Archive for Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Serving the community

Police department employees

November 20, 2002

Last week, Tonganoxie Police Chief Ken Carpenter and the Tonganoxie City Council honored Mike Vestal, the police department's dispatcher, and Cecil Vinyard, a Tonganoxie policeman, for their years of service.

Vestal, 52, has worked as a Tonganoxie police dispatcher since May 1974. For Vestal, who has been unable to walk since a 1970 car accident, the job was a perfect fit.

"I was in police work before that," said Vestal, who had worked as a cadet in the department when he was in high school.

Because it would have been difficult for Vestal to leave home each day, the office was brought to him.

"We set it up in the home," Vestal said.

A natural

When he later married and moved to a different house, the office went with him. Vestal can listen to and talk on the radio from his bedroom, as well as from a home office. From the beginning, the work, as well as the location, suited him.

"It just kind of came natural," Vestal said. "I was familiar with the way they dispatched then because I used to ride with Wayne Turner when he was a sheriff's deputy."

After those early beginnings, Vestal customarily puts in long hours, Carpenter said.

"He usually works 12 to 14 hours a day, every day, seven days a week," Carpenter said.

Vestal's days begin at 8:30 a.m.

"I quit at 10:30 at night," Vestal said. "But if something's going on, I stay up late until they're finished with whatever they're doing."

Vestal just doesn't keep up with what's on the airwaves he also keeps track of city streets a challenging task considering the city's new subdivisions.

"Every time we get a new subdivision, I get a map so I know where all the new streets are," Vestal said. "We've got so many new streets that our part-time guys can't keep up on them you've got to keep up on the new subdivisions going in."

Carpenter said Vestal does his homework.

"You don't stump him often," Carpenter said.

Though advances in technology have meant Vestal has adapted to computers, he hasn't been a total convert.

"I still write stuff down on paper," Vestal said. "I don't use computers to keep times or anything I still write on the log sheet just like in the old days."

Vestal, who has been married to his wife, Eleanor, for 21 years, said the work suits him.

"I love the work," Vestal said. "I love helping people. I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't do this."

On the streets

Cecil Vinyard has patrolled Tonganoxie's streets on a part-time basis for 20 years. When he started working on the Tonganoxie police force he was already familiar with law enforcement, having served in the U.S. Army in the military police.

When he and his wife, Sophia, moved to Tonganoxie in 1979, he inquired about working on the police force part time.

"I started in 1981 as a part-time patrolman and have been here since," Vinyard said.

In 2001 he retired from a full-time job with Crouse Cartage Company in Kansas City, Mo., where he had worked for 27 years. Since then, he's been more available to help on the Tonganoxie Police Department.

Carpenter said this has helped.

"If somebody calls in sick at the last minute or if somebody has to go to school, he fills in a lot of those shifts," Carpenter said. "He'll fill in at the last minute and a lot of people won't even do that if they are available."

Vinyard, who is 58, is a certified commercial vehicle safety alliance inspector, which means he's able to stop and inspect semi tractor trailers.

"I just got a car assigned to me starting next week," Vinyard said. "I'm going to get out and do at least a couple of inspections a day."

Another officer qualified to inspect trucks is Brian Daily, who is currently serving in the military.

Although Vinyard said official law enforcement training is important, it's just as important to have common sense.

And, he said, everybody deserves fair treatment.

"I have always had the motto that I would like to treat people the way I would like to be treated if I was stopped by an officer," Vinyard said.

Each day's work is different, he said.

"That's why I like it it's always a challenge you never know what you're going to get when you get to work," Vinyard said.

And, he said, some days are better than others.

"It's interesting sometimes, it's discouraging sometimes, it's rewarding and sometimes it's heartbreaking," Vinyard said. "But I guess you have to be a special breed to be a cop and like it."

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