I lost a friend Monday. My son, Dave, Jr. called me from upstate N.Y. yesterday morning to let me know that one of my old buds from the PD passed away.
I knew Jerry had been ill recently, but was surprised to learn that his condition had worsened. I know it’s selfish to think about your own mortality when you hear a police bud you worked with has died, but the fact is it does slip into your brain when you receive the news.
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Jerry Bates was one of the founding members of our Evidence Technicians Unit. Early on, he saw the need for a fully-staffed, trained and equipped unit to process crime scene evidence, develop latent prints, and preserve and collect shoe, tool and tire marks and other trace evidence. He also set up an in-house photo processing room.
Before that, major casework went to the State Police Lab. In fact, our agency was one of the first in upstate N.Y. to sponsor a formal 40-hour Evidence Technicians School for all the surrounding agencies years before our local Public Safety Academy developed a CSI course. In fact, the week-long program Jerry helped set up became the benchmark for a similar program that was included in the formalized 80-hour Criminal Investigators Course.
He was already an experienced cop when I joined my department. I learned a great deal from him when he became one of my informal FTOs and I was able to take advantage of his forensic skills in crime scene investigations when I became a detective. I remember one homicide my partner and I responded to one New Year’s Eve just before we were set to go off duty. Initially, a DB (dead body) call, it became apparent foul play was involved. Jerry responded with two of his evidence techs, and when the scene suggested a male perp with considerable upper body strength was involved, in addition to someone who spent a good deal of time inside the female vic’s apartment.
Jerry suggested one of the ETs spread a little magic dust on the wall above the commode, in addition to processing the bedroom, kitchen, living room and other locations where the suspect obviously spent some time. Sure enough, a perfect full five-finger left hand and palm print appeared about seven feet above the floor over the toilet. One of his charges asked, “Hey, Sarge, how’d you know?”
Jerry just smiled and said, “She lived alone. The toilet seat was up.”
Sixty-five sleepless hours later, on January 3, when my partner and I made the collar, Jerry’s find became one of the proverbial nails in the coffin that led to the defendant pleading guilty to the full seven-count indictment which landed him 25-to-life in Attica.
Years later, after we both pulled the pin, retired Sgt. Jerry Bates opened a lakeside restaurant called the Knotty Pine Inn that became one of the Finger Lakes region’s most popular prime rib establishments. So popular in fact, that he even built several dockside piers where sea planes could tie up to when folks flew in for dinner. Saturday nights were reserved weeks in advance during the spring/summer months. It was quite a drive over from metro Rochester, but always worth it. It was Jerry’s pride and joy!
My son would spend countless weekends there with Jerry’s sons, boating, playing on the beach and working the kitchen, too. Now, years later, my son, daughter and Jerry’s four boys all still remain friends, even though I lost contact with Jerry when I moved to Florida. The guilt over not driving down to his place when I flew up to move my dad down to Florida after my mom passed away, or not taking the time to call him while I was up North, still haunts me.
Someone once told me “when yer out, yer out.” And while that bears some truth, anyone who’s worn the shirt for 20 years or more knows that a certain part of The Job always stays with you. All one can do now is to make sure you don’t ignore or forget the other buds, both active and retired, that covered your six when you were on the street. So here’s thinking of you Steve, Dick, “Shoes,” Ron “the Frog,” Guy, Mike, “Troll,” Mark, Judy, Phil, Jim, Denny, Bob and Bernie.
I’ll miss you, Jerry.