It was 6:45 in the morning. The early minutes of the July sun had already dissipated the cool night air on the Rogers State University campus.

Veteran cop Mickey Perry knew what he had to do.

The assignment wasn’t the heart-stopping, undercover crime fighting variety Perry once enjoyed. But, that’s the way it goes after nearly 37 years in law enforcement. Besides, a free breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit medley with members of the Thursday morning Rotary Club wasn’t the most dangerous call he’d ever answered.

Perry came to the city force in 1969 — a transitory time for law enforcement everywhere, including Claremore and Rogers County. The Vietnam War was still reality and “Miranda Rights” were new.



THE EARLY YEARS

For 10 years, Perry worked the city beat.

One of his earliest experiences on the force came during the early 1970s. As Perry told it, he was riding along on a disturbance call at a local residence. When he and the senior officer arrived on the scene, Perry said he was ordered to stay at the front of the house where he went about questioning the lady of house as to the exact nature of her call. In the meantime, the other officer made his way around to the back of the house. Perry said shortly thereafter he heard a shot. Perry hurried to assist only to discover the other officer had simply shot into the ground.

“I asked him what was going on, and he said, ‘I was shooting the demons.’

“And that’s how it was back then. Every once in a while we had to go out to the house and kill the demons,” Perry said.



UNDERCOVER

Later in his career, Perry found himself dealing with demons of a more tangible sort.

“I left Claremore for a while to work undercover with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics,” Perry said, “traveling around the country and buying drugs.”

Perry worked with OBN from 1979 to 1990.

“It was a good job, but sometimes hard to explain to my daughter,” he said.

“One time at school, they were telling what their father’s did for a living ... she had heard us talking .. she told her classmates her father bought drugs,” Perry said.

“We had to talk about that.”

His scariest career moment to-date was coming face-to-face with a “doped-up” man brandishing a shotgun during a undercover operation in western Oklahoma.

“He thought I was an informant ... I told him, no, I was the law,” Perry said. “It didn’t seem to matter.”

It was one of those times that makes Perry appreciate living and working in Claremore.



BACK IN TOWN

In 1990 Perry found himself back in town with a new job and a new title — Police Chief Perry.

The Claremore’s Police Department has grown to 39 officers, responsible for patrolling 15 square miles and protecting and promoting the safety and welfare of the city’s nearly 18,000 citizens.

“We had 43,000 calls for service in the last year,” Perry said. The department also filed over 500 accident reports and responded to 100 injury accidents.

Perry is proud to know that Claremore has become one of the desirable places to be a police officer. It is no longer just a training ground for law men and women who are seeking to move on to other, often higher paying, jobs in larger cities or agencies.

“Because of the contract we have now,” Perry said, “we are now very competitive.”

At least 15 officers have retired from the city Police Department indicating longevity in a trained force. During recent times only two have moved on — one to the air marshals and one to the highway patrol.

Perry credits better pay and benefits.

While well-trained and stable manpower is paramount, access to new communication technology and equipment is also an important aspect to safeguarding the public.

Recently the city purchased a “reverse 911” alert system.

“The town has grown so much, that the tornado sirens may not penetrate some of the buildings in town,” Perry said. The new alert system, makes phone calls to individual households, businesses and industries by automatic dialing and messaging.

The system can be used for alerting specific neighborhoods to power outages, missing children or storm warnings.

“Since 9-11, we sat down and evaluated where we were. We looked at the water plant ... utilities ... and electric. We put some safeguards in place.

“I think 9-11 had the same effect on everyone whether it was a large of small city,” Perry said.

Perry, who experienced a devastating tornado in the mid 1990s near Catoosa, said there are things you can do if it is a manmade disaster, rather than a natural disaster.

Either way, “You’re going to have chaos,” Perry said.

More reason to be prepared.

Communication with other local and state law and emergency agencies is also part of that process.

“There’s been a push, statewide, to get one communication system in place. But it would cost us around $3 million to get one here,” Perry said.

The city’s police department has limited funding, receiving operational funding through 20 percent of a one-cent sales tax.

Still, Perry said the lack of new technology is not hampering the city’s vital working relationship with County Sheriff Jerry Prather or his officers. Prather was once a city police officer himself.

And, Perry believes there’s nothing yet available to replace the effectiveness of police officers who are “present and visible” within the community.

“It does make a difference.”

Perry is a Claremore Junior College alumni and completed his bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University.