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  • by Barb Shelton

The Dilapidated Police Clipboard

A while back, I posted pictures in my "From Before to After" group of a clipboard I did a little makeover on. Well, the clipboard itself was little ~ only 6" by 9" ~ but the makeover was pretty "big," as you can see:

Before and After's of an old clipboard I decorated / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

That'll actually be another upcoming article ("Lessons From Covering an Old Clipboard"), but it's what started the story I'm about to tell you...

As we often do after church when Dave is working dayshift on a Sunday, he and I met "under the bridge" (the KPD parking lot), each in our respective cars. His is a cop car, and mine is said cop's (our) family car.

We always face opposite directions so that our driver's windows are side-by-side, and we can both stay in our cars and talk. To each other, mostly, but he keeps his car running and his ear tuned in to his radio so that, if he gets a call, he can just zoom right off!

Which he has done many times! I'll be in the middle of a profound statement... like "I got a load of laundry done before leaving for church!" ... and then POOF/ZOOM!!! All of a sudden, he's like "I got a call!!!" and he is outta there! But no calls interrupted us this day; we had time to ponder deep thoughts...

Like old clipboards...

As I looked at Dave, I could see just beyond him, in the seat next to him, a clipboard sticking out the top of some other things on the seat.

Not a nice slick fancy clipboard. Nope! A very worn, dilapidated clipboard!

I asked him to pull it out so I could see it...

Dave holding up his dilapidated police clipboard / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

Looking at it, I thought to myself: "Boy, would I ever love to do a makeover on this clipboard!" ~ like I'd done on the previously-mentioned, old clipboard above:

My mom's old clipboard / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

This had been my mom's, and I got it after she passed away last September (2016). I'm sure you can see the resemblance, although Dave's is twice as big!

And, of course, I'd make-over this one masculinely! Like with twine, raffia, leather and rocks... or something.

Buuut instead I said: "Wow! Looks like your clipboard – uuuummm – has seen better days!"

He looked at it thoughtfully for a few seconds, smiled, then looked at me and said, "Know when I got this?"

"No, when?!?"

"When I was a reserve officer here at KPD!"

Dave holding and looking at his clipboard / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

Woah!!! "Are you KIDDING me?!?!?!?!"


To give you some context, as of September 5, 2017, Dave will have been a police officer with Kelso Police Dept. for 39 years, having actually started there as a reserve officer two years before that! He was only 19 then, not even old enough to carry a gun!

So that means his clipboard is at least 41 years old! Looking down at the bottom part of it, a very worn index card with most of the typing worn off, he said, "In fact this is the same "10 Deadly Errors (of Cops)" list that I typed up back then and stuck on here!" I asked him to hand it to me so I could take a closer look at it...

Very worn "Ten Deadly Errors" card on... / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

Dave pointed out ~ and you can see (above) ~ how uneven and misshapen the edges and once-rounded corners are, just from all the use and getting knocked around!

I had NO problem believing that it had been typed up that long ago, as most of it had worn off!

Close-up of Ten Deadly Errors / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

As I held it in my hands, just looking at it, I started crying! I wasn't even sure why! I just started crying! I'd stop for a bit, and we went on to other subjects, but then I'd start in again.

He eventually got another call and we parted ways. But even two hours later, trying to write down my thoughts, tears kept flowing!!!

Why in the world did this affect me so deeply?!?!?!?

Thinking about it, I realized it had to do with a few things...

One thing that impacted me was seeing the tremendous wear and tear on this clipboard that my cop-husband had used all these years!

Also, I realized that, even though most of the words of "The Ten Deadly Errors" ~ which Dave had typed up himself on an actual typewriter ~ had now rubbed off with use, they had rubbed off onto him and become part of his "cop DNA." With a whole lot of divine protection from the Lord, these had helped prevent him from becoming one of the sad cop-death statistics.

For those wondering what the 10 Deadly Errors actually were, here's the closest I could find, which is at the Blue Sheepdog website. However, they are in reverse order! #1 on Dave's list is actually #10 on their list; Dave's #2 is #9 on theirs, and so on. And they have a lot more info. Since Dave was typing this up, he just wanted "the brass tacks" version.

Screenshot of The Ten Deadly Errors website / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

Then there was also the fact that this clipboard has been with Dave through thick and thin, on every single shift that he has worked throughout his entire career, throughout his past 41 years in law enforcement!

