The next chapter in Detective Hussey's manuscript is a long one, so it'll be broken into parts. Size doesn't always matter.
In 1979 when I joined the police Department, I was put to work for several days in the old comm center, located in the basement at number 20 Lake Wire Drive. It was a dismal little area, built at a time when there was concern for nuclear threats. The walls were thick without any windows, and the lighting was bad. Moral was a constant problem.
It was here that I would be introduced to a little dark haired girl who would change my life in ways I could not have imagined.
Janet Lynn Hughes was about 4’7' tall, and had short, almost boyish, hair. She wore dark, 'Buddy Holly' style glasses, which did nothing for her image, and she was extremely opinionated and a little bossy. I took an instant liking to the girl that everyone called 'Horsey' behind her back. Janet was born in Wyoming, and had done some amateur rodeoing when she was younger. She constantly talked about cowboys, horses and the old West. All things I was interested in. Though I was only in the comm. center for a week or so, before going to the academy, Janet and I became close, lifelong friends.
Later, after becoming a patrolman, I would gain deep respect for the little dispatcher. She always knew where you were, and never lost anybody in the field. While the other radio operators were busy with their reading or needlepoint, you could count on Janet to be one step ahead of you. If you stopped a car, then later asked for a tag check, nine times out of ten, Janet would already have it done. She was a whiz on the radio.
Janet was a hard-charging party animal too. She could drink beer and hang with the big boys. She could tell a story, cuss and chew snuff with anybody on the department.
She sometimes came out and rode with me on my patrol shifts. One time a guy came running toward our car with an axe raised over his head. Before I could get out of the car and draw my revolver, Janet had the shotgun out, racked one in the chamber and covered the asshole. It was during one of these 'ride-alongs' that Janet told me of her desire to become a Police Officer.
In those days there were very few female cops. The ones we did have were assigned to mundane duties and none had risen to any rank or held any detective positions. In short (no pun intended), the future for a lady cop was bleak. It didn’t matter; she knew what she wanted.
In 1982, Janet applied with the Civil Service Office, to be a police officer. She was turned down. Now folks, Janet is a 'Hughes', and as I have learned painfully, once a Hughes gets an idea in their head, there is no swaying them.
Janet contacted Mulberry Police Chief, John Hunter, and asked him to sponsor her through the Polk County Police Academy. Chief Hunter is a fine man and has been kind enough to have sponsored numerous dedicated policemen and women through training. He is a credit to his profession.
As Janet attended the Police Academy, unlike her male counterparts, who attended their training on duty and were paid, Janet was forced to go to the Academy in the daytime from nine until five, then work the midnight shift, dispatching from twelve to eight. On April Fools day, 1983, Janet graduated from the Police Academy with honors. She was immediately offered a job with the Eagle Lake Police Department. As she was working out her two weeks notice and preparing to leave the Lakeland Police Department, a steady parade of her friends walked in and out of the Chief’s office. There were patrolmen, detectives, sergeants, lieutenants and captains. All encouraged the Chief to hire Janet as a Sworn officer. He finally relented and Janet was sworn in and given her gun and badge.
Janet’s field training period was tougher than most. There were still a lot of guys who didn’t think women should be cops, especially little short (there’s that word again) women. I would say she had to work twice as hard as the guys. Near the end of her training, she wrestled with a suspect who was resisting arrest, and suffered a broken arm. Many people would have quit then and there. Not Janet. She worked the desk, until her arm healed, then completed her training.
Over the next twenty years of her career, she would prove herself and then some. What she lacked in size and strength, she made up for in heart and attitude. I know of no person who has ever been disappointed to have Janet show up as his or her backup
Janet learned her lessons well from the 'Old Guard'. She believed in keeping confidences. What is said in the police car, stays in the police car. She learned to successfully utilize street level informants, and never betrayed a trust. Even the criminals respected and trusted 'Shorty'.
In later years, Janet decided she would like to be a detective. Again, she met with resistance form the dinosaurs of the old regime. There just weren’t any 'girl' detectives. Again, she was not swayed. They finally ran out of legitimate excuses, and in 1990, Janet Hughes, became a property detective.
Again, she was extremely successful, many times working circles around the lazy veteran detectives who had been in the bureau for years. She was able to use her understanding of people and informants to solve crimes and clear cases at a record rate.
Janet worked her way through CID, from Burglary to Aggravated Assaults to Robbery and late in her career, from Robbery to Homicide. She was one of the most successful homicide detectives in the history of the Lakeland Police Department. Her attention to detail and articulate court testimony sent many a scum-bag to Florida’s death row. One case, however, became the crowning achievement of her illustrious police career.
On May 7, 1984, while Janet and I were patrol officers, a grandmotherly old lady named Anna Houston, was brutally stabbed to death in the West Lake Apartments. Anna was known to people in the neighborhood as the 'Cookie Lady', because of her tendency to bake cookies for all the local children. Janet and I were working midnights then, and assisted in the search of the area for the murder weapon, any other evidence we might find. We canvassed the neighborhood, looking for witnesses. No luck, it seemed that nobody had seen anyone or anything.
The detectives, whose names I will not name, were feuding and either were unable, or unwilling to solve the case. As the weeks and months went by, the trail and list of suspects grew cold. The case went into the 'cold case' file and was not thought of again, until 1996, when Detective Janet Hughes began working on it.
Be sure to come back next Friday for the continuation.