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Building the Truckee Police Department

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

THE MAKING OF A POLICE DEPARTMENT

A three-part series

— Today: Laying the groundwork

— Next week: Working with Nevada County

— May 17: Where the money is going and where it comes from

Over the last year the Town of Truckee Police Department has been taking shape, little by little, but always at an expedited pace.

Using the recommendations, philosophy and budgets of consultants Lewis/McCrary Partners, the town embarked on what would be one of its first major steps to forming a new department when it hired Dan Boon as its first police chief last fall.

Hiring the police chief was a fateful step. Pressure by the community and from those connected to the existing law enforcement was weighing heavy on the town, and it was made clear. Nevada County Sheriff’s Office deputies expressed grave concern over how the selection of the new department head would influence their decision to stay in Truckee and apply for the new force or move on. If the town began the new department on the wrong foot, it could sever ties and compel veteran officers to look for positions elsewhere. Naming a chief would be a crucial step, one that could change the face and policy of law enforcement in Truckee.

Town Manager Stephen L. Wright, who would ultimately make the decision, was well aware of the implications.

According to the Lewis/McCrary report, “the selection of the chief is the most important decision the town will make if council decides to form a police department … Every employee appointed would be the appointment of the chief and the success of the organization absolutely depends on those appointments.”

In conjunction with Town Council and law enforcement consultants, Wright established a selection process that included two community boards to evaluate the candidates.

Town Council voted to hold public workshops whereby Truckee residents could submit written comments or voice concerns over what qualities they felt the police chief should possess.

And so it followed that early last winter the first and most important figure for the police department was cast.

Dan Boon had experience creating police units before. While the Truckee Police Department formation was different, he was chosen, in part, for his vision and entrepreneurial capacities.

Those choices certainly didn’t outweigh his law enforcement experience, which extends back for several decades.

Boon has a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from California State University in Sacramento and is a graduate from the Federal Bureau of Investigations Academy in Quantico, Va. He worked in Auburn from 1979 to 1995 before moving to Pismo Beach, where he worked as the chief before coming to Truckee.

After his first day in late January, Boon began a focused and aggressive campaign to form the new police department.

In an interview published last fall, however, Boon made the clear distinction that he was not alone. Wright, and much of the town staff, he said, would be very much involved in the formation, and they had been very much the originators as well. A tentative outline was presented as a guide to Town Council in a special meeting on July 13, 2000 and it described a 21-month process leading to full operation by this September, when the contract services with the county would expire.

The deadline for Truckee Police Department operation was less than nine months away when Boon started, and with only Dan Boon on board, armed with a budget and a willing resource of town staffers, the town’s police department had a long way to go.

There was so much to do initially, in fact, that for Boon to describe one or two important projects was almost irrelevant. There were many projects, and Boon began juggling a series of tasks, some that had been initiated well before his first day, and many that had yet to begin.

Enforcement personnel

In a recent interview Boon said hiring the appropriate personnel is the single biggest issue currently facing the new department.

But it’s not a totally new issue.

Almost as soon as the Police Chief job classification and grade order or salary was approved by Town Council, town staff and its consultants began working on the job classification and grade orders for the next in command, the police commander and for the executive assistant.

Town Council approved the requirements of the California Penal Code relating to the training of law enforcement officers this spring.

Town Council unanimously approved a maximum monthly salary of $4,629 for a Truckee Police Sergeant. The salary includes the Tahoe Basin Incentive, a monthly stipend to help defray living expenses.

Town Council set the maximum salary for a Truckee police officer at $3,924 per month.

In a Town Council meeting earlier this year, council asked how Truckee Police Department salaries will compare to the surrounding area. Chief Boon replied, “Let me put it to you this way: We’re in the NFL and we are going to be able to get players.”

Truckee Police Chief Dan Boon also selected 11 vehicles to be used by the new police department.

Radios and mobile data computers will also be added to the vehicles but staff has recommended that Town Council defer purchasing the computers until next year when sufficient funding will be available.

“There is a long lead time for those … When you are talking about eight or nine vehicles it all adds up,” added Wright.

In a Town Council meeting earlier this month Chief Boon presented an overview of the department formation. In it he presented the design for the new vehicles and the new badge, described the current status of personnel and the communication equipment.

Scott Berry will be joining the force as the police commander, he said. Berry currently works in Yuba City. He has nearly three decades of law enforcement experience, two college degrees and he is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigations Academy. He, along with Rebecca Haynes, the new executive assistant, are scheduled to begin May 7.

Boon said he has talked with several applicants from Nevada and Placer County. The responses have been positive. Although he doesn’t know exactly how many applications he has received, calls and letters of interest have been received from people across the state.

The entire staff is scheduled to be on board and operational by Aug. 6.

“Things continue to go well,” said Wright from Town Hall Tuesday. “I believe we are still on track for the Sept. 1 deadline.”

Boon is equally optimistic.

“I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Boon. “Once we bring on the police commander and the executive assistant it will make things a lot easier. The light is starting to glow.”

Next week: facilities, services and contract negotiations


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