The Draycott Brothers: HPD duo decide to retire at same time, ending 63 years always on Patrol, unceasingly facing dangers of the street

Tom Kennedy

Let the record show that the Houston policing brothers Draycott never shied away from adventure and – even in the stark reality of 63 years on Patrol – never dreaded going to work. That’s their story and they firmly stick to it with undying dedication.

Once recounted after their recent retirement, their devotion to duty and endurance to every real danger imaginable paints the life of American police officers with true blue instead of the divisive, misleading and deeply unfair broad brush currently used by some political activists.

Regularly Scheduled Danger

    So let’s tell the true blue story of the always adventurous Draycott brothers.

When you hear them talk about their HPD careers, you readily believe they already miss the streets and the perilous Bayou City underbelly with its petty thieves, violent intruders and drug-infested crazies.

Jim Draycott joined Academy Class No. 118 in January 1984, serving as class president and using his high class rank to choose a start-up at the Beechnut Substation. He took seriously the typical police beat lead-in of the 6 o’clock news: “Tonight in Southwest Houston. . .”

“Everything happened everywhere in Southwest Houston,” Jim Draycott explained. “My first week I was involved in a car chase, a foot chase and the Debra Sue Schatz case,” referring to the postal worker killed by David Isodor Port. “I called my mother and dad and said to Mom, ‘I can’t believe they’re going to give me a paycheck for this!’ ”

At the time Jim lived with his younger brother and best friend, Jason. The brothers grew up Air Force brats who loved motorcycles and motocross racing. As they now tell it, they came to Houston for the professional motocross racing and the action and intrigue they picked up as “reality” in the classic Houston/Pasadena movie, Urban Cowboy.

The two laugh today at the recollection and laugh louder remembering what appeared to be regularly scheduled danger for Jason Draycott, two years younger than brother Jim.

Before Jim’s career began, the brothers amassed a “policing” reputation when they lived in a Houston apartment complex in the early ‘80s. To back up their motocross earnings, the two had a “real job” working security for an oil company under the supervision of a former DPS trooper, Mike Guidry.

“Neither one of us had thought about police work,” Jason recalled. “We did have a military background and it seemed like a natural thing.”

They displayed natural instincts, too. They closely guarded their prize motorcycles in a custom van parked at their apartment complex. When they caught motorcycle thieves, they used nylon zip ties and held them at gunpoint for the police.

“What station do you all work out of?” the HPD officers asked the brothers. “You’re policemen, right? We assumed you were.”

That was the first capture. The second one, also involving nylon zip restraints, resulted in the arrest of a fugitive out of Kansas City and thoroughly impressed the second set of officers, who encouraged the brothers to apply at HPD.

Jason came along in Class No. 128 in April 1985, finishing seventh in his class and through a series of unique events wound up as a fledgling Park Place Ranger while still on six-month probation.

It wasn’t easy. Jason almost had to take one of the earliest retirements in HPD history.

As any Park Place Ranger will attest, you get to handle more than your share of disturbance calls, particularly on evening patrol. Jason was assigned to work with a more experienced officer each evening. One night he and the veteran officer were sent to a disturbance involving a man on drugs who had beat up his wife.

Worst Night on Duty

Jason and his temporary partner arrested the individual, cuffed him and placed him in the backseat of their patrol car. The prisoner commenced to bang his head on the petition, succeeding in cracking it open, prompting the officers to stop and check his condition.

As Jason opened the door the suspect positioned himself to “kick at me.”

“I grabbed his legs,” Jason recalled, and the other officer winds up on top of him. The wife pulls up and jumps on my back. I hit her with my elbow and knock her out.”

Jason’s partner had what was then termed “a break-front holster,” designed to prevent anyone from “taking our guns from the rear.”

The suspect grabbed Jason’s partner’s gun from the front. He was handcuffed and clumsily aimed it upside down and used a finger – perhaps his pinkie – to pull the trigger.

Bam!

The first bullet struck Jason in the upper right arm, plunged through the arteries and severing the nerves. Jason spun to get out of the way – or so he thought.

Bam!!

The second bullet struck his Kevlar vest and only caused “a little hole in my back,” the then-rookie officer would recall 31 years later.

“I fell face first in the dirt,” he said. “I’m thinking I’m dead.”

His unarmed partner had run for cover. Jason turned over on his back but struggled to get his sidearm with his left hand as his right arm bled profusely. The suspect quickly fled and was later captured.

Jason struggled to hold his arm to stop the bleeding and sought help from a Metro bus that had stopped nearby.

“Call the police,” he yelled at the driver.

“But you’re the police,” came the reply.

Today, Jason and Jim Draycott laugh at the recollection. They didn’t when it actually happened.

Jim described the experience as the worst night of his career, for he initially thought his brother might lose his right arm.

How they handled the serious situation has served as inspiration for Houston officers who have faced serious injuries on duty.

Jim had been working an extra job that night and was taking a shower at his girlfriend’s apartment when he got a call from a friend who said that the wounded officer on the TV news “looked like you.”

