Michigan police officer finds hobby as basketball referee
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — A little quiz:
You see someone doing something against the rules.
You draw attention to it, with a whistle or signal.
You enforce the rules by penalizing the offender.
Who are you?
Are you a police officer? Are you a basketball referee?
Trick question. If you are Jim Grafton, you are both.
Grafton was named the deputy chief at the Battle Creek Police Department in September. He has also been a basketball referee for local junior high and high school games the last 11 years.
Police officer by day, basketball referee at night — a unique combination, maybe.
But it is not lost on his boss that the traits that make a good police officer are the same ones you might find in a good basketball official.
“You have to be able to observe, be level-headed, be able to make judgment calls,” said Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker. “I think the jobs can be very similar. You also have to be able to tolerate criticism, and you have to be able to do it with a great deal of courage and a little bit of grace.
“As for us, I think it’s a win-win to have one of our officers out the community doing a job like that and representing the police department the right way.”
In this 24th year as an officer at the Battle Creek Police Department, Grafton says being able to add his duties as a basketball official to his already busy schedule has been a joy. It has also been something he has thought about doing since he played the sport in high school at Harper Creek.
“I really enjoy it because it keeps me part of the game,” Grafton told the Battle Creek Enquirer . “I have always been involved in athletics, play softball, racquetball, love to stay involved. But I really love being on the basketball court, it keeps me young and keeps my mind fresh.
“Many years before I started as a referee, a friend asked if I wanted to be a football referee. Because of the job, my schedule and my kids being young, I couldn’t because it was bad timing,” he added. “But it got me thinking that I might want to do that someday — but maybe in basketball. I wasn’t a great basketball player in high school by any means, but what I do love about the sport, it is fast paced and mentally challenges you to stay focused. So I got into it through the MHSAA, started doing some junior high games, and worked my way to doing varsity and it has all worked out well since.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association sees stories like this all over the state. And it’s a good thing, because the organization adds that there is always a need for more officials.
“High school game officials come from all walks of life. During the day, the people who step up to help out our kids, perform jobs as everything from law enforcement officers to teachers to legislators to general laborers and everything in-between,” said John Johnson of the MHSAA. “These are people who played high school sports, and who have stepped up to give back to the game in the same way that those did when they were student-athletes. There’s an old saying - you can never have too many officials - and it’s true. We’re always looking for folks to get involved.”
Grafton teams up with Dave Eubank and Tim Rizor, both also of Battle Creek, for most games, working varsity basketball contests from Jackson to Kalamazoo and as far south as Coldwater.
“I am really appreciative of Dave and Tim because they took a chance on a guy without a lot of experience and added me to their group, and the partnership has worked well ever since,” Grafton said.
So, does being a police officer ever cross paths with being a basketball official off the court? Has Grafton ever given someone a ticket one day and seen them on the sidelines as a basketball coach the next week? That hasn’t happened. But he does get recognized by some who know him from both worlds.
“Early on in my career, I was at a junior high girls game at Lakeview. This girl for the other school came up and committed a pretty hard foul on a Lakeview girl dribbling the ball,” Grafton said. “It was right by the scorer’s table. The principal of the school was working the scoreboard and he knew what I did for a living and I just turned around and said quietly . got a personal foul, No. 2 red ... that’s a felonious assault . that’s a 10-year penalty. I looked at the young kid keeping the score and his jaw just dropped and the principal just started roaring with laughter. Then, I said, no, I’m just kidding . it’s just a holding foul, ball out of bounds, or whatever it was.
“But no, most coaches or players don’t know who I am or that I’m a cop. But I do get recognized sometimes.”
When he does get recognized, Grafton considers that a bonus as he hopes he is a good ambassador for the Battle Creek Police Department whenever he’s on the court. Getting to wear the stripes in the first place is something else he considers as a bonus.
“Chief Blocker has been very supportive and I appreciate that, and with my work schedule being what it is, and the games being mostly 7:30 tips, it works out well,” said Grafton, who mentioned that a fellow BCPD officer Kris Brown also officiates at the high school level in basketball and football. “I just always keep in mind that every time I go out there as a referee I am representing the Battle Creek Police Department as well.
“And it’s good for our officers to be doing things like this in the community. If someone comes up to me as I am working as an officer and says I remember you as a ref last night, I want that to be positive for all people who work as officials. And it’s the same the other way, if I am working a game and someone says, hey that’s the deputy chief, I want that to be a positive for the police community, too.”
Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com