When I began to write Tactical Reload: Strategy Shifts for Emerging Leaders in Law Enforcement I never thought I would find myself in Washington, D.C interviewing former Sheriff David Reichert, who was serving his seventh term as the U.S. Representative for Washington state’s 8th Congressional District. This man is one of my personal heroes for all he did in law enforcement before he began his political career.
Rep. Reichert is well known nationally for his law enforcement work with the King County, Washington sheriff’s department. He won the top job of sheriff in 1997 and soon was named National Sheriff of the Year.
He has also been seen on numerous television shows detailing his involvement as the lead investigator of the Green River Killer. Reichert wrote about the case in his best-selling 2004 autobiography, Chasing the Devil: My Twenty-Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer. When we met, he was serving his 12th year in Congress.
I was very nervous when he agreed to meet with me, because he was the first high-level leader I’d reached out to and I’d never interviewed anyone in this capacity. I’m 100 percent cop, not a journalist. The people I usually speak to are victims of crimes or perpetrators. But I am not one to pass up an opportunity because of a little bit of anxiety.
My book project had caused some changes in my life. Here I was putting on a suit to go interview the famous and highly respected Dave Reichert. For a second, as I approached his office, I wondered what the hell had gotten myself into?
Then I shook off that doubts. I didn’t come this far to chicken out. My biggest concerns were:
- Don’t come off as an idiot.
- Try and establish a flow of questions quickly because he is a busy man who is being generous with his time.
I walked into his Capitol office and was greeted by a large array of awards and accolades. You could tell that he had served at a high level for a long time. I have a few awards to hang my hat on, and they make me proud. But Rep. Reichert’s collection was humbling and awe-inspiring.
I sat down on the leather couch and watched the television that showed a live feed from the Capitol floor where random elected officials were speaking. Rep. Reichert was running a little behind and I was a little relieved. It gave me a minute to digest the enormity of this historic place and calm some nerves.
The staff included young interns just trying to gain some experience. I watched them go about their work, maybe a little envious. Good for them. They would never forget the time spent here.
Then I heard a strong voice call my name. “Hi, Adam.”
Shaking Hands with a Hero
Rep. Reichert popped out of his office and invited me in, where we were joined by his press secretary Kathryn Hopper. I was impressed that he looked like he was in tip-top shape: If necessary, he could probably stop what he was doing and jump into a foot chase or stop a bar fight.
“I still work out every day,” he said.
Impressive, considering the man is nearly 70 years old. I admired his discipline: it’s hard to keep up with that kind of regime. It was obvious to me that he has a strong work ethic and a willingness to serve the public, which he had been doing in various capacities for almost 50 years. Those are traits I really look for in a leader. It would have been a privilege to work with him, had we met years before.
I nervously set up my digital recorders and tried to act like I had done this a hundred times. My years as a rookie cop had taught me the fake-it-till-you-make-it method (read my book), so I carried on like I knew what I was doing. Even so, I was quite sure Rep. Reichert and his press secretary could see straight through my charade.
Finally, I took a deep breath prefaced the conversation with a confession.
“Look, I’ve got to be honest. I’m no journalist. I’m a cop. I am not about to act like I know the correct etiquette of how things are supposed to work for a professional interview, so I’m going to explain what my project is, and hope it makes sense to you.”
They seemed completely okay with what I’d said and soon I relaxed because they both were so calm. My finger pressed “record” and I began the interview.
Immediately, I could tell Rep. Reichert was a complete pro. He never wavered in his response to my questions and always seemed to have clear opinions about the many topics we discussed. Compared to what he faced regularly from the media, this was probably a walk in the park for him.
Despite having a list of questions laid out in front of me, all that went out the window because I did not anticipate such lengthy and complete answers. Rep. Reichert responded so easily that I found myself scrambling to think up follow-up questions that were not redundant. Mike Tyson said it best: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” I didn’t get punched in the face, thankfully. But the Q & A felt overwhelming.
Photo Op and Flub
After finishing the interview, together we posed for a picture before I thanked Rep. Reichert and left his office. He could not have been nicer. In a way, I hoped I was seeing my own future: could I model myself after such a personable and professional man? I believed we shared a lot of similarities. But where would my career lead?
Then I heard shouting. I turned and saw Dave Reichert running toward me, call my name, his arm out-stretched. I stopped in the hallway as he approached.
“You forgot your recorder!” he said, smiling.
How embarrassing? Amateur move.
But what an experience. And all because months before I had decided to jot down some thoughts and begin what I hoped would become a book. At the time, I didn’t envision traveling to Washington, D.C. to interview a national figure. Nor did I anticipate this busy leader would have to chase me down to give me my digital recorder. Proof that this honorable man is not only in great shape, he is also kind.
What project or goal have you been putting off? Is it going back to school? Getting in shape? Maybe you want to write a book.
Begin the adventure. That simple step is a powerful Tactical Reload. Do it, and many good things will follow. You just have to start.