The Strong Right Arm

Jim no sooner put the phone down before the it rang again. It was Assistant Chief John Bales, who told him the wounded officer on TV was his brother.

Again, the two brothers can laugh today at what happened next.

“Someone called our parents and said, ‘Your son has been shot. He’s alive at Hermann Hospital,” Jim said. “It’s Officer Draycott.”

“Which one?” one concerned parent asked.

“J. Draycott.”

“Which J?”

There is a long pause.

“J. E. Draycott.”

From Rochelle, Texas, the elder Jim Draycott and his wife Margaret drove down Highway 71 to Interstate 10. When they reached the Houston city limits they got an HPD escort. They found their second son (of three) alive and improving – except for his right arm.

The story of Jason’s right arm strongly testifies to the strength and dedication of the Draycott brothers and their devotion to HPD duty. Aside from the times Jason was off-duty due to injuries, the two brothers spent every day of their career on patrol.

Jim vividly recalled what happened the night his brother was shot.

“The Emergency Room is full of policemen, either from Park Place or classmates,” Jim recalled. “All my classmates showed up. It really makes you feel good. It’s a sense of family. I asked, ‘Where’s the Doc?’

“I was told he was about to take my brother into surgery. I had to have peace of mind that he’s okay. I went in and Jason was laying there. I said, ‘You’re going to be all right. This is the best trauma center in the country.’

“I hugged him. He had a .357 round in the arm. The doctor tells me he may lose his arm. I said, ‘Doc, that’s not really an option. We ride motorcycles. We snow ski. We water ski. We race motocross. We did it all. Doc, use all your skills to get all this done. He’s got to come out.’ ”

The doctor instituted the best possible plan to save the arm. It was – as everyone expected – a very complicated medical process.

Jason remembered: “They took arteries out of the back of my legs. They did three artery graphs. The first one and the second one collapsed. The third one worked.
Jim recalled: “They said, ‘If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to take his arm.’ They did a nerve graph, a micro-nerve, and said they hoped there would be enough growth (of the nerve).”

The micro nerve endings, once connected, were located 19 inches from the tips of Jason’s fingers to the spot of the wound. Jason was told that, at best, the nerves would grow an inch a month and over 19 months the feeling would come back.

Jason’s biggest fear at that point was that “they’re going to make me retire.” That Draycott look of endless determination came over brother Jim’s face as he explained what happened next, saying, “He worked so hard, so hard. He switched over and became a lefty.”

“I had a hard time picking up a penny,” Jason said. “I had decent strength but I still don’t have my fine motor skills. I have ‘a 50 percent claw.’ ”

Back on the Streets

He never asked for special treatment. He stayed off work for 18 months while the nerves in his right arm grew back. He had three other cable graph nerve surgeries which wound up keeping him off work for another six months.

But like Jim said, he worked in other ways.

Understand that during these months HPD personnel, including a sergeant at Park Place, were telling Jason that the department would probably retire him. He returned to light duty and spent a year behind a desk.

He also worked hard in other ways.

A lieutenant met with him and told him he would be confined to the desk unless he could qualify on the pistol range.

By necessity Jason became a left-handed shooter. He got a left-handed holster and practiced drawing his gun 1,000 times over a short period. “I was doing whatever I had to do to get back on the street,” he said.

There was another hurdle to get over, however. He had to fire six accurate rounds using his weak hand in order to qualify. Initially, Jason didn’t have enough strength. His right arm had mended but wasn’t very strong.

How would he get his right arm where it needed to be?

You have to realize how much the Draycott brothers felt that policing Houston was their lifelong calling. They were still in their 20s at the time and possessed never-ending resourcefulness.

The answer they found to regain the necessary strength was water skiing!

Jason build a cuff out of four-inch PVC and cuffed it onto his forearm, additionally wrapping it twice around his right hand with Velcro. The cable was attached to the ski handle.

“This proved to be some of the best isometric exercises ever,” Jason said. “I skied from Cedar Point Bay to Pine Island on Lake Livingston – 10 nautical miles.”

“That would wear him out,” Jim said. “We’d do this once a week. He was off and I was working shift work. The surgeons gave me this little electro-shock tester to test the nerve feelings in his arm.”

Jason said, “It had to make a difference. Over a month or so I’d start giving a great grip, believing that one day I was going to qualify. I went through the whole qualification. I stuck it in my hand and had a hard time indexing, which was required. I couldn’t move my finger around.

“I was not able to index my trigger finger because I didn’t have the feeling or dexterity. I had to cheat by covering the trigger and when the target faced I would project the weapon and fire two rounds. I would pull the weapon back into my body so range personnel wouldn’t notice that I wasn’t indexing.

“I qualified the first time!”

And so Jason went back on the streets. This was probably 1989. He fit in well with the rough and tough never-say-die crew at Park Place.

Jason also remained the steadfast motocross enthusiast. Jim said, “He took glue and glued Velcro to the throttle and sewed Velcro onto his race glove and started racing again – off-road motocross. He had Velcro on the grip. He had to turn the throttle. We were determined this was not going to be a setback to his ability to race.”

