True Stories From A Former Car Dealer #23: The Po-Lice
Untold Stories of the Police
Photo Credit: Victor Moussa/Shutterstock
Early in my career running dealerships, the first one I worked at was in a somewhat rough part of town in Dallas. There were only two dealerships on the street where the dealership was located: the Ford store I worked at and a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership next door that eventually closed. We had more than our fair share of thefts, so typically when I had to call the police, our beat officer, Jerry, came to take the report. Jerry and I became very good friends. One of the first lessons he taught me was that in Texas, there were no police officers, they were all the po-lice (po-lease). I suspect it is still that way today. The year was 1979 and the Dallas Police and Firefighters were upset over their lack of pay and were at odds with the Mayor and City Council. They gathered enough signatures to get a 15% pay raise on the ballot for the citizens to vote on. The city establishment fought them tooth and nail, buying ads and billboards encouraging people to vote no. At the time, I was doing some writing for a local newspaper called the Suburban Tribune. I got permission to do some ride-alongs with Jerry as well as with the fire department and wrote about my experiences. I saw many things that most people never knew went on. I was very vocally in support of the pay raise and made a lot of friends with the officers in the area. The election came and the voters approved it. I was elated for them, they deserved it. As a side note, now almost 40 years later, they still haven’t collected all the back pay, but as recently as this month, the City of Dallas agreed to pay out 235 million dollars, but I digress. One day Jerry called and told me the Dallas Police Southeast Division Police Chief, Don Stafford, wanted to see me in his office at 3:30 one day. My mind raced, wondering if I screwed something up when I was riding with Jerry. In actuality, the Chief wanted to give me a plaque for helping and they presented it to me during a shift change, so all the 3rd shift officers were there for the presentation.
I found the police work to be very rewarding but loved the car business too. Jerry suggested I apply to go through the Dallas Police Academy and become a police Reserve officer. I did that and graduated later that year. It was a great experience. I stayed on for 10 years until I just didn’t have the time for it. I got a reputation for taking care of Dallas Police Officers’ vehicle needs. Police are clannish; if you take good care of them, they tell everybody. If they get screwed, they tell everyone as well, maybe even more people. I sold hundreds of officers’ cars. When I would go to report for duty as a reserve officer, just about every vehicle in the parking lot was a Ford I sold. At the next dealership I worked at, many of them followed me there. One evening as I was coming around a Dallas freeway, a motorcycle officer pulled me over. I wasn’t worried about it, this had happened several times. I kept my driver license under my badge holder and took plenty of time digging for it, just to make sure he saw it. Officer Ron was about 6’5” and much to my surprise, he started writing me a ticket. In amazement, I said: “are you writing me?” to which he simply said: “yep”. I asked around about him and everyone said he’d write his own mother a ticket and I felt better. The Chief of Police in charge of the reserve officers called me a few days later just to talk, and I told him that Ron wrote me a ticket. Somehow the ticket magically went away. Several years later, a 6’5” guy walked into my office. He said: “I’m Ron, I understand you take good care of the po-lice.” I recognized him, but he didn’t remember me. I said: “Oh, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for years!” Yes, it was the Ron who wrote me the ticket. I helped him and we became really good friends and are still today. I helped his ex-wife a couple of times, and then he married another Dallas officer and I have helped her with a number of vehicles. I made a lot of Dallas Police friends over the years, and with the help of Facebook, I’ve kept in touch with many of them. I have a special admiration for these guys and gals. My experience as a reserve officer gives me a realization that they put their lives on the line every day. Of course, like people in the car business, doctors, engineers, and all other professions, there are good and bad. As I always ask, what do you call the student who finishes last in medical school? A doctor. As a Reserve Police Officer, we wore the same uniform as regular officers. If a bad person was going to shoot, he or she was as likely to shoot me as the officer I was working with. For that reason, I wisely chose the officers I worked with. One of my favorites was named Ron Baker (not the one who wrote me the ticket). I learned a lot from Ron. He had a cool head, I never saw him abuse anyone, and you could tell he had compassion in his heart. We made a good team. Ron was only 24 but seemed to have the experience of an officer on the job for 20 years or more. On May 1, 1983, Ron came to me to get a new vehicle. He and his wife Laurie were expecting their second child, Heather. I got him fixed up, and while he was in the finance office, he had my finance manager page me to his office. Ron said to me: “I don’t need this credit life stuff, do I?” I said: “Ron, you’re a cop with a baby on the way, and it’s a couple of dollars per month. If something happens, the car is paid off.” On May 2, 1983, I was scheduled to do a shift with Ron, but I wasn’t feeling well and begged off. That day, Ron conducted a traffic stop, was overpowered, and shot and killed with his own gun. If that was not bad enough, the murderers backed over him with a van, then ran over him again. They later died after a shootout. The haunting question for me was always and still is, whether things had been different if I had been with him. Would he still be alive, or would we both be dead? The following day, Laurie called me and asked if she could bring the new car back, that she couldn’t afford it. Ron had not explained that he bought the credit life insurance. All I said was: “Don’t worry about the car, the next thing you’ll see is a clear title”.
