Retiring Bradenton officer will be rooting hard for 'Noles

rdymond@bradenton.comDecember 23, 2013 

MANATEE -- What does a former high school three-sports star and a lifelong fan do after retirement as a police officer?

That's the unanswered question for 50-year-old Capt. Darrell Akemon of the Bradenton Police Department when he retires Dec. 31 after 25 years of service.

Akemon, a former 5-foot-8, 155-pound, streaky fast running back in 1982 at Calumet High School in Gary, Ind., will spend his first week in retirement looking forward to watching Heisman Trophy-winning Florida State University Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston during the BCS National Championship Game against Au

burn at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

"Of all the teams I follow, right now I have a real passion for the Seminoles," Akemon said with excitement in his voice. "My daughter, Mary, is 21 and is a senior at FSU. There's a bunch of us who are Seminoles at the police department and we are always joking with the Gators. But this year, going against the Auburn Tigers, that is special."

Akemon said he will watch the game on TV at his Parrish home. After that, however, his retirement plans are a bit hazy.

"I've been asked a thousand times what I will do after I retire," Akemon said. "I have no definitive answer. I will take some time off, get my pension, do some traveling. I'll be OK."

Akemon is unmarried and has three children, including Mary; Andrew, 19, who just graduated from high school; and Sarah, a Braden River High School senior.

Sarah may follow in her dad's workforce footsteps. Right now she is leaning toward law enforcement or nursing, Akemon said.

Akemon's 10 varsity high school letters, including three in football, four in track and three in baseball, didn't propel the son of a steelworker to a college or pro sports career after high school. But it shaped his life, he said.

"I never went home after school," Akemon said. "I was always going to practice. I kept myself grounded in sports. I wrestled from fourth grade on. That might have been my best sport. As a varsity wrestler, I was 132 pounds. My senior year I went to the Indiana state finals and got beat in the third round. It was a great experience.

"I was a running back and cornerback in football," Akemon continued. "I was pretty fast at 155 pounds. I also played baseball."

Team sports still colors many of his conversations. For instance, when asked about his Bradenton law enforcement career, which started in 1988 as a patrolman and pinnacled as a captain of the patrol division, he says: "We all rallied when we had to rally and we all felt when one of us did good, we all did good. We had occasional issues, sure, but it was teamwork that got us through. We all bought into doing what had to be done and that's how we got it done."

A talk from Akemon to fellow officers more than a decade ago led the Bradenton Police Department to unionize, said Bradenton Chief Michael Radzilowski.

"It's unfortunate that the young officers don't know the contributions Darrell made over the years," Radzilowski said. "He was deeply involved in forming the police union 12 years ago and getting the officer pay up to where it should be. He was also involved in improving working conditions. These are things they enjoy now. He served the citizens of this city."

Akemon said the lessons he learned from sports shaped his administrative style.

"I grew up as a sports kid and I will always be a sports guy," said Akemon, who admires the team-is-everything philosophy of former Chicago Bears' coach Mike Ditka.

"I loved Ditka. He shaped the Bear's whole franchise with his gruff, tough and loyal outlook. I loved the 1985 Bears and their tough defense."

He also admires Boston Celtic great Larry Bird, a fellow Indiana State Sycamore.

Akemon said, as a police officer, he was always determined to get both sides of a story. That's why he refuses to drop O.J. Simpson from his admiration list.

"My boyhood idol was O.J.," Akemon said of the former University of Southern California and pro football Hall of Fame running back who was famously found not guilty in the Trial of the Century for the slaying of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown and her friend, but is now in a Nevada prison on an unrelated charge.

"Think about O.J. prior to the incident," Akemon said. "He was beloved by most of the country. Now that is all gone. But if you stopped the clock just before the incident, no one would say he wasn't a great man. I still admire what he did in sports and won't take that away from him."

Akemon served three years as a patrolman before being promoted to corporal. He was promoted to sergeant in 1995 and lieutenant in 2000. He became a captain in 2012.

"Before I became a corporal I was on a Crime Reduction Team and we worked narcotics and prostitution, similar to today's Casual Clothes Unit," Akemon said. "We went into bad areas of the city. I always enjoyed dealing with all kinds of people. I've always been a people person. I had a certain attitude."

That attitude was to treat even criminals with a respect akin to how he would treat an opponent on an athletic field.

"I'm most proud of the fact that in 25 years served I stayed true to myself regarding what I do," Akemon said. "I can also say that I totally believe in the chief's philosophy of community policing, where the patrolmen really get to know their community and are assisted by citizens.

"I also want to thank the citizens of Bradenton, the city council and the mayor," Akemon added. "I think we have a good relationship. Our chief keeps us connected, which is a good thing. The city of Bradenton is a great place. For me, I will stay in this area. "

Akemon said he will always remember the senior citizens he met when on security detail for the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field.

"Older people have a lot of wisdom," Akemon said. "Every spring, I would go down and talk with them. I like old people. If you listen, they will tell you the secret to life. The secret of life, which I have learned from them, is to live."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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