Former Chicago Police Department officer Brian McVey Credit: April Alonso

is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Brian McVey, 38, ex-cop.

“Right out of high school I started on the railroad—freight, not passenger. I was a switchman, then an engineer. When I made it into the police academy, all my mentors on the railroad said, ‘You’re gonna see a lot of evil, dark things. Don’t ever lose your smile.  

“I started out as a patrol officer in Grand Crossing. I had a certain beat every day, around 71st and Cottage Grove. Anything you can think of, I saw. Murder, rape, shootings, stabbings. Car accidents with fatalities.
On some days we’d get called over and over to the same house for the same domestic situation, and if we placed the boyfriend in cuffs, the woman would start crying and say, ‘No, no, let him go, I just wanted you to scare him.’ It’s like, wait a minute. You have visible marks on your face, you called the police, we showed up, you just want us to let him go? And then it’s like we’re fighting her. She’s crying, saying, ‘He’s got a job, he’s paying my rent.’ The children are crying. What do you do? If I let him go, maybe next day he stabs her. You really have to weigh that.

“After a couple years, I got on the Third District gang unit. We’d see a guy on the corner and drive by, and 20 minutes later we find out he got shot. We’d go interview him, and he’d say, ‘Yeah, I don’t know what happened. I just felt a pain. I didn’t see anything.’ That no-snitch policy is terrible. You can’t do your job.

“I was in one shooting. This guy jumps out of a stolen car with a gun in his hand. I chased him, screaming, ‘Put the gun down!’ It looked like he was going to shoot, and that’s when I fired the one round. It grazed him. I’m grateful that I didn’t kill him. I just remember thinking, I have to go to the bathroom so bad.

“I stayed on the gang unit till my accident. I was in a squad car, and we got cut off at 70th and Stony Island. Our car rolled and hit a pole and then another pole. When I woke up, they were cutting my clothes off in the ambulance, which was surreal, because that’s what I always saw the ambulance guys doing for shooting victims.

“At the hospital, Rahm Emanuel showed up in my room. I almost started crying when I saw him, because I thought, ‘OK, I must be paralyzed, that’s why he’s here.’ It turned out it was just a nice move on my boss’s part. I had a broken hip, a shattered wrist, and my biceps and knees were torn up. Four years later, I’m on my eighth surgery, and I’m on disability. I hurt, but I’m aboveground.

“Being a cop was my job, and I did a good job. I prided myself on never getting in trouble. If I stopped a person who was doing something illegal and their friend started filming me, I never got mad. I was very professional. I always hoped that I could find those YouTube videos. But I guess since I acted decent, they’re not gonna upload them.”