Others this week will speak about this much more eloquently, but I wanted to add something important, at least to me.
Gerald Ford was in the White House. I was a wet-behind-the-ears rookie standing in January snow on the first rustic KLETC firearms range. And, I had a problem. Well, I had a lot of problems but one of them was a frightful anticipation-jerk when I pulled the trigger of my blue Colt Python. Every round seemed to have a better chance of hitting Hutchinson than the target. That week there was a volunteer FBI agent helping the range master. He watched a while, then came over, demanded my wheel gun, turned away, loaded what turned out to be fewer than 6 rounds, spun the cylinder, closed it, and handed it back. My first trigger pull landed on an empty chamber and I almost threw the Colt into the snow. The second pull was not quite so bad. As the day ended, my dangerous jerk was gone. For a career it was gone.
Just who was that volunteer FBI agent who did more for the safety of everyday Kansans that day in Yoder than he ever knew? I did not know for 20 years. By that time, I had joined the KBI and we were welcoming a new Director, Larry Welch. Director Welch told stories. Unlike many others who tell stories, the Director told good stories. Funny stories. One of those stories involved him helping at the KLETC firearms range when Gerald Ford was in the White House. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even I could put those facts together and find probable cause that the unidentified FBI agent was a much younger Larry Welch.
Later, the Director, a law school graduate and big proponent of education, granted my request to rearrange my agent duties so as to attend law school. That resulted in years of direct benefit for the KBI, and a later great second career for me. A second career that has allowed me to help Kansas officers be a little better at their jobs. The same thing that the Director did in each of his multiple careers.
I had enjoyed and learned from decades of reading the Director’s Point of Law magazine articles where he talked about the latest changes at the “Big Court” as he described the United States Supreme Court. Beginning in 2004, I tried to emulate the Director’s ability to speak directly to officers by writing myself on case law changes. He and I were successful in that because we were not “lawyers.” We were both law enforcement officers who happened to have attended law school. There is a true difference there. That difference probably gave us not only credibility, but it allowed us to find in a case only what mattered to the street officer, and to not waste officers’ time wandering in the legal weeds.
Though only acquaintances at best, our paths crossed one last time a couple of years ago. The Director was going to retire from writing Point of Law, and I was asked to step in. Big shoes, I thought. I sent him a note thanking him for what he had done for me over the years, and told him that I would try hard. His note back to me was better than great.
The Director passed away last week. I told you in my first Point of Law article that I was going to steal from Larry Welch the phrase “Big Court” when referring to the U.S. Supreme Court. I have done that. I will continue to do that. And, each time I type “Big Court,” I will think of the Director and his contribution to Kansas law enforcement. I hope you do too.
Thanks again, Director.