After 30 years of chasing criminals, Lt. Tim Osburn, chief of detectives at the Callaway County Sheriff's Office, has decided to retire on Wednesday.
On Friday afternoon, the county hosted a retirement reception for him in the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center. Dozens of law enforcement officers from central Missouri attended the event.
Reflecting on the many complicated cases he has worked on over the years, Osburn said at this point they all seem to blur together.
After observing so much quirky behavior, Osburn said, almost nothing would surprise him.
"It's common in the Sheriff's Office for us to look at each other and comment about life being stranger than fiction. We see so many strange things. People couldn't make this stuff up," Osburn said.
But Osburn has learned to develop a sense of humor when chasing criminals as the county's top detective.
"Almost every day," Osburn said, "something funny happens. This is a good job. There's a lot of camaraderie among the people who work here. Sometimes, seeing the humor in things is the only effective way to deal with some of the things we see."
Osburn said law enforcement techniques and the technology involved has undergone drastic changes during his three decades of law enforcement experience.
"The methods and procedures now are almost unrecognizable compared to the way things were when I started in law enforcement," Osburn said.
Investigators, he said, are now much more professional and must go into much more detail during their work.
"Technology available now is much better in proving cases in court. Standards today are much higher. Before it was common sense when we went to the jury. But now we use technology to prove cases," Osburn said.
Fingerprints now can be run through a computer program to learn the identity of an individual. DNA samples are also used to identify people at crime scenes.
People now have portable phones and electronic devices that can be tracked by investigators, he said.
"We do things today completely different than when I started in this work. It's all because of advancements in technology," Osburn said.
Thefts today are also evolving.
"When I started in law enforcement, most thefts involved stealing cash or passing bad checks," Osburn said. "But today they are stealing credit cards and debit cards. They also use computers to steal numbers on credit cards and use those numbers to steal money."
Osburn said 30 years ago many people didn't lock their doors and were more trusting.
"But today everybody locks their doors and are wary of others. They also have surveillance systems and alarms in homes and businesses," Osburn said.
People addicted to drugs are now more motivated to commit crimes.
"Drugs are the main driving force behind a lot of crime. Before it was mainly greed," Osburn said.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Osburn said, crack cocaine was the main addictive drug causing crime in Callaway County. In recent years, methamphetamine use has increased dramatically in Callaway County.
"Meth is extremely addictive and causes more violent behavior than crack did," he said.
During the past few years, Callaway County has recorded several murders associated with drugs.
Osburn said the change to more violent behavior has been gradual but believes much of it is related to illegal drugs.
"We probably have had more murders in the last 10 years than we had in the previous 20 years," Osburn said. "Most of the murders I've worked are drug-related in one way or another."
Six years after he was hired, Osburn was promoted as an investigator.
"At that time we had only eight deputies," Osburn said.
The department now has about twice as many employees.
As the county's top detective and investigator, Osburn supervises investigations of all major crimes and assists deputies with work when they are off duty. He also reviews crime reports and guides deputies in the correct direction to make cases in court.
Life experiences he had before starting a career in law enforcement were invaluable to Osburn.
As a young man, he traveled around the United States and Canada as an iron worker. He also worked on an oil pipeline in Alaska.
"My dad was in construction and traveled a lot," Osburn said, "and so did I."
Eventually, Osburn landed a job in 1978 helping to build the nuclear reactor at the Callaway Energy Center. He's been a Callaway County resident for the past 35 years.
Osburn graduated from high school in Springdale, Penn. He then worked in construction jobs in Omaha before joining the U.S. Marine Corps, serving two years during the Vietnam War.
During his travels as an iron worker and as a Marine, Osburn learned a lot about people and how to size them up. It was valuable experience later when he started a career in law enforcement.
While employed as an iron worker during construction of the Callaway Nuclear Plant in 1978, Osburn volunteered to work with the Callaway County Sheriff's Patrol.
"After doing that for about three years," Osburn said, "I decided I liked this type of work and I was hired by the Sheriff's Department as a deputy in 1983."
Eleven years after arriving in Callaway County, Osburn in 1989 met and was married to the former Mary Payne, a local girl. They have a daughter, Millie.
Osburn is looking forward to retirement and traveling with his wife.
"I've got a big yard, a nice-sized garden and a tiller for my tractor," Osburn said. "I plan to do a lot of mowing, and I'll keep busy. I also would like to get back into fishing and hunting - I'll soon have more time for that."