In 1975 as President Gerald R. Ford escaped two assassination attempts, Saturday Night Live began airing on NBC, and the Boston Red Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, a young Randy Lewis, fresh out of the Army, began his 43-year career with the Rexburg Police Department.
In those 43 years, the department has grown and Lewis says technology is the biggest change he’s experienced.
“Of course technology is just overwhelming, now. We didn’t have
Within a year of starting his new career, the Teton Dam broke and flooded the region, including Rexburg. Lewis was off-duty when it happened, but he didn’t hesitate to get to work.
"And I basically left my house, well, my parents' house with a pair of blue jeans, a T-shirt, tennis shoes and my gun belt for the department,” he said. “Everything else was lost in the flood. We were called to serve, so that's what we did."
Service is a big part of an officer’s job and the favorite part for Lewis. He said many might not realize he’s a caring person and that he may get emotional at times. That care for those he serves comes across when he talks about the community he serves, including those who get in trouble with the law.
“Just because you commit a crime, you’re not a bad person,” Lewis said. “Everybody makes mistakes.”
He says people in the community may not understand how much the officers really care. He says it’s not about writing the ticket.
“Crime is here, and it’s here to stay, we’re not going to beat up on somebody because they’re committing a criminal act,” he said.
Officers serve the community in many ways. Lewis mentioned the D.A.R.E. program and Shop with a Cop – which happens Dec. 8 this year. These programs give officers a way to connect with kids who may not have a good home life. The friendships with officers can even help resolve tense situations in the future.
“It kind of diffuses it, and that’s what it’s all about, is just all working together and getting along,” he said.
Another program he enjoys is Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman’s Special Needs Luncheon he started in 2010.
“It’s pretty exciting, we give (the kids) rides on the Segway and show them some of our equipment,” Lewis said.
The Rexburg Police Department has gotten pretty good with Segways. However, when they first pulled them out of the box, there was a bit of a learning curve. Lewis says it was Chief Turman’s idea to put them together and jump right on. Some officers who had experience with Segways recorded what happened next.
“The outcome is I landed on my back,” Lewis said.
East Idaho News picked up that video and it became somewhat viral. Lewis says it was embarrassing, but he’s much better with the Segway now.
Lewis has investigated countless crimes over the years. He says in the 1970s there were bar fights and disruptive situations like that. Drugs have been a constant through his career, but what really gets to him today is the rise in child abuse, sexual assaults
“They bother me,” he said. “This community’s not exempt.”
He says some cases, like the torture of a baby years ago, still haunt him.
“It angered you, or made you sick,” he said.
Highlights in his career include saving lives, helping someone change their life and having a positive impact on the victims of crime.
“We just focus, and I like it, and we all do, is compassion,” he said.
As part of his duties as a captain, Lewis has worked with the news media. He’s had this role for nearly half of his career and has worked with journalists who are now working across the United States.
“I believe the news media is an integrated part of this profession because they put out information for us that has solved crimes,” Lewis said. “Probably foremost they make people aware of what’s going on in the community and how to protect (themselves) and come out and help for fundraisers and things like that.”
He says he worries about the young officers in the department.
“You worry about their wellbeing out on the street because nowadays, you know, it’s pretty common to hear somebody shot,” he said.
He said he’s glad shootings rarely happen in Rexburg. He believes Rexburg is one of the nicest communities in the country.
“I think we have it pretty good here, really good,” he said. “The community’s good, they support us.”
Over the years, Lewis has received FBI training and special security training with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He proudly displayed the certificates of completion for both in his office.
As he reflects on his 43 years, he has some advice for the citizens of Rexburg.
“Do your best,” he said. “Do the right things and do it when people aren’t looking at you or watching you, just be the good person and we’re here to support you. If you have issues, we’re willing to talk to anybody and everybody… maybe we can point you in the right direction.”
Captain Lewis’ official last day is Dec. 3. He doesn’t have specific retirement plans but says he will enjoy fishing, riding his motorcycle and fixing up Jeeps.
He says he has no regrets.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat, I really would,” he said. “It’s been very, very rewarding.”
What will he miss? The people he works with every day.
“Believe it or not, this is a unique police department, wherever I’ve been, there’s a lot of unity,” he said. “It’s just like a real, close-knit family.”