Remembering my three favorite cops

National Police Week rekindles some fond memories for Editor Nick Wakeman when he was a rookie reporter covering the police beat.

When I started in journalism, my first beat was cops and court and it was some of the most fun I ever had as a reporter.

I learned a lot about human nature and the police officers and deputies I met still rank high as some of the best and toughest sources I’ve had.

I like that the tech world and law enforcement are becoming so entwined. It’s a great market because the potential to save lives and improve communities is so great. Of course, money is being spent there so it can be lucrative as well.

But this is National Police Week and thousands of police officers are converging on Washington, D.C. to celebrate and to memorialize those officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year.

I want to share three stories about police officers from my days as a cop reporter. They shaped me as much as any work experience could. 

I saw Capt. Martin Strobel every day for three years when I’d drop by the Harrisonburg, Va., Police Department to check on recent arrests and complaints. Getting information beyond what was in the log book was always a challenge. After a while I think he appreciated my persistence.

One day I was asking him about a break-in and vandalism incident at a local pizza shop.

As I was getting basic information on the break-in, the captain muttered under his breath to me, “Ask me what he was wearing.”

So I asked, what was he wearing? And thanks to that little tip from the toughest cop I knew, for the first and so far only time, I wrote a story that had the words “naked man” in the headline.

Sheriff Glenn Weatherholtz was the most popular politician in Rockingham County and I’d walk from the policy station to the sheriff’s department as part of my daily rounds. The shift in atmosphere was remarkable.

Weatherholtz was a tall, gregarious guy, who, the first time we met, got in my face and asked me, “Who’s your daddy?” Turns out he had grown up near a bunch of my relatives in the next county, so he knew the name Wakeman.

He turned out to be the best source I’ve ever had, bar none. He would tell me a lot of things or point me to sources that could talk, if he couldn’t.

When he was on vacation, it was a different story. I had to deal with his chief of detectives, Danny Comer. Danny was a great guy and we got a long well, but he didn’t like the role of the press.

I can’t remember the case but I was asking him questions and not getting anywhere beyond "No comment." I started giving him scenarios: “Would I be wrong if I wrote this? Or would it be accurate if I published this?" I got nowhere.
“I don’t care what you write, it doesn’t change anything,” he said.

Finally, in frustration, I told him, “I can hardly wait until the sheriff is back. He’s the biggest leak in this whole department.”

We laughed about that for months.

And finally, Harrisonburg was having a problem with teenagers cruising the streets. They were clogging a section of town with their slow back and forth driving, so I went on my first ride-along.

We stopped a few cars but mostly it was about a police presence to make the kids scatter. But as we went up and down the streets, I increasingly felt uneasy and then it dawned on me – Everyone stares at a police car when it drives by. I mean everyone. They stop and they look. They watch you. I do it too. You almost can’t help yourself.

Officer Roy (I can’t for the life of me remember his first name) laughed when I asked him about it. “Yeah, you’re a marked man.”

Those words seem particularly poignant during National Police Week when the 73 officers who lost their live in 2011 will be honored at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

There are more than 19,000 names on the memorial, dating back to 1791. That’s a tremendous sacrifice.

If there are any police officers reading this: Thank you for your service. And if your company is selling products and services that help law enforcement do their jobs better, thank you too and keep up the good work.

This blog is dedicated to Sgt. Manuel Trenary, who was killed in Harrisonburg while responding to a burglary in progress on Oct. 8, 1959. The case remains unsolved.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.