8 reasons to keep a law enforcement scrapbook

After your career comes to a close, you will be able to open up the scrapbook years later and realize that George Bailey is not the only one who had a wonderful life


Scrapbooks are tangible evidence that allow you to say, “I’ve been there and done that.”

Here are eight reasons why you should keep a law enforcement scrapbook.

1. Scrapbooks back up your stories.

It is important to preserve your law enforcement experiences for both your family and yourself. (Photo/Pixabay)
It is important to preserve your law enforcement experiences for both your family and yourself. (Photo/Pixabay)

You can save clippings from not only the big busts, but also the “man bites dog” stories you have encountered over the years. Twenty years later, as you relate these stories, someone is bound to inevitably say, “No way! That didn’t really happen. Did it?” Without hesitation, you can produce your scrapbook and share the evidence that, yes, your incredible story is actually true.

2. Scrapbooks are great training aids.

A scrapbook allows you to look back after some time has passed and critique your own performance.

There may come a time when you reevaluate the magnificently performed crime-busting feat that you accomplished as a rookie and finally agree with your sergeant who said, “You’re lucky you didn’t get killed pulling that lamebrain stunt.”

And those lamebrain stunts make for some of the best scrapbook moments.

3. Scrapbooks can help an officer through a bad day.

A scrapbook allows you to save the thank-you notes and “attaboys” that occasionally come your way. These scraps of paper will serve to pick you up when you are having a bad day, reminding you of the difference you’ve made throughout your career.

4. Scrapbooks document persons, places, things and procedures.

Scrapbooks serve as time capsules. A career spanning three decades bears witness to many changes. Just the act of taking a photo of yourself once a year next to your squad wearing the uniform of the day will illicit “oohs and aahs” at any retirement party

Such a record not only shows how you have changed, but documents changes in uniforms, equipment, weaponry, squads, communications, assignments, facilities and sometimes even departments.

Put your children into the squad and take shots as they grow as well. You will capture those wonder years when they thought it was cool to have a parent who was a cop. As they age, the looks on their faces will change from cheese-inspired grins to teen grimaces. These photos will be absolutely priceless.

You can also save clippings and photos of your favorite and not-so-favorite sergeants, lieutenants, chiefs and beat partners.

Some moments you record for the book may pass without notice only to become golden memories later. An example of this is a photo I had of my FBI Academy (175th) Yellow-Brick-Road-running-partner, Lopez Umana. This photo became a personal treasure after he was targeted and killed in the line of duty by the Colombian drug cartel.

5. Scrapbooks allow you to pick and choose the memories you save.

Let’s face it, there are things you see as a police officer you would just as soon forget. You can choose to be selective about what you put into the scrapbook. I chose to save the burglary and robbery arrests and leave out the fatal crashes and suicides.

Caution: Only use newspaper clippings and authorized personal photos. Do not use sensitive police reports and department photos as this would violate most policies.

6. Scrapbooks record history.

A well-kept scrapbook not only documents your career history, but also the history of your department.

Years ago I wrote two history books on my local police department. Research was made easier because of priceless scrapbooks compiled by an officer who had served and passed long ago. These scrapbooks told of a bygone era of robberies, gun fights, jail breaks and careening long forgotten by the agency.

7. Scrapbooks become a family treasure.

Not every member of your family will be enthralled by your collected memories. There will come a time, however, when one of your children, grandchildren or great grandchildren will look in wonder at each page in each scrapbook and, without you saying a word or even being present, you will be an inspiration to that child.

8. Scrapbooks preserve a lifetime of memories.

There comes a time when everyone wants to take a walk down memory lane. A scrapbook allows you to remember with clarity things you didn’t know you had forgotten.

All good things must come to an end, including your law enforcement career. When you are in the midst of your journey, it is hard to realize that you are “living the dream.” Scrapbooks allow your law enforcement memories to survive.

After you close the book on your career, you will be able to open up the scrapbook years later and realize that George Bailey is not the only one who had a wonderful life.

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