Face Time: Johnson looks back on four decades with police
Scott Johnson joined the Spokane Police Department in 1974 as one of dozens of officers hired to patrol the world’s fair.
He retired last month as one of the department’s two majors, in charge of patrol operations.
The nearly 40 years Johnson spent on the force saw him work nearly every position at the department. He’s seen the tragic, the bizarre and the wonderful, and after decades on the job, he said one thing is clear: Truth is stranger than fiction.
Q. How did you get started with the department?
A. I was 21 years old and just wanted to be a cop. I was laid off after Expo, then hired back about two years later and went through the full academy.
It’s kind of ironic. I didn’t want to sit behind a desk, and then I ended up sitting behind a desk for the latter part of my career.
Q. What’s the best part of the job?
A. The people. I’ve gotten to work with all sorts of great people. And I don’t say that lightly – I really mean that. Variety is really what kept me engaged. One of the best parts of this job is you get to see all sorts of different things. You may be sent on 100 DUI calls, and none of them are the same.
Q. What never changed during your career?
A. The human things like heartache. We get called to a place and somebody has a (sudden infant death syndrome) death. Those things don’t change. Those parents’ hearts are ripped out.
Q. What bothers you about the job?
A. I think the lack of respect that our police officers get. It’s really hard to see our guys get beat up all the time and not get the recognition they deserve. Police officers come from this imperfect gene pool called the human race. I’m a firm believer that we should be held to a higher standard, but we are still people. Every night our guys are out there taking calls and responding to stuff no one else would want to.
Q. How has society changed?
A. When I first came in as a patrol officer, if an officer was to find someone with a gun or firearm during a traffic stop or something, it was kind of headline news in the department. Now, it’s not even talked about because it’s so commonplace.
Q. Are there any calls you’ve responded to that you know you’ll never forget?
A. About 30 or 35 years ago, we got a report of a domestic violence shooting in north Spokane. When I arrived at the house, the guy was lying on the lawn dead, and his 5- or 6-year-old son was running around near the body. The boy was wearing a shirt that says “My dad is a member of” I won’t say the gang. His mom had shot the guy in self-defense. You look at the impact that parents have on kids, just the tragic circumstances that parents put their kids in. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that boy.
Q. You said you’ll be vacationing in Hawaii but plan to continue living in Spokane. Do you have any other plans for your retirement?
A. The correct answer is “I am going to do whatever my wife wants me to do.”