Dear Members,

On June 1st, the Cincinnati Enquirer included a fantastic article by Peter Bronson that focuses on the family tradition of police-work among some of our members. I thought this was a great tribute to those families that were featured including the Streichers, the Whalens, the Greens, and especially the Gramke family. As many of you know, Jerry Gramke, who is quoted in the article, is our current Board Chairman. This wonderful article appears below.

Tina Wocher

The Cincinnati Enquirer
June 1, 2009

Police work runs in the family

By Peter Bronson

Jim Gramke has been a Cincinnati cop for 23 years - with 119 years of experience, stretching back to his great-grandfather Ben Gramke, who joined the Cincinnati Police in 1890.

"It's the family business," he laughs.

The Gramke family tree could have sprouted from a nightstick that the first Watchmen carried when his great-grandfather walked a beat and rattled doorknobs in the late 1800s. Next was his grandfather, Joe Gramke, who graduated from the first police academy class in 1927. Then his father, Jerry Gramke, a robbery and homicide detective who served Cincinnati for 26 years until he retired in 1983.

"We were unique, in that every one of us who went on with Cincinnati also retired from the job," Jerry Gramke said.

And there are more branches to come: Jim Gramke has two uncles and two cousins who have served in Cincinnati or the sheriff's department. His brother Jeff is a CPD sergeant, and his brother Jay is a sergeant with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.

But Jim insists there was no pressure to be a cop.

"It really wasn't something I thought of as a kid," he says. But something changed his mind. "It was my dad's retirement party. It was just the way these guys acted around each other, the camaraderie and respect."

His father told him, "It's not the best job, but you work with the best people in the world." And that has proved to be true, Jim said. "Without a doubt. We have memories to last a lifetime. Some bad, some good, but you only remember the good stuff."

'The chief's kid'

His story fits lots of families that have served in local law enforcement for generations. In Cincinnati, especially the West Side, it's a tradition that runs as deep as school colors like Elder purple and St. X blue.

Lt. Alan March of CPD's human resources looked up family connections and found at least 57 current officers who are second- or third-generation cops, including Police Chief Thomas Streicher, whose father was a CPD sergeant. And, March said, those 57 families may be just scratching the surface. Family connections run deep and wide among Cincinnati's "White Hats."

Lt. Col. Jim Whalen is the son of a chief, whose story sounds a lot like Jim Gramke's. Apparently, police dads don't "sell" the family business to their kids - but the kids hear stories. They see how much their fathers love the job and the good people they work with. And one day, it just clicks.

"I didn't have a strong interest until I was 18, and I heard my dad talk about civilian ride-alongs," Whalen said. "I rode with cops two or three times in a year-and-a-half. Seeing them actually work really turned me on."

Being the son of Police Chief Larry Whalen was a rough ride for a CPD rookie. "That was murder," he said. "Being the chief's kid was not a good place to be. It was a very difficult time in my career."

Other cops thought he was born with a golden spoon or some kind of snitcher, he said. "There was stuff on the bulletin board - very nasty stuff. But I have to admit my personality at the time, I was at fault, too," he said.

Whalen earned his law degree, but when the day came to choose which end of the law to work on, it was no contest.

"People ask me why don't you go be a lawyer and make big money," he said. "That's easy. Because I love what I do."

And he still gets advice from his father. "He's a tremendous source. I lean back on him for advice and guidance."

Like father, like daughter

Brian "B.T." Greene knows what Whalen is talking about. The patrolman in vice is part of three generations at CPD. His father, John "Jack" Greene, served from 1941 to 1972. "Detective Badge 15 in homicide, robbery, vice and fraud," Greene said.

He grew up hearing stories about his dad busting up illegal pinball machines and cracking big cases.

And now his daughter, Stephanie Greene, has also joined the family business as a rookie cop. "Ever since she was a kid, 5 years old, she has wanted to be a city cop," he said.

Greene counts a brother-in-law, an uncle and two brothers who have served CPD.

"If you asked my friends when I was in high school, they would have said there's no way he will ever be a cop," he joked. "But it has been nothing but a great time with great bosses."

The job's about people

Jerry Gramke would second that. He was working as an embalmer and funeral director when his dad told him about taking the police test. "I came out second, so I thought I would give it a try for awhile."

"Awhile" turned into 26 years - about a quarter of the 119 contributed by Gramkes since their family arrived in Cincinnati from Germany.

His son Jim still has a copy of a 1906 magazine article about his great-grandfather. "It called him 'the handsomest specimen of physical manhood in this department,' " he read. His great-grandfather's entire personnel jacket for 30 years of service was contained on one sheet.

Times have changed, but the job hasn't, the Park and Canine commander said. "It's still just about people and the situations they put themselves into or get put into by someone else."

The camaraderie and mutual respect hasn't changed either. Cops may kid around, but they are in that unique class of people, career cousins to nurses and firemen, who find pride and satisfaction from helping others, even when it means great sacrifice.

The Gramkes have "a ton of sons, daughters, nieces and nephews," Jim Gramke said, "But nobody has chosen their career yet."

When they do, chances are pretty good that at least one will choose the honor and pride of police work - making the fifth generation of Gramkes in the Cincinnati Police Division.

And someday they will tell their kids the same thing Whalen found out: It's a great job like no other. "When I look in the mirror every morning, I'm a cop."