Losing the ‘old school’ in law enforcement
Ron Perea had only been a sheriff’s deputy for a brief time when he received a call about a man on the airport runway with a gun.On that day in 1971, Perea was by himself in the Nevada County Sheriff’s Truckee office. There wasn’t much going on in town in those days, and a deputy could be the patrol officer, dispatcher and jailer all at once.Before driving to the airport to try to disarm the gunman, Perea forwarded all calls to the CHP and locked up the office. He was nervous about dealing with the gunman; he hadn’t even been through the police academy, yet.When he got on the airport runway, Perea pulled out his revolver and told the gunman to drop his weapon.The gunman dropped his weapon.Perea told the gunman to put his arms up.The gunman put his arms up.”[The gunman] does everything I tell him to do, and I say, ‘Gosh, I’m doing this all by myself. This is great,'” Perea said. “Then I turn around, and there are seven CHP officers standing behind me.”Today Sgt. Perea sits in his Truckee office – just weeks away from retirement – and talks about the way things used to be in Truckee. He has a quiet demeanor. His co-workers call him laid-back and even-tempered. They also say he treats people with respect. He doesn’t have the “been there, done that” approach of a seasoned officer.Since he has been with the office for so long – Perea is the most senior officer in the county – many can’t imagine what it will be like without him.”He’s going to leave a hard void to fill,” said Communications Manager Chaun Gass, who has worked with Perea for 26 years. “He has an old-school attitude with the public. Just his knowledge of people who live here – that’s a hard thing to replace.”Before Perea began his career with the sheriff’s office, he did maintenance at Tahoe Forest Hospital, just across the street.One day, while in between maintenance duties, Perea was speaking with inhalation therapist Bob Tilton and Dr. Ray Wiser.Perea recalled their conversation on that day. “They told me, ‘What are you doing? Get a job.’ They said, ‘Walk across the street and talk to the lieutenant.”Perea did walk across the street, and he and the lieutenant hit it off. Perea left his job at the hospital to become a deputy. It wasn’t until two years later that Perea was sent to the police academy.In comes the police departmentBefore 2001 – when the Truckee Police Department took over policing in Truckee – the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office was the only law enforcement game in town.”It was kind of hard for us because we’ve been here for so many years,” Perea admitted. “But we get along great.”Since the inception of the Truckee Police Department, there are fewer sheriff’s officers on duty at the Truckee substation. Many of Perea’s duties have reverted to that of a deputy. Much like it was in the ’70s, sometimes Perea is the only officer in the station.”We stay busy,” he said. “Before the [Truckee Police Department], we didn’t get into the outskirts of town as much as we would like to.”With more outdoor enthusiasts coming to town, the sheriff’s office has also increased its search and rescue program, he said.Memorable casesIn his time with the sheriff’s office, Perea has worked on some noteworthy cases. This fall, the sergeant will be featured on the A&E television program “Cold Case Files” for his work on the Knorr case, in which a mother slayed two of her daughters in the Truckee area.One body was found on July 17, 1984, after the mother set her on fire off Highway 89, Perea said. Officers found the other daughter in a box by Martis Lake on June 21, 1985, after the mother had starved her to death in a closet in Sacramento.”I knew both of the cases were similar, but we never connected the two (killings),” Perea said.In short, a phone call from another Knorr daughter, on October 1993, helped Perea put the two murders together and solve the case. The mother was arrested in Utah Nov. 10, 1993.An A&E camera crew came to Truckee to interview Perea about the investigation.”I’ve been interviewed before by Reno TV stations … but never with all the lights and crew and all of that,” Perea said.The program will air sometime this fall.Looking forwardWhen the episode of “Cold Case Files” airs, Perea may be sitting comfortably in retirement. His last day of work is Oct. 1, and he hasn’t given much thought to what he’s going to do with his spare time.”Just enjoy life,” he said, laughing.He will help his wife, Margaret who he has known since eighth grade, with her office cleaning business, A Better Clean. He also plans on spending more time with his family and his 5-year-old granddaughter, who all live in town.He plans on staying in Truckee for a while, at least.With retirement just around the corner, Perea said he will look back on his time with the sheriff’s office fondly.He said he has enjoyed “helping people and talking to people.” He continued, mindfully, “It’s been good to know that if there’s something out there, we can help the citizens.”The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office will hold a retirement party for Sgt. Ron Perea on Sept. 17 at Boreal’s lodge. Call 582-7842 for more information.
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