By Teresa Holloway
CROCKETT – ‘Detective Leea Price’ … It has a certain ring to it. The Crockett Police Department detective herself certainly thinks so. She has worked very hard to reach the position and in the effort, distinguished herself as a leader and role model.
Price has been in the news much of late, her dedication and persistence in pursuit of the career she wants distinguished her early on, even amidst her outstanding crew of peers.
Though Price is far too modest to boast, many of the staff and youngsters in the schools she visits believe she is an inspiration to the youth, especially the young women, who know her and have followed her rapid career rise.
She will be the first to tell you it wasn’t easy. She will also tell you it is worth every minute of the struggle to get there.
Price spent an entire year working full time for the CPD as an Evidence Technician and a Crime Scene Investigator. Those job descriptions are full-time in themselves, but she didn’t stop there.
Price spent that same year commuting back and forth to Lufkin’s Angelina Police Academy every weekend.
When she graduated the academy on December 18, she thanked God and her husband and family for the support, “I could not have finished this without them,” she grinned at the group across the room.
She continued her training with CPD’s on the job training program, called FTO, or Field Training. The new officers are placed with an experienced street officer to learn the hazards of patrol, and as CPD Chief David Cross often reminds them, the importance of honest, open communication with the residents we serve.”
“When I started last year, I came from the District Attorney’s office. Because of that, I knew I wanted to work with victims and I was putting myself through the police academy for that purpose,” Price began.
“I didn’t quite know where to go from there. Everyone I talked to said you need to be on patrol for at least two years before you could be a detective.
“Chief Cross and Lt. Smith told me they had a position open when I spoke with them. I told them what my goals were – being a detective and working with the victims.
“They said ‘Alright, let’s see how it goes.’ I applied and got the job as a Crime Scene tech because I was still in the police academy.
“They sent me to ‘Crimes Against Children’ class in Dallas last year and I have more training coming up this year,” Price recounted.
“When I graduated in December they put me on patrol for FTO. I guess I caught on pretty quickly because they moved me into Criminal Investigations in February. I’ve pretty much taken on all our sexual assault cases since then.
“I work closely with Chief (Cross) a lot on it, he’s a genius. He really knows this stuff,” she said.
“In February they sent me to a Fingerprint Comparison class in LaPorte. I thought I would hate it but I ended up loving it. Funny thing, I met a Forensic Tech down there I was in class with before. She’s a civilian with a Bachelor’s degree.
“She is one of only two civilians in the McKinney Police Department. She does all their forensic work. She is a Youth Pastor’s wife too, so we have that in common as well,” she added.
The specialized field Price has chosen is a very small arena with a precious few specialists. The training courses offered frequently find the same technicians and officers rubbing elbows.
The difficulty of administering to child victims under the stress of meticulous collection and preservation of evidence is enough to deter many who consider the field.
“When I got back from that class, I went to a Latent Print processing class in Nacogdoches. Detective Gates and I went to that one together. In May, we had a Forensic Photography class in Lufkin. That was very interesting.
“We learned a lot in both classes. In June, at Chief’s direction, I signed up for the fingerprint comparison intermediate classes in Ft. Worth in October. My friend from McKinny PD will be at that one, too,” she laughed.
“I really like crime scenes, I really like forensics. The Hy-Top drug bust taught me a lot about crime scenes. We got K2, marijuana, cocaine. It started off as a drug bust with people already there. It was a big adrenaline rush – almost overwhelming.
“There were a lot of rooms, so organization for evidentiary purposes was critical. Everything had to be in order, pictures, evidence and photo layouts … I had to take pictures of items in order of their numbers so the bags matched, those kind of attention to detail,” she said.
“Safety is probably the main lesson I took away from that bust. There was some PCP coming from somewhere, it was very strong in the air. When I walked into the club, I didn’t really think of the consequences of the drugs that had been in there. Immediately my eyes began to burn, I got a headache. I know I wasn’t the only one with that problem right then.
“You don’t think about that. You don’t think about the smell, or how it might affect you. I will next time we deal with drugs, though. Safety is crucial. You have to be really, really careful with everything,” Price stressed.
“Working in conditions you can’t alter, that was another lesson. The lighting in there was terrible. It’s a club, so it has very low lighting,” she added.
In the process of collecting and maintaining evidence, there is no substitute for precision and no excuse for not doing it correctly, according to Price.
“The victims and the public rely on us to protect them. One of the many ways we do that is by making sure the evidence is correctly handled – otherwise, the guilty party could get off on a technicality,” Price said.
“Chief understands all of it, he’s very supportive. He’s stern, but he has to be. Look at what’s at stake. He will never ask someone to do something he doesn’t, I’ve never seen him be hypocritical,” she said.
Cross may have a reputation as a stern leader, but he is obviously well respected by his officers. In turn, he claims the officers in his department are “one of the community’s biggest assets.”
Historically, Cross has tasked his officer leaders with ever-increasing leadership roles. Price is no exception. She wears several hats. Crime Scene, Victim’s Services and Criminal Investigations are just the major roles she plays.
Cross cites excellent results from his leadership style. Lieutenant Clayton Smith is his second and almost every officer has multiple functions. “I frequently delegate tasks for Price and the other supervisors. It challenges them in a hands-on way. They become better at what they do and they learn new things.”
As one of the few female detectives in the area, Price must hold the line. “She has become an inspiration for others, especially females, who want to go to the academy and become police officers,” Cross said. “She works most of our crimes against children cases and it is obvious she truly cares about each victim that she serves.”
“Detective Leea Price has done a great job for us at CPD,” Cross said.
Much can be said for going after what you want and success is earned through hard work and dedication, but as Price said, “You really have to have a good support system, too.”
By Teresa Holloway