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A Journey to the Center of the Mind, Book II, The Police Officer Years

James R. Fitzgerald

Bonus Chapter

(It was early January of 1984. The political “transition” within the Bensalem PD had just taken

place. It was not a good transition either, certainly not for me and many of my colleagues. It

forced me to contemplate my professional future, so it was time to take a little trip to explore

some options.)

Chapter 39a

As it so happens, I was scheduled off for the next two days, Thursday and Friday. While

at home for dinner during my Wednesday evening shift, I discussed with Eileen all that was

going on at the PD, what just-demoted Lt. Jack Robinson advised me about the place that God

had apparently “forsaken,” etc., and we mutually agreed on one thing. I should start looking for

another job.

But where? And how? And when?

These were just three questions I had to address and somehow come up with viable and

workable answers.

In terms of “when,” Eileen and I also mutually agreed that there’s no time better than the

present. The “where” and the “how” of it would be decided at the same time.

The next morning, with a dozen copies of my previously prepared resume in hand, I put

on my best suit, shirt, and tie, polished my shoes, awaited the Philadelphia area rush hour traffic

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to die down, jumped in my car, and I made a bee-line to Atlantic City, New Jersey. I was

strolling on the Boardwalk by 11:00 that day with a very purposeful agenda in mind.

The recently revitalized AC would be the initial stop on my find-a-new-job quest. With

its first casino opening in 1978 and now a half-dozen additional gambling halls and hotels lining

the Boardwalk since then, it seemed like a logical place to start. Other casinos were under

construction and/or in their late planning stages so there was no doubt of the jobs a-plenty to be

found there now and in the future, to include in my particular area of expertise.

I wasn’t then nor am I now a gambler, other than the occasional friendly poker games

with my buddies, but I certainly wasn’t opposed to working in a gambling establishment. These

places clearly needed security too, and I was aware of the fact that these casinos were hiring

numerous retired and former law enforcement officers to protect their assets, their customers,

investigate fraud, keep organized crime out, etc. So, why not begin there and test the waters, so

to speak? Of course, with my experience and education, I was hoping to get in on the

investigative or management side of the house, and that’s what I would tell anyone who would

talk to me once they met with me that day.

Not too long after arriving in Atlantic City that morning, perhaps right before I walked in

the door of the first casino, I realized that I undertook this first part of my new job-quest in a bit

of a naïve and perhaps premature fashion. That is, I had absolutely no contacts at any casino,

there was no one I could reference there, nor was I even a known customer of any of the

establishments.

So, what did I do?

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I simply made my way to the security offices of the various casinos and asked to talk to

their respective security directors. At my first few stops I was told the boss was not available.

When that happened, I simply advised the security department representative that I was looking

for employment and then gave him or her a copy of my resume to give the boss. The person

would thank me and told me that someone would hopefully get back to me. I thanked them, left,

and hoped they would, in fact, get back to me.

After my first three stops, I finally walked into the fourth casino security department. I

forget which one after all these years, whether it was Bally’s, Caesars, Resorts, or Tropicana, but

after once again mentioning to the front office rep that I was a current police officer looking for

possible employment, this one actually managed to put me in touch with the director. He

happened to be in his office then and after being advised of my sudden and unannounced

appearance he nonetheless agreed to meet with me.

The tall, 50-something year-old man, with a full head of gray hair, walked out into the

small inconspicuous lobby of the department, shook my hand, introduced himself. I then

followed him into his interior, windowless office where we started our conversation.

When initially offered, the director took my resume right away, glanced over it, and was

impressed that I was a detective sergeant, had a college degree, and was even attending graduate

school. Well, I WAS attending grad school, but he didn’t have to know it was past tense at this

moment. (I was on a self-imposed academic “sabbatical” of sorts at this point.)

Anyway, after some general small-talk regarding the inner-workings of a casino, the

director matter-of-factly asked me why I was looking to leave law enforcement after only seven-

plus years on the job. I wanted to be careful here and not simply turn my response into a bashing

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of my current place of employment, the new political regime, and the like. That would be

unprofessional in this particular context and time. Plus, this man didn’t want to hear all that has

been happening at the BPD over the last few years and I wasn’t about to lay it all on him at this

very early stage of interaction. In response, I simply told him in so many words that I was

hoping to enhance my professional opportunities in the private sector and I believed my skills

would be well-placed in his casino as an experienced investigator and/or possibly even a

manager. He seemed to comprehend all that I had just related to him, or he was at least nodding

his head in what appeared to be a gesture of benign understanding.

As I continued to talk with the security director he eventually shared with me that he was

a retired trooper from the New Jersey State Police (NJSP). He left the state police as a detective

lieutenant just two years earlier. He added that many of the casino security employees were, like

him, retired from the NJSP. Also, there were other former police officers from smaller, local

jurisdictions, as well as retired FBI and other federal agents spread out among the various casino

security departments. Okay, this was all good to know.

As I was listening intently to the man and taking notes, he then asked me a question

which caught me completely off-guard. He wanted to know if I had yet attained the official New

Jersey State Casino Employment Certification (or something like that). I looked up from my

notebook and inquired, “Excuse me, what was that again?”