Always on Patrol

The Draycott brothers’ story of deep dedication to serving HPD and the people only intensified.

At this juncture we must remind the reader over the last three decades neither brother was assigned to – or wanted – any duty but patrol. And neither has ever been suspended even one day.

To prove a point, Jason sued the makers of the Bianchi holster that proved to be his temporary undoing.

Recall that at the violent shooting scene the suspect succeeded in easily grabbing a gun from Jason’s partner’s holster. Although the defendant, John Bianchi, the legendary “godfather of gun leather,” offered a $50,000 settlement during the trial, Jason refused. He wanted the holster, designed for revolvers, not semi-automatics, removed from service.

He lost the case but Bianchi changed his holster design and HPD now requires holsters with frontal and rear retention qualities.

Both Draycott brothers are senior police officers and have a total of 31 years as field trainers between them, 12 for Jason and 19for Jim. They are both family men.

Jim is married to Marie and they have two adult daughters, Erin, 28, who teaches in Mainland China, and Sara, 23, a Sam Houston State graduate who will be teaching in Cypress Fairbanks this fall.

Jason married Jane, a now retired Houston firefighter and women’s motocross racer. His son, Dawson, 20 is a “very accomplished motocross racer” now a mechanical engineering student at the University of Texas – San Antonio. Jason and Jane have eight-year-old twins, Seth and Skylar. Jason remarked that both his son and daughter are a chip off the old block – they love to ride motorcycles, wake board and snow ski.

The third Draycott brother – the youngest – is Jeff, who, like Mr. Draycott the father, made the Air Force a career. The elder Draycott is a retired chief master sergeant. Jeff, now retired, works in the medical field as a radiation therapist in San Antonio.

Jim Draycott, the storyteller of the bunch, recounted his own adventures, always making sure he isn’t compared to his oft-wounded younger brother. In retirement he said with a big laugh, “I’m Superman. I never get hurt.”

Jim has no tolerance for the current trend in some quarters where every police officer is labeled a trigger-happy racial profiler.

He can tell you the story of the confrontation that put him in the way of a shirtless man “with a big knife, a big chopping knife.” Jim handled the danger with two well-placed shots as his partner shot from a different direction.

“There must have been 50 times in my career where I would have been justified in shooting somebody. It worked out differently. You always go toward the shots, toward the trouble.

“You never go to work wondering if you’re going to get killed today. I never thought like some people in all this foolishness, who say, ‘The officer was just looking to shoot somebody.’

“Never! It’s one of those things that happens in a split second. It’s a great job but you better have your head right.”

No Better Place than HPD

These words are more meaningful when you realize this officer and his brother never wanted to promote to a rank above a street officer. “I never wanted to promote,” he explained. “We were fans of Adam 12 – you called the police, who came to help you.

“When you promote, you have more supervisory duties than action. We prefer action. You want to be in patrol cars where things start happening. Jason is great at investigating. Me? I more like ‘Let’s get this thing solved in 30 minutes and move on.’

“But Jason wanted to stay in Patrol and didn’t want to come to work in a suit.

“The department has always supported us. We will not be leaving with frowns on our faces and bitter like some guys. This department has never been anything but very fair and open.”

“I can’t imagine working for a better police agency,” Jason said. “I’m ranked the No. 7 all-time most dangerous Houston police officer by a radical Internet group. It’s all BS but just how they do things. Every shooting has been perfect. They have never tried to screw me over.”

You must realize that the violent rookie episode that cost Jason 19 months of patrol duty was not the only case that cost him active duty. In hindsight, Jason has been IOD’ed enough times to have spent a total of four of his 31 years off-duty. As all officers, his every wound or injury was closely scrutinized by the department.

One only has to check out the bullet points (pun intended) to see why HPD has backed this officer, sturdily and staunchly:

  • He tore his Achilles tendon while chasing an auto thief. He dived over a fence and got his man. He had surgery and was out seven months.
  • He jumped over a fence twice while dealing with a woman high on crack who had thrown a knife that went into his partner’s temple but didn’t reach his brain. He had knee surgery and was out seven months.
  • He was answering a disturbance call alone when a drug dealer came charging through a door and grabbed Jason, getting into a fight in which the crook violently jerked the officer’s arm and shoved him down. The officer’s left bicep “snapped like a loud pop.” The drug dealer escaped but Jason’s bicep curled up and required surgery. He was out nine months.
  • The “last one,” he said, was a fight that resulted in a torn rotator cuff. He was out eight months.

Retiring officers like the Draycotts believe they have enough war stories to fill a book or two. Their friends in the department always point out that Jim has been the lucky one who’s seldom if ever been off.

Jim knows he’s been the luckier of the two and – at this retirement stage – flashed his great sense of humor.

During his chase of a robbery suspect one night Jim stuck a staple in his trigger finger and it became infected. “Oh, no,” he said, “I’d been INJURED ON DUTY from a papercut.”