To the editor:
In police work, people attend school and study books and manuals on how to become a police officer. I would say that if someone had a video camera running during Richard Landers' career, you would learn everything you would need to know about being the perfect police officer. You could throw all of those books away.
Unfortunately, police work becomes the identity of many police officers. I would say in the case of Landers, it was the opposite. The Danvers Police Department took on the identity of Ritchie Landers for 38 years. He was the face of the department to many people.
Landers is the reason why I chose to become a police officer. When I was a teenager, I met Ritchie through his son, Peter.
The Landerses also lived across the street from my dad and stepmom for a number of years.
I can remember that distinct raspy voice and that ever-present warm smile at all the local sports events, as well as him watching his own children participate in team sports. It was not unusual to see Officer Landers working a detail on the sidelines of a football game or, for that matter, any school sporting event.
I think I can speak for most of the kids who grew up in Danvers in the '80s when I say he was one of the most respected people in town.
He represented everyone's dad. In police work, it can be very difficult for youths to converse with police officers. Many young people during that time were intimidated by the badge and gun. Ritchie had the uncanny ability to talk with youths while in full uniform.
All of them saw Mr. Landers the person, and not the policeman.
In 1985, I started as an intern at the Danvers Police Department and by the end of that year was a full-time dispatcher.
It was during this time that I got to know Landers on a different level and our very special friendship developed.
It was Ritchie who advised me to apply in Wenham in 1986. And through the next several years, Ritchie served as a great mentor and confidant.
I was so delighted when Ritchie made the rank of chief. To me, Ritchie Landers was the ultimate chief. He treated people as he would want to be treated and always made it a priority to identify the good qualities in people first.
I can only hope that I can live up to a portion of the person, police officer, chief of police, husband, father and grandfather that he was.
If you have an opportunity to be a mentor to someone, do it. You might just change someone's life like Ritchie changed mine.
Thank you, Chief, for being a great influence on not only me but the entire town of Danvers.
Rest in peace, Badge 154. Thank you and I love you. My thoughts and prayers are with the Landers family.
Chief of Police
(Editor's note: Former Danvers police Chief Richard Landers died at 69 years of age on April 10 following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. These comments are adapted from the eulogy the author delivered at his funeral.)