Seaside's No. 2 cop, Jan Schumaker, is hanging up her badge with no regretsSEASIDE - Jan Schumaker's breath comes in short gasps as she walks briskly with her three dogs in the mid-morning chill.
The 50-year-old will officially retire Sunday after 271/2 years with the Seaside Police Department. She ends as the department's second-in-command and will be replaced by Lt. Dave Ham.
"It's really sad," Schumaker said. "I've spent my entire career here. My first day was Sept. 1, 1976, Labor Day. I was 22 years old."
But Schumaker is ready to begin a new chapter in her life. She plans to take at least a year off to work on her property in Goldendale, Wash., an isolated area in the Columbia Gorge 225 miles from Astoria. So far, all the property has is a pole barn, lots of snow and lots of space.
'So many rewards'Schumaker smiles when she remembers how she got into law enforcement. The West Linn native was a senior at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. She had to declare a major and, because she was interested in becoming a juvenile counselor, did a practicum with the Jackson County juvenile department. However, she says she quickly decided she had no patience with kids, and switched to a practicum with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, where she "fell in love" with law enforcement.
She graduated with a criminology degree and, without any real experience in police work, sent out resumes and job applications to police departments. Seaside was the first that offered her an interview and subsequent job. She took it, anticipating that it would only last a few years. She ended up staying almost 30, working under chiefs John West and Kenneth Almberg.
"I think that staying in one job for 271/2 years is one of my biggest accomplishments," she said. "Although it hasn't been just one job. It's been different with every promotion. There's been a lot of lives that I've touched that I'll never know about. It's a totally unique profession. There's so many rewards and a lot of pain. But I would do it again in a heartbeat."
Schumaker has seen a lot of change during her police career. One of the biggest is attitudes about social drinking. When she started, the legal blood alcohol content was .15, compared with today's .08. Highway signs advocating sobriety were practically nonexistent.
"It was commonplace on certain nights for groups to go bar to bar to bar," she recalls. "And it was not unlikely for them to get in their car and drive home. Today, you're far less likely to see that because people have more education and because of the consequences."
Drugs have also changed the face of police work. Many of today's crimes, like mail or bike thefts, are tied in some way to drugs.
"We didn't have methamphetamine when I started," Schumaker said. "It's a scary, scary thing, much scarier than marijuana could ever be."
Another big change is the technology boom. Schumaker remembers the days when cellular phones and semi-automatic weapons were not the norm. Now cell phones are plugged straight into the dispatch system, which speeds police response time and aids in investigative discussions.
"Back then we purchased our own weapons, a Smith and Wesson model 66 revolver," she said. "We had what we called speed strips, these rubber strips that held six rounds, which we would load into our belt."
Schumaker spent most of her career as one of the few females on the force, but said it was never a problem for her.
"You have to be strong to be in the No. 2 position," Chief Kenneth Almberg said. "You have to take a lot of guff. I think there were some who were unwilling to take orders from a woman. But she's been able to take the needed disciplinary action."
Generation-X perspectiveAlmberg has worked with Schumaker since he joined the department in 1994. LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian
Dave Ham, who replaces Jan Schumaker, moves into his new office. Chief Kenneth Almberg, left, expresses confidence in Ham's abilities.She provided him with valuable information about Seaside's tourist environment and department policies.
"We're going to lose long-term corporate knowledge when she leaves," Almberg said. "And Seaside is a tough town. We're not just dealing with residents, but we have transient criminals and spring break. One of Jan's strengths has been that she knows people in the community and has dealt with problem people who are sensitive to police issues. She's able to calm the storm."
But Almberg is confident that Schumaker's replacement will be able to do the same thing.
"Dave is an Generation-Xer with a whole different perspective on how to deal with that generation," he said. "Dave has more of a humorous personality. He's touched bases on most issues that he's going to manage overall. He may not have that long-term knowledge, but he has a broad knowledge."
Ham, 33, grew up in Salem, where, as a kid, he liked to play cops and robbers. After serving four years in the Navy, he entered the criminal justice program at Chemeketa Community College in Salem then joined the reserve police force in Independence.
"I'm not sure there was any one thing that was a deciding factor in my decision to become a police officer," Ham said. "Although in the late 80s, the 'Cops' television show got real popular and I thought it looked pretty cool. Of course, they don't show the more mundane parts of the job."
Ham decided to pursue a police career full-time and was hired in Seaside in 1995. He had previously spent only one afternoon in the town. Now he can't imagine living and working anywhere else.
"It's clicked for me," he said.
Before his promotion, Ham had been the swing shift sergeant, the busiest shift of the day. He's also been field commander during spring break for the last two years and was the department's reserve coordinator as well as the motorcycle program manager.
"I think that, in the next five years, there will be substantial growth in the city and we're going to have to grow with it," Almberg said. "I explained to him, 'my expectation is that you rally the troops. We're all going to have to support where we're going.' It's going be a big job."
Part of Ham's duties include working with Almberg to implement strategies for improvements after a five-month study of the department identified serious issues with communication, leadership and morale.
"The whole department is in a state of change," Ham said. "We're stepping back and identifying problems internally. The study identified good things for us to work on and got concerns on the table."
The department is going through the accreditation process to meet state-standardized policies, which will help reduce the insurance the city pays in reference to police services. Every department is helping to rewrite policies and Ham hopes that this will create more cohesiveness, consistency and higher morale.
One of his goals is to continue to promote the police department in the community. Contempt for officers seems to be on the rise and there seems to be an instilled idea that police are simply out there to harass people.
"It's a hard thing, trying to please everyone involved," Ham said. "There are certain times when you're not going to please everyone. We want to know when people have constructive suggestions. We'll take the good and the bad."
Ham's short-term goal is to simply master his new position.
"Although I don't know if anyone really masters a position," he said. "I'll just be doing the best I can. Who knows what the future holds. Hopefully, I'm playing my cards right to set myself up for a chief position if that is in my future."