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Provo police captain ready to call it a day

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PROVO — Clad in a sleeveless T-shirt with long, scraggly hair, Rick Healey wandered the streets of Provo, hopping from bar to bar.

For six months during 1982 he lived in a motel, looking for drug dealers and stolen property. He had to sneak home on the weekends to take his wife, Janet, on a date.

"It was a really interesting time, but I would never go undercover again knowing what I know now," Healey said with a laugh.

The undercover work was just the beginning of a 26-year career for the now Provo police captain — a career that will come to an end Feb. 22.

"I've been here a long time," Healey said. "I've been thinking (about retiring) for the last few months. Everything just seemed to fit."

Healey, 51, said he'll focus on starting a few businesses, including one with his wife to sell a product she has invented. He declined to go into specifics because the patent is still pending.

He said he is also considering involvement with law enforcement training and might look into political service. There will also be a few more rounds of golf played and more visits to see the six grandchildren.

The announcement hit the police station Tuesday, but many other city employees heard Thursday. It's working with all those people that Healey will miss the most.

"When you work with people for over 26 years, you develop relationships that will hopefully last a lifetime," Healey said.

He said he'll also miss the excitement and intrigue inherent in police work.

"There's always something going on," he said with a knowing smile. "In some ways I'll miss that, and in other ways, I'm grateful to be getting away."

Healey joined the force as a Brigham Young University student looking for a job. He originally wanted to join the fire department as a paramedic, to aid him in his dream to go to medical school.

But when no paramedic jobs were available, he settled for a police job and got hooked.

"It was so exciting to me," Healey said. "I couldn't sleep at night, waiting to go back to work the next day."

He was a corporal for a few years (a position Provo no longer has), a sergeant for 10, a lieutenant for about eight and has been a captain/public information officer for two.

Through his years of service, he's seen it all. And some of those cases still won't let him go.

Like the time he had to deliver a death notice to the wife of a man who had been run over by his tractor.

The man was washing the tractor in a carwash with the motor running. He accidentally hit the gear shift and was run over and crushed. It was the last death notice Healey delivered.

But police work isn't all bad.

Healey has enjoyed directing security for 20 years of Fourth of July parades and during several BYU football seasons. A picture of Healey with former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards sits on his office shelf.

Being a part of the community and working with people is what Healey really loves.

"It's important for me to care about people as opposed to judging them," Healey said. "Even people that come in to go to jail ... they still have parents, people who love them. I hope for the best for them."

It's a contagious attitude, says Sgt. Todd Grossgebauer, who pops into Healey's office to chat and snag Hot Tamales from the candy dispenser.

"He expects us to be good officers but also good people," Grossgebauer said. He has worked with Healey for 12 years and for him for one. "When I come to work, he's here, ready for work. He's a leader who's not afraid to do the job he's asking his employees to do."

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com