Patrolman Bill Hidy and my brother, Patrolman Jack Haley, were standing near the front desk in the Wilmington Police Department when I walked through the door in my sparkling new police uniform. “Well, there he is, Jack,” Officer Hidy said with a wide grin. It was my first day on the job. The date was June, 1970.
Bill came to the Wilmington Police Department from Washington Court House. He and Jack had been friends and colleagues since 1962. Since I hung out at the police department with Jack a lot, I had known Bill since I was a freshman in high school.
Bill’s path to becoming a police officer was an unlikely one. According to Bill, he was visiting a relative in Wilmington when he saw his relative’s neighbor struggling to erect a television antenna on his roof. Bill went over to help. It turned out the neighbor was Stanley “Buck” Irwin, Wilmington’s Chief of Police.
“Hey, Bill, I like your size. How would you like to be a policeman?” Chief Irwin asked Bill. That is how Bill Hidy first came to pin on the badge.
Police work was different back then. There were frequently fist fights at the downtown taverns. Many of the officers at that time were veterans of World War II and the Korean War, and they were physically tough. Bill Hidy may have been the toughest of them all. He was a few years out of the Navy, and had a tattoo on his arm to prove it.
Bill had a multifaceted personality. Our mutual friend and law enforcement colleague, Dave Lieurance, once said, “Bill could tenderly hold a baby, and yet be as tough as necessary when arresting some of the toughest criminals to come through Wilmington.” He was very dedicated to his profession.
A female friend of mine said, “When I was a kid, Bill always looked like a movie star to me.”
Bill was known by his fellow officers and friends to have an unparalleled sense of humor. We will mourn his passing, of course, but no doubt Bill would like us to remember the things that made him and us laugh.
One evening, Bill and I were cruising together. I showed him a new cassette tape recorder I was using for classes at Wright State University. Cassette tape recorders with batteries were relatively new at the time.
“Let me see that thing,” Bill said as I handed him the recorder.
It was standard operating procedure for police officers to radio their location and purpose when exiting their cruisers for any reason. Radio codes were used instead of conversational language when transmitting over the radio. The code for out of service was “Three-Seven”, and the code “Four-Three” signifies the officer’s residence.
As Bill and I cruised, we overhead a supervisor signal out he was going home after working late. I watched as Bill listened keenly to the radio with the tape recorder ready.
“Three Seven – Four Three,” the senior officer radioed the dispatcher.
“You’re clear,” the dispatcher responded.
Thirty minutes later the voice of the senior officer once again said, “Three- Seven – Four Three,” and once more the dispatcher responded, “You’re clear.”
An hour later we heard the supervisor signal out again. Each time the dispatcher answered, “You’re clear.”
Six more times the officer signaled out at his residence. “You’re clear,” the dispatcher responded dutifully each six times. Then it dawned on the other officers! Someone had taped the supervisor’s radio traffic and was playing it back over the police radio. The dispatcher never did catch on.
For months afterward, each time I saw Bill he would say, “Three-Seven – Four-Three,” and let out a big laugh.
On another occasion, Officer Hidy was assigned to a cruiser with an older officer who hated to work the “midnight shift.” The older officer had a tough time staying awake as the night wore on.
One summer morning at about 8:45 a.m., there was a commotion at the intersection of West Main and North South streets in downtown Wilmington. In the first parking space near the intersection sat a city police cruiser, empty except for the officer Bill Hidy had been riding with the night before. The officer was still asleep in the passenger seat, with his head leaning against the car window. One of the downtown merchants saw the sleeping officer and called Chief Irwin at the headquarters.
A few minutes later, the chief pulled-up alongside the cruiser, tapped on the window and said, “Hey! Wake up! It’s time to go home.”
“Thanks, Chief, I must have dozed off,” the officer replied. “Wait ‘till I get my hands on that Hidy,” the officer shouted to no one in particular after the chief departed.
Bill Hidy, age 76, passed away last Friday.
Wilmington and Clinton County lost a dedicated public servant whose 55 years of law enforcement service to our community will never be forgotten. Bill was a man who cared deeply about Wilmington, and the people of Wilmington cared deeply for him.
“Three-Seven – Four-Three, Bill.” May you rest in peace.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.