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By KEITH SHARON | | Orange County Register

March 28, 2006 at 3:00 a.m.

This is what it looked like in those first few days, back when the Duck was working homicide: A typical murder for hire.

In 1991, the Duck gets word that a hit man is after a Westminster aerospace worker named Ronol Potter. The hit man has been hired by the victim, his wife of five years, and her boyfriend. The tip, strangely enough, comes from the victim's boyfriend, a nice guy with a Southern accent who says his guilty conscience has gotten the better of him.

The Duck gets the Potters to come to the detective bureau at the Westminster Police Department.

This is what it looked like after the Duck’s first interview with the victim: A case that would change the Duck, the victim and cases like hers across California and the U.S. forever.

There would be a murder, but, as it turned out, it wasn’t a murder for hire. Mike Proctor has a reputation for getting himself in the middle of unexpected or dangerous predicaments that roll off him like, as the cliché goes, water off a duck’s back.

Thus the nickname.

He was a substitute teacher in El Segundo and Anaheim and made some extra money training high school kids for their driving tests. One of the requirements for driver’s training instructors was to take a ride-along with police.

Proctor said he was hooked on police work the first moment he sat in that patrol car.

He was hired for an administrative position by the Westminster police in 1972, and he spent most of his time writing procedural documents. He wrote protocols for undercover cops, which he always wanted to be.

He also worked patrol and as a school resources officer and a patrol-training officer. Finally, he got the chance at detective, working residential burglaries.

The Duck ruffled some feathers when he refused to wear a suit and tie, like all the other working detectives. He fought for his own dress code: blue jeans and a sports shirt. It was much easier to hop fences and chase down bad guys in casual clothes.

The Duck rose from burglaries to homicides, but he always dressed down.

“I didn’t look good in suits anyway,” Proctor says.

As he talks about his career, so many of his stories begin with the time he came upon a crime in progress. He would drive up just as a robbery or a rape was taking place. He would notice a man sitting in a car and quickly find out that the man was wanted.

“I would think to myself … that guy doesn’t look right,” he said. “It’s a sense you get. I just happened to run into stuff.”

He just happened to be the next homicide detective available when an insurance agent called the Westminster police to report that they had received a warning about a hit on Ronol Potter.

The victim carried a scrapbook filled with police reports, photos, written notations and newspaper articles about her stalker.

Since 1979 when they dated briefly, her stalker had been making her life a nightmare. His concocted story about her hiring a hit man to kill her husband was only the most recent form of harassment. He had, among other things, beaten her, slashed her car tires, followed her to work and called her home incessantly.

She was so frustrated, she considered allowing the suspect to beat her again, so the police would arrest him for assault.

“There was nothing I could do,” she said. “I was going around and around with police departments until that day I walked into Mike Proctor’s office.”

The Duck listened.

He knew California had a new anti-stalking law, but he had never read it. Over the next several months, he began becoming an expert in stalking. He developed a protocol for conducting a stalking investigation and writing a profile of a stalker.

The stalker became the first person in Orange County to be convicted under the law.

The law (it has since gotten tougher) didn’t have harsh penalties. The suspect did some jail time, then later was issued an order prohibiting him from being within 10 miles of the victim. The stalker, a 6-foot-3, good-looking, sweet-talking man, moved back to his home in Alabama … where he had committed several crimes and was on probation.

The victim and her family were relieved, but they shouldn’t have been.

By the mid-1990s, the Duck was still working the occasional homicide, but mostly he was working on stalking cases. He says one in 12 women and one in 45 men are stalked in their lifetimes. He suddenly had as many cases as he could handle.

One day in 1995, the Duck took his two young sons to a park in Garden Grove. When they were leaving, he saw the stalker pass in front of him. He called out his name but the notorious stalker didn’t turn. The Duck told his boys to sit in the car – they were disappointed they couldn’t help him arrest the bad guy – while he called the police.

That park was six miles from the victim's home, a violation of the restraining order. Several police cars arrived at the scene.

The handcuffed suspect finally realized it was the Duck who had spotted him.

“OK, Proctor, which car do you want me to get in?” the suspect asked.

The Duck retired from fulltime duty in 1996. He began consulting with agencies all over the United States about stalking laws. He opened a consulting firm, Duck Works, and gives advice to victims, police and prosecutors. He also has written a book, “How to Stop a Stalker,” that details how to prevent, catch and prosecute a stalker.

Recently, he has been working with the Omaha police, trying to lobby the Nebraska Legislature to get the penalty for one of their stalking statutes changed from a misdemeanor to a felony.

In 2000, the Duck got a phone call from the Tuscaloosa, Ala. police. The stalker and an accomplice had killed a man whose house they had been living in.

In 2002, the Duck and the victim each testified at the stalkers trial. He was convicted and given consecutive life sentences.

The victim is convinced that if the Duck hadn’t intervened, her stalker would have killed her.

“If I didn’t get Mike Proctor’s attention, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

She is still happily married to Ronol. They have two adopted children, who, she said, they never would have adopted without the confidence that Proctor could save their family from her stalker.

She calls Proctor her “guardian angel.”

Everyone else just calls him the Duck.

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