And this is no small thing. I'm sure there have been many clipboards whose paper-clutching careers – at least with the officer they started out with – have been cut short when a police officer was killed in the line of duty. Like these, for 16 examples...

16 police deaths / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

But Dave wasn't one of those!!! ~ for which I am exceedingly thankful to the Lord!!! So his clipboard got to stay on the job with him, its original owner, long enough to get dilapidated! And if that clipboard could talk, it would be amaaaazing to hear everything it has heard go on in that cop car over the decades! Like:

  • the thousands of dispatches to calls,

  • Dave's efficient responses to them,

  • his sometimes humorous responses, too, which he's pretty much known for!

  • his communications with other officers when they met in parking lots to talk,

  • voices from the backseat behind the grid in his car yelling profanities at him, angry to have been caught, spitting, screaming... or feeling remorse over having done wrong, or at least having gotten caught... overwhelmed and messed up by drugs... or crying over broken battered (and battering) relationships with partners... urinating, freeeeaking out...

It also hit me that Dave got to stay in this career long enough to look – well, certainly not dilapidated! 😁 He is still one handsome hunk of a guy! But he does look ~ well, about 41 years older now than when he started out! 😁 In fact, he's the second guy from the left in the back row, with red hair and mustache, close to the beginning of his career.

Picture of an old picture of a few KPD people / The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

Dave's dilapidated clipboard aged right along with him, though not nearly as well as Dave. But both have come through these 41 years in an "altered" state.

Being the word aficionado that I am, I looked up alter, and it means:

"to change in character

or composition, typically in

a comparatively small

but significant way"

Dave has certainly been altered ~ changed ~ in both character and composition, from the 19-year-old who started out as a reserve officer to the 61-year-old almost-retiree.

Those 41 years have added some wrinkles, but also a lot of wisdom; they've worn off some typed words as well as some red hair, but also many rough edges that we both started our marriage with and that we were glad to lose! In fact, had we not, we would not still be married today. (Yep, Dave was 19 when we got married 42 years ago!)

I wouldn't trade any of it for all the brand-new clipboards at Office Depot or for a younger, slicker Dave! What we've gained far outweighs any spiffiness lost.

So NO makeover for this clipboard!!!


Addendum from


Here are some thoughts from our oldest daughter Sharnessa who went riding with her dad (Dave) ~ as in riding in his police car ~ two weeks before he retired. Her precious observations are profound...

"I'm in the middle of a ride-along with my Daddio for the last time before he retires in two weeks, after having served Kelso, WA for 39 years!! And, holy cow, what a crazy day I ended up coming on!!

I have to say that I have been moved to tears and near tears numerous times today, both by seeing the heartache most of us don't see on a daily basis, but also by watching my dad and his comrades do their job with grace, integrity, strength and kindness.

It grieves me that a few dud-cops out there have given cops at large a bad rap. These men maintain their humor and compassion and minds and love for their families, comrades, friends and community (PLUS all I mentioned above and MORE)

These men run TOWARD what most of us run FROM ~ literally. On a couple of the calls we got, honestly, not knowing what was actually going to be happening when we arrived, the "fight or flight" adrenaline rush kicked in, and a large part of me wanted to FLIGHT. LOL. But in we went. Fast. And this is their life every day.

A couple different arrests were made throughout the day, and while my dad was firm when needed, of course, he did nothing but speak so kindly with the guys as they sat in the back of the police car, even letting one of them know he'd get him some water when we got to the station on this 100-degree day after a legit chase. 😳 You would've thought he was talking to a guy in line at the grocery store.

And we gave a gal a ride home who a call had been made on.

Guys, these men and women could be so jaded. They get call after call, day in and day out, of the tough stuff, the dangerous stuff, that most of us don't have to nor want to see. Sigh...

I'm so grateful my heavenly Daddy has kept my earthly Daddy safe for all these years, and given him a job he has thrived in and loved, and has been a blessing to our community in.

It's been so beautiful, too, as we've driven around these last few hours watching people's responses to him ~ civilians, construction workers, kids, etc. ~ the waves, the smiles, the nods... Cue: more tears.

Well done,'re a gem of a man and I am so proud of you and so proud to be your daughter!

(And I love her hashtags...)


Hexa-graphic of The Dilapidated Police Clipboard /

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