tagNon-EroticPeril in the Pines Ch. 06

Peril in the Pines Ch. 06


With the excitement of the brickyard case suspended, I was able to attend to administrative matters. As I had promised, I rode with Tim for a total of five days, spread over two weeks, and I learned a lot about the county. I was reminded of the opening scene of "The Music Man" in which the anvil salesman denounces Professor Harold Hill, not for being a con man but for not knowing the territory. Tim really knew our territory, and the more he taught me about it, the more surprises I got.

There was a small enclave of farmers who were refugees from Latvia, that nobody had ever told me about. We went there and parked the cruiser in front of the coffee house where many of the locals congregated, and went inside. The sudden silence was deafening. Tim walked through, shaking hands with the men he knew, and paused in the exact center of the room to say loudly to the proprietor, "Chris, let's have coffee for everyone, on us!" That language is understood in every restaurant and saloon in the free world, and it broke the ice. As everyone got his coffee fixed to his liking, Tim announced that he would like to introduce "Our new Chief Deputy, Jack Olson, the same man who shot those murderous criminals a few weeks ago."

I stood beside Tim and said, "We are reorganizing our deputies' routes to provide better service to every community in the county. It's not easy because this is a big county, about half the size of Latvia. We can't have a deputy here all the time, but we can have one cruise through here daily, and not always at the same time, and he can be nearby so that he can get here quickly if you need our help. You have a right to good law enforcement, and we'll do everything we can to provide it.

"We heard that someone said 'when the criminals show up, the deputies disappear.' That's totally wrong. In fact, it's the other way around. Criminals don't want to face law officers, so when our deputy comes here, step up and tell him what your problems are and what you want him to do for you. We're only as good as the information you give us, so tell us what you need. Thank you for listening, and enjoy your coffee."

Immediately three men stood up and formed a line to talk to us. We listened politely, Tim took notes, and I told them all the same thing: "We'll investigate this. If you learn any more about these people, call us so we can get them." We handed out our cards to one and all, I paid for the coffees, and we left to a round of applause.

Out in the car, I asked Tim, "Who's been covering this area?"

"Most of the time, nobody. I doubt that they've seen a car here in a couple of weeks."

"Well look, that has to change. These people keep to themselves, mostly because they're scared. Suppose you and I were dropped into the middle of Latvia. There's a language problem, plus general distrust. But if they think we don't care about them, it just makes it worse. So let's consider this a problem area when we're remaking the patrol routes. Talk it over with Vince. You both know the territory, and you both know what we need to do, and the resources we have to do it with. I'll be depending on both of you to help put the cars where the people are. It's my responsibility, but you're the guys with the detailed knowledge to put it together correctly, so I have to depend on you. Do we have anyone with ties to these people?"

"Howard Snell's wife is Latvian. I think she speaks the language."

"Then let's jump on that to get something started here. Could he bring his wife here to interpret for him? Could we set up a meeting in advance, and put out flyers to tell the people that he'll be here every Tuesday or whatever to talk with people about law enforcement? What do you think?"

"There's a potential liability problem for us if we bring his wife here to do that."

"Then I'll talk with the Sheriff and figure out how we can deal with it. Make her a special deputy with limited duties, or whatever. He'll know how to do it."

"You know, this isn't the only place like this in the county."

"I figured that, and I already know you well enough to guess that you'll show me the rest of them. We'll tackle them one at a time to see how we can help these people. After two or three, we'll find that it's easier to do the rest because we'll be learning as we go. Never overlook the importance of learning. We have to be smarter on Friday than we were on Monday. The era of the dumb cop is long gone. The day that you can't look back and find something you learned, is a day wasted. And every day I spend with you I learn a lot."

