Shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, a Lawrence law enforcement era will be over when police Sgt. James Haller leaves his last debriefing and joins Lt. Charles Greer and Sgt. Ron Dalquest in retirement.
A combined 87 years of police work will come to an end, creating a void for officers to whom the veterans were a mainstay.
"It would be accurate to say that everybody on the department has been influenced by the professionalism these three individuals have displayed during their careers," Police Chief Ron Olin said. "They have a real attention to detail and a real dedication to the department. And all three of them have really big hearts."
The three have trained and worked alongside generations of law enforcement officers. Consider this:
- Haller, Greer and Dalquest went to work before at least 27 current officers were born.
- The only remaining sergeant with more than 25 years experience, Carrol Crossfield, was one of Haller's trainees.
- Officer Terry Haak, a police officer for six years, was born Feb. 1, 1964, Greer's first day on the job.
During separate interviews this week, the retirees said they left the department because they now qualify for benefits and because they wanted to get out of law enforcement while they were healthy and young enough to enjoy retirement.
Haller and Dalquest have accepted offers to work part-time as special U.S. marshal's agents providing security in the federal building at Topeka.
Greer said he planned to take some time off, then perhaps look for part-time work.
Haller, 53, spent 27 of his 31 years as a detective, specializing in crime scene investigation.
He once found a sliver of wood lodged in the carpet of a murder victim's home that later was matched to the murder weapon, a club that had been taken away from the scene. In another case, he discovered a fingerprint belonging to the suspect, who had told police he had never been to Lawrence.
"I never want to see a report that said I looked for a fingerprint," he said. "I want it to say that I dusted for prints."
Dalquest, who started work in August 1966 and was assigned to patrol during most of his career, said he would remember the friendships and experiences he encountered as an officer.
His stories would fill a book, albeit one that probably wouldn't end up in the family section of any bookstore. He recalls his run-ins with a transvestite who provided information to officers and who got to know them perhaps a little too personally.
"You'd be walking down Massachusetts Street with your wife, and he'd stop you and say, 'Hi, Ron,'" he said. "He'd be all dolled up, you know. And your wife would say 'Who's that? And you knew that somebody -- one of the officers -- had to set you up."
Greer, who also spent most of his career on the street, recalls trying to arrest an escaped mental patient from Topeka State Hospital. The woman was putting up an extraordinary fight against Greer, who weighed about 130 pounds at the time.
When backups arrived, he said, they stood back and started laughing.
"I told them, 'If you guys think this is so funny, she's yours,'" he said. "It took five of them to get her into a patrol car."