Veteran Warner Robins police officer says goodbye to law enforcement

bpurser@macon.comOctober 14, 2013 

PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER ROBINS POLICE Retiring Warner Robins police Capt. Bill Capps stands by a patrol car. His retirement is effective Thursday.

WARNER ROBINS -- When Bill Capps was 23 years old, he overheard a conversation between two Macon police officers and decided he wanted to go into law enforcement.

Capps recalled listening to the stories the two officers were sharing as he and his best friend were sipping coffee in a restaurant on Eisenhower Parkway.

“It was just fascinating for a guy my age,” said Capps, who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and was earning a living doing sheet metal work. “I had just turned 23, didn’t have a college education. ... You had ... (a) recession going on.”

Capps decided to apply for a job at the Warner Robins Police Department and was hired as a patrol officer.

“I needed a paycheck, and I love to tell stories,” joked Capps. “I put the uniform on, and I was ready to go.”

Now, Capps at age 57, is retiring as a captain after a career that has spanned more than three decades.

“Capt. Capps has been a big asset to the Warner Robins Police Department,” Police Chief Brett Evans said in written statement. “We sincerely appreciate his 33 years of service with our agency.

“He has served his community well, and we hope he enjoys retirement. We wish him well, and he will be sincerely missed.”

Advances in law enforcement

Capps said he’s seen a lot of changes in law enforcement through the years.

He started on patrol Feb. 7, 1980, at 10:30 p.m. Back then, Capps said, officers learned the ropes through hands-on experience. Today, law enforcement officers are required to go through mandated training and become certified through the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council before being issued a weapon and hitting the road on patrol, he said.

Capps also had to buy his own gun, utility belt and shoes. He said he had to wait a year until he could save up enough for a protective vest. Today, officers are fully fitted with uniforms and equipped to hit the road running, Capps said. The officers also can take home patrol cars.

Technology also has advanced, Capps said.

“We didn’t have laptops or cellphones,” he recalled. “We had a radio system that worked off one channel ... antiquated radar.”

Now, officers have laptops in patrol cars with access to criminal histories. They have the ability to file their reports from their vehicles and are linked into the 911 center. They also have tag readers that automatically scan tags as vehicles pass by and can alert to a suspended registration or stolen vehicle for which a look-out has been posted.

Capps also noted the department has its own crime scene analysis team and can run fingerprints through a national data bank.

A career in patrol

Capps said he never wanted to move outside of the patrol division.

“Patrol had so much variety in it,” Capps said. “You’re the first contact with the general public.

“You had to think on your feet. It kind of tested you as a person and as a man. That was sort of the feeding the fire in staying in that position.”

As a patrol officer, Capps was assigned to the Selected Targeting Operational Police unit from 1995 to 2005 and worked crime suppression in targeted areas and special details such as football games and the Christmas parade.

He climbed the ranks and took over supervisory duties.

In 2005, Capps came off the road but stayed within the patrol division doing administrative work. He was responsible for supervising and managing the Georgia Crime Information Center database for Warner Robins police. GCIC is a network of shared information among law enforcement such as criminal histories.

In January 2008, the late Mayor Donald Walker wanted to beef up code enforcement, Capps said, and Capps was tapped to head up that division of patrol. Four months later, Capps and a civilian code enforcement officer, Beau Weathers, were fired upon by Ward Street resident John Adcock when attempting to have a private company tow junk vehicles from his yard. Weathers was shot but survived. Adcock is in prison for attempted murder and related convictions for that shooting.

The incident wasn’t the first time Capps had been fired upon in the line of duty. But he said it was his closest call.

“That was an event I wish had never happened,” Capps said. “It was unpredictable.

“It was a very tough time on my family. ... I really don’t like talking about it,” Capps said. “By the grace of God, everybody came out alive -- even the bad guy.”

Most recently, Capps has been the commander over the police department’s teleserve program, which allows trained, civilian employees to take police reports over the phone for certain offenses such as property damage, trespassing, credit card fraud or theft, damage to mailboxes and other similar incidents.

The idea behind the program is to free up officers from filing certain routine police reports to keep them on the road and visible in the community, said Capps, who’s been in this role since 2011.

Tennessee mountains

His last official day as a police officer is Thursday, though Capps said he may wear his police uniform one more time at a joint retirement fish fry being held for him and his wife on Friday.

Capps and his wife, Taletha “Tee” Capps, a 911 operator, plan to move to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., to live out a shared dream of living in the mountains and traveling in their new recreational vehicle.

Bill Capps said he plans to work at an RV resort in the Cades Cove area and possibly pick up seasonal work at Dollywood. But he also said he doesn’t plan to be tied down to one place.

“The only thing I’ll have to worry about is do I want cream in my coffee, or do I want to take a nap,” Capps said with a laugh.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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