25 years ago today
I had moved back home and applied to work at either the local police department or the Sheriff’s office. Since neither was hiring at the moment, I went to work for A&P as a cashier. Six months later, in May of 1981, I got the call from the Sheriff’s Office. They wanted to interview me for a dispatch position opening up. I don’t remember it being much of an interview but I do remember the Sheriff telling me that he’s pay me $500 a month and handing me a shiny new badge after I was sworn in. That was a load of money for me back then.
May 25, 1981 was my start date. It was Memorial Day so the office staff was out on holiday. I got there for the 8 am shift and met Earline, senior dispatcher and my training officer. Because it was a holiday it was pretty slow. Earline was able to show me most of the ropes and had me answering the phone. But all of a sudden she left the radio room and told me to answer the phone or the radio if necessary. When she came back she started making phone calls. Come to find out, two trustees who had been out back washing cars had walked off and stolen a car from the convenience store behind the court house. I’ll never forget the double escape on my first day of work. We ended up tracking them down later that evening and getting them back but it was so wild. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back the next day.
Well, I did go back and kept going back for the next 17 years. My plan had been to gain some experience there then move on to a bigger city after about five years. Instead, I wound up making a career of it right there. The stories that I could tell spanning those 17 years would take days to finish. Some of them you would swear weren’t true. But there was never a dull day in that place. I worked for a crazy Sheriff for the first 11 years. Fortunately, Ted, the Chief Deputy, was a great guy and held the place together. I spent my last six years working for a wonderful Sheriff, who is still in that position and still a friend.
I worked with some wonderful people and forged deep friendships with a few. Earline went on to become the juvenile detective for a number of years. When she was ready to give it up in 1987, I followed in her footsteps. She became the office manager for the investigations division. Again when she got tired of that, I took her place. She was like a mom to me and several others. She retired a few years ago but I ran into the chief investigator the other day and he told me she’s back working three days a week running the evidence room. She just can’t stay away.
A year after I started working there, I ended up on a shift working with Freddie, one of the patrol supervisors. We wound up volunteering to work straight night shifts for nearly five years. There were only two deputies per shift back then. Freddy was the constant but the other position was filled with several different guys over that time. Wayne spent the most time with us working those night shifts. When you work as closely as we all did, when you put your lives in each others hands every day, you tend to forge friendships that run very deep. Freddie and Wayne became my big brothers. We did a serious job but we sure had fun doing it. I don’t get to see them very often but we still keep in touch even today. Ted, Freddie, and their wives, and Earline and E and I got together a while back for dinner. We spent the entire evening laughing and telling old war stories. It was if we’d never been apart.
I left the Sheriff’s Office at the end of June in 1998. I had been 911 Director for four years and the stress was killing me. I was 36 years old and got offered a job paying me lots more money. The unfortunate thing about law enforcement agencies, especially in the south, is that they can’t afford to pay decent salaries for the most part. If I was going to make a career change that was the perfect time to do it. I’ll never forget the look on the Sheriff and Chief Deputy’s faces when I shut the door in the office that morning and gave them my letter of resignation. After 17 years, none of us thought I’d ever leave. Leaving there wound up being a very good thing for me. I moved to Baton Rouge and love being in a city. I met E and got married. I make an excellent salary and have a job that I really enjoy.
If I’d stayed, I would have made my 25th anniversary today. Looking back I cannot fathom where 25 years have gone.
I still carry a commission. I’ve had a badge for 25 years now. There are days I really miss that job and the people there. I don’t miss being a supervisor but I miss sitting in that chair, answering the 911 lines and working that radio. On that Memorial Day 25 years ago, I walked into a job that I later learned I was really good at. It fit me like a glove. I don’t believe anything else ever will.