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A Cop's Life: Philadelphia, 1953-1983    by Thomas M. Grubb & Allan Cole order for
Cop's Life
by Thomas M. Grubb
Order:  USA  Can
iUniverse, 2000 (2000)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Thomas M. Grubb, the subject of A Cop's Life, lived to the age of seventy-four, into the early months of 2007. Sergeant Grubb served with the Philadelphia Police Department from 1953-1983. Of his Uncle Tommy, Allan Cole recently said, 'Before he became ill, we talked about adding some adventures to 'A Cop's Life' that he'd left out. Some murders he investigated and big Mafia bust he was involved in. (He personally took down the Capo of Philadelphia.) He'd left them out because he was worried about reprisals to his family. Then, not long ago, one of the old time mobsters called him and said he was a little hurt because Tommy left out their encounter. My Uncle had a big laugh over that.'

Thomas M. Grubb left work as a chemist's assistant at Dupont to join the Philadelphia Police Department, for less money but better job security. Through recorded tapes of his experiences as a lawman, Tom Grubb gave his nephew, Allan 'Lucky' Cole, the opportunity to publish his story in A Cop's Life. It's presented in two parts: Patrolman and Detective. Grubb began as a rookie in uniform, sharing what it was like, with 'made-up names to protect the innocent and the guilty'. Tom reflects on humorous incidents as well as abysmal unexpected scenes, from day one in-training, to walking the beat, the one- and two-man patrol car, along with paddy wagon duty. He rose to Sergeant in charge of a sixteen-man detective unit, served undercover with the Special Investigation Squad (SIS), and was awarded many commendations.

Initial days of training included things like how to fill out a traffic violation ticket and shooting at the firearms range. Grubb was assigned to the Center City district, pulling the seven-day shift, with a week-end off (referred to as 'The Big Apple') every seven weeks. He spoke fondly of a senior partner, Mike Finney, referred to as Iron Jaw. Even though Mike was a man of few words, 'he was a real good cop and a darned good teacher ... his experience in the police department was his greatest gift to give to a young, 'red ass', police officer'. Finney's advice included the words, 'No booze, snooze, or cooze'. Grubb's dealt with jumpers and floaters (suicides), domestic cases, and a brutal shooting. The wagon beat called for transport of the ill, the elderly, an arrest, or 'lice-infested dead bodies'. The wagon and stretcher were sprayed thereafter with ether by hospital orderlies.

Tom felt that 'the biggest enemy of being a cop is boredom', so even minor disturbances were welcomed. One such instance was an auto sagging very low in the back end - opening the trunk revealed cans of illegal liquor. Grubb talked of the days when bulletproof-vests were not yet invented, and recalls taking a hit: 'I never saw who fired the shot. I never even saw the flash of the gun.' Another time, pursuing perps, Tom reached into his jacket for his gun, and it wasn't there! On another occasion, driving in pursuit of a hot car, his partner Johnny hit a conduit wall. After Tom went through the windshield, Johnny asked, 'Tom ... Do you think we can pass the car on to the next shift?' Grubb talks of gathering information on the streets, and 'you do something for me and I'll be easy on you' dealing. One thing he could not get used to was kids getting hurt, abused, and worse. He tells us that it all 'gets inside your head'.

In SIS, Tom's first undercover assignment was as a sweeper in a factory, in order to apprehend all the number writers and number backers, or bagmen. There were the big busts of capo, and an eventual transfer to the First Police District, referred to as Old Man's Home. Grubb transferred to the District Attorney's office as a Court Liaison Officer, working on juvenile cases. In one agonizing case, a father reported his son missing, and it turned out to be something much worse. Sergeant Grubb questioned himself, 'Did I do my job? Did I earn my pay?' On the lighter side, Grubb admits to being a bad typist, using 'the biblical system ... seek and ye shall find'. Nephew Lucky notes to readers that Tom touched many lives, and that all future royalties for his fascinating book will go to his widow, Cassie Grubb.

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