February 3, 2012 11:11:00 PM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
Patrolman Lance Luckey sits in a side room at the Columbus Police Department, his fists balled, his eyes straying to the television. His partner, master patrolman Kelvin Lee, is kicked back in his chair, only slightly more relaxed. They're exceedingly patient and gracious, but it's evident they're more at home on the streets, doing what they do best.
At 33, and with only three years at the department, Luckey is a coiled spring -- a trait which serves him well in his new role as a warrant officer. Lee, 48, has been with the department since 1997 and has trained many of the younger officers. He is the throttle to their speed, the temperance to their fire.
People on the streets call the pair "Batman and Robin," and sometimes, less friendly monikers. Since they were taken off the patrol beat in September and assigned solely to serving warrants, they've served more than 500 warrants and arrested close to 400 people. There are days when cuffed criminals curse their names.
But they love their jobs, and as they warm up to the interview, they finish one another's sentences, their words tumbling fast and blending often with laughter.
So how do you guys get along with each other?
Lee: You've got to have the right combination to work. ... I chose Luckey. He's a hard charger, an aggressive police officer. ... There was no hesitation.
Luckey: We pretty much know what the other's thinking. We work good together. We back each other 100 percent. ... I know without a doubt I can trust Kelvin, and he knows he can trust me.
Lee: Some days I have to slow him down. He's go, go, go.
Luckey: He's pretty darned aggressive though. He's saying he's old, but he's pretty darned aggressive.
Tell me about some of your arrests.
Lee: We got a guy (Wednesday) we've been looking for. Saw him outside. He had a scar on his cheek, and I've dealt with him a few times. Suspended driver's license, seat belt violations -- he had a lot of warrants. Traffic stuff, simple assault, domestic violence.
Luckey: A lot of people, we have to look for. We do our homework, figure out where they're living.
Lee: We try not to get them at their job. If it's serious, yeah, but if it's a misdemeanor ...
Are people starting to recognize the two of you?
Lee: People in the streets see us together. Word has gotten around. ... Now it's harder. When we first started, we got 15 or 20 a day.
Luckey: I chased a guy down the other day. I knew it was him. He was on the front porch. He bolted and went inside and we found him hiding in the closet. I love that part. I love the chase.
Lee: He chases, unless we're close. ... We have six file cabinets full of warrants, and they're full from the bottom to the top. We've got thousands of them. ... We've been doing real well, knock on wood. Some days we serve several, some days only one or two. Some days, we're riding all day long. We never stop.
Luckey: Mostly we go knock on doors and start talking to people. TV doesn't show a true reality of what police work is. You never know what you're fixing to walk up against.
Do you like serving warrants, or would you rather still be in patrol?
Luckey: I like doing all of it. All of it's fun.
Lee: I do love the chase. When we've got someone we're trying to catch, and he's running, I love that. It's like the hunt, you know? But (Luckey) is our runner.
Luckey: I like to run. I'm on the SWAT team, so we work out and run all the time.
Lee: I've done hurt a few knees -- maybe you shouldn't print that. There's a small percentage of ones who run, but they're the ones always getting in trouble. I have a reputation on the streets of 'Don't fool with me.' I'm not playin'. When I tell you to move on, you need to move on.
What are some of your most memorable arrests?
Lee: We arrested a guy that had a pistol ...
Luckey: That was fun. We saw him jumping over cars and stuff.
Lee: We saw him walking by and had eight or nine warrants on him. ... We passed by him, and I said to Luckey, 'Get ready, 'cause he's going to run.'
Luckey: You stopped, and he jumped over the hood of the car.
Lee: He jumped over the hood, and Luckey was right behind him, and Luckey went in and put him on the ground.
Lee: We'd been going to get (another) guy, and his grandma said, 'He's not here.' So we'd ride by and ride by again.
Luckey said, 'I think that's him on the porch.' So I eased around to the back, and they were in the backyard, trying to decide if they wanted to go over the fence or under the house.
Some people are advocating higher bonds. What are your thoughts on that?
Lee: People are getting out too easy, and they keep doing the same things over and over again.
Luckey: I think they need to make it harder for people to get out. You learn from your mistakes. Right now, they're just getting a slap on the wrist. It would still be a revolving door though.
What do you wish people understood about your job?
Luckey: We're not here to be bullies to people. It's our job. Part of our job is to protect and serve, and sometimes it's a service people don't want. We're normal people like everyone else. We just love what we do.
Lee: A lot of warrants come from (traffic) tickets. Either pay your tickets or go to court because if you don't, that's when we come for you.
What's your pet peeve?
Lee: Obstruction of traffic. If you're in your car talking, and someone's wanting to get by, that is my pet peeve. I see it, you're getting pulled over.
Luckey: Mine's seat belt violations. If you're not wearing a seat belt and I have to wear mine, you're getting pulled over. And lying to me. I have no tolerance for lying.
What do you do to blow off job tension and de-stress?
Luckey: I work in Caledonia as a town marshal and also work with the Caledonia (volunteer) Fire Department. I never rest.
Lee: I try not to let it get to me. I've been here long enough, I don't talk about it at home. I don't take my job home at all.
(Columbus Police Chief Selvain)McQueen has said that Columbus at night is totally different from Columbus in the daytime. Is that true?
Lee: The clubs, the people, yeah, it's different. You have to be more focused at night.
Luckey: Any city is that way. I'd have never thought there were prostitutes. I was driving one night, and I'm like, 'What the heck? That's a prostitute!'
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.