Rob Rothwell’s new book: Thirty-Three Years: The Unfiltered Memoir of a Cop is engaging, revealing, at times raw.
Yet it is sensitive, and often funny, too.
Thirty-Three Years is a fascinating, ‘inside’ look at policing in a major city – Vancouver, BC – seen through the eyes of a police cadet, beat cop, drug squad detective, bike patrol Sgt., up to becoming a senior officer - a Superintendent - in charge of the homicide division, organized crime, terrorism, and more.
It reveals police procedures, tools and tactics – but, that’s almost incidental.
It’s to help us understand the very human thinking underway as police and Rothwell, encounter a striking range of incidents, events, and challenges.
Dramatic, honest, revealing, compassionate - Rob Rothwell explains what it is like being a front-line cop, and eventually a high ranking officer, in very frank terms.
It begins with a stabbing & the death - right in front of Rob & his patrol partner, Randy - of ‘Lonny’ (no saint) - at a low-budget motel, and their arrest of his killer, a drug-crazy sex trade worker, Rose.
Highlights? Dozens, like rushing a transplant organ, a human heart, code 3 from the airport runway to straight to the hospital, like accidentally discovering a robbery and a sawed-off shotgun at a 7-11, to setting up the first anti-terrorism unit for a municipal police force in Canada.
After four decades of reporting crime and breaking big police stories for Global TV News in Vancouver, it is intriguing to read how many of the stories I was investigating and reporting were developing from ‘the other side’ of the Blue Line!
Example: The Stanley Park Six . . . a story I uncovered about patrol members dispensing ‘paddy wagon street justice’ to criminals - to protect merchants and citizens in the downtown core from this group of intimidating thugs...
Little did I know: Rob Rothwell was on the other side of that story as the Inspector heading the Vancouver Police Department’s Internal Affairs (Professional Standards) dealing investigating the officers’ questionable, violent, conduct.
Then there’s the human tragedies: discovering what’s left of a man when he’s blown his head off with a shotgun, a horrific, macabre scene for which Rothwell is kind enough to give readers an early warning - in case they want to flip the page!
As I said, it is frank, and unvarnished. Like the tragedy Rothwell investigates when a 20 year old skipped Christmas Dinner with his family...only for them to return to discover him hanging dead by a necktie.
There are car chases, take-downs, face-offs with angry knife-wielding suspects, family interventions, mental illness, tragic stories of drug addiction.
And Rothwell is not the hero of the tale...he’s a straightforward witness, admitting when he could have done better.
It’s heavy stuff, but told in an honest, frank, informative, almost breezy fashion that had me flipping pages and reading well past bedtime.
There’s the funny story of how he slipped esteemed defence counsel H.A.D Oliver, QC, into the secret undercover organized crime and intelligence building one night - and how Oliver held a ‘Paper Chase’ like court with the intrigued hardened investigators.
And how, at the door of a rough and tumble nightclub he had to let go of the angry suspect he was scrapping with - to retrieve his firearm, which had become unholstered in the struggle, and was skittering across the entrance tiles toward a crowd of stunned onlookers, all of whom may not have been ‘police friendly’.
Rothwell confronts all the hot police topics now in the news - apparent police brutality, ‘pile-on’ take downs, controversial street checks (carding), cops in schools, buy & bust drug enforcement for street-level traffickers, rampant drug addiction, fentanyl, overdoses, deaths, demands for free drugs for addicts, ‘wellness checks’ that go sideways, mental health interventions, homelessness, suicides and PTSD for first responders.
But it’s not a polemic, not preachy, not political, just real.
Thirty-Three Years is a refreshing ‘hands-on’ insight to the troubling challenges facing police, society, and voters, everywhere.
It will hold special significance for those who live in Metro Vancouver, but Thirty-Three Years will resonate with anyone interested in public safety in major metropolitan centres.
Subtly sophisticated in that it deals with so much of human frailty, tragedy, and critical ‘future of policing and public safety’ questions - in a simple, easy-to-read ‘buckle up’ we’re going for a ride’ fashion - that will make you smile, maybe cry, and possibly raise your blood pressure...while you enjoy reading it like a rollicking detective novel...
Don’t miss this new book.
—John L. Daly, Global TV News Reporter (ret.)
5.0 out of 5 stars Top choice: you will like Rob’s stories, wether you like “the police” or not
This is an interesting, empathetic and humorous collection of real stories from an authentic guy. This cop paints atmospheric tales that make it a book that’s hard to put down. Rob shares important personal insights about city life and policing making it a rich and rewarding read for anyone of any political stripe. Loved it! —Amazon reviewer
Rob G. Rothwell’s often engrossing memoir Thirty-Three Years is about his law enforcement career in British Columbia... Not all of its stories are deep; some inspire ghoulish interest (as with a bitten-off human ear that went missing and was discovered to have been swallowed by the crime’s perpetrator), while others are merely entertaining, as with an account of Rothwell’s battle of wits with a pompous and legendary defense lawyer. —Foreword Clarion Review