Monday, December 22, 2014

Colleagues salute former police official

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 4/2/2014

She’ll never forget his stories, Bobbie Hawkins said.

Hawkins, a sergeant with the Ottawa Police Department, said she remembers when she first started with the department and enjoyed listening to Fred Espinosa’s stories about the police work he’d done years before.

“I was so young then, and [Espinosa] would always tell the stories of the old days when him and Fred Vogler worked together through the sheriff’s department,” Hawkins said. “Telling all these stories about old-time arrests and problems they had and, of course, I don’t know if any of it was true.”

Espinosa died Saturday, but spent 33 years on the Ottawa Police Department, serving at one time as the assistant police chief, according to his obituary. 

Being one of only a few women in the department, Hawkins said, it wasn’t easy, but Espinosa was a good man and would offer his advice if she sought it.

“It was hard to fit in and Fred was fair,” she said. “He would listen and was fair when it came to work assignments.”

Espinosa retired in March 1994, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still have his ear to the ground, Hawkins said.

“I think before his health started dwindling, I’d see him at Walmart or the coffee shop and he’d always ask; he was curious,” she said. “I think he still had the cop blood running through him. He always liked to hear about the fun stuff.”

He was well known in the community, Rick Geist, Franklin County undersheriff said of Espinosa, and when Espinosa went out on calls, everyone knew who he was.

“People respected him,” Geist, a retired Ottawa police detective, said. “If there was somebody you couldn’t handle in your level of dealing with people, if it got to him, he was going to handle it one way or another. People didn’t want to confront Espinosa. He would tell you it like it was.”

His knowledge of the law made him someone others in the department went to with questions or seeking advice, Geist said.

“He was very knowledgeable with the laws and city ordinances,” Geist said. “Whoever had questions, we would always go to him, he could push us the right way.”

Geist worked with Espinosa for quite some time on the police department, he said, and one memory in particular sticks out about their time working together.

“We had a fight at a bar downtown, and just him and I showed up,” Geist recalled. “I had just started, and I’m thinking ‘This is not a good idea me going in with an older guy.’ [Espinosa] threw his stick down on the table and you could hear a pin drop. He said, ‘I don’t see we’re going to have any more problems here,’ and nodded his head, said thank you and walked out. That’s just the way he was.”

His knowledge of police work, integrity and actions in the community will be missed, Hawkins said of Espinosa. 

“He was a great person. Just wonderful and always thoughtful,” she said. “He will be sadly and truly missed.”

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