This story is dedicated to the memory of my friend, Ronald Dale Baker:
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I have always though well of you. When you told this story, you moved up two steps. The police do not get enough pay for all they do. They risk to all every day.
I try to says thanks whenever I run into them. They deserve the world.
October 22, 2019 @ 10:37am
The Car Pro
Thanks Barry, we agree 100%. They leave every morning not knowing if they will see their family again.
Thanks for the kind words.
August 29, 2019 @ 10:52am
Thank you for sharing a very poignant story. This is an odd web page to find your story about Officer Baker but here is where I would like to share my experience of what went on at DPD ID Division after Officer Ronald Baker was murdered.
I was working as a Dallas Police Department photographer for Capt Sam Gonzalez with the ID Division in the basement of the old Police & Courts building off Harwood when Officer Ronald Dale Baker was murdered. When the news of Ron's murder reached our office the old salty veteran detectives of the ID division went to work on the phones non-stop, contacting all their informants and fellow law enforcement agencies. The word was out.
In a time when fax machines and copiers barely existed and WAY before today's internet, news traveled by phone and face to face. You called people. And when you couldn't get them on the phone, you physically went to see people in person.
As the investigation went on, they were able to identify two career criminals, a man and a woman, who had mug shots on file with DPD. At about 9am, I was given the mug shots and directed to make photo copies - when copies were really developed photos. I shot the mug shots on the evidence table and developed the film and exposed, printed and cured a batch of 20 8x10 photo copies with 4 sets of mug shots on each sheet for distribution to local law enforcement.
(Remember this is before we had a copier available. The one copier we had at DPD was a strange new technology that only the Chief's office could use.)
I came out and cut the mug shots to size and handed them to the local police officers who were waiting in line for the mug shots. Irving, Mesquite, Duncanville, Garland, Plano, Arlington, Ft Worth...all the local police departments showed up. I looked outside our office door and there was another line of 20-30 very serious looking officers waiting for a copy of the mug shots. These officers meant business. My heart was in my throat as I finally realized I had become an integral part in the process of helping all these guys chase down and find the killers. I went back into the dark room with tears in my eyes, exposed the film, cured and dried the photo sheets and came out to our office with 30 more sheets of mug shots. As soon as I handed out those 30 copies there were 30 more police officers who had driven hours for a copy of the mug shots. And then after them came 30 more officers who had driven even farther - officers from Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas. They all came with a no nonsense conviction. My military experience made me think - I would go to war with any of these guys.
And so it went all day and into the night. As long as the officers showed up, I was printing mug shots. I became as determined as the officers and worked as hard and fast as I could. I was staring for hours into the eyes of those two murderers with each and every print, making sure the focus was crisp so our dedicated police officers had the best photo available. Finally about 6 pm, I was able to get ahead of the demand and had accumulated about 100 extra copies of mug shots for any officers who came to the office that night. They were all gone by the morning when I arrived at 6:00am.
