When Rick Lawrence started as deputy at the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, he sometimes had to stop at a pay phone when he was out on a call to relay information back to the office.
“Cell phones were just getting started,” he said.
And GPS technology and maps weren’t used either. He was given a three-ring binder of paper maps when he started and was told to go out and learn, he said.
Those pieces of technology, as well as the use of tasers and cameras, are some of the biggest changes he’s encountered in his career in the sheriff’s office.
Now, after 27 ½ years, Lawrence’s career at HCSO has come to an end. His last day was Wednesday, when he celebrated his career with friends, family and law enforcement colleagues at the third floor court room of the Henderson County Courthouse.
Lawrence spent 20-plus years as a deputy before moving to detective the past 7 years. It’s this experience and institutional knowledge that Sheriff Chip Stauffer said he and colleagues will miss. The sheriff said Lawrence is known as the “old wise owl” in the office. If ever someone needs an answer or how to do something, Lawrence was the person to ask, Stauffer said.
Besides technology, Lawrence said another big change since he first began is the increase of drug and drug-related crimes, like violent crimes and thefts.
Lawrence said some of the notable cases he’s worked include a couple murders that were solved, several attempted murders and multiple sex crimes. He said the number of sex crimes he worked increased through the years and his efforts ultimately improved the lives of children.
“I (was able) to help a lot of children and get them out of bad situations,” he said.
Lawrence said a job in law enforcement is very demanding and can be isolating. He said that for younger folks interested in law enforcement “it’s got to be a calling.” In addition to a calling, a young deputy or officer needs to have support. Without both, the job can change a person, sometimes negatively, he said.
Lawrence has three children, Courtney Schneider, Cameron Gibson and Carter Lawrence. In his retirement, he said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his youngest, Carter, before he goes off to college.
Lawrence also said he’ll eventually look for some sort of employment. But for now, he said the night of his retirement he was planning to turn off his cell phone and not think about any call that could come in, which, he admitted, might take some time to re-train his brain to do after years of being on the ready.
He said anything he’s accomplished occurred because he was a part of a team—“It’s a group effort,” he said.
Lawrence worked under four sheriffs in his career: Dennis Clary, Ed Brady, David Crafton and Chip Stauffer.
“Hopefully, I’ve made a difference, and I’ve left Henderson a better place for the job I did,” Lawrence said.