler, who was a pretty serious ‘we-they’ sort, I’d opt for the “risk” motivation.

    Stamper was bright and had visions of change but the failure of our department to embrace those changes was not just a product of the times, he was not a particularly successful implementer of programs – neither here nor in Seattle. A series of chiefs gave him unprecedented power on our department to implement his vision. For the most part, he was unsuccessful in his efforts (the one exception I can think of on our department was his “Discipline Manual” which did a superb job of restructured the department’s discipline process into a bifurcated system differentiating Intentional Misconduct from other sorts of problematic behavior). I believe Stamper skipped bringing middle management on board. I was one of the officers selected to participate (the COP committee) in the structuring of the change effort. That business of keeping numbers died very early in the COP process.

    Any way, I really wanted to tell you about a current SDPD program. Since my retirement (1/1/05) I have been volunteering for Lieutenant Carolyn Kendrick to help in the creation of an Early Intervention Program for department employees. The program, the Early Identification and Intervention System (EIIS) is operational and productive as I write. It was created through a Department of Justice grant and work to make it more robust, obtain medical validation of its statistical product and, eventually, to make it even more predictive, is still under way. I’m thinking that COP World II should probably include the SDPD’s (voluntary, not Consent Decreed) response to the issues that the Rodney King incident (and the Miami River Cops, the Washington Dozen, the Ramparts Scandal, the LA Majors, the Buddy Boys, the Dirty Thirty and the Atlanta 3, and incidents from the many other Consent Decreed agencies in the US) has brought to policing.

    EIIS is a good system. I’d enjoy talking to you about it.

    Mike Gibbs

  9. Jack Freitas Says:

    Tim more research on Stamper /Cop era……….Stamper was a Lt. also supervisors went thru training with the cop officers and the officers were evaled by the cop supervisors.

  10. Jim Tomsovic Says:

    Hi Tim,
    After having spent 35 years on SDPD, I’m always interested in what other cops have to say about our department, fact or fiction, so I’m looking forward to seeing your newest endeavor hit the press. If I can be of any assistance, feel free to get in touch. I came on under Roed in ’69 and went out under Landsdown in ’04, and saw all the changes. I vaguely recall Mr. McClure’s interaction with the department but never read his work product (just took care of that via Amazon.) I wish you the best.

  11. Anne ODell Says:

    Hi Tim,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog and especially interested in what Dr. Davis was saying about testing etc applicants for the PD. I did some research into this also, in particular, how could we wean out potentially abusive officers not only to individuals they interacted with on the job but in the home and personal situations.
    I ultimately put together some training regarding this subject which if you like I would be glad to email you. Although, I am no longer teaching, I still have most all of my articles and presentations. Thanks Tim!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: