Credit: CBS 11 News
Bill Hardin has been a police officer for 70 years, spending most of it with the Fort Worth Police Department, then with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, and, now, as a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy.
Despite his years on patrol, it still strikes deep for Hardin when he hears another officer has been struck down.
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“I’ve learned over the years, it’s not the body inside the uniform, it’s the uniform,” he said, adding: “I don’t understand why … every time you get out on the street, you’re a target.”
Hardin, who turns 94 in March, is from all accounts the oldest – and most veteran – law enforcement officer in Texas and likely the country. He spent 40 years with the Fort Worth Police Department, eight with Tarrant County, and has been with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department for 24 years.
Despite repeatedly being threatened, including the time a gangster tried to run over him on Fort Worth’s north side, Hardin was never forced to pull the trigger of his service revolver.
“You know, I said a prayer every day when I went to work. I would say, ‘Lord, not today.’ I didn’t want to kill anybody. And I never had to shoot anybody,” he said.
Hardin said it’s a prayer many police officers abide by, even if it might place them in danger.
“What it comes down to, you’ve got a split second to decide what you’re going to do” when confronted by an armed suspect, Hardin said. “If it’s anything over a split second, you’re going to be dead.”
Hardin is finally considering retirement, reluctantly, but he hasn’t set a firm date.
But before he goes, he has a piece of advice for today’s young officers, faced with dangers that seemed inconceivable when he began walking the beat:
“All I’d say is, watch your back.”
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