As a Camas Police Department detective specializing in sex crimes, Carol Buck came face-to-face with some of society’s most despicable human beings who committed unspeakable acts.
Child abuse and neglect. Incest. Rape. Domestic violence. Often, the crimes Buck investigated during her 22-year career with the CPD were committed against the vulnerable and innocent. She sifted through and analyzed the details of hundreds crimes that would make the average person want to cringe.
But when reflecting on her career as a law enforcement social services specialist, Buck describes the work as a “true calling.”
“I’ve never been a victim myself, but I felt such compassion and passion for it,” she said during an interview prior to her April 30 retirement. “I was never offended about hearing these unspeakable acts that happened to these children — they will pick up on that very quickly. I just needed to do something to help.”
And for nearly three decades, that is just what she did.
Buck’s interest in social services was piqued after she worked with the administrator of nursing at Woodland Park Hospital in Portland from 1971 to 1975. She helped coordinate the hospital’s response to crisis situations.
“That is where I got my first awareness that child abuse and sex abuse really existed,” she said. “It always stuck with me, seeing what went on there and the lack of resources.”
In the early 1980s Buck was hired by the City of Washougal when it still contracted with Clark County for law enforcement services. She processed paperwork, answered phones and worked dispatch. When Washougal decided to create its own police department, she was part of the team that helped set up the organization.
In this position she could clearly see that a gap existed in the social services aspect of law enforcement — specifically related to sex abuse cases.
“I started to realize some things weren’t being addressed,” she said. “I realized there was a need.”
She completed the reserve officer program through the Washington State Criminal Justice System Training Center, and later underwent advanced training to handle sex abuse cases — an education that would continue throughout her career. The WPD created a new position specifically for Buck.
By 1990, her skill set in the investigation of sex crimes was well known in Clark County and she was sought out and hired by then CPD Chief Mike Slyter.
“It was my decision to hire her because we were dealing with an incredible case load with the victims of sex abuse and rape,” said Slyter, who retired in 1997 after 28 years with the CPD. “We needed somebody with some expertise, and Carol fit the bill.
“What she had was a real compassion for the victims and a keen eye for the investigation,” he continued. “Each and every one of those cases is important. That is why it was important to have somebody with the experience and dedication that Carol had. It takes somebody very special to do that job. It’s not typical police work.”
And Buck is not your typical police detective.
Although she may be petite in stature, Buck has a commanding presence that is unmistakable. She can be brutally honest and surprisingly blunt in one moment, but then incredibly sensitive, kind and caring in the next There is nothing disingenuous about her. It is a unique combination of characteristics that has clearly served her well in this specialized arm of law enforcement.
“Carol’s expertise benefitted our police department by her ability to quickly identify the core issues or concerns regarding complex cases,” said Capt. Shyla Nelson, who has worked for the CPD since 1999. “Carol was also a great interviewer who often amused her coworkers by her direct and to-the-point interview style, particularly when confronting suspects.”
Nelson said Buck’s compassion for the victims has been her most compelling trait.
“What sets Carol apart from other investigators is her warm communication style and her heart,” she said. “Carol stays in contact with many of her victims because she genuinely cares. Carol will never be able to walk through the Camas Safeway without seeing someone who she has forged a relationship with through her case work. Carol has truly made a positive impact on our community by her dedication and devotion to her work.”
Those sentiments were echoed by now retired Camas Police Chief Don Chaney, who worked with Buck for nearly 17 years. He described her as a “good teammate, role model and friend.”
“It takes a unique and special individual to do the job she did, day after day, for 22 years,” said Chaney, who is currently a member of the Camas City Council. “I think for Carol her work was more of a calling than a job.
“Undoubtedly, there were cases that impacted Carol on a personal level,” he continued. “Carol’s focus intensified when she was touched by a victim’s plight. In every way, she became the victim’s advocate.”
Buck said it was the instances of incredible strength and resilience demonstrated by many of the crime victims she came into contact with that kept her inspired and focused.
“They have no barriers,” she said. “You have to listen them. They tell you without telling you. Those are the things about this job that amazed me.”
Buck said through her work she has also had the opportunity to come into contact with many high quality city officials and law enforcement professionals — from police officers and district attorneys to police chiefs and mayors.
“You do not do this job alone,” she said. “There is no doubt in my mind, in these two communities and Clark County, I have worked with the best. There is not one person I haven’t liked. How lucky can you get?”
Current Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey said Buck’s absence will be felt.
“She has just been our crutch,” he said, describing the department’s reliance on her unique skills and abilities. “She has just been a great employee. It’s going to be one of those things where we won’t truly know what we had until she’s gone.”
Buck said she never imagined she’d spend her career doing police work, but looking back she now wouldn’t change a thing.
“I know that this job was a true calling because of the way doors opened up for me,” she said. “It has been a true passion.”