Dick Ellwood is a tough, old-fashioned retired cop with some tough, old-fashioned opinions. And if his opinions offend you, “then maybe they should,” as he himself writes in the introduction of his book, "Cop Stories: The Few, The Proud, The Ugly."
Offended or not, Ellwood's book will certainly teach you something about policing in Baltimore City, and you’ll definitely be entertained. It’s hard not to be entertained by true stories, which include a judge with such a dandruff problem that the cops nicknamed him Flakey; a serial burglar who was more known for his Pabst Blue Ribbon beer preference than he was for his crimes; and the arrest of Mickey Mantle for being drunk on the streets of Baltimore the night before a big Yankees game.
In his self-published book, Ellwood recounts his 25 years as a Baltimore City police officer. Ellwood is third generation police. You could say policing is in his blood. It’s certainly in his writing.
“Cops sometimes just type off the page,” Ellwood confessed. “You don’t know when to stop.”
Ellwood said that reliving his experiences was the best part of writing the book. “It was actually unbelievable,” he said. “I would start 10:00 at night, and some nights, 4:00 in the morning, I’m still typing and I have no idea where the time went.”
Ellwood let his own memories guide him, typing one story while jotting down memories of another, as the floodgates of memory started to open. When he now shares the book with his fellow retired officers, they complain that the book isn’t long enough. “They’re like, ‘Oh, you left out the story about so and so, and the time we did this, and the time we did that!’ I could have went on and on and on,” said Ellwood. “I just wish now I would have went a little further because there [are] some great stories.”
Ellwood has written his true-life memoirs in 36 short stories. His stories start in December 1964. Fresh out of the Marine Corps, the 21-year-old Ellwood was assigned to walk the beat in the same neighborhood where he was raised. Ellwood continues through to his retirement in March 1990 at age 46. He recounts the intervening years with brutal honesty. He tells of the moments he is proud of and the crimes he helped solve, as well as the lumps he took and some comeuppances that he likely deserved.
In 1970, when Ellwood was still a young cop, he had a memorable experience when he tried to arrest a woman for solicitation. He and his partner were undercover in a nightclub, and a fight broke out during the course of the arrest. Ellwood tried to drag his suspect out the door by her leg, only to find himself outside of the club holding just her leg—a wooden leg. The story gets even more colorful, when the suspect lifted her dress in court the next day to show the judge her wooden leg, leaving an embarrassed Ellwood testifying on the stand.
These are the kinds of stories that must be true, because they’d be impossible to make up.