One Sunday morning, I got word that there was some serious doo-doo going down in Blue Springs.
One Sunday morning, I got word that there was some serious doo-doo going down in Blue Springs. Because I was on call that weekend and because it was Sunday morning and I knew there was no way on this good green earth that anyone would answer, I hung my head as low as it could go and said, Doo-doo.
Picking up the phone, I dialed Troy Pharr, spokesperson for the Blue Springs Police Department. It rang three times before he picked up, and I was convinced it was his voice mail. There was commotion in the background.
“Hey, what’s up?” he said.
“I know it’s early, really I do – what’s that noise?”
“I’m in church.”
“Oh, I’ll call you back, sorry to interrupt.” I meant it; I was sorry.
“No, no, I’ll step out in the hall...”
Carrying his phone, Pharr walked out of the hall and did what he’s been doing for me since I started this gig in November 2007: he helped me out.
While he hadn’t heard what was going on, he told me he’d get back to me. He called dispatch and then called me back – about 10 minutes later. I was eating my cereal when he called. I just couldn’t believe it was him.
“Okay, here’s the deal...”
It stinks having to write this Loose Ends this week, but, as Troy would say, here’s the deal. On Sept. 17, Pharr is hanging up his holster and pistol, his badge, his lanyard and ID. He’s putting an end to a law enforcement career that began in Blue Springs in August 1979, when he was hired for road patrol fresh out of the academy. For 10 years, he cruised the streets, and back then there weren’t that many streets in Blue Springs.
After 10 years, he started branching out, helping to start crime prevention seminar programs; then he was put in charge of the department’s dark room and photo lab, in the basement of Fire Station 1 on 10th Street and U.S. 40. From there, he took an FBI range master course and became a firearm instructor, a position he still holds.
In 1990, he applied for a detective’s position and got it, working everything from minor to major investigations. And in 2005, he became spokesperson for the department.
I communicate with a lot of spokespersons in a few cities in Eastern Jackson County. When I was working for a newspaper in Ohio, I worked with a half dozen spokespersons, and none of them – here or there – can match Troy’s professionalism and down-to-earth nature. It’s just that simple. I’m trying to think of additional examples with which to illustrate this fact, but there are just too many to name.
Oh, here’s one. One day out of the blue he invited me out to the department’s shooting range, where officers and detectives were completing their annual tests. The invite wasn’t simply to sit on a bench and watch, but also to participate, which I did, firing off shotguns, pistols and a machine gun.
Above all else, he answers the phone and talks. You know – says more than who, what, when, where and why. Two things are achieved with this: I get the information I need and sometimes I get more, and not just about the topic at hand, but other incidents I might be interested in.
Two weeks ago I had him on the phone and he said: “I have a story about a man who stole a bush.”
“A decorative bush. Very expensive.”
He told me. It wasn’t exciting, but we got to laughing about it. We spoke about his upcoming vacation, and I had this feeling that he’d come back with the announcement. Truth be told, he has been seriously considering retirement for a couple of years.
“The last couple of years have been trying,” he said, referring to his health problems.
Because of those issues, Troy arrived at the point most police officers start out and continue thinking throughout their careers: he didn’t want to jeopardize other officers.
“I don’t want to put any officer in any position where they will have to count on my assistance and I can’t offer it,” he said. “I reached that point where I knew it was time.
“It’s sad. Leaving just breaks my heart. It’s absolutely broken it.”
Back in 1990 when he became a detective, case loads averaged about 25 per week. Now with a growing population, the case loads have doubled.
“The case loads have increased quite a bit, which is natural when a city grows like Blue Springs has grown,” he said. “But it’s still a wonderful area.”
So who will take his place? That’s unknown at this point, but whoever does, he has some advice that affirms his professionalism and good nature.
“One of the greatest assets the department has is the media,” he said. “If the police department as a whole doesn’t work with the media – and I mean newspapers, television, whatever – they are missing a golden opportunity.
“That was my number one goal these last five years: making sure that when the media called, I put down what I was doing and talked with them. If departments fail to do that, then they’re missing the boat.”
See what I mean?
Troy, know this one thing: You’ll be missed by at least one member of the media.
Good luck and good health to you and your family.