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It makes ‘cents’ to invest in police officers

It warmed my heart to read Boulder City Review reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear’s article about two former Boulder City Police Explorers, Kenny Calzada and Kevin Barakat, graduating from the police academy and being sworn in as full-time Boulder City Police officers.

Boulder City scored a bonus with the hiring of officer Guy Liedkie, a former Washington state deputy sheriff, Nevada Highway Patrol trooper and Navy corpsman, who served in Iraq from 2007-2008 with the First Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Police Chief Tim Shea, himself a retired Coast Guard lieutenant commander, now has a representative from every branch of military service inside the department.

It is easy for me to understand why young men and women would want to be a Boulder City Police officer.

My first contact with Boulder City was 20 years ago when I was helping my son move to Las Vegas from South Carolina to attend the Metropolitan Police Department’s academy. As we drove up the truck route, his pickup truck hitched to a trailer containing all his worldly possessions, I could see Lake Mead in the rearview mirror. With the greenery flanking both sides of the highway, I remarked, “This would be a great place to be a police officer!”

My son, a four-year South Carolina police officer and wise beyond his 25 years of age, replied, “Forget it, dad. The waiting list is a mile long and you would have to be a reserve officer for years.”

I was on workers’ compensation at the time and recovering from work-related injuries. I didn’t give Boulder City another thought until four years later when I submitted my application for reserve police officer.

I felt as though I had won a Megabucks jackpot when I went from reserve officer to full-time officer in four months.

Boulder City suited me well, and vice versa, as I was able to put my experience to good use in my fifth and final (or so I thought), police agency. (“Gypsy cop” is a playful term in police circles).

I take exception to reporters from other newspapers referring to Boulder City as “tiny.” There is nothing tiny about Boulder City. It is the largest city via land mass in Nevada. The population hasn’t grown as fast as neighboring Henderson and Las Vegas, but that is what makes Boulder City unique. Furthermore, the collective heart of the citizens of Boulder City is immense and unmatched.

Most police departments struggle for full staffing because of retirements, budget cuts and other issues. Boulder City is no exception.

Boulder City is not immune to big city crime. Its proximity to Las Vegas, Henderson and major highways that connect to Phoenix and Los Angeles creates an exponential opportunity for contact with dangerous people. I can name at least five officers who have had to use deadly force during my 10 years with the Boulder City Police Department.

I challenge the residents of Boulder City and their elected representatives to maintain their fully staffed police department and plan ahead to hire and retain quality officers and nonsworn employees. Most departments offer similar benefits in the form of retirement contributions, health insurance and other perks, but the primary attraction is salary. Your investment in your officers’ police academy, field training and professional development should be protected by a pay scale that exceeds any agency within 100 miles.

What good does it do to invest tens of thousands of dollars in training only to lose that officer to a competing agency after a few years? I believe that a statement of “We pay our police officers well” would augment Boulder City’s claim to being clean, green and almost crime-free.

My advice to all police officers is to be civil to all, take your training seriously and stay alive by anticipating unthinkable evil.

My advice to the taxpayers is to find a way to pay your officers well.

Dan Jennings is a retired Army captain and a retired BCPD lieutenant. He can be reached at bcpd267@cox.net.

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