These gritty and determined peace officers were committed to the pursuit. And they caught the murderers at a remote Arkansas cabin. These two murderers dead bodies were riddled with bullets when they were brought back to Dallas County coroners office for a complete autopsy. Autopsy- the very thorough cutting open and examination of a dead body. The rightful ending to this terrible tragedy.
Side bar : I took the head shots of each police cadet as they graduated the Dallas Police Academy at Bachman Lake. After Ron Baker's death, I made sure to stop each cadet after their photo, look them in the eye, thank them and, with all seriousness, tell them be careful out there!
RIP Ron Baker
August 30, 2019 @ 9:23am
The Car Pro
Thanks for sharing Michael. I remember stacks of perp pictures, I kept them in my pocket.
I appreciate your hard work on the case and for playing a part in the conclusion of this story. I still talk to Lauri from time to time, she's doing well.
June 28, 2019 @ 7:20pm
Jerry, my condolences on your friend and his family. First responders are the last line of defense that we have and no one knows what they go through day after day except for the people they help. Thank you for this story.
July 1, 2019 @ 10:55am
The Car Pro
Thank you for the kind words, I appreciate you reading the story and taking the newsletter.
July 21, 2018 @ 7:31pm
GREAT STORY MADE ME WEEP I HAVE TWO SONS IN CHP CALIFORNIA
July 3, 2018 @ 5:42pm
Jerry This is why we should remember to thank our first responds when we see them during our days or evenings on or off duty. Many times the Police came to my rescue during my teens, when i had low blood sugar events for my type one, which I still of course have. I did serve on my city's C.D. in the early 60' fire department, they were all very good people to work with, and help full in training. Thank you so much for your articles.
June 29, 2018 @ 9:11pm
Wow Jerry. What a touching story. Anyone working in public safety is at high risk of injury or death. My heartfelt thanks go out to all of them.
June 29, 2018 @ 8:56pm
Sad. but a terrific story Jerry. My son works undercover narcotics for the Boulder Police Department and I am thankful he chose a career in Law Enforcement. The public does not really know how they much they do to keep us protected...
June 29, 2018 @ 3:29pm
Thanks for sharing such a personal story. Many messages and teachable moments about life in your story. Things happened that day (you didnt do scheduled shift) because each of our lives has a different purpose and mission. You have more to do before your time.
June 27, 2018 @ 9:05am
I listen to you often on the radio and think about how well you have done in life. But mostly I thank GOD for people like you who have walked the blue line with us and support us through thick and thin. A supporter who obtains all the facts before jumping to a conclusion as not always are things black and white in between those steps on the blue line, there is a lot of gray. And thank you for doing all the things you do to support my brothers and sisters of blue. WE HAVE LOST MANY A GOOD PERSON DURING OUR TENURE AND RON WAS ONE OF THEM. May you always be blessed and know your support is always appreciated. GOD bless you and pray for all of our first responders.
June 28, 2018 @ 5:45pm
Thank you Judy, your kind words are deeply appreciated.
June 25, 2018 @ 6:29pm
When my son (now 39) had demonstrated that be was ready for a nicer vehicle, a salesman we had used for several purchases suggested we lease him a new pick up. After he explained that insurance would be cheaper it would have a warranty and a maintenance plan for $150 @ month. This was 22 years ago. It worked out so well we did the same for his brother 5 years later. Roadside assistance was another advantage. I still recommend this to friends with young drivers.
June 25, 2018 @ 2:54pm
Jerry, that was a fantastic letter. I never knew you had the writing gift.
You made me wonder about how many trucks I bought from you over the years either directly or by recommendation after you started the radio show. I don?t remember exactly but I can?t count them on just one hand!
June 28, 2018 @ 5:44pm
Thanks Terry! You were one of the good ones Pal, you Tactical guys were the best of the best.