My time between ride-along days was filled with other things, and just as I had said to Tim, every day I learned something new. I found out that we had a lot more capability in our communications setup than we were using. It was possible to locate any cell phone, knowing the phone number and sometimes one other number that identifies that particular phone. So I got the man from Verizon to come in and explain to the Sheriff and Becky and me how it all works. Then I made up a form and gave a copy to each employee, where they could list the phones for themselves and their immediate family, so we could track them if he wanted us to. I met with everybody who worked for the department to explain what I had in mind. Immediately hands went up and people protested that this was an invasion of their privacy. I'd thought about that ahead of time and had an answer ready. "First of all, you're exactly right. But before you close your minds to this, take a minute to look at the big picture. We're trying to be more aggressive in combating crime. It's too soon to discover how well we're doing, but it's an ongoing effort and in time the improvement will become noticeable. Noticeable to us, to our honest citizens, and most importantly, to the criminals who live here. We'll be taking the food off their tables by shutting down easy ways to get what's not theirs. They won't like it, and some of them may decide to fight back. Suppose you do a great job of arresting some professional crooks, like maybe car thieves for example. And suppose that one or two of them decide to hit back by kidnapping your wife or child. I hope and pray that it never happens, but if it does I want to find them fast, for you. That's what this is all about.

"This whole deal is voluntary. If you don't want us to have the information, that's your decision because you have a right to your privacy and we can't muscle into it. But think about it. Wouldn't you like us to be able to track those phones to protect your family? Go home and talk it over with your wife. There's one thing that I'm finding out about deputies' wives: they worry a lot more than they let on to you. She may surprise you by saying, 'I think about that every day when the kids go off to school.' Try to reach a decision together on it. And remember, this doesn't cost you a cent. It's like a fringe benefit that's completely free, if you want it."

Meanwhile I was working on a to-do list. Every day I was adding more items than I was crossing off, but that was all right because most of them would be ongoing for weeks or months. Every day I spent a few minutes writing down what I did that day, what I accomplished, and what I learned. Those pages went into a notebook that would eventually overflow into other notebooks, until I had accumulated the sum of my experience in learning to be a good chief. Because that's what I wanted, to be the best chief deputy that I could be, and maybe even better than some others. I'd like to look a taxpayer in the eye and say, "What you're getting for your tax dollars is a safer place to raise your kids than any other county in the state."


Usually I sat down with the Sheriff after the morning crises had been dealt with and the deputies went out on their assignments, and over a cup of coffee in his office we'd talk about other things. He'd tell me about things he saw on the horizon. I'd tell him about new things that were coming up, new information I'd received, trends that were developing, rumors I'd picked up. We'd talk for half an hour or so and when I left his office we knew that we were singing from the same hymnal.

One morning I asked him what had happened to Kathleen Cafferty. "I thought we would have seen her weeks ago. What happened?"

"That's very interesting and also very complicated. She had been hired to be a cop in Greenwood. Before she was sent to the academy, which involved Pike County paying her tuition in advance because Greenwood didn't have any money, the county manager insisted that she sign an employment contract, committing her to remain a member of the Greenwood Police Department for a year. If she quit before then, she'd have to pay back the tuition on a sliding scale, all of it if she quit right after graduation, tapering down to nothing at the end of the year. If she was fired for cause, she had to pay up the same as if she'd quit. If she was laid off, the county would give her a termination payment of half the wages she would have earned if she'd stayed the whole year. And then everybody forgot all about the contract, which was all signed, perfectly legal and binding on both parties. That is, everybody forgot about it but Kathleen. She was notified by letter that on a certain date the Greenwood Police Department would no longer exist and she was terminated as of that date. So she got out her copy of the contract. In fact, she was studying it when I went to the house to meet her and her mother. She showed it to me.

"Now I know those guys in Pike County, and I knew exactly what they'd try to do if she tried to enforce the contract: They'd first try to put her to work as a file clerk or whatever for a year, and reduce her salary accordingly. If that didn't fly, they'd try to attach her to their Sheriff's office. And if that didn't work, they'd try to put her to work as the only cop in Greenwood. But the letter was very specific, and so was her contract, so she has some rights.

