Veteran BC officer looks ahead

After 26 years on the police force in Bridge City, Joey Hargrave is finally surrendering. Surrendering to retirement, that is. At least until the next great adventure comes along.

Since he was a little boy running the streets of his hometown, he’s always wanted to be a police officer. So when a spot opened up while he was going to college, he grabbed the chance. He was only planning to stay until he finished college, but now more than 20 years later realizes it’s in his blood. He had a couple of uncles in policing agencies in the Golden Triangle, so as a boy the seed for law enforcement was planted.

It wasn’t always a simple gig. As a matter of fact, his first day on the job could have easily been documented and submitted to “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

“We had these old police cars  – rattle traps. I mean, they had 80,000 miles when we were kids,” Hargrave said. “I pulled someone over for speeding and forgot to put my car in park. I ended up rear-ending the car I pulled over. Needless to say, I let them go.”

The Bridge City native only worked the streets for about four and half years before being assigned a juvenile officer position working closely with the local school district. This grant position allowed him to bust open sex offender cases and abuse cases involving young people. He served in that position about eight years and you can tell in the enthusiastic manner in which he speaks, it was one of the most rewarding parts of his tenure at the police department.

“I’ve had kids come back to me as grown adults with their own families and thanking me for being there for them,” Hargrave said.

There were countless stories of crimes diverted as a result of having a police officer role model in a young person’s life.

He’s also been able to counsel adults who were abused as children – grown men and women finally comfortable enough to speak up and get the healing they need.

On the lighter side of the job, Hargrave has retrieved his fair share of alligators, snakes, pigs, goats and you name it, especially in the aftermath of the great storms that have hit his home shores. Perhaps that is why his 10-year-old daughter Alexandra is so interested in veterinarian medicine over law enforcement.

“That’s something I won’t miss!” he said.

He stands beside several officers who served their entire career without having to draw their weapon. Even though Bridge City is a small bedroom community, there’s still a level of danger in small-scale crime fighting. And Hargrave said his focus on family and coaching pony league helped him keep the balance.

“You focus on your family,” he said. “There has to be some type of release.” Law enforcement is not a switch that can be turned off and on. Where danger exists, you are always on duty and you’re always prepared for it, he said.

One of the most unusual cases over Hargrave’s career involved a hit and run.

“We had a hit and run where a lady was hit by a car while she was looking for her cat. It was raining and she saw a cat on the side of the road and thought it was hers,” he said. After the vehicle struck her, investigators later found her earring was still stuck to the bumper.

In terms of future adventures, this police major said he’d never be too far from law enforcement. With the roar of a garden tiller in the background, he said his first priority is knocking out his wife Ramona’s list of things to do.

“I’ve got a pretty good list my wife’s got me to do. I’ve got a couple job offers. I won’t be too far from law enforcement and I’ll have my hand in it at some level,” he said. Also, he hinted he would always be involved in some form of teaching, whether it’s child safety at the police academy or on site with the Bridge City school district.