When Kathy Manning left her 36-year law enforcement career on Friday, she walked away with great friendships, crazy stories and a snappy sense of humor.
“I plan to be a ‘kept wife,’ a trophy bride,” quipped 55-year-old Manning when asked what she’s going to do during retirement. “I’m going to float in the pool, eat bon bons and travel while my husband works.” (Manning’s husband, by the way, is Weatherford Police Chief Mike Manning.)
Manning’s long and eventful career began at age 18 when she worked as a dispatcher – first at the Forest Hill Police Department and later for the Richland Hills Police Department.
While working in Richland Hills, she went through the Dallas County Sheriff’s Academy to become a certified peace officer.
“The Chief at Richland Hills sponsored me through the Academy but said he couldn’t hire me as a police officer because he already had two female officers and it didn’t look good to have that many females for a small department,” Manning said. “So, he helped me get hired at Fort Worth in January 1981.”
Manning worked in patrol for 1 ½ years before being assigned to “The Project” – an undercover intelligence unit made up of “narcs” from the Fort Worth and Arlington police departments and the DA’s Office.
For eight years she worked undercover, helping take down the county’s baddest robbers, burglars and drug dealers. She has posed as a prostitute, stranded female, drug dealer – even as a fence for stolen property.
“I have to say that was the most fun and memorable part of my career and where I made the most connections with other law enforcement officers,” she said.
Mike Adair, a former Arlington Police Officer who is now chief of the DA’s Investigation Division, worked with Manning in the undercover unit and characterized her as “one of the best.”
“In my 40-plus years of investigative assignments, she was one of the best undercover agents I have worked with,” Adair said. “She took on many dangerous undercover assignments and never hesitated to do her job. It has been a privilege to know and work with her.”
During her 12 years with the Fort Worth Police Department, Manning also worked as a detective in the personal crimes, family violence, child abuse and sexual assault units.
In 1993 she was hired as an investigator with the Tarrant County DA’s Office, where she started out in the Crimes Against Children Unit. The next year she was moved to the DA’s Special Crimes Unit, where she has remained since.
It was in this role that Manning worked her most notable cases.
Manning was the investigator in the so-called “Texas Cadet Murders” – a highly-publicized case in which military cadets David Graham and Diane Zamora killed Mansfield High School sophomore Adrianna Jones.
She was also part of the investigative team in the case against Ricky Lee Franks, who kidnapped 6-year-old Opal Jo Jennings.
Both cases resulted in true crime, paperback books.
In the book about Franks, Manning and her cohorts still get a kick about the author characterizing her as a “well-coiffed, veteran detective.”
“I was a little hurt to think that I was an old lady with a good hairdo,” Manning said.
DA Investigator Danny McCormick joked that Manning was probably behind the description.
“I think that is how she described herself to whoever wrote that book,” he said.
To be sure, Manning’s retirement has made her the target of some good-natured ribbing.
Adair recalled the time she mistook a vat of butter for butterscotch pudding at a lunchtime buffet.
“She had a priceless reaction when she gulped down a big spoonful of “dessert,” he said.
And there are stories abound about her bad driving.
“She’ll never have to clear out a space on her mantle for a safe driving award,” Adair said.
Co-workers said Manning is also known for her “go bags” of goodies – which consisted of cookies, pork rinds and other snacks.
“No one went hungry around Kathy,” said Investigator Celeste Rogers.
Rogers said Manning also will “do anything” for a free t-shirt, including giving blood and gymnastic tricks.
“The ultimate occurred just recently at the Homicide Investigator’s Annual Meeting,” Rogers said. “She did the splits for a free t-shirt!”
Rogers pointed out that, in addition to being a great cop, Manning is also a great person.
“I always knew she would back me up when we were out there looking for people,” Rogers said. “We went through a lot together – the death of my mother, the death of her mother, and the death of my son. She was always there for me and I’ll never forget that.”
Rogers said Manning is also an actress in community theater and active in her church.
“There are a couple of other things I could tell you, but I don’t think the statute of limitations is up,” she joked.
- Melody McDonald, Public Information Officer