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Bertholf’s career has been a journey

Larry Bertholf recalls an incident when he was on patrol and he and his partner had tracked down a robbery suspect in a bowling alley. They persuaded him to sit between the two officers on the bench front seat of the patrol car and, while the suspect continued to insist he was innocent, Bertholf and his partner administered an impromptu lie detector test.

The suspect was told to put his hands on the police radio and answer a question. If the answer was a lie the radio would shut off.

“Did you commit these robberies?” Bertholf asked.

“No,” said the perpetrator.

The radio went silent. And the shocked man quickly confessed.

“I suppose the statute of limitations has expired on that particular story,” Bertholf said. “Whenever he answered a question we wanted to come out ‘false,’ I’d shut off the radio from a switch inside my pocket. People think they can outsmart the police, but a lot of them are really stupid.”

This spring, Bertholf will retire from his position as Kitsap County’s corrections chief, a job he’s held for 20 years. Prior to that, he was an on-duty deputy for 14 years.

He will be replaced by Ned Newlin, who was just promoted into the chief of detectives position in June.

Newlin said it was unlikely any chief would match Bertholf’s tenure. In the future, the top administrators will rotate jobs every few years “to bring a fresh eye to the situation.”

Bertholf had other encounters with stupid criminals, such as the time a Bainbridge Island cabin dweller cleaned out a neatly appointed mansion but left his own gasoline charge slip on the manicured grounds. Bertholf spotted the trash right away and practically beat the thief home.

But the experience that rises to the top of his recollection is not a happy one. In 1978 he attended the crime scene of Dennis Allred, who was brutally and sadistically gunned down. Allred remains the only Kitsap County deputy ever to die in the line of duty.

“In 34 years I’ve seen and heard just about everything,” Bertholf said. “But I never stop being amazed by what one person can do to another.”

Bertholf remembers the old days, when the Sheriff’s Office had only a few cruisers that were driven around the clock (and into the ground). When there were no portable radios (much less cell phones) and only two deputies pulled night duty for the entire county. With only 40 deputies, colleagues became family.

And he recalls a time when drug use was relatively benign.

“I remember LSD,” he said. ”That’s how old I am.”

As the drugs of choice have become more potent and aggressive, criminals have also evolved.

“It’s more dangerous today,” he said. “There is a different attitude.

“Everyone has guns and they’re not afraid to use them,” he said. “It used to be people were more afraid of the consequences of their actions.”

One thing hasn’t changed. Domestic violence calls are still the most dangerous and unpredictable. Bertholf would not be receiving kudos today if he had not paid close attention to the rules in 1974. He was answering a domestic violence call, knocked on the door and stepped aside.

Seconds later, the door exploded from a shotgun’s impact.

Bertholf, 61, could have retired nine years ago but “was having too much fun.” He chose to retire this year because he wanted to go out on a high note, and because several of his friends — some younger than he — have died with unrealized retirement ambitions.

He says he may visit the Courthouse in the future, but the closest he will come to law enforcement will be “as a marshal on a golf course.”

Though he’s retired, his genes will stick around. His son David and son-in-law Darrell Gash both work for the Washington State Patrol. His mother, Aggie Cline, was Kitsap County’s first female detective and still cuts out newspaper articles in which he is named. Coincidentally, she received a black eye the day before her 1965 retirement.

“I hope to go out with less glory,” he said.

Bertholf is pleased to see the increased quality of new deputies, but said they are still limited by resources.

The department “doesn’t have any fluff. Our people are all working as hard as they can,” he said, but financial constraints forces them to prioritize their efforts.

“When a citizen dials 911, it could be the most important call of their life,” Bertholf said. “But someone reporting a burglary that has already occurred will have to take a back seat to an assault that is already in progress.”

As Kitsap County has grown, it escaped the turmoil of bygone days, Bertholf said, when police were treated with disrespect.

“We’re still the good guys here,” he said. “People know we’re there to help you. Except one thing really bugs me — when I walk by a parent and a kid on the street or in a hallway and the parent says, ‘There’s a policeman, and if you’re not good he’ll take you away.’ It makes the little kid think we’re the bad guys.”

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