Saturday, February 24, 2018

Longtime Longview traffic officer closes out 40-year career

Megan Hix

By Megan Hix
Feb. 6, 2018 at 12:21 a.m.

Off-duty Longview police  Sgt. Buddy Molpus waits outside of Texas Bank and Trust for all the bank's employees to walk safely to their cars in 2007.

When Sgt. Buddy Molpus applied to join the Longview Police Department, he thought it was a long shot that he'd be selected. But as he started to apply to the Dallas department, he got the call he'd been waiting for.

In 1977, he said, it was rare for the department to hire more than one person per year, and as a skinny 21-year-old he didn't think he'd make the cut.

"I was very surprised," Molpus said. "I just wanted to be a police officer. It didn't really matter where."

But he said he jumped at the opportunity to work for his hometown police department and the rest is history. Molpus retired last week as a sergeant after more than 40 years at the Longview Police Department.

He was inspired to become an officer by crime shows on television and the promise of daily excitement, he said. In the course of his career he worked patrol shifts, investigated car wrecks and oversaw planning and research. But his favorite positions were in the traffic division, where he could spend much of his day on a police motorcycle, interacting with the community.

Lately, he said, he's seen a noticeable increase in people stopping to say "thanks," which he attributes to increased attention to officer deaths around the country the past few years.

"People have approached police officers more, expressing their gratitude for their services," Molpus said. "That's meant more than I can really express."

Sometimes the position came with other perks, he said.

Molpus was part of country music star George Strait's police escort when he came to Longview to perform in the early days of his career, and most notably, he was a part of then-candidate Ronald Reagan's motorcade during a campaign stop.

"He came through and shook each one of our hands and thanked us for the escort," Molpus said. "I just remember that at that time, looking in his eyes and shaking his hand, it seemed so sincere and genuine."

Molpus also credits his law enforcement career with helping him meet his wife. He said he had repeatedly run into Laura around town. One day he saw her paying a traffic ticket at the police station and decided he needed to know more about her.

"I spoke to her several times but didn't really know who she was," Molpus said. "What I later found out is that she was intentionally trying to be noticed. She used to say ... she'd try to exceed the speed limit a little bit, hoping that I'd pull her over."

He and Laura have been married for 34 years and have two adult sons.

As much as Molpus loved working in traffic enforcement, he said it was not without its challenges, including graveyard shifts and the grim responsibility of responding to fatal accidents.

When it came time for his own children to learn to drive, he was "constantly reminding them" of driving safety and "probably worried more than most parents" about the potential risks.

For the most part, Molpus said Longview drivers are safer today than they were when he started on the force.

The Loop 281 median has cut down on wrecks on the busy route, despite any grumbling when they were added. These days, he said more people fasten their seat belts and the biggest hazards come from distracted driving and road rage.

He didn't become an officer to write tickets, he said, but every time Molpus had to pull someone over or issue a citation, he hoped he was preventing accidents down the line.

"You don't know what you prevent," he said. "You can't count what didn't happen, but that's what you're hoping for."

He said the same logic applied for friends and family.

"I have given a relative a ticket," Molpus said. "They've forgiven me, but they weren't happy."

Traffic officer Mike Grisham has known Molpus for all 34 years he's been an officer.

He said it's "so rare" for any officer to make it to the 40-year mark in their careers, and the department will miss the man himself as much as they'll miss the experience he accumulated.

"It's a huge loss," Grisham said of Molpus' departure. "So many in our department come in to ask him questions. ... I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a phone call once in a while (in retirement) asking a question."

Grisham said Molpus was a perfectionist, wanting paperwork to be finished at the highest quality or ensuring the striping on his patrol car was straight and level.

"When he started striping the cars, he would put masking tape to make the lines straight," Grisham said. By 2012, when officers stopped painting the vehicles themselves, Molpus had amassed a 13-pound, perfectly spherical "basketball" made of the masking tape he pulled off each car.

"He's such a good guy," Grisham said. "It's going to be tough to fill those shoes."

Molpus said he doesn't quite know how he will spend his free time but has plans to travel, ride his motorcycle and get a new boat for bass fishing.

"I'm not retiring to go back to work," Molpus said. "We'll see what the future holds."



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