HOWLAND - Talking with Howland police Chief Paul Monroe, it was clear that he had a long-standing friendship with Assistant Chief Frank Dillon, whose career will come to a close Dec. 31. In fact, Monroe has been working for the department only two weeks longer than Dillon, who began as a full-time officer in 1987.
"There's not a job here he hasn't done, including my own," Monroe said.
Dillon even replaced light bulbs around the building - not his typical job, but Monroe said that he and Dillon both figure if a thing isn't someone else's job, it is theirs.
Tribune Chronicle / Margaret Thompson
Assistant Chief Frank Dillon plans on retiring from the Howland Police Department on Dec. 31. He has been a full-time officer with the force since 1987, and began as a reserve officer in 1982.
After Monroe told a few stories, Dillon, with his spiked gray hair and amiable demeanor, took a seat in the office. The two men recalled working on numerous assignments together, including the Fingerhut homicide in December of 2001. In the case, Donna Brooks and her lover, Nathaniel Jackson, planned and murdered Brooks' ''common-law'' husband, Robert Fingerhut.
"Christmas Day was the only day we got to go home," Monroe said.
"We worked days and days," Dillon said. "Once you start working on a homicide and you get leads and leads and leads, you can't stop."
Dillon recalled the case taking them to a hotel in Boardman, where they had to look through a Dumpster to retrieve evidence that had been taken out with the trash. Dillon said he and Monroe had looked at each other and reasoned who would have to go into the Dumpster.
Dillon talked Monroe into taking the dive: ''If I go in and can't get out, you won't be able to get me out,' I said, 'but if you go in and can't get out, I can get you.'"
Dillon said a separate case brought them to the house of a drug dealer for an interview. Despite the fact that their unmarked cruiser was out front with the police radio on, he said people kept coming up to the house to purchase drugs while the dealer had to shoo them away.
Dillon began as a reserve officer in Howland in 1982. After being hired full-time in 1987, he moved his way to patrol sergeant in 1999, detective sergeant in 2001, and assistant chief in 2004.
"I was always interested in public safety," Dillon said. "I wanted to help people."
Dillon said throughout his job, he has stuck by a motto he was told early on: Treat people how you would like your mother treated.
Monroe said, "He's dedicated to the mission of law enforcement. He is probably the most informed and educated on news developments on law enforcement."
Monroe and Dillon also recounted working on a bank robbery more recently. The robber hired a taxi to take him to the bank and to flee the scene. After living the high life in Cleveland for a few days, he rented a Town Car to take him to a local doctor's appointment, where Dillon said they were waiting to arrest him.
"It was one of the easiest cases," Dillon said.
Not every part of the job has been easy though.
"If you're conscious, it's hard on you," Dillon said. ''You see the worst of the best people and the best of the worst people."
Monroe described the job as a high-rise in which the officers have access to every floor from the penthouse of the wealthy to the basement of poverty.
Dillon said, "The public has a limited view of what goes on in society, and in this job, you have an unlimited view. You meet everyone in the community."
Taking home the stress of work is something Dillon said he won't miss. According to Dillon, the police forces have continued to evolve and in many ways has become more restrictive.
"Seems like the odds are always against you as far as the laws go."
In another office in the police department, Sgt. Jeff Urso said, "You could write all day about Frank, or 'Mr. Integrity,' if you will.''
Urso said Dillon stressed to officers to keep their work logged.
"Unless you write it down," Urso said, "It didn't happen."
Though he said he's "had his fill" of police work, Dillon will have his hands full even in retirement. He said he plans on spending his time with his daughters and two grandchildren, a 23-month-old grandson and the youngest, born in the middle of December.