“It’s the highest honor any law enforcement officer could receive, and I am grateful that my life’s work has all led up to this. This wasn’t just a job—it was my life, and there’s a big difference,” said Rick Carmichael, former Fairbury Chief of Police who was inducted into the Police Officers’ Association Hall of Fame in Kearney on Tuesday. Carmichael sat down with Fairbury News Now earlier this year to reflect on his 40 years of service to the City of Fairbury and Jefferson County.
Carmichael, who retired from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in August, still serves his community as a member of the Fairbury City Council. He explained that when he began as a deputy, he never expected his career to lead him to the hall of fame.
“I was working at a grocery business in Fairbury two weeks before I got married,” said Carmichael. “In the 1970s I got interested in CB radios and joined a radio club where if there was any severe thunderstorms we’d be asked to go out and watch for tornadoes. I bought my own CB radio, and my wife was not happy about that. But, I got to meet the deputies then. There were some nights that I would go ride with them, and I just got interested in it.”
Carmichael explained that when he began, the deputies had to furnish their own vehicle. He left his job as produce manage at the grocery to join the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. After a few months, he returned to the grocery store because of the need for funds, but was hired part time at the Fairbury Police Department.
“For a while I worked part time at the grocery store,” Carmichael said. “I’d go into the grocery store at five in the morning and get off at one. Then, I’d go to work at the PD at 6:30 at night and get off at six in the morning. Then, the sheriff asked me if I would come back full time, and I said I would. So I went to the training center. I stayed in the Sheriff’s Office until December 1, 1990, then I took over as Chief of Police in Fairbury.”
Carmichael retired from the Police Department in 2007 and worked in his woodshop at home for a few months. However, Carmichael was asked to serve as a deputy at the Sheriff’s Office again, where he worked until he retired in August 2017.
Drugs offenses were one of the major crimes Carmichael pursued throughout his time in law enforcement. He stated that he and other law enforcement officers worked together to bust nearly 80 meth labs, and many other drug-related operations.
“We just couldn’t keep up with them, that’s how busy we were with meth labs,” said Carmichael. “Matt Schultz (Chief Deputy at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office) and I worked a lot of them. I liked working the dope more than anything, and that’s what I did. Back in 1989, I worked a marijuana growing operation that was east of Diller and partly in Gage County along a creek. That was the biggest marijuana grow in Nebraska, and I got an award from the US Attorney’s Office for taking it down.”
Carmichael offered some advice for his fellow law enforcement officers.
“You just have to keep at it. Never give up, because it all pays off at some point or other. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some, but if you keep at it you’re going to win. If you treat people like you want to be treated, you usually end up winning.”