Scott Johnson

I have read many reports by psychologists recommending, or in some cases not recommending, applicants for employment as police officers. I have noted that most all successful applicants have some traits in common. They view obstacles as challenges and have a desire to help others. Sometimes, these traits are demonstrated by the little things that we do. I don’t think these are unique to police officers.  

For example, last Wednesday I arrived at the front desk at the city hall to provide a break for Police Records Technician Janell Hecimovich. As I sat down in the chair behind the counter, Janell said, “Chief, the gentleman that runs the Farmer’s Market on Golf Course Road just brought in a woman’s wallet that was found at the market.” “Ummm…a challenge,” I thought. “How do we locate the woman and return her wallet? She must be in a panic by now, realizing that her wallet is missing?” I think we have all had that sinking feeling at some time. 

I searched the wallet to see what I could find to help locate her. Credit cards, cash, bank cards and a driver’s license. The driver’s license showed an address in Duluth. Yet, if she misplaced her wallet at the Farmer’s Market, there must be a Grand Rapids connection. A check of the web showed no phone number listed in Duluth. A check of the Itasca County consolidated law enforcement records system showed no contact with the woman. Ok, time to reach out. 

City Administrator Tom Pagel was in the adjoining office to my right. I explained the situation and asked him if he knew anyone in town by that name. After all, I don’t think there is anyone in town that he doesn’t know. He didn’t even have to think about it. “Yep. I know some people with that last name but not the first name. I will start making some calls. She has to be a relative.” With that, he was busy phoning people and leaving voicemails.  

In the office to the left of me was City Human Resources Director Lynn DeGrio. I asked Lynn if she knew the woman. She did not, but started working her magic on the internet. Within a couple of minutes, she had the name of a man who may be related to the woman but no address or telephone number. Ummm…back to the law enforcement records system. This time I typed in the name of this man. I was in luck. He had called the sheriff’s department in 2015 to report an incident at a home a dozen miles north of town. There was a telephone number listed on the deputy’s report. 

I dialed the number. A woman answered the telephone. I explained that I was with the Grand Rapids Police Department and that I was looking for this man. She replied, “Just a minute. I will put him on the phone.” I explained to him that a wallet had been turned into the police department and we were looking for the woman who owned the wallet. I told him the woman’s name and asked if he knew her. “Do I know her?” he replied, “Yes. She is my wife. I will put her back on the phone.”  

As it turned out, they are living at their lake home north of town for the summer and had visited the Farmer’s Market in Grand Rapids. She had removed her wallet from her purse to make a purchase and placed it on a vendor’s table, inadvertently leaving it behind. When I phoned, she had not yet realized that she didn’t have her wallet.

Ten minutes after she left for her break, Janell came back to the front counter so that I could get back to whatever it is that police chiefs do. She asked if we had any luck in locating the owner of the wallet. “Yep. Solved. She is coming in to pick it up.”   

It is nice to live in a community in which people don’t think twice about bringing to the police station a found wallet with its contents intact. Returning the wallet is a little thing but important to the owner of the wallet. When faced with a challenge, an obstacle to overcome, we all came together. It feels good when we are able to help someone. It happens frequently. I guess that is what it is all about.  

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