By Anne Harris for the Island Eye News
Raymond Wright, the former Isle of Palms assistant police chief who now lives on James Island, always knew he could write, but it was a talent he kept to himself, until recently. Wright just published his first book, My 35 Years in Uniform, A Memoir, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve gotten a really good response,” Wrights says, laughing, “many people are very surprised that I am a writer!”
Wright has had plenty to write about in his lifetime. After spending his childhood in New Jersey, Wright followed a family full of military men and joined the Marines right after finishing high school.
“My grandfather was in World War I, my dad was in World War II, I had two uncles who were Marines. I always knew I wanted to be a Marine,” Wright says.
While in the Marines, Wright discovered what he calls the core values: loyalty, trustworthiness, discipline, responsibility, respect, punctuality, and organization. After fighting in Vietnam and being honorably discharged from the service in 1972, he took these values with him to serve on the Charleston County police force ten years later. After serving his time in uniform, Wright moved to narcotics before eventually ending up in investigations, where he worked everything from rape cases to homicides. It was after he was involved in a shooting incident that Wright’s family persuaded him to make a change.
Around that time he saw an advertisement for a position on the police force in the Isle of Palms. Wright joined the department in 2000 and retired as assistant police chief in 2011.
After his retirement Wright found a box in his garage that contained some writing he did in 1989 about his experiences in Vietnam. Initially, he put the box back where he found it, but it got him thinking about how fast time had gone by. One year later, Wright started the memoir of his life.
An avid historical fiction reader, Wright was careful to get the facts correct in his own history. His mother kept each letter that he sent home from Vietnam, helping him get back into the mindset of that time. Wright kept notes, memos, notebooks and newspaper articles from his time on the police force and requested information from each of the homicides that he worked.
The result is almost 500 pages detailing Wright’s life in uniform. The book gives an intimate look into his time in the military and his work on the police force, something that others who have been there can appreciate and those who have not will find fascinating.
Wright moves back and forth between stories of homicides and stories that will keep the reader laughing, like the time Wright couldn’t resist giving a new local reporter a little ribbing. After two shark attacks occurred on the Isle of Palms in a single day a few years back, the reporter asked Wright if the same shark was to blame. Clearly having no way of knowing that information, Wright told her he was waiting on the dental records. The reporter was not amused but the rest of the police department had a good laugh.
“You have to have a good sense of humor to be a cop,” Wright chuckles.
Asked how things have changed for officers over the years, Wright points out the many advances in technology since he started out in the force years ago. From handwriting reports to now dispatching calls via computer, a lot has changed in the day to day of a police officer in Wright’s lifetime.
Unfortunately, one thing that hasn’t changed is that the job remains a low paying one. Wright started his career in the police force making $14,000 and says that the salaries today are still too low, especially on the Isle of Palms.
According to Wright, Isle of Palms has not kept up with other local agencies, and therefore police officers have a high turnover rate. Few experienced officers are willing to work on the island, and often even the newer recruits leave after only a few years.
Officers on the Isle of Palms have the tough job of keeping both the residents and visitors happy, both of which are crucial to the local economy. Wright says officers today are not paid enough for all that they do for the community.
As for the time he spent in uniform on the Isle of Palms, Wright says he appreciated every minute of his 11 and a half years on the force. While he is enjoying his retirement, what he misses most are the people he worked with every day.
My 35 Years in Uniform is available on Amazon. You can learn more about the book and Wright on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/My35YearsInUniformAMemoir.