Every once in a while I took riders along on routine patrol. Most were young people who had an interest in law enforcement and had started the necessary process to get into the field.

I enjoyed hosting riders, as their enthusiasm rubbed off and made me want to work even harder. I wanted to expose them to each and every aspect of policing that I could in the short amount of time they were along for the ride.

During this particular incident, a Unity College student who had become Warden John Ford’s deputy was the rider. His name was Dave Rzewnicki.

Dave always had a smile on his face that some misconstrued as a smirk. I took it as a smile, as he was a very upbeat person and full of energy. He also never shut up, so John and I had several nicknames for him, all of which I think he enjoyed.

This particular evening, Dave was wearing his warden’s uniform and although he appeared to be about 12 years old, he looked and acted professional.

A call came in of an ongoing incident in the Monroe area. When the suspect’s name came over the radio, I knew we were in for a tough time. When I had first transferred to the area, I had been warned about this guy. The suspect hated law enforcement and, if you had to deal with him, he would give you a hard time, no matter what.

It seemed, though, that he knew where to draw the line. While he was very proficient in making things miserable, he never gave the responding officer enough to make an arrest.

I had dealt with him a few times and all the information that I had been given had turned out to be true. Until this night, I never had enough probable cause to make an arrest, but I always dealt with him in the harshest manner allowed by law.

After getting the call, I knew that if the report was true, the suspect was going to jail. I also knew he would go very dry, meaning it was going to be a battle.

We arrived at the suspect’s residence and, after a short investigation, it was clear an arrest was warranted and he would soon be on his way to the lockup. As we entered the home, Dave stood behind me a few steps and off to one side. I approached the bad guy and asked what had happened for us to be called to the house.

“I don’t talk to a%*^&*,” he quickly exclaimed.

“That’s fine. We’ll just cut to the chase and I’ll let you know that you’re under arrest then,” I shot back.

“You and what army?” he asked rhetorically.

At that time, his attention shot straight to Dave and he focused on him like a laser. I had no idea what he was thinking except maybe that he could beat the crap out of this supposed kid.

“You need to wipe that smirk off your face or I’ll do it for you,” the suspect hollered at Dave.

“You’ll do no such thing,” I warned the suspect.

But you could feel the tension in the air as both the suspect and Dave bristled up. There was no further warning — it was two men running at each other, getting tangled up and landing on the floor.

They were tussling around on the floor and, to be honest with you, it worked out rather well for me. All I had to do was bend over and handcuff the suspect, which took the fight right out of him.

Of course, I had to listen to him make threats all the way to jail, but that was minor compared to what could have happened.

I think that incident lit a firecracker underneath Dave. Not only was he John’s deputy warden, but he also became a deputy for John at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office and then became a state trooper for the Oregon State Police, where he works today.

Just another day in the life.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police Trooper. The 28-year veteran lives in Unity. The award-winning columnist may be reached at menick@uninet.net.