PORT LAVACA — Cpl. Jose Pena strode into the break room at the Port Lavaca Police Department and sat down at a desk that officers use to write up their reports.
“He outranks me,” Pena said as the Captain nuzzled him. “Did you guys send me in here to get chewed out by him?”
The Captain is a 2-year-old orange American shorthair cat. And although he’s only been with the department for a year, he not only outranks Pena but everyone else in the department except Chief Colin Rangnow.
Karen Neal, the department’s administrative assistant and evidence technician, bestowed that name on him because she thought it would be funny.
“Plus, cats are like their own boss,” she said.
Rangnow grew up riding horses in Victoria County. He remembered that successful feed stores always had a fat cat. The cat, lazily lying across a bag of feed, was kind of a centerpiece for a friendly atmosphere. The feed store owners always knew what their customers wanted. The customers would pet the cat and chat over a cup of coffee. Rangnow wanted to recreate that atmosphere for the police department and the community it serves.
Although the Captain has maintained his slim figure, he attends meetings that Rangnow holds with detectives every weekday over coffee. Once, the Captain bopped a detective on the back of his head, perhaps to keep the meeting on topic.
“The detective thought we were intently listening to him, but we weren’t. We were watching the Captain’s paw extend and just get closer and closer. We all died laughing when he bopped him and were like, ‘I think the Captain is telling you to shut up,’” Rangnow said.
The Captain also fights crime.
Perched on the ledge of Rangnow’s second-floor office window, the Captain once alerted him to a man who’d driven to City Hall next door to pay his water bill.
As the man parked his truck, he emptied a can of beer. When he opened his truck door, another can rolled out. It was public intoxication.
“You really just can’t make this stuff up,” Rangnow said.
The Captain is also calm under pressure, a trait every police officer should have.
He rode out a hurricane in a bathroom when the officers’ children laid out air mattresses on the second floor of the department, where the Captain spends most of his days. He’s also taken a few rides in the squad car to meet students at local schools.
The Captain tries to calm others, too.
He plops down in between Javier Ramos and the computer as if to tell the lieutenant over criminal investigations that it’s time to take a break.
Sometimes, the Captain climbs Rangnow’s chair and then kneads Rangnow’s back with his paws.
“I don’t know if he thinks I’m the most stressed of them all. Maybe that’s why I get back massages,” Rangnow said, chuckling.
When the Captain’s not working, he’s playing with paper clips, catching spiders and trying to win over the officers who prefer dogs by cutely chasing lasers they point on the walls of their break room.
“The stress of the job, he’s definitely helped in that aspect,” Rangnow said.