By Colleen Lehmann
Make it home safely every night, and while on the job do your best to treat people the way you would want to be treated … these are two of the goals Lt. Rich Lamb has held close during a 35-year career with Tuscola Police Department. Now, with just nine days left before his recently announced retirement, it would appear he’s going to be able to successfully check those off the list.
Lamb, a Tuscola native, was 25 years old when he hired on at TPD in 1979. While his employer prior to that was DeKalb Seeds, Lamb had been doing occasional ride-alongs with part-time county deputy Bill Rogers Sr., and fellow DeKalb employee and city alderman Ray Carlson suggested Lamb apply for an opening on the force. Then-Chief Tom Harriss hired Lamb, sent him off to the Police Training Institute in Springfield, and Lamb has never looked back. He started out as a patrol officer, working under Harriss, his successor Ronnie Earl, and finally for current chief Craig Hastings, with whom he’s been on the job for 34 years. It was under Hastings’ helm that Lamb was made sergeant (around 1988) and 14 years ago earned lieutenant status.
Not surprisingly, Lamb said he’s seen many changes take place in the field of law enforcement over his three-plus decades. Keeping abreast of ever-changing laws—“something that’s legal one year may not be the following year and vice versa’’—and equipment and technology advances is always challenging. Handling domestic calls is Lamb’s (and many officers) least favorite task.
“Not only do you have a husband and wife at odds, there’s so often young children involved. It breaks your heart when you go in somewhere that, in some instances, you’ve been to on more than one occasion for this type of thing, and the young son says ‘Are you here to arrest my daddy again?’”
A legal statute enacted more than a decade ago, allowing police officers to make a DV arrest without a victim’s formal complaint if they observe signs of abuse having taken place, has made that particular type of call a bit easier, and he thinks it may have helped slightly in cutting down on the number of incidents that take place.
“With a few offenders, it may have helped them think twice about doing something, knowing they can’t just further bully the victim into not signing a complaint,” he said.
For those who think Tuscola is “just a sleepy little town where nothing too bad happens,” Lamb says he can attest there is plenty to deal with from a law enforcement perspective.
“I’ve testified in court on cases involving everything from a barking dog to a homicide. Of course there are the little, minor things, but this area sees its fair share of the serious stuff as well,” says Lamb.
One particular case in which Lamb played a part was a very high-profile kidnapping. Lamb had stopped Jerry Lee Oates for a broken headlight, and when running the plates learned he was wanted for kidnapping his young son from his estranged wife.
“He was very polite and non-combative during the traffic stop, but the case itself and resulting court appearances turned into quite a media frenzy. You just never know what’s going to happen when you make what you think is a routine traffic stop.”
The decision to take his leave from TPD was not an easy one for Lamb. He confessed to spending many sleepless nights weighing the pros and cons, but ultimately decided that, for financial and personal reasons, this was the appropriate time to go.
“I thought about it a lot, did some checking into the business side of things, and also thought about where I was at right now in terms of health. This past week and I turned 60 and marked my 35th year with the department. I’m still in relatively good health and have some things I want to do, and decided now is the time to go, when I am still physically able to do those things,” said Lamb.
So, what does a longtime policeman do once he goes the retirement route? In Lamb’s case, plenty. He will still be available, part-time, for patrol shifts but there are other plans outside the purview of the PD.
“My son Jason lives out in Rochester, New York and he is in the process of remodeling his home, so I’m planning to go out there to help him with that whenever I can. I’ll continue to help haul corn during harvest season, and Cindy and I like to take weekend trips here and there. I also have a pretty big garden I like to tinker around in so I won’t just be sitting around,” says Lamb.
Another plus of a little more free time on Lamb’s hands … this could give him more time to work on his legendary arsenal of practical jokes to play on Hastings. That might end up being the most time-consuming task of all.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 18, 2014 edition