Veteran cop hangs up his billy club after 45 years

Sgt. Gerry Milton chats about his career while sitting in the Calgary Police Service District 3...

Sgt. Gerry Milton chats about his career while sitting in the Calgary Police Service District 3 office on November 17, 2010. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency Files)

Michael Platt, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

CALGARY -- His uniform was still brand new when a piece of priceless rock, plucked fresh from the surface of the moon, was stored at Calgary police headquarters for safe keeping.

It was as close to space-age as the Calgary police department ever got back when Gerry Milton joined up, the same year the first Apollo mission landed man on the moon.

Back here on Earth, Milton was busy learning how to walk the beat in Calgary, circa 1969 — a city that had yet to adopt the 911 system, and where police still relied on telephone callboxes to communicate with headquarters.

“It was mostly walking around, checking on things — we walked all over, and there were lots of beats downtown, and then over by the Shamrock Hotel and the National Hotel,” said Milton.

“It could be rough all right, especially downtown around the Cecil and National. A lot rougher than it is now, that’s for sure.”

They packed revolvers, drove squad cars with a single red light on top, and didn’t allow women on regular patrol duties — and when Milton started, concepts like Checkstops, bulletproof vests, DNA evidence and photo radar were still years away.

Sgt. Milton, or “Uncle Miltie” as he’s fondly known, has finally retired after a staggering 45 years with the Calgary Police Service, a record that makes him the longest serving officer in the force’s 129-year history.

He joined at 21, having topped the 5-foot-10 height requirement by two inches, and was immediately sent to patrol the streets, where a typical shift might include rounding up troublesome drunks around the boozy hotels of east downtown, and checking local business for signs of break-in.

“You had to go around checking on property, making sure the buildings were secure — you’d shake doorknobs,” said Milton.

“And being on foot, you could sneak up on the bad guys and surprise them.”

Until he hung up his badge at the end of January, 66-year-old Milton was working in District 3 in north Calgary, still loving each day he spent with a group of co-workers he calls as close as family, with a shared sense of humour and camaraderie at odds with a very serious role.

But his record-setting career almost ended before it really got started.


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