Sunday, January 4, 2015

In January, 1983

 officer Gordon 'Gordy' Bartel, Kodiak Police Department was shot and killed by a transient. He was issuing a ticket for illegal camping in the small boat harbor parking lot.

I was living in Kodiak at the time and pretty much living on the streets. I knew Gordy. He was a pretty damned good cop and if Gordy was writing a ticket for illegal camping then it must have certainly been warranted. He hated writing tickets like that as did just about all KPD officers.

Tickets like that were pretty rare, really. If you got one then you had been working overtime to get it. Most likely the guy was a jerk to begin with.

I later heard Gordy was wearing a vest but the bullet entered through a seam of some sort and hit a vital. I don't remember the details to be honest. I just knew he was killed by a transient.

When I heard the news I was shocked. Gordy had been one of the good guys. He'd been pretty helpful to me several times. I was living in a camper-trailer and would park it on Cannery Row for long periods of time. Every so often I'd have to move it beacuse someone would complain.

Gordy wrote me a notice and put it on my camper. When I saw it I looked him up because I knew he was on the downtown beat. When I found him I asked him what the deal was on the notice. He smiled and simply told me to grab the guys in the Anchor Bar and have them help me move it about 25 or 30 feet closer to the Anchor Bar. He also told me that it was likely he'd have to move again in about thirty days and I ought ot scout out a spot near the airport or maybe Fort Abercrombie.

That was really nice of him. He was that kind of guy. Personally I think he rated his success by the number of people he helped and not the number of arrests he made.

As soon as I heard the news I went looking for the cops on the downtown beat to express my condolences and express my outrage. I met two officers that day. I expressed y condolences to both of them. One accepted them warmly and the other went through the motions of being civil and that was about it.

Then and there I realized that it was pretty likely the citizen/police relations were going to be pretty strained for a long time. 

It took an awful long time but things returned to pretty close to normal but I believe they never did return to the way they were before Officer Bartel was killed.

It hit both the department and the town pretty hard. 

You have to remember that if a NYPD officer gets killed in the line of duty, to the average New Yorker it is just an item one page 5 and nobody thinks much of it.

When an officer is lost in a department of, say, 10 officers the department is literally decimated. Loss of an officer in a small department creates a BIG hole. It is not a small event in a small town. It is generally a major outrage.

I wrote a brief piece on this subject on a police forum about a day ago and have thought about it all day. While the splash was pretty big and created a lot of ripples, the undercurrents lasted an awful long time and I believe this is one of the events that eventually led me to move out of Kodiak.

Immediately the officers sort of turned in and didn't seem as warm and friendly as they had been. Part of this was to be expected. Part wasn't.

It is hard to put a point on what happened within the department save to say that they seemed a little quicker to enforce a lot of things that they'd let slide and seemed to be a little less helpful.

Nationally, the drunk driving crackdown had begun and the KPD jumped into that and started cracking down on it. Prior to that one had to work hard to get busted for DUI. You really had to be wasted to get busted. The officers generally let it slide if they thought you could get home safely.

Now it was an issue and I learned fast when a friend of mine got popped. From then on I only went of foot and partied downtown or if I went to the Beachcombers which was out of the center of town I either bummed a ride or slept it off in the cab. 

I really can't put a point on it, but the town started rapidly changing and was not the place I had moved to in '78. It was getting a bit too civilized for my tastes.

It was not as much fun as it used to be.

I attribute the changes to two things. First, the police department changed after Gordy Bartel was killed. The other thing is that a bunch of church people started raising hell and trying to clean up the town. Between those two things the town changed fairly rapidly.

Inside a couple of years I was ready to move on and in August of '86 I moved by setting sail in a 24 foot 7 inch sailboat and wound up spending about three years in Ketchikan before I eventually went into the States and got swallowed up by Pittsburgh.

A few weeks before I left Kodiak the KPD raided the whorehouse that had been there for decades. Personally, I think it was a dirty trick. They could have simply told the woman running it to shut down or move outside the city limits and that would have settled it.

Then again, I may be wrong on that. It very well could have been the result of the church people twisting the arms of the city fathers who in return order the KPD to raid the joint.

While I don't blame the changes of the town on the death of Gordy Bartel, I sure list it as one of the major things that made the town change.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

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