Officers retire after years of service

Published 12:38 am Tuesday, December 23, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Dan Covey, the longtime commander of the Marine Division and the county's first DARE officer, and Robert Babcock, the detective who heads the drug team shared with Dowagiac Police Department, are retiring from the Cass County Sheriff's Office effective Jan. 15.
Babcock, then 19, joined the department in corrections on Jan. 1, 1974, after working undercover narcotics in the summer of 1973.
Covey began with the Marine Division part-time in 1973, but became a full-fledged officer in September 1975.
Despite their longevity, they have worked for only three sheriffs -- Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr., Paul Parrish and James Northrop.
Garrison, who attended Friday noon's luncheon in the squad room, operates his own private investigative firm in St. Joseph.
Babcock was "asked to promise not to ask to go the academy, which I promptly broke the next summer by asking for permission to. The sheriff said he couldn't send me to the academy and have me work here at the same time, so I went to the academy and worked 40 hours a week also. There was a corrections officer (later Circuit Court bailiff), Otto Wantuch, who worked my shift for me until I was able to get here from school in the evening, then I worked his shifts on the weekends. I worked doubles to pay him back until I graduated."
Babcock became a road deputy later in 1974, "but I was only on the road for six months, then I went back into plainclothes, working drugs."
He was a detective for almost 20 years of his 30-year career.
Both men credit "dumb luck" for landing in law enforcement.
Babcock is a native of South Bend, Ind., but has lived in Michigan since he was 16. He graduated from Constantine High School and still lives in the southeastern part of the county.
His father owns a couple of Marathon stations in South Bend. His mother lives in Florida. Babcock has a brother in Milwaukee, a brother near Walkerton, a sister in Walkerton, a sister in Elkhart and a brother still at home.
Bob and Carla have been married for 30 years. His wife and his son are White Pigeon graduates.
Babcock's son considered police work, but decided, "I don't have the patience you've got, dad." Instead, he operates a firetruck-like concrete pumper.
Covey served four years in the Navy. He worked at Tyler Refrigeration in his hometown of Niles for a couple of years after the military.
When school was out in the summer, Covey found himself back on the water, running the Marine Division.
In 2001, Covey became a school resource officer at Cassopolis Ross Beatty High School, which he did for 2 1/2 years. "I like teaching," Covey said. "I think if I had to do it over again, I probably could have easily been a teacher. I like being around kids and working with kids.
One of Covey's sons, Gabe, followed him in to police work. He's a state trooper on the motorcycle detail at the Taylor post in downriver Detroit.
Covey's plans are less solidified. "I've got an opportunity to be a consultant with the Cassopolis school district on homeland security issues. There's finally some money trickling down and they want someone with law enforcement background, yet knows the school system, to go into the buildings and say, 'Hey, this is what we need to do' to keep things safe and secure and come up with some action plans. They just approached me last week and I said I'd be interested."
Babcock's hobby is following the Indy car circuit. "I may have to cut back a little bit. I go to as many races as I can. I went to Phoenix, Indy, Michigan and Chicago last year, Miami the year before. My dad brought me up on that. I also like to hunt and fish and I look forward to spending time with my grandkids."
Babcock returned to drug work in the summer of 1999 to head the narcotics team.
Babcock headed a three-man drug team, which will be assumed by Rich Hiscock.