Tuesday, May 4

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Veteran officers work side by side
on their last day    
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[MAY 4, 2004]  Whether by fluke or fate, it was rather interesting that two retiring Lincoln Police Department officers, Gary Hurley and Mark Mann, worked their last eight-hour shift side by side Friday, April 30. It was not scheduled that way.

Both officers had more than 25 years in on the force. They were both dispatchers in the E-911 radio room. It was not until Friday that Officer Hurley even made his decision to retire. Officer Mann, also retiring, was called in to work when another dispatcher called in sick Friday.

The two quickly realized the unlikeliness of it. Mann said, "Gary and I kept looking at each other like, you know, after all these years this is our last day looking at each other as Lincoln police officers. How strange is that, that we'd both be together on the same day in the same room doing the same thing."

For the last 10 years dispatchers have been employees of the Lincoln Police Department or the Logan County Sheriff's Department in the shared E-911 communications room. As of Saturday, May 1, contracts for the operation of the room with the police and sheriff's departments were terminated. Dispatchers were given first preference to be rehired as employees of the Emergency Telecommunications System Board. ["Not settling for status quo, ETSB taking 911 into the future"]

Thinking over the options, measuring the potential for job burnout and age against his pension after 26 years, Officer Mann determined that he would prefer to retire from the police department and continue working the dispatch room as an ETSB employee.

Officer Hurley is the only dispatcher not continuing under the new ETSB.

Officer Hurley's LPD career

Asked if there was anything else he would have done with his life, Hurley's answer is simple, "I had two things I wanted to do: join the Marine Corps and enter law enforcement."

Hurley was raised in a law enforcement family. He had three of his uncles that covered all branches of local law enforcement; one was Police Chief Elmer Fulk, one a state trooper and another a county deputy. "I knew it was something I wanted to do," he said.

After four years in the Marine Corps he came home and joined the Lincoln Police Department. His career in law enforcement was nearly ended in 1980 when he was shot.

A 16-year-old kid was shooting squad cars around town with a high-powered rifle. First he shot a hole in the back license plate of Officer Kenny Tibbs' car while he was parked near the Depot. The bullet narrowly missed the gas tank.

While Hurley was sitting in his squad car in front of the old Bismark Insurance Agency at the end of Chicago and Pulaski streets, a bullet shot through the wheelwell of the car. It blew out an inch of his shinbone. He spent 79 days in St. John's recovering after the July incident.

Hurley says he came back to work "because I was bored at home."

Mann said some men would have just gone on workman's comp or disability and cost the taxpayers money. But not this guy.

Hurley's responses to further questions reveal more of his real intentions. He recollected the questions he was asked when he was laid up in the hospital. People were asking him if he was going to quit.

He said he replied, "No, why?

They said, "Well, you got shot."

His replied to them, "Well, somebody's got to do it."

He knew officers take risks. Besides the narrow miss that Tibbs had, Officer Darrell Sisk had been shot in May, just a couple of months before, by another shooter.

 

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But when he had recovered enough to get back to work by mid-December, his doctor wouldn't let him go back on patrol, saying, "I saved your leg once." And Chief Maurer would not allow the recovering man back on the streets, saying he was too much of a risk.

"So," he said, "I came in here."

"I liked it in the car. I like it in here. It's warm in the winter and cool in the summer," he said.

With his retirement Hurley plans to take some time off and go visit some of his "bunches and bunches of relations" down south (in Illinois) a bit. He doesn't know what he'll be doing in the future. "I'm not going to just sit at home. I might look for a part-time job to do something and make some extra bucks," he said. "I'm not going to do anything for a while," he said.

He still bears a huge, mounded scar where he was shot.

Officer Mark Mann's LPD career

Only one sick day in 26 years says something about a man and his job.

Officer Mann said: "I personally have had a wonderful career. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to work with. The city has always been good to me, very nice and very fair. The guys I work with, we've been friends all this time. It's nice to come to work when you have friends."

As an officer on the streets Mann said he found patrol work boring. "I knew everybody in town and everybody knew me, and it was difficult to go even half a block sometimes and not stop to talk to somebody. Eight hours was a very long time to me in a patrol car," he said.

Years ago road officers would substitute on weekends and holidays for the officers working the dispatch room. About 12 years ago when a vacancy opened for a dispatcher, Chief Hahn went down the list of officers and asked who would like to work in there. Officer after officer said "no," until he got to Mann. Mann said, "Sure, I'll work inside, I'll work in the radio."

"My overall feeling at the time was that I could best serve the city in that capacity. I had more talent in doing that," Mann said. The match worked well and Mann stayed in the radio room.

Mann has gone back on the road as a patrolman a couple of times to cover for officers on sick leave or injured. However, the saying is that as an officer ages and it becomes financially feasible, "Let the young guys have it." And obviously, they run faster, they jump higher, and our reactions get a little slower as we grow older, he says.

Mann likes the daily progressive nature of the work in dispatch. Not everyone is meant to work in dispatch. There have been those who have tried to work in the room who felt overwhelmed by the stress.

The room is filled with complex technology that changes rapidly; systems are always being upgraded. There's a lot to learn about the room and it is always changing. "I'm fortunate that I'm still here. That people have faith in me that I can do this," he said.

There also needs to be chemistry between the people in the radio room and the people out on the streets. "We have to see the meshing of minds here. If there is a lack of connection between dispatcher and those in the field, it won't work for anyone.

While he is retiring as a police officer, Mann will continue working as a trained, professional civilian in the dispatch room under the ETSB. He has accepted a position as supervisor.

"I've given 110 percent to whatever my job was and did the citizens of Lincoln good. I'm going to continue to do as good of job as I can," he said.

[Jan Youngquist]

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