By Lucy Ohlsen
Friday is Josephine County Deputy Jim Geiger’s last day of the workweek. He clocks in at 8 a.m., and does his job until 3 p.m.
“I don’t feel guilty about leaving at 3,” he says. Geiger is the only full-time deputy left covering the county after drastic budget cuts. “The pay’s not any different,” he half-jokes.
Geiger’s hours are the only time residents of the 1,600 square mile area can call for police assistance. Usually, he spends most of the time filing paperwork. But today, he’s on patrol.
“I always wanted to help the community,” he says, cruising away from the Walmart that looms over the police station. To his right two loaded guns are strapped in, and a computer flickering with reported calls is easily accessed by his right hand while he drives. He sips the last drop from a 24-ounce can of Rockstar.
After 17 years of police work and firefighting before that, Geiger now dreams of a life of self-sufficiency. “I just want to live simple,” he says, and details some of the YouTube videos he’s watched to build — among other things — his house.
Switching on his siren, Geiger abruptly stops explaining his hope for an off-the-grid lifestyle upon retirement. Speeding onto the highway, cars seem not to hear the blaring noise. A school bus pulls out in front of his patrol car at an intersection.
“See this right now?” he says. “They’re like, fuck, there’s cops all over the place! What do the sheriffs need money for?”
Finally, he reaches the house where he is dispatched. After handcuffing a man who was threatening to shoot his mother, he walks inside to talk to the people who made the call.
“You’re the same one I saw at the doctor’s office the other day,” the mother says, after calming down enough to give Geiger some details.
“Well, I’m the only one,” he responds, standing with his hips thrust forward, notebook in hand. He is the only deputy left.
Geiger takes the threatening son back to the police station to be jailed, and so that he can end his day. He recalls the days when the police car parking lot was full, and when the guys working in the jail were his deputy buddies.
Geiger’s not happy with being the only one left, but he calls himself a “big boy.” Though he clocks out at 3, he has given rides to homeless people who camp out in front of the police station. Posters and pictures on his office bulletin board reveal that he’s a huge Ducks fan. And, a mugshot with “arrested, Jim Geiger” is in front, showing his commitment to catching “bad guys.”
Geiger’s wife isn’t in to sustainable living, and his two kids are not very interested either. He calls his job “thankless,” but is not considering doing anything about changing his own location.
“This is my home,” he said. “This is where I live.”
This is my home. This is where I live.
I always wanted to help the community.
Deputy Jim Geiger
Deputy Jim Geiger
© 2013-2014 School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon