10/15/2007

Hawaii officer finds his blood runs blue, just like dad

By Leila Fujimori
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Robby Robinson hadn't planned on following his dad's career path. In college on a baseball scholarship, he contemplated a career in teaching or coaching.

"I never wanted to be a policeman," he said.

But a police ride-along for a criminal justice class changed his mind.

"You have the freedom to drive around," he said. "You're not stuck in an office and you meet a lot of different people from different cultures and background. It's not the same every day."

Robinson, 32, a seven-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, said his career choice has drawn him and his father closer.

He calls his dad, Maj. Henry "Butch" Robinson, 67, a "wealth of knowledge." Not surprising, since with 45 years on the force, he is HPD's active-duty officer with the most years of service.

Robby, whose given name is Henry Jr., often "talks story" with Henry Sr. about areas they've covered, bouncing ideas off him.

"He'll go on to tell me stories about that area," said Robby Robinson, a patrol officer in Kalihi. "It gave me a better understanding of who he was and who he is.

"I consider him not just my father; I consider him one of my friends," he said.

Unlike his son, Butch Robinson wanted to be a policeman since age 10 and became a junior police officer at Punahou School. He looked up to the police adviser there, who "wore a nice uniform and commanded respect."

"I said, 'Someday, I hope to maybe be like that,'" he said.

But Butch first attended a mainland college, then transferred to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1959.

While there, he was tapped to become one of the first two to attend HPD's newly instituted officer cadet program.

Then-Chief Dan Liu was starting up the cadet program and enlisted Nathan Stone, Butch's school buddy, who recommended Butch. He was hired on Dec. 16, 1959.

At his mother's urging, he went back to school after a year working at the Records Division at HPD's former Bethel Street location. Robinson returned to the department Oct. 8, 1962, and never left again.

The past 45 years have "been very gratifying," he said. "The time went so fast. ... I felt like I was helping people, not only the citizens but the officers working with me."

Robinson, now a night commander, said he could see when a young officer was struggling and would pull him aside and offer help.

"If you're sincerely interested in your fellow workers ... they know that you sincerely care," he said.

He believes his son also has that touch.

"If they're in trouble, he's for the underdog," he said. "He has compassion."

Despite the dangers, Robby Robinson said helping the public is what's gratifying.

He recalled helping save a man attempting to jump off a freeway overpass a few years ago.

"My partner and I approached him and we just grabbed him and yanked him off the railing," he said.

"It's kind of a thankless job, but when somebody thanks you, it makes it all worth it," he said.

But for the family of a police officer, life can be less than ideal.

Robby Robinson's wife, Jamie, worries for his safety every day.

Butch Robinson said his wife, Jean, was happy when their son planned on being a teacher, not a police officer.

"She didn't like the hours, the nights. You miss a lot of family gatherings and holidays, and she didn't want that for him," he said.

But Butch Robinson managed to coach T-ball and made all the games for Robby Robinson, who became a high school baseball standout.

Jean Robinson said she can't blame her son's career choice on her husband, who never pushed his children to follow in his footsteps, never brought them to the station, but instead wanted them to choose their own careers.

Robinson said he was "extremely proud" when his son got through the seven-month ordeal of the police academy.

"It was not automatic just because he was a major's son," he said. "He earned it."

And on graduation day, Jean Robinson was proud, too, pinning the badge on her son.

Butch Robinson plans to retire soon. But he'll stay active as a reserve officer, serving as a legislative liaison and working in the police museum.

Though he loves his job, Robby Robinson said he won't be able to top his dad's record.

"I definitely won't stay in as long as he has," he said. "That's the one record that will be hard for anyone to pass: 45 years."

Copyright 2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin

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