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Cedar Key’s Police Department has a well known leader, Chief Virgil Sandlin. But, the men who make up his force may be less known. I sat down with Cpl. David Perry this week to find out more.
The Basics: He is 33 years old and in April will have been on the force for six years — his first job out of the police academy. He has been married for “around” eight years and has a four year-old son, also known as “My World”.
He was born in Ohio, but has lived in the Crystal River area for his entire life — graduating from high school there. Perry attended Central Florida Community College, however, he left to join the Marine Corps. Eventually, he “got tired of driving tanks” and while home, saw a billboard advertising training at Witchlacoochee Technical Institute.
That led him to a spot in a recently cancelled appointment and that led him to a scholarship to a six-month Police Academy training at WTI in Inverness.
He and his wife married while in he was in training, however upon graduation, he discovered that police work didn’t pay what he was currently making as a “civilian”, so he had to hold off on his new line of work until his wife graduated from her own training in the medical field and got a higher paying job that would allow him to pursue his new career.
“A very unorthodox interview”: Perry showed up for his interview in Cedar Key wearing a suit, was immediately scolded by then-Chief Dan Swogger for being over-dressed and “fell in love with the place”. The first person he met was local resident, clam farmer and former Mayor Ken Daniels who told him “people here are friendly but everybody has a knife so, keep your eyes and ears open and treat folks like you would want to be treated”. He was hired that day.
After six years, Perry believes that Cedar Key “still has the same charm, but it’s not the same. A new element has come into the area and some folks don’t share the same enthusiasm for the town”. He warns that, unfortunately, you now need to lock your car doors and make sure valuable items are not left on boats.
Best Day(s) Ever: When asked what his best or most memorable day of work was he did not hesitate because there were actually two events that stick out in his mind: One was the first year of fingerprinting children and watching them enjoying making a mess with the giant ink pads and “having a blast." He felt privileged to spend time with the kids and the parents who obviously care so much for them.
The other was pulling over a speeding car on State Road 24 and finding a city commissioner sitting at the wheel with his head hung low, saying: “Well, son, you got me,” as the commissioner’s wife was encouraging Perry to ticket her husband over the speaker on his cell phone. He didn’t, that time, and the young officer prefers go give a warning whenever possible. (I will let you determine which current commissioner is old enough to call him “son”.)
Worst Day Ever: On the other hand, his worst day was when a plane crashed off of Cedar Key, the three passengers died, and the families had to be notified. Matters were made worse by the fact that the bodies were not located for two more days and he stayed on the job for 72 hours because “it wasn’t right to leave. They (the families) weren’t getting to go home or sleeping, so why should I?”
“It’s nothing personal”: Talking more about the experience of working in Cedar Key, Perry went on to explain that “I don’t take pride in putting people in jail." There are times when he has arrested someone and two weeks later, he goes to a call where they are victims of a crime but he holds no grudges. He “treats everyone the same and doesn’t keep stats.”
Drawing the line with the cafeteria food: One of the highlights of his work is talking with the local kids — particularly when they are able to joke around. However, “they understand when I am coming to talk to them about something bad and are disappointed” when he has to do so. He goes to the school at lunch time whenever possible and the kids have nick-named him “Agent P”. However, he “does not eat the school food”.
Note: I am embarrassed to say that before I sat down with Agent P, I had no idea that he had even been on the force for six years and, I daresay, many of the readers didn’t either. I will be getting to know the different officers on the force and a variety of other folks in the next few months. I hope you will enjoy learning more about them, too.