Slater retires from SPD after 30 years of service
A Sanibel Police Department veteran of 30 years, Officer John Slater, who officially retired from active duty two weeks ago, was lauded during a brief ceremony prior to Tuesday’s City Council session.
Hired as a part-time police aide on March 2, 1981, Slater went on to become one of the department’s longest active detectives, evidence technicians and road patrol officers. In fact, during his entire tenure with the SPD, Slater was never late for duty and logged a perfect attendance record.
“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” said Slater, who first visited Sanibel in 1970 with his wife, Pat. “I’m gonna miss my fellow co-workers and the every day contact with people all over the island, plus the excitement of police work.”
Slater, 69, had been in charge of the department’s crime scenes, property and evidence as well as road patrol. However, before coming to the island had never studied law enforcement.
“I had always thought about becoming a police officer,” Slater recalled, noting that he was encouraged by Officer Lou Phillips to join the local Police Auxiliary while he was working security at The Moorings in 1976.
Five years later, Chief Richard Pleger encouraged Slater to attend the Lee County Police Academy in Fort Myers, from which he graduated in 1981, the same year Sanibel started the beach parking sticker program.
“The department got really bust after that,” he added with a laugh.
Soon, Slater began working surveillance and undercover patrols for the department.
“I remember sitting in a van in a parking lot, with a fan blowing over a block of ice, for six hours at a time… and the temperature outside was like 120 degrees,” Slater said. “And you could go for more than a month without seeing anything. But then you’d catch somebody breaking into some cars, and that would make it all worthwhile. People out her sometimes don’t realize what the department does to prevent crime.”
As a crime scene investigator, Slater stated the most important thing to remember is to be patient and careful.
“You can’t rush a crime scene,” he explained. “It’s not like on TV, when they pick up a fingerprint and get an ID on somebody in a couple of minutes. Sometimes it takes week and months before you can get any information out of evidence.”
In one incident, Slater recalled making an arrest following a breaking-and-entering case. He photographed shoe prints found at the scene of the crime, along with the shoes taken from the suspect, and sent them off for further information. After more than a month, a report came back that the shoe prints were “a likely match” with the suspect’s shoes.
Slater, who enjoys photography as a hobby, intends to spent more time sorting through his catalog of images as well as spending more time in the family’s cabin, located in the mountains of western North Carolina.
“I’m still getting used to getting up in the morning and not going to work,” he added, noting that he may also pursue other areas of art including watercolors. “I’ve got plenty of things to do, but the biggest thing right now is getting motivated to actually do them.”