By Bonnie Culverhouse
A restaurant chain brought Steve Cropper to Minden in the 1980s, but a love of law enforcement is what made him stay.
“There’s no one in my family who’s in law enforcement, but I was always interested in it,” said Cropper, who was born and reared in Enid, Okla. “I worked at the Sonic in El Dorado, Ark., – my parents bought it and moved there. Then I ended up buying the one in Minden, and that’s what brought me here.”
And even though Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper is going to retire effective Dec. 31, he and wife Kathy plan to spend those retirement years here where she owns and operates Red Blooms Floral Designs and Events.
So, how did Cropper catch the law enforcement bug?
“I got to know some of the (Webster Parish) deputies when I first moved here,” he said. “We had a break-in at the Sonic, and that’s when I got to know (investigator) Jack Tucker. He was assigned my break-in and I talked to him … got to know him, and that’s how I ended up in law enforcement.”
Cropper said he spent the first couple of years with the sheriff’s department in a state of frustration at the Penal Farm – which could be the only time he questioned his choice.
“I begged Sheriff (Royce) McMahen for a job,” he said. “I didn’t have any experience, so that’s where I ended up for at least a year and a half.”
After watching other deputies come and go, Cropper went to late Minden Police Chief Chester Adcock and asked for a job. Adcock said he would hire Cropper who then went back to McMahen and told him.
“Before the conversation was over, I was happy,” he said. “I was still at the Penal Farm, but I was OK with it. That’s the way McMahen was. He could talk you into liking something you really didn’t like.”
When there was a sheriff’s department opening on the south end of the parish, McMahen moved Cropper into patrol under the tutelage of Dep. Mickey Perryman, who retired from WPSO in 2020 after 34 years serving.
“We worked together for a long time,” Cropper said with a smile. “In my opinion, everybody should be trained under Mickey Perryman.”
When former State Trooper Ted Riser was elected sheriff, he moved Cropper into the investigative division where he continued under Gary Sexton.
“I loved being an investigator,” he said. “Helping with burglaries – getting people back some of their items that were stolen.”
Cropper said he especially enjoyed working a case where 25 to 30 guns were stolen from a residence in Dubberly. Arrests were made and, while not all the firearms were recovered, many were returned to the owner.
One case that still breaks his heart is the violent murder of 6-year-old Heather White in 1999. The child’s mother and her live-in boyfriend were convicted of the crime and are still on death row.
In 2010, Cropper said he was with his wife on some property he owns in the Shongaloo woods and broached the subject of running for police chief.
“We had made a fire and thawed steaks to cook,” he said. “We knew (former Chief T.C.) Bloxom was going to retire, so I just brought up the subject, thinking Kathy would tell me I was crazy. When I told her I was thinking about it, she said I should do it.”
And he did. Cropper has served 12 years as chief. Most of his thoughts are good ones, although he as a couple of regrets.
“I regret the officers we have lost to other, better paying jobs,” he said. “We had some really good ones, and I wish I had them, as well as the ones we have now. Although we have a really good force, I wish I could’ve been able to build a stronger one.”
His other regret is not solving the 2017 murder of Tyrone Sumlin.
“I told Ms. Ruthie (Sumlin’s mother), I would do everything I could to solve it before I left office,” Cropper said. “We’ve had a lot of good leads, but we could never tie it all together.”
The ones he is happiest about – all the ones they have solved.
“I bet I could count on one hand the number of murders we have had,” he said. “But we have put all but one away along with a lot of drug dealers and gang members.”
Now that Cropper is ready to step down, he will spend a lot of time in the great outdoors.
“I like to hunt, so I’ll do that,” he said. “I haven’t fished much in a while, but when spring rolls around, I will start that again.”
When summer gets here, he said he might even try his hand at golf again.
But he will keep in touch with Minden Police Department.
“These people are my family,” he said. “As long as I am welcome, I will be around.”
Chief Cropper will be honored during a retirement reception from 2 until 5 p.m. today (Tuesday, Nov. 15) at Orleans on Main.
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