Page Decker was an officer-in-training in Michigan in 1968 when he had his real introduction to law enforcement.
He and his partner were questioning a man relieving himself by the side of a road. Half-blinded by headlights, Decker asked for identification.
The man pulled out a gun instead of his wallet and started a shoot-out that ended with his escape. He jumped over a fence, ran up some railroad tracks, then hurled himself into a river.
Looking back at the gunfight, Decker remembers what he was thinking: "Well, I always knew I could get shot in this job. I didn't think it would be this soon."
Despite the wild initiation, he lasted about 40 years and is still going strong. Decker, 62, was sworn in last week as Juneau's new assistant chief of police. He brings wide-ranging experience in a career that took him from street patrol to higher levels of administration.
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He served as an officer in five states, eventually taking a job as police chief in Ashland, Wis.
Most of his years were spent with the Scottsdale Police Department in Arizona.
While there, he researched and implemented new tactics, such as using motorcycles, canines, and horses for officers. He also worked high-profile cases, including the murder of Bob Crane, star of the television show "Hogan's Heroes."
Crane's case took 20 years to get into the court system, and the suspect avoided a conviction. But it taught Decker a valuable lesson.
"You want to have the best training and expert investigators you can have," he said.
Juneau Police Chief Greg Browning hopes Decker's experience will allow him to make useful changes to the department. His exact duties are still being worked out.
"We're going to give him some time to learn the department and learn the people," Browning said. "Flexible is the best term for it."
At Scottsdale, Decker developed a reputation for being "very detail-oriented and analytical," retired deputy chief James Kershner said.
"He carries himself well and makes good decisions," Kershner said.
One of Decker's many duties in the department was the creation of a manpower staffing model. It allowed the department to justify increases in personnel, Kershner said.
"He developed an outstanding program that, years later, we are still sharing throughout the country," Kershner said.
Decker, a married father of five, had his first encounter with Juneau last year as a visitor off a cruise ship. He and his wife traveled around town and loved what they saw. They also toured other parts of Alaska.
Not long after they returned from their trip, Decker heard about the job offer. He saw an ad for it while flipping through the pages of a magazine written for police chiefs.
"I said to my wife, 'You're not going to believe what job is open.' She said, 'You got to go for that.'"
Ken Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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