‘Mom’ to city police retires

12 January 2010 by RYAN ROBINSON

“Mom Boots” is leaving the city police department after 26 years. 

Dottie Boots, a community service aide, is retiring, and officers say she will be greatly missed on both professional and personal levels.

Boots is “a great inspiration” and was always there to help officers whenever issues arose, Sgt. J.D. Shaeffer Jr. said. “Like a mother with her kids.”

Boots, 65, of Lancaster, is one of 13 full-time CSAs in the police department.

She served as a police dispatcher for years for the department starting in 1984 before the county took over that duty. Boots also has worked in the jail section of the police station, doing everything from fingerprinting prisoners to completing their paperwork.

“I’m a people person,” Boots said on Tuesday before starting her last 12-hour overnight shift. “I’ll miss being with everyone at work and interacting with the prisoners.”

She said her mother taught her to treat other people the way you’d want them to treat you, and that outlook has served her well in her work in the criminal justice system.

Boots often defused tense situations at the police station, Shaeffer said.

One time a prisoner in the cell block was fighting with officers “like there was no tomorrow,” he said.

“Mom Boots walked into the middle of it, got in his face with such a smooth, calming voice and talked to him,” Shaeffer said. “He stared at her with a look of, ‘I want to rip your head off,’ but as she talked with him it melted away.”

The man calmed down and no one got hurt, he said.

“That sort of thing happened many times,” Shaeffer said.

Boots also will be sorely missed on a personal level, her co-workers said.

Boots comforted officers when they went through difficult times during their careers, according to police Capt. Stephen Skiles.

“Whether it was a tough shift, a family crisis, an illness, the birth of a child or even the death of a family member,” she was there for them, he said.

Boots filled a void in the lives of young men who, in many instances, were still learning how to be men as well as how to be police officers, Skiles said.

Chief Keith Sadler noticed Boots’ rapport with officers soon after he took the helm.

He was at the front desk one day when Boots stopped by the station while she was off duty, he said.

“As officers were coming in their normal travels, they stopped to hug her,” Sadler said. “One of the veteran cops called her ‘Mom.’ That blew me away.”

Police officers generally are reserved in expressing personal sentiments, so to earn such a nickname says a lot about Boots, he said.

Detective Chris DePatto said Boots sends birthday cards to his children.

“She was my mentor and became ‘Momma Boots’ to me, so they became her grandkids,” he said.

Police Lt. Todd Umstead mentioned another motherly attribute of Boots — her cooking, especially her meatballs in homemade sauce, which she generously provided to officers on many occasions.

Boots was born in Georgia and credits Southern hospitality with helping her to forge so many close relationships.

But officers will tell you she could also hold her own with prisoners who didn’t respect her.

“She didn’t take anything from them,” Umstead said. “If they stepped out of line, she could lay the hammer down. She was not a softy.”

Boots’ father was in the military, so her family moved around a lot.

She met her husband, a native of New Holland, in Hawaii, and the couple eventually moved to Lancaster in 1971.

Boots worked in several grocery stores but had always wanted either to be a nurse or “work around police,” she said, so the CSA job was perfect for her.

Boots looks forward to taking retirement easy, but not working at the police station throughout the week will be difficult.

“My guys and girls are there,” she said.