Looking Back – Go Jump in the
By J. Bryan Wasson
In mid size to large Police Departments, the Chief of Police is an administrator, not a street cop. With the exception of a current Television show called, “The District”, the Chief does not personally get involved in the investigation of crimes and/or the arrest of criminals. The Chief leaves these tasks for underlings.
Within our society, we have created a pecking order of the social structure. In most cities, regardless of size, there is nearly always someone high enough up on the food chain, to cause the Chief of Police to take a personal interest in the investigation of a specific crime or to arrest a specific criminal. In
during the 1960s, the publisher of The Abilene Reporter News was such a person. He was high enough on the food chain to lay upon the heart of the Chief of Police a desire to take a personal interest in a crime in which the publisher of said newspaper might be the victim. Abilene, Texas
I was the Lieutenant on duty on the day shift. I was in the Shift Commander’s office in the basement of the Police Station where I supervised patrol activities as well as the operation of the jail. The Office of the Chief of Police was on the ground floor. The phone rang and the intercom button lighted up. This indicated the call was coming from within the Police Department. I answered the phone, “Lieutenant Wasson speaking.” The voice on the other end of the line was that of Warren Dodson, the Chief of Police. Chief Dodson said, “Meet me upstairs as soon as you can get here.”
I took the stairs two at a time. I found the Chief standing by the front door. He handed me the keys to a car, the unmarked car assigned to
Chief Dodson. This was unusual as no one drove this car except the Chief. I got behind the wheel and Chief Dodson said, “Let’s go to
as fast as we can safely get there.” Fort Phantom
I must digress for a moment to explain that statement.
is the County Seat of Taylor County, Texas. Fort Phantom Hill was located in Abilene , the next county north. Fort Phantom Hill was the site of a frontier Fort that had been established as part of a line of forts designed to protect the settlers from Indians. Jones County
Fort Phantom Hill had long since been abandoned, but in past times it had been home to United States Cavalry troops, Confederate troops, and Texas Rangers. In the 1930’s, I believe it was about 1936 or 37, a lake had been constructed near the old Fort to be the source of water supply for the City of
. The lake was named Lake Fort Phantom. Abilene
Most folks referred to the lake as,
, or simply, “the lake.” Fort Phantom
At the time the lake was being constructed and water lines laid, the City fathers in their infinite wisdom, put all property surrounding the lake into the city limits of
. This property was connected to Abilene by the width of the right of way for the water pipes, which was also placed within the city limits of Abilene . It should be noted that other towns in Abilene that own lakes in an adjoining county have done the same thing. The Abilene Police Department had full jurisdiction on all land surrounding the lake. In addition, the Water Department of the City of Texas employed a Abilene . He lived at the lake in a house owned by the City. He had a Patrol boat and a city owned Pickup for patrol on land and with which to move his boat to various launching sites around the lake. He was commissioned both as an Abilene Police Officer and a Jones County Deputy sheriff. Lake Patrolman
The City owned most property around the lake. Lots were leased to people who could construct houses or cabins on the lots. These were long term leases, but the individual did not retain actual ownership of any buildings placed on these lots. Many people lived at the lake. Many others, who lived in town, had Cabins at the lake. One of these lake cabins was “owned” by the publisher of The Abilene Reporter News. This cabin was located within a cluster of cabins “owned” by a number of people high upon the food chain of the social structure of
. Abilene, Texas
As I drove the Chief’s car toward the lake, the Chief informed me that a burglar had been reported breaking in to this cluster of cabins on the west side of the lake that were “owned” by the social elite of
I now understood the Chief’s personal interest in this affair which would normally have been handled at a level lower within the organizational structure of the Abilene Police Department.
I must inject at this point that I can not swim and am extremely afraid of water. The proper term for this condition is hydrophobia.
As we approached this cluster of cabins, a man was seen emerging from one of the cabins, He saw us and started running toward a mesquite pasture. The Chief had me to stop long enough for him to get out of the car. He said he would peruse the man on foot and for me to pursue the man in the car. I was driving the Chief’s unmarked car through and over mesquite brush and prickly pear cactus as the man ran, ducked and dogged between the brush. The Chief was close behind on foot. It was a long chase. I observed that the man was working his way closer and closer to the water. I am sure that the man was exhausted by this time. When the man reached the water’s edge, he jumped in and started swimming. I had no idea where he thought he was going to swim to because it was a very big lake.
I parked the car near the water’s edge and got out. I just stood there watching the swimming man getting farther and farther away. The Chief arrived and stood next to me. At about that time, the man went under. He came up waiving his arms and screaming, “Help, Help!” The Chief looked at me as if asking, “What are you going to do?” I raised my right hand high over my head and started waving as I said, “by, by.”
Seeing that this was my only response to the drowning man’s problem, the Chief pulled off his shoes, removed his revolver from its holster and put it in a shoe. He then took off his suite jacket and laid it on top of his shoes. He jumped in the lake and swam out and rescued the drowning burglar.
Our very wet prisoner was extremely docile during our ride back to
. I felt sure that the equally extremely wet Chief of Police would have some words for me based upon my actions or lack thereof to the plight of the drowning burglar. To my amazement, the Chief never said a word during the ride back to Abilene with our wet prisoner. I was never again asked to drive the Chief’s car. Abilene