Niagara Gazette

May 30, 2013

Retiring Falls Det. Patrick Stack lived life on the streets

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — He's had a rifle put to his head during a drug buy and a "hit" placed on him and his family.

He's also investigated some of the city's bloodiest homicides.

For Falls Police Detective Patrick Stack, the last 25 years have been interesting to say the least.

But now, Stack says it's time for him to move in a new direction and, on Thursday, he closed out his law enforcement career. His wife says she wasn't entirely surprised by his decision.

"The last two years, he's talked about leaving," Cathi Stack said. "And I think the last year, with the death of the little girl (Isabella Tennant) and some other (cases), it was pretty action packed and was packed with some pretty sad stuff."

Stack has spent virtually his entire career where the action was. Unlike most cops, who come out of the police academy and spend time working their way up the ranks in the patrol division, Stack went directly to a spot in what is now the Narcotics Investigations Division.

After three months there, doing pornography investigations, Stack spent two months as a patrol officer and three months as a Traffic Division officer. Before completing his first year on the job, Stack was tapped to join the Niagara County Drug Task Force as an investigator.

"They picked me up in the task force because they were aware of the porn stuff I had done and they were looking for someone young who could get into places," Stack recalled. "Crack had just hit (the Falls) and (crack investigations are) what I did. I was in the right place at the right time."

Stack was paired with Niagara County Sheriff's Investigator Tony Evans. Together they formed a dynamic duo, working on a task force that in one year executed more than 1,000 search warrants and racked up more than 2,300 arrests.

"It was a good ride," Evans said. "With Pat, it was a lot of energy, high volume, that's how I would describe our relationship. It was good working with him."

As exciting as the work may have been, Stack said it was not without its dangers as well. A native of the Deveaux neighborhood in the Falls, Stack was forced to move out of the city when Rochester Police discovered that a drug gang had targeted him and his family for death.

"Yeah, it was information that came from the Rochester (Police) narcotics squad," Stack said. "They (members of the Rochester drug gang, who had been doing business in the Falls) were going to kill me on Highland Avenue as an example. But if they couldn't get me there, then they were just going to come to my house and hit it."

When gang members were spotted cruising by Stack's home as he was outside with his children, the decision was made to move him out of town. It was a move he didn't want to make.

"I'm a Falls guy," he said. "I grew up here. I love the city."

The gang members who had sanctioned the hit were ultimately arrested, convicted and are still in prison. Yet that wasn't Stack's only close call while working on narcotics investigations. 

"I was making a buy of a pound of cocaine in North Tonawanda and they thought I might be an informant," he said. "They put a rifle to my head and said, 'If anyone gets arrested from this, we're going to kill you first.'"

Stack spent 13 years in the Narcotics Investigations Division after returning from the Drug Task Force. During that time, he has watched a slow and steady decline in many of the city's neighborhoods.

"I even executed a (drug) search warrant on the house I grew up in," Stack said. "Cleveland Avenue and 18th (Street). I remember it."

Just over seven years ago, Stack moved from NID to the Falls Police Criminal Investigations Division. It's the bureau that investigates all major crimes other than drugs.

There he was reunited with another long-time narcotics detective, Jim Galie, and a former narcotics lieutenant, Ernest Palmer.

"He was a really special kind of investigator," Palmer said. "He was my go to guy to find people. I'd send him and Jimmie Galie out to find someone and they'd always come back with them."

Stack said the move to CID made sense, at the time.

"I thought some of the younger guys in NID should get the chance they needed," Stack said. "And NID had moved to more (long-term) wiretap investigations and I wanted to be on the streets."

The veteran narcotics investigator said he never regretted his decision to move to the criminal bureau. 

"It was absolutely the right decision," he said. "I got to work with Ernie (Palmer) and Capt. (William) Thomson and I learned so much from them."

Those who know Stack best said he flourished as a criminal detective because of his ability to talk to people. 

"I like interviews, I like to talk to people," Stack said. "My thing was to catch (the criminal). I tried to find out why (a crime happened) and then go get the guy who did it."

Palmer said Stack had a knack for dealing with criminal suspects.

"He certainly had a skill in communications, he could get the truth out of people," Palmer said. "But also had a compassion, both for the victims of crime and the suspects. He made sure they were treated fairly. People he arrested would come up to him on the street and shake his hand."

Stack's wife said she too was struck by the relationships he'd build with those he put behind bars.

"He never hated the bad guys," she said. "There was a guy he arrested who wanted to throw him a party. That's different."

As he turns away from law enforcement and looks to the future, Stack said he's going to spend some time working on his century old home and helping his son with his boat repair shop.

He's also been told he'll be able to continue teaching at the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy. 

Still, Stack's wife says leaving the Falls police force won't be easy for him.

"The last few days, he can't talk about (leaving) without getting chocked up," Cathi Stack said. "He's gonna miss it. I'm happy for him and for what he did. But I think he'll miss the chase."