Capt. Jeff Hinrichs is retiring on June 28 after spending his entire law enforcement career, nearly 29 years, with his hometown agency, the Albany Police Department.
The Albany native said that over the years, he’s seen numerous changes with law enforcement strategy and technology — he was one of the department's initial school resource officers, and also one of the first at the agency to use a laptop computer in a patrol cruiser.
But his motivation to seek justice as a Police Department employee never changed, whether he was patrolling the streets, or helping direct resources in an administrative role.
“I like the idea of being a guardian in the community and helping people, and also trying to right the wrong,” Hinrichs said.
His son will be continuing that role for the Hinrichs family.
Dakotah Hinrichs has been working as a deputy for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office for about three years.
Hinrichs is immensely proud, but he has mixed emotions.
“I obviously love the fact he wanted to get into this line of work,” Hinrichs said. “But it is dangerous and can be a thankless job at times.”
Deputies can be a bit more isolated, especially in remote areas of Linn County, and backup might not be quickly available.
Of course, working closer to Albany can be dangerous, as well.
Hinrichs has experienced plenty in law enforcement, from the excitement of catching a bank robber almost immediately after the crime to the heartbreak of losing a fellow officer.
In 2001, Jason Hoerauf, a new officer on his team, and Oregon State Police Trooper Maria Mignano were killed in action when they were struck on Interstate 5 while helping a stranded motorist. Oregon State Police Sgt. John Burright also was severely injured.
There have been heartwarming moments, as well, and his early career had some patterns that are likely uncommon at larger agencies. He taught DARE classes at Takena Elementary School, which he attended, and was a school resource officer at West Albany High School, his alma mater.
Hinrichs has watched juvenile offenders become outstanding citizens, and his personal friends.
His career had a rather inauspicious beginning, however. He was working at a local pizza joint as a teenager, and one of co-workers was friends with a Linn County deputy. Hinrichs decided to go on a ride-along.
“I was hooked,” he said. “My plan was to be an architect, but I didn’t want to sit in an office all day.”
He started volunteering at the department in 1987, when he was 19, then became a reserve. At age 21, he applied to the Albany department and the Portland Police Bureau. Albany offered him the job first, and in 1990, he was hired.
Hinrichs became a captain with the agency in 2003.
Technology was a bit different when Hinrichs started. “The only thing we had in the car was a radio,” Hinrichs recalled.
Officers who wanted to have a secure conversation with a dispatcher, and not release sensitive details over the airwaves, had to go to a pay phone. Now, policemen use cellphones for such discussions.
In the early 1990s, Hinrichs and another officer bought laptop computers and bubble jet printers and started the department's foray into computer-aided report writing.
That’s helped the department have a far better clearance rate with crimes compared to decades ago.
“In the old days, it was just paper and memory. You had to look up cases on paper,” he said.
Among the other improvements with technology include dashboard cameras, body camers, stun guns, earpieces for radios and more. “When I first started, we were still using revolvers,” Hinrichs said.
Culturally, things have changed as well, though Albany remains a blue collar town at heart.
“Albany was really a bar drinking town back in the ’90s,” Hinrichs said. He’d often get two drunk driving arrests a night, and sometimes three.
But today, there are more instances of drugged driving and hybrid driving under the influence of intoxicants cases, which are harder to detect. DUII cases in general have decreased in Hub City, however.
Another change is the department's participation in regional SWAT, which Hinrichs helped spur.
He’s also been on hand as the Albany Police Department move into two new buildings, including its new headquarters off of Pacific Boulevard, which opened in the fall of 2017.
Albany residents are generally supportive of law enforcement. That’s in part because there have always been good police officers trying to do the right thing, he added.
“We’ve been pretty blessed in Albany,” Hinrichs said.
He retires as Albany has its lowest crime rate ever. Albany’s always been relatively safe when it comes to person-to-person crimes, but its property crime figures have declined in the last few years, as well.
Challenges remain for the department, as the department is taking a budget hit and will lose the ability to maintain seven officers. Even if funds are restored, it will take years to get replacements hired and trained, Hinrichs said.
In retirement, Hinrichs said he’ll remain in the Albany area, but hopes to travel as much as possible with his wife, Lynn Hinrichs, who retired as the Albany Police Department's community education specialist in 2013.
He also hopes to spend as much possible with his three children and five grandchildren.
Dakotah Hinrichs said, half-jokingly, that he has a list of house projects for his dad to tackle.
Dakotah Hinrichs, who graduated from Oregon State on Saturday, said it was only natural that he wanted to become a police officer, as he grew up seeing what his father did for work.
Plus, he didn’t want to sit around in an office, either, and, just like his dad, he wanted to be a guardian in the community.
“Being that presence and being that person that people can turn to if they need help, it’s refreshing,” Dakotah Hinrichs said.