"Jack, you know me. She's a sweet girl from a good family, and sharp as a cactus thorn. She'll make a great deputy for us if she can take what she learned at the university and the academy and combine that with some worthwhile experience. So I got my back up and took her and her contract to meet the county attorney. He grabbed a young guy named Chet who's a paralegal, doing spadework for prosecutors and other odd jobs to pay his way through law school, and told him to get her out of Pike County with all the pay that she's got coming, period. And he said that if he couldn't do it, bring the contract back to him and he'd do it himself, but Chet would be out on the street.

"So the last I heard, young Chet was roaring like a lion, and Pike County had till the end of the month, that's next Tuesday, to pay up or she'll sue them for her pay plus damages plus cost of collection."

"I never heard of anything like that. Are things really that bad in Pike County?"

"Well, they have very little industry now that the logging is almost nonexistent. There aren't any colleges or junior colleges in the county. Unemployment is over twice what it is here. Almost all the restaurants are closed, so there aren't even any waitress jobs available. Two of their banks failed in the last four years. Property crime is high, and major felonies are on the rise. So I'd say, yes, things there are very bad. But they're bad because nothing is being done to make them better, and the idiots they elect to govern are lucky to find their own parking spaces. As I see it, they're panicky and have adopted an 'every man for himself' mentality, so they're all afraid to admit that they screwed up and they have zero concern for what all their blundering will do to Kathleen."

"Is your plan still to bring her in here as a deputy?"

"Absolutely. I'm not going to let those fools stand in the way of that. But we just have to wait until these legal hassles are over with. Naturally if she already has a deputy job here, no judge is going to be very sympathetic for her predicament, so we'll just have to stand in line."

"You mentioned Kathleen's mother. Is her father alive and present?"

"No. He was killed years ago in some big accident. He had good life insurance, plus there was a big settlement from the accident. So they're not starving. Still, I want to see her get what's rightfully hers."

"Would it hurt anything if Vince and I went there and introduced ourselves, and got to know them a little?"

"Well, don't make any promises without clearing them with me, but it seems to me that it might be a good idea."

That afternoon, things were quiet and we did that very thing. Becky called Mrs. Cafferty and cleared the visit with her, and we took a ride over there in my Jeep, rather than a patrol car, to avoid exciting the neighbors. Mrs. Cafferty greeted us at the door and made it clear that we were welcome in her home. Kathleen came into the living room and we introduced ourselves and sat down, and were immediately offered tea and cookies. Vince, always the diplomat, said, "Mrs. Cafferty, usually I refuse an offer like that, but it's been a tiring day, and I think tea and cookies would probably be the best thing to pick me up. Thank you. You're very kind."

That settled, I said, "The Sheriff has filled me in on your contractual situation, and I realize that you can't come to work for us until that's settled. But he says he is just as deeply committed to hiring you as he ever was, and his word is golden, so I have to assume that it will happen. And when it does, I want it to go smoothly for everyone. So I thought that if we could talk a little now and get to know each other, at least we could answer your questions. I figure that the longer you have to wait, the longer you have to worry, so maybe we can make it a little easier for you."

Mrs. Cafferty nodded, and Kathleen said, "I've heard all sorts of tales from the people I was in the academy with, about being the first woman in an all-male police force."

"Have you shared any of those stories with your mother?"

"Some. I didn't want to scare her."

Vince spoke up. "The chief and I have decided that there will be none of that. Our department is hard on crooks and friendly to cops, and that's how we intend to keep it. We'll meet with all the deputies just before you come aboard and discuss the matter quite frankly with them. And by frankly, I mean like 'one false move and you're fired.' I know them and they know me, and I'm sure we can keep things running smoothly. Over the years, we've always tried to recruit and train the best deputies in the business, and in return make them feel that they've found a home with us, and our record speaks for itself. We're an elite police force, and our deputies come and never leave. That's how we'd like to make it for you."

