Sid Herjes daughters recall with wonder the memory of their fathers making bullets in the basement of their Staten Island home.
As a New York City police officer, Herje found used the time-off income to take his family on a decent vacation each summer the highlight of everyones year.
That meant he spent hour after hour filling bullet shells with gunpowder on a special machine. He sold these bullets, also repairing firearms for fellow officers and teaching in his downtime to secure a few weeks on a favorite lake upstate.
He said it was my mothers vacation, said Linda White, one of this three daughters, noting that Herje did most of the cooking. It was kind of a wondrous thing to all of us.
Herjes career in criminal justice took place in two distinct stints, the first as a patrol officer and firearms expert in New Yorks 6th and 24th precincts, the second in North Carolina. Though he retired to Raleigh after 20 years on the force in New York, he spent another 20 years working locally, initially as an instructor and later as the chief of the Carrboro police department.
In both states, his specialty as a firearms expert proved an asset beyond earning a nice vacation. It was through his urging that the state mandated annual in-service firearms qualification for law enforcement officers, making both officers and citizens far safer.
Herje died last month at 86.
Herje first visited the Triangle when headed to Florida after his retirement in New York. He had a cousin in Raleigh, and he and his first wife, Jean, never made it to Florida. (He was widowed in 1977 and remarried Bonnie Herje, who survives, the next year.) They simply fell in love with the area and the cost of living, his daughters said. His pension seemed to go a lot farther here.
His youngest daughter, Nancy Herje, was 10 when they relocated. She said he never planned to remain retired, and it didnt take long before he had a job teaching police community relations with the N.C. Human Relations Commission.
He went on to teach at the N.C. Justice Academy in Salemburg before becoming Carrboro police chief. It was a job he wanted, but not one he needed, and he had the freedom to make changes without worrying too much about perception. It did not take him long to institute some major changes in how things were done.
He was trying to modernize the police department, and it certainly was in need of that at that time, said Eddie Caldwell, now vice president and executive council for the N.C. Sheriffs Association. He first met Herje when he was a part-time Carrboro police officer.
Herje was quick to ask Caldwell to draft a policies and procedures manual, as the existing one was woefully out of date. He sought resources, lobbying for new positions as the budget grew.
And once again, his experience with firearms came into play. Herje made sure his officers carried the most up-to-date firearms available. All officers were to carry firearms that took the same ammunition so that in the event of a shootout, they could lend one another backup ammunition.
Further calling upon his expertise (in New York he was a court-accredited firearms expert), Herje started twice-monthly training sessions at the shooting range, instead of annual training.
The more you practice, the better you do, Caldwell said.
In 1986, Herje was appointed to the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission. He pushed the state to mandate annual firearms qualification for law enforcement officers, simply motioning for the annual training during a call for new business rather than waiting for the issue to be mulled over by various committees, Caldwell said.
It showed his get-her-done style, he added.
Herje was known for his matter-of-fact style, as well as honesty and openness. Caldwell recalls that Herje lent fellow officers an ear and sometimes even money when times were tough.
Herje referred to his management style as supervision by drinking coffee. As police chief, he was often found sipping some joe as early as 5 a.m., just as the shifts were getting ready to change. He found he could learn a lot simply listening in on the goings-on at that time.
An occasional insomniac, Herje would drive from his home in Raleigh in the wee hours to cruise the streets of Carrboro, listening in on the police scanner to see what the beat was really like for his officers.
He was pretty old-timey New York cop, his daughter Linda White said.