Foreword Reviews

Thirty-Three Years

The Unfiltered Memoir of a Cop

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

The informative memoir Thirty-Three Years rides along through a veteran officer’s long career in law enforcement.

Rob G. Rothwell’s often engrossing memoir Thirty-Three Years is about his law enforcement career in British Columbia.

In the beginning of the book, a clear chronology of Rothwell’s professional life is shared; it acts as a helpful reference point for the varied stories that follow. Rothwell, who advanced through many levels of service during his decades in law enforcement, including roles in internal affairs, criminal intelligence, and as a school liaison, witnessed how policing occurred in Vancouver from multiple vantages. He shares these experiences in an episodic manner, beginning with the background information that he was an underachieving student who couldn’t figure out where he fit—until a chance encounter with a crime scene at twenty gave him a taste of the adrenaline that comes with the extreme situations that police officers encounter on a daily basis.

Vancouver is depicted as a place where drugs and poverty led to a gritty, dark inner city life. Rothwell’s adventures in this locale are variously humorous and disturbing. There are gory accounts of crime scenes, including an explicit description of what a shotgun blast does to a human head. But other stories evoke Rothwell’s curiosity about people’s behaviors, as when he found a close family friend being held for shoplifting.

Rothwell also spends time highlighting important issues around police work, as of police brutality, drug abuse, mental illness, and bureaucratic mismanagement. The book argues that, while police officers are blamed for social failings, this is not always just, as is the case of with its coverage of Frank, a homeless alcoholic who died from exposure after falling through the cracks of the city’s systems. The wider implications of such stories are evaded, though.

Light on flourishes, the prose is matter-of-fact. It does not often go far beyond its anecdotes, which combine to form a loose picture of life in police departments. Not all of its stories are deep; some most 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. These gathered stories are complemented by personal photographs of Rothwell and others who appeared throughout his storied career.

The informative memoir Thirty-Three Years rides along through a veteran officer’s long career in law enforcement.

Reviewed by Matt Benzing

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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