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There was once a real estate appraiser in a large city on the west coast of Florida getting pressured by banks to “help us make the numbers work.”
So he decided after many years in the business to close shop, mail his license back to Tallahassee and instead, become a police officer. Nine years ago, at the age of 55, that man was Officer John McMullen.
McMullen had spent a few years in Korea and Vietnam, serving in the Army and thought that the discipline and structure of the police service would be similar. After graduating from the academy, his first job was with the Cedar Key police department.
He went on to train in North Carolina for eight weeks with his first police dog, Huro, who was nine years old at the time. The training was “rugged” and included discipline training, drug searches and finds.
McMullen’s second dog, Tess, is a yellow lab who was also purchased by the police department. She was 16-months old at the time and worked with McMullen in Cedar Key for 18 months.
The K-9 program was successful, depending who you ask. Or, perhaps a victim of its own success. The number of finds during traffic stops dropped, but money and politics ruled, so the program was cut from the police budget.
“The worst day ever was when they cut the program,” McMullen said. The city sold Tess to him and she is now his pet. He still trains her every week because she “still loves to work.”
“You have to really want it,” says McMullen about working with a police dog. Although he was compensated for the extra four hours of training he had to give Tess each week at home, “it was more work than the monetary gain.”
McMullen’s best days as a police officer have been when he was able to arrest two different child molesters and one was put in jail for nine years.
He is happy after six years of working the weekend night shifts, for the past three years, he has primarily worked in the day time, meeting nice people that he was never able to meet before.
That wasn’t always the case. Years ago, it was not uncommon to be called out alone to Dock Street or the L and M bar on a Saturday night and be surrounded by a group of a dozen jeering onlookers. Thus, he believes that a “me against them” attitude developed out of necessity.
Now when he is on the job, McMullen tries to operate with the mindset that even if he is called to an unpleasant scene, “people know, right or wrong, I will listen to their story.”