For Cheney Police Det. Justin Hobbs, a career in law enforcement didn't manifest itself immediately after graduation from Deer Park High School. In fact, you might say he was "steered" in that direction.
"I had friends in law enforcement when I was in high school and at Kaiser," Hobbs said. "I did some (patrol) ride alongs – and got hooked."
Those firsthand experiences have culminated with Hobbs being named the Cheney Police Department's 2013 Officer of the Year. The award is based upon nominations reviewed by a selection committee comprised of a cross section of department personnel, civilians and Police Chief John Hensley.
Hensley said the person nominating Hobbs wrote he was a "tireless investigator who worked cases until there was an arrest or no more clues." Hobbs comes in at short notice to assist officers with such things as writing warrants, and would often voluntarily "put on his uniform" to help when the department was shorthanded.
"Bottom line, he's an excellent team player," Hensley said.
After graduating from high school, Hobbs worked at Kaiser Aluminum's Mead plant for 10 years until it closed in 2000. After that he worked for four years as a pipe fitter on various jobs at area sawmills and at Boeing.
"That's when I decided to go to school," Hobbs said.
Hobbs received his Applied Associates degree in criminal justice at Spokane Community College and followed that with reserve officer duty with the Spokane Police Department while he pursued his academy training. A competitive job market in Spokane led him to look at other opportunities, which included applying for and getting hired for an open patrol position in Cheney.
"I landed out here in 2007 and it's been a pretty good fit for me," he said.
Hobbs served five years on patrol before moving to detective in February 2013. As such, he said he is responsible for the charging of all felony crimes in Cheney.
A lot of the work is phone duty, sometimes taking up an investigation for an officer who is off duty or following up with incidents requiring more legwork. That involves contacting other agencies, witnesses, victims and any other sources that can help him determine what happened and if charges need to be filed.
"You never know where an investigation is going to take you," Hobbs said. "Every time the phone rings, it could change the outlook of the day."
One of those was last April's murder-suicide at the Rosebrook Inn, something Hobbs said didn't immediately manifest itself as such. That investigation was handled by Spokane County Sheriff's Office personnel, who Hobbs said had many more resources than Cheney.
Hobbs said he generally has about 15 active cases he's working on at any one time, with most of those being thefts, burglaries and drug offenses, although when he started last March he wound up with a couple armed robberies to dig into. It's often just as important to prove a crime wasn't committed as it is to look to file charges.
"And that what's interesting," Hobbs said of detective work. "Getting to see the outcome."
Hobbs said he would probably serve as detective for 4-5 years, likely rotating back to patrol afterwards. He lives in the Cheney area with his wife and two children.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.