WILLISTON, N.D. — High wages in the oil industry lured Williston police officer Caleb Fry away from his calling.
“Money got the better of me,” said Fry, who left the Williston Police Department to work in the oilfield.
But after about six months of working for two different oil service companies, Fry was miserable and decided the money wasn’t worth it.
“Once this job gets in your blood, it’s hard to be away,” the 30-year-old said.
Fry, originally from Choteau, Mont., returned to law enforcement in December 2010, this time with the Williams County Sheriff’s Office.
The past couple of years have been drastically different than when Fry first became a cop in Williston in 2007.
“Before, it was something new every day, but now it’s really something new every day,” he said.
Fry, promoted to detective last fall, said he anticipated that he’d spend a lot of his time investigating thefts. Instead, he’s the lead detective on a homicide and assists with other major investigations.
The population influx from the oil boom has increased the risk factor for law enforcement, Fry said.
“Before we were dealing with people we deal with all the time,” Fry said. “Now it’s new people every single day. Quite a few of them have no respect at all for law enforcement.”
But he emphasizes that he’s not bashing the oilfield.
“There are tons of good people who have come to work in the oilfield to support their families,” Fry said. “It’s just that we don’t run into those ones.”
Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching said the department has seen some turnover due to the high wages in the oil industry, but not as much recently.
Starting salary for a deputy was increased to about $44,000 to $45,000, up from about $36,000, Busching said. The pay is “not even close” to oil industry wages, but it’s more competitive than it was, Busching said.
Fry, who is married with four kids, said his wife and mother worry about him, but they’re proud and know he was miserable not being a cop.
Now Fry doesn’t even remember what he had the potential to earn in his oil jobs.
“If you’re truly a cop, you know you’re not doing it for the pay,” he said.