When John King was growing up, it bothered him to see criminals attacking people in his neighborhood, and so he made up his mind he would do something about it.
He became a cop.
And not just any cop -- one of Buffalo's better-known street cops who has made thousands of arrests in a just completed 26-year career that will be celebrated at 2 p.m. today at a retirement party in the CPO Club in Buffalo.
"I witnessed robberies, burglaries, muggings and assaults. It impressed me, and I made a decision early in life that I wanted to be able to help people," said King, who finished his career in the same Grider-Delavan neighborhood where he started out as a boy.
His choice of work was also inspired by his best friend's godfather, Joseph Biehunik, a Buffalo officer who sometimes visited the boys after work.
"John would ask me how the night was, and I'd tell him the war stories," said Biehunik, 69, who is a just retired detective.
From the start, King began police work in high gear, assigned to a special Theater District detail to arrest prostitutes, purse snatchers and muggers.
In 1985, he and his partner, Donald Hunt, were awarded the 100 Club of Buffalo's annual award for heroism.
King and Hunt had put themselves between two children and their mother, who was waving a loaded rifle. When the Olympic Avenue woman shot at her husband and missed, the officers disarmed her.
Another incident that same year involved a man who went at them with a Samurai sword during an investigation into a domestic call at an Appenheimer Avenue residence.
As the officers ran up the driveway, the man jumped out from behind the house. With only a second or two to react, Hunt shot and killed the man. A grand jury later ruled the shooting was justifiable.
But of all the hair-raising stories involving King, Detective Sgt. Billy Crawford says he will never forget the time the force's Underwater Recovery Team was called out on Christmas Eve to find the body of a teenager who had jumped into the Buffalo River.
"John was the lead diver. He went into this cold, dark, black water on Christmas Eve, and within 20 minutes he recovered this kid. They revived the kid, but he ended up dying later in the hospital," Crawford said. "It may sound cliche, but John is a natural-born leader."
A high point of King's career occurred when the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association in May awarded him the George Howes Leadership Award for his work as a supervisor.
In order to be a successful officer, according to the 52-year-old King, it takes a combination of common sense, dedication and willingness to help, along with courage to take on the risks of the job.
"To be a successful supervisor, your officers need to know you have been there and done it and that you support them," King added.
If King has a fault, it is that he will go to the mat supporting his officers or speaking his mind no matter what the consequences. When a Northeast District officer was caught in a swirl of controversy for improperly charging towing fees to ticketed motorists -- even though the vehicles were never towed -- King stuck up for him.
When there was a string of violence in his district last year, King minced no words when he told a TV reporter things were getting wild. After that, the t brass clamped down, only allowing high-ranking police managers to make comments.
"I've never been afraid to speak the truth and in that vein, I have stepped on toes, though I didn't intend to," King said.
But it's the camaraderie of working with fellow police officers, King said, that he misses the most, explaining there is nothing like it in the world. The saddest part of the job, he said, was when officers were injured or killed.
Ever since Officer Patricia Parete was shot with her partner, King has played a key role in providing Parete's mother, Dot, with transportation back and forth to Erie County Medical Center and later to a New Jersey rehabilitation facility.
In fact, King says retirement provides him time to drive Parete's mother to the New Jersey facility as often as she wants.