Rick Knouse joined the Chillicothe Police Department as a reserve officer, working part-time, in 1977.
Rick Knouse joined the Chillicothe Police Department as a reserve officer, working part-time, in 1977. The fact that his father, Richard “Dick” Knouse was a 3rd Ward Councilman, the younger Knouse, then 23 years old, was ineligible to be added to the force full-time. However, after his father went off the council, Rick Knouse was hired as a full-time police officer in 1981. He has remained with the police department ever since and will be retiring his badge – No. 007 – on Friday. Knouse has served as department chief since September 2000. Knouse began working under Chief Maynard Hall when the police department was located in the south side of City Hall. The department’s evidence room was upstairs, the jail cells in the basement, and officer lockers in the lobby. In 1982, the police department was relocated along with the fire department to a new building at the southwest corner of Locust and Second streets. In 1998, the police department moved to 613 Walnut Street. Knouse had just ended a 4-1/2 year stint with the U.S. Navy and traveling the world when he returned to his hometown to become a reserve police officer. “Police work seemed like the right thing to do,” he said. Knouse was spending about 30 hours per week with the department while also working for Botts and Tye Air Conditioning and Heating. When he joined the department full-time, Knouse recalls, Tom Botts asked what the department needed. Knouse suggested bullet proof vests. Soon after, the first bullet-proof vests were purchased by the Rotary Club for the department. Department staffing has remained about the same in the last 40 years, with 17 full-time officers; however, instead of carrying revolvers and night sticks, officers now carry semi-automatic pistols, Tasers, and pepper spray. They also wear personal radios (something that was not used when Knouse first began). The patrol cars – often Novas and big Fords and Chevrolets – were equipped with analog radios. Now, the radios are digital. Knouse recalled that when he first joined the department he was issued a Colt revolver with a barrel that had been bent when used to help lift a manhole cover. Knouse opted to provide his own weapon. Technology has changed significantly during the last four decades. Instead of waiting 15 minutes to get results of a licence plate check through means of a teletype machine (without a viewing screen), it now is almost instantaneous. Although computers have simplified some processes it has also created avenues for new crimes, such as identity theft and child pornography. “When the computer world opened up, it created new crimes,” Knouse said. “Crimes of all kinds.” Some crimes have remained the same through the years, such as fights, domestic violence and driving while intoxicated. “A lot of it is still here, but the fight volume is way down,” the chief said, adding that downtown brawls were prevalent years ago. “The downtown area was full of bars and there were bar fights all weekend,” he said. New laws have come into play through the years, and among them is the domestic violence law. Prior to passage of the law, authorities would respond to “a family disturbance.” “If the victim didn’t want to prosecute, it was over and we left, unless there was an obvious injury,” Knouse said. “Most of the time, it would have had to occur in our presence in order to make an arrest.” When he joined the department on a full-time basis, Knouse’s duties included routine patrol and answering calls as they came in as well as investigating major crimes and burglaries. Knouse served on the Major Case Squad, participating in its activities, including the investigation of Ray and Faye Copeland. Knouse introduced the SPIDER unit in 1990. The Special Police Investigative Division and Emergency Response unit works similar to a SWAT team, responding to hostage situations, drug raids, etc., and also provides support to other jurisdictions upon request. Knouse has also been involved with the Drug Task Force, which encompasses eight counties. He attended the FBI Academy Training and has been a master firearms instructor since 2001. Knouse became sergeant in the mid-1980s, assistant chief in 1987, then captain and then chief in 2000. He has worked under former chiefs Jessie King, Tom Black, Rick Sampsel and John Wolford. Only one other department member has been at the police department longer than Knouse, and that is Assistant Chief Rick Sampsel. In April, Knouse began his ninth term as constable, a position which by city ordinance pays $1 per year. He said he plans to complete his current term. Knouse said he was ready for retirement, but not prompted by personal reasons or illness, but rather the words from his cousin who served as police chief in Liberty and served with the Kansas City Police Department. “He told me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time.’ That’s basically what happened,” Knouse said. “I knew it was time.” Including his military service, Knouse has worn a uniform of one kind or another since he was 18 years old. His philosophy has maintained the same throughout his time with the police department: Serve and protect the people. “That’s what we do,” he said. Knouse was complimentary of those with whom he has worked. “Through the years, I’ve worked with 99 percent honorable and noble police officers and personnel,” he said. “Once in awhile you get a bad seed, like any job... but, the good things are self apparent. They are everywhere.” Knouse said he will miss the job. “I’ll have some adjusting to do,” he said. “I’ll always think like a cop, I’m sure. I’ll always look for things going on around me.” Knouse and his wife, Laieloni, have eight children together and 12 grandchildren. A reception honoring Knouse will be from 1 until 4 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 29, at Chillicothe Police Department, and at 7 p.m. at Celebrations and Jersey’s.