Corner :: Don Cornelis
12, 2006 by Teri
police 10 codes, “10-24” translates as “Assignment completed”…and in Indiana,
police officers are entitled to “retire” after 20 years of service and receive
their full pension.
many officers put in much longer tours of duty—some more than 40 years—and
then they embark on new careers, take up old (or new) hobbies, rack up some good
R—or all of the above and more.
short, the action doesn’t have to stop after the last day on the beat. This
feature catches up with some of our SBPD retirees and shares some behind-the-scenes
scoops on what they’re up to…
the department in 1951
“Uncle Sam” in the Army Military Police from 1952-54
and retired as a SBPD Sergeant in 1971
returned as Public Service Officer for 8 years
retirement in 1993
Chaplain “nearly as long as he was a policeman”
Historian for the SBPD and Annual FOP Memorial Service
Belgian- I gotta keep workin’…After all, the Belgian household is run by the wife,
not the husband!”
Cornelis, 78, smiles with pride and names his heritage for his work ethic—and
his dedication to keeping busy with a number of activities since his “second retirement”
from the South Bend Police Department. In all, he’s put in 28-plus years
as an employee and continues logging countless hours as a volunteer and “caretaker”
of SBPD’s history.
a big job, someone’s got to step up and do it, and Don’s the man to do it. He
is highly appreciated for not just his work, but the fact that he’s happy to do
see the Lobby display “Women in Policing” throughout October and glimpse the history
he helped us gather together…)
an interesting career here at the department…they had me all over! Maybe
my most rewarding detail was the ‘roving ambo’ service we had before it was given
to the fire department in 1967…We pleaded to keep the ambo; after seeing it all
and saving lives, how can you beat that?” Don recalled.
beams when counting 32 successful baby deliveries— in extreme conditions such
as stairwells, streets, seats…In practice, the police were truly the first paramedics,
before it was even a designated public safety profession. He laughed and
remembered one of the mottoes they used, “You call; we haul.”
added, “It was great PR for us as policemen because we saw things a normal uniform
officer may not ever see…it was a door opener, literally, because they’d trust
us to help them during their emergency…and we might be able to gather info helpful
to other policing matters. Later when I became a patrol sergeant on the west
side, everyone knew and held respect for me because of the ambo work I did.”
as he believes that every seven years, a person should switch-out career paths
to clear their mind or learn new things…he stated that he never wanted to leave
the streets as a patrol sergeant because that’s where he felt most fulfilled,
along with the friendships with officers he worked with—and looked out for—along
after his first retirement, he did something he always had wanted to do—learn
Body Shop work and joined Freeman-Spicer (ironically, he said that historical
building was just torn down). He also did security for Notre Dame
and Brinks, but in a short time found all the hours taking away from his family
life with his wife and daughter. So when opportunity arose at the SBPD again,
he came back as a civilian and worked the front desk as a Public Service Officer.
got to meet the third generation…and see how much law enforcement has changed
with the times and technologies…it’s an altogether different world…That’s why
our history is so important to hold onto. Just the police cars themselves;
this generation would barely believe how we operated!” he laughed.
also has generational ties within the law enforcement community: Son-in-law Cpl.
Steve Hammer serves the South Bend Police Department as an Evidence Technician
and Second Detail “Afternoons” Uniform Patrol Officer, and second cousin Sgt.
Kenny Cornelis as a Crime Scene Technician with the County Metro Homicide Unit.
the other day, he was helping one of his Hammer grandsons with a research paper
and compared differences from the earlier days to policing in 2006. One issue
he notes is the utter and unfortunate lack of respect for authority and each other--
seemingly so prevalent in today’s society.
would still encourage anyone to go into policing—even with today’s challenges—
because I believe it is still one of the most honorable professions there is. But
ironically, that was not my first choice for a career,” said Don.
further explained, “I played a cop in a Catholic High School play so you’d think
it was meant to be…but like so many young men back then, I worked at Studebaker’s
thinking that would be my career until it went bad and I was laid off…I needed
work so I applied everywhere—at the utilities, the post office, the police and
fire departments…and as fate had it, the police department came through first. So
I took it and started at $254 a month!”
with his ongoing work as a police historian, Don knows the true value in a photo…and
a picture can be worth a thousand words. So even while police work was not
how Don originally pictured himself, he winked and said “looking the big
picture,” maybe it was in his heart all along—because it still is.