My turn. "Vince is our Senior Deputy. He directly supervises all the deputies, and is out every day on patrol himself. He's been in law enforcement a long time. I really believe that nothing will come up that he doesn't know how to handle. Kathleen, you have all the educational background that anyone could ask for, but no experience. You and Vince complement each other, so I plan to have you work as Vince's partner. He's patient and he explains things well so I know you'll learn a lot. At the same time, this needs to be a two way conversation. There will be times when something you learned in school will differ from our practice, and when that comes up you need to talk it over with Vince so we reach a complete understanding. Neither of you will be saying, 'You're wrong and I'm right.' It will be more like 'Here's how we do it,' and be 'Here's what they taught us,' and the two of you can hash it out and figure what's best in this situation and what might be best in another. If it's important, we'll talk it over with all the deputies. Two very important points here: It's always best to talk things out; and we're always ready to improve anything we do."

Vince asked, "Do you have any questions for us?"

Kathleen jumped right onto that one. "Will I share a locker room with the men?"

Vince knew that I was ready for that one so he gave me a nod. "There are two answers for that. First, let's look ahead a year or so. Our building will be getting a makeover, including such a big addition it's going to be like a new building. There will be complete separate facitities for men and women: locker rooms, showers, lavatories; all clean, well lighted, and comfortable. But the present is another thing. You will have a locker to put your stuff into. It will be separate from the men's locker room, but it will not be in a real locker room. Maybe in another room, or maybe in a hallway. You'll have to change into and out of your uniform at home, and take your showers at home. You will use the women's rest room in the front part of the building. It will be inconvenient for you, but it'll be temporary. Try to think of yourself as a pioneer, not as a second class citizen."

"Will I be doing regular patrolling or will I be assigned to some cutesy duties like making coffee?"

"From day one, you'll be on patrol with Vince. There will be times when he'll send you out with another deputy, either to get experience with a certain type of call, or to learn something specific from a deputy who is especially good at it. On the job training in police work can be frustrating, because you're not always solving murder cases the way they do on TV. The calls are answered as they come in, and you might get two armed robberies in a week, or you might not see one for a year. So I can't tell you when you'll get your own patrol car, but when you do, it'll be because I've decided you're ready for it. You'll be the same as every other deputy, with only two exceptions. One is strip searches. If we have a woman who needs to be strip searched, you'll be called. And we won't have you strip search men. But the fact is that we very seldom have to do strip searches so that won't come up much. The other is domestic disputes. We hear that women are better than men at dealing with those, and if that works out for us, then you may get more of those."

"What about weapons training?"

"Just the same as the men. As soon as you're an official member of the department, we'll get you to the range to get the feel of our weapons and fire for record. I doubt that we have any new weapons that you wouldn't have come across at the academy, but we may have some older ones. I want to be sure that you get plenty of time shooting AR's on full auto, because that's something that doesn't come up much so you might be handed one some day and you don't want to start to learn about then, out in the middle of some street with bullets flying around.

"My concern here isn't that you're a woman but that you're new to the department. Another thing that we'll be teaching all of our deputies about is weapons, especially rifles, that are not normally police weapons. For example, we confiscated some deer rifles with scopes, and found that not all of the men on that mission had experience with them. So that will be the subject of one training session."

Kathleen thought about that, and I thought maybe we had satisfied her curiosity. But no, there was more, lurking there.


Kathleen seemed to be studying my face. "Are you the one who shot all those people out in the woods?"

"Yes, I am. However, that case is still open, and I can't discuss it."

"You must be some kind of a shooter! Where'd you learn all that?"

"In a strange and far-off land called Afghanistan. I don't boast about my ability because there's always somebody who draws faster and shoots straighter, but I did well enough to come back from there in one piece. We have some deputies who are real experts with various weapons, and you'll meet them. Vince is working up a coaching list so that if you need help with pistols, for example, he can send you to the range with a real pistol expert. In a few months we're all going to learn to shoot pistols well with the wrong hand, and we'll keep at it till we can qualify that way. We'll do training in simulated night shooting. All these things are important, and they might make the difference between life and death some day."

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