The security director then told me that every potential worker at any of the casinos in

Atlantic City had to have this particular certificate to even apply for employment. It was

mandated in 1976 when the state officials first approved gambling in The Garden State. I had

never heard of this certificate program and asked him more about it. He advised it entailed an

extensive background check and it was designed to keep out mobsters and other criminal-types

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who would, quite naturally, attempt to make their way inside the very lucrative casino industry,

ply their various illegal activities, and otherwise compromise the integrity of the workplace

environment.

Even recently retired or still on-duty law enforcement officers had to attain this

certification if they desired employment in the NJ casino industry. There were no exceptions.

And as a potential employee in a casino security department, there were even additional

processes which had to be undertaken. These included more extensive background checks, in

some cases a polygraph exam, along with other requirements that employees in non-security

positions would not have to undergo. The director made it clear at the end of his explanation that

he couldn’t even take an application without me first having this certificate in hand.

Hmmm…there goes my hopes of being hired on the spot today.

After this valuable information was proffered by the casino security director, all brand

new to me, I cleared my throat, sat up in my chair, closed my notebook and candidly advised him

that I had not been previously aware of this certification requirement. I told him I wouldn’t have

wasted his time today if I had known about it in advance. He said it was not a problem and that I

wasn’t the first person to call him or even come into his office and have this conversation. I then

thanked him for taking the time to meet with me and explain to me all that he just did. As I was

about to depart his office I asked him how one goes about starting the process of attaining this

certificate. He gave me the phone number of the New Jersey State Gambling Commission in

Trenton, NJ, and told me that I should simply call them and ask for an application. I said I

would, perhaps even this afternoon when I returned home.

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I expressed my appreciation to the security director again for the twenty minutes or so of

his time that he so generously bequeathed to me that day. He provided a wealth of information

which, quite frankly, I should have researched on my own before going there. But he seemed to

be fine with me stopping by and told me nonetheless that he was impressed with me and my

professional background. As he was handing me his business card he suggested that if I do

follow through and attain the aforementioned certificate, to call him and we could possibly take

matters to the next stage. I took that to mean that perhaps he would consider hiring me. I don’t

think I was wrong in that thinking either. I shook his hand, thanked him yet one more time, and

left the office.

Well, despite my jumping the gun here, I at least got some facetime with a boss at one of

the casino’s security departments and learned a great deal from him. It wasn’t a totally wasted

trip.

I decided then to drive home, call the Gambling Commission in Trenton, and request a

form/application and go from there. All of this may take me longer than I had planned, but deep

down I sort of expected it.

Before I left AC, I stopped on the boardwalk and purchased a hot dog, chips, and a soda

at one of the food establishments. It was a bit cold to be eating on a bench outdoors, but with the

sun shining and the sight of the Atlantic Ocean directly in front of me, not to mention the always

soothing sounds of breaking waves and squawking seagulls, and with at least the beginnings of

my job-hunting quest now in play, it actually had me in a pretty good mood. If nothing else, it

was a very welcome break from that “God forsaken place” where I was now presently employed.

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All in all, I recall thinking, not a bad day.

Now to just get that certificate….

When I arrived home I immediately called the phone number in Trenton. I talked to a

woman there and requested her to send me the aforementioned certificate application. We

discussed a few different form numbers and we finally decided on the one that would best serve

me. She said she’d put it in the mail the next morning. I hung up the phone, got changed, and

spent the hour before dinner rolling around on the floor playing with my two young sons. It was

a welcome respite from having driven four hours that day, cold-knocking on several casino

security department doors, and planning my future career.

*****

About the same day I was made aware of the grievance being filed at work regarding my

1982 promotion to sergeant, I received a thick envelope from the NJ Gambling Commission in

the mail at my house. Upon opening it and reading all the instructions, I learned for the first time

that applying for and (hopefully) attaining this certificate would not be cheap. It would cost me

$350 just to initiate the process. That wasn’t a small amount of money in 1984, at least not to

me. But after talking it over with Eileen we decided it would be worth the expenditure, even if it

offered no guarantees to me of either getting the certificate or later even getting a casino job.

So, shortly after the next payday I filled out the multipage form, wrote the check, and

sent it off to Trenton. In about four months I received a letter and a notarized form back in the

mail. I had been fully certified to work in the security department of any one of the Atlantic City

casinos. It was valid for the next three years. I suppose it was well worth the expenditure.

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Or was it?

As it turned out, I never went back to Atlantic City to apply for a job. It just wasn’t in the

cards for me. (Yes, pun intended.) I’d be exploring other professional opportunities in the

meantime, some in the public sector but at least one more in the private sector. No state-

sanctioned certificate would be needed for this upcoming non-government job opportunity. But

damn, I should have kept my mouth shut about it.

There will be more to follow regarding this scenario as I learned “loose lips sink ships”

relates to employment opportunities, too; especially as it pertains to one of my heroes from my

late teens. (See Bonus Chapter 49d for this almost employment story.)

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