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'On Being A Cop': Father-Son Duo Writes Book About Lives as Police Officers

By Justin Breen | October 23, 2013 7:33am
 Retired Chicago Police Officer Jim Padar and his son Jay, also a member of the Chicago Police Department, have written a book titled "On Being A Cop."
On Being A Cop
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EDISON PARK — Every Christmas Eve, Chicago Police Officer Jay Padar remembers "the little boy."

He doesn't know the boy's name; he doesn't want to.

"Oftentimes I never look at the names of people involved in tragic events," Padar said. "It's my way of depersonalizing the event, kind of a self-preservation attempt on my part."

But Padar writes in descriptive detail about the boy in a book — "On Being A Cop" — he completed with his father, retired Chicago homicide detective Jim Padar.

The boy was 2-year-old Urau Ashar. He and his family were eating at a Rogers Park restaurant on Dec. 24, 1998. After their dinner, Urau's mother held her newborn infant close to her chest while grabbing Urau's hand as they walked on a sidewalk. Across the street, Urau saw his father warming up the family car, and the happy little boy escaped his mother's grasp and ran onto Devon Avenue.

 Retired Chicago Police Officer Jim Padar and his son Jay, also a member of the Chicago Police Department, have written a book titled "On Being A Cop."
Retired Chicago Police Officer Jim Padar and his son Jay, also a member of the Chicago Police Department, have written a book titled "On Being A Cop."
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Jim Padar

That's where he was struck by a Chevy Blazer and dragged for half a block in a fatal hit-and-run.

Jay Padar, who had graduated from the police academy 10 days prior, was one of two officers called to the scene.

Nearly 15 years later, Urau's death still creeps into the Edison Park resident's mind. When Jay Padar walks his 4-year-old twins, a boy and girl, across the street, he always holds them "a little too tight."

"Someday, God willing, years from now, my kids will be grown and read this story," Padar, 39, writes in the book, which will be available for presale in mid-November. "And they'll understand why ... I carried them across the street when they thought they were too big to be carried.

"And maybe years from now, if they see me staring off into space at a Christmas Eve party, while everyone else is laughing and enjoying the celebration, they'll know that it's just that time of year when their daddy must remember December 24th, 1998, and the moments spent with that other little boy."

"On Being A Cop" became a reality about three months ago when the Padars struck a deal with Aviva Publishing to print 1,000 books, which will sell for $29.95.

But the impetus came shortly after Urau's death, when Jay started writing therapeutic emails to his dad, by then a veteran homicide detective, about his bizarre, awful and insane encounters on the daily grind.

"For a lot of the stories from the book, I'm going to get ripped from the guys at work," said Jay Padar, who once had to remove a body so ingrained into a carpet he had to use a shovel. "In the Police Department, there's a machismo that you're not going to cry, and writing stories to my dad was my outlet at the time.

"I was apprehensive about having these stories published, but years down the road, I want to show my kids what their dad and grandfather did."

Jim Padar, who retired in 2000, had his own tales to tell. The Edgebrook resident, 75, writes about working on the case of a man's head that was found decapitated and burned to a crisp. He also describes the time he was nearly struck by a robber's bullet outside a West Side pool hall, while his three children (Jay was 1 then) slept at home.

He also scribed about the one shift he spent in a squad car with Jay. And he devotes a chapter to "The Chill," which he said every cop's family feels when there's a bulletin that an officer has been shot.

Jim Padar said the book's main goal "is to portray police officers as human beings" who attend Mass, coach youth baseball and have recurring nightmares.

"Mine was that I was being attacked by a knife-wielding guy in a CTA station. I'm in between turnstiles, and I have my gun out, but my trigger finger is paralyzed," Jim said. "That happened many times until I actually shot someone one night [at the pool hall], and I never had that dream again."

Shortly after the West Side gunfight, in which Padar wrote that he shot a man with a bullet that went into the man's buttocks and through a testicle, Padar's wife was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. He soon became a widower with three boys younger than 5 years old.

The book reveals how Padar met his next wife, a nun who left the Daughters of Charity order and wanted to marry a widower with children. Padar never actually proposed because Jay, then 4, requested the woman take him to the bathroom, where, as he used the facilities, asked "Do you want to be my mommy?"

"It's going to be a good read," said former Chicago Police Supt. Phil Cline, who wrote a back cover testimonial. "It speaks well for Chicago cops especially, but for cops in general. I don't think the public understands there's another side to cops.

"They felt they had a good message to tell, and they have the writing skills to do it. A father-son combination like that is great," Cline said.

Jay Padar said he was encouraged to publish the book after reading a New York Times article noting the Chicago Police Department had novelists teach officers how to write. Jim Padar, who runs a popular blog with the same name as his book, polished his stories after taking memoir-writing classes at the Irish American Heritage Center.

Jim Padar calls the book's style "creative nonfiction," in which "it's based on true incidents, but there is some creative liberty taken to make the story more interesting." The Padars used police reports, newspaper clippings and their memories to build its foundation.

A portion of the book's proceeds will be donated to two police charities — the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and Police Chaplains Ministry, Jay Padar said. The organizations help families of fallen police officers and provide therapy for cops seeking it.

The Padars write about several officers who couldn't be helped and committed suicide. One was Jim's longtime work partner, and another was Jay's friend since he was 8.

"Police officers are put in an environment where temptation is at such a high level, and we're surrounded by drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, guns and thievery," Jay Padar said. "For police officers, they might not know they have that weakness until it's too late. There's people out there, great people, that make bad decisions."

Both Padars were surprised the book quickly reached the publisher's 400-page threshold. They added that "On Being A Cop" could have had several more chapters, including one on Jay's recent trip with his wife to a play in Old Town, where he sat down next to a "gangbanger" he had arrested earlier in the day.

"He recognized me, and I recognized him, and he changed seats with the woman he was with," Jay Padar said. "I guess we can put that in the next book."

Prospective book buyers can register at http://onbeingacop.com to keep abreast of the final release date, the launch party and presale information. That website will go live on Nov. 11 for online sales.