July 22, 2010
Retired city cop enjoyed helping people
Phil Langlois still feels a little like his retirement as a Cortland city police officer three weeks ago has been a vacation.
The 48-year-old Tully resident says his police career of 20 years has given him the chance to see some people in the Cortland community at their best and others at their worst.
One lesson he has gained from his experience is that there is no dispatch call that is too routine. That lesson came after being on the job about three years, Langlois said.
He was the first officer on the scene at a home on Northcliffe Road, responding to a 911 call of possible gunshots or fireworks going off.
“And when I got there it was a domestic dispute that was a murder-suicide,” Langlois said.
It happened on an early Sunday morning during the summer, he said. A woman’s ex-boyfriend had fatally shot her new boyfriend before turning the gun on himself, Langlois recalled.
That turn of events taught Langlois to expect the unexpected.
“It was early enough in my career that it stuck out, so I kept it in the back of my mind,” he said. “No call is as routine as you think it may be.”
But being a police officer is just as much about helping people as it is responding to dangerous or tragic situations, Langlois said.
About 10 years ago, Langlois responded to settle a domestic dispute between a man and a woman. When the matter was resolved, the woman felt very depressed and Langlois offered to drive her to the hospital for treatment.
“She said it’s been a long time that somebody’s talked to me and treated me like a human being,” he said.
Making a positive difference in someone’s life is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a police officer, Langlois said.
It’s what motivated him to choose law enforcement as a career.
“I think that’s a reason a lot of people go into law enforcement,” Langlois said.
He started out in 1984 working for the Cornell University Police and then worked briefly in the Norwich Police Department before taking the job in Cortland.
While the nature of people and the types of problems police encounter have changed very little over the years, the biggest improvement has been the technology used by officers, Langlois said.
He said communication is far quicker than when he started his career and the access to information via computers in patrol cars lets officers accomplish more by themselves and in less time than in years past.
“You know right away if a car is stolen ... or if there is a wanted person,” Langlois said. “It might be the difference between 10 to 15 minutes, and that makes a tremendous difference if you’re stopping somebody.”
That type of information used to have to be radioed in, he added.
What Langlois will miss most about his job is the camaraderie with fellow officers.
“There’s a lot of good people to work with in this department,” Langlois said.
His career with the Cortland Police Department may be behind him, but Langlois said he is still passionate about the job.
He will be employed part-time as an officer with the Groton village police.
Langlois is married and said he is looking forward to more leisurely activities such as playing golf, hiking and traveling.
There is one thing Langlois said he would not miss about his former job: the night shifts.
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