Truckee police recruits start academy training
When Truckee Police Chief Scott Berry was recently promoted to fill the shoes of former Chief Dan Boon, he faced a number of challenges. Boon and Berry had implemented a philosophy known as “community policing,” a strategy that emphasizes cooperation and quite a bit of officer contact with the public.
But community policing takes manpower, and when Berry took over as chief, the department was understaffed and in need of more officers to properly serve the Truckee community.
The department’s officer recruitment program was quickly ramped up, and new officers were hired. Officers Arnie Lopez, Melinda Morter and Dave Bucknell are all scheduled to hit the streets of Truckee on Feb. 5, Feb. 9 and Mar. 1, respectively.
However, two of the officers hired aren’t technically even officers, yet.
Jeff Safford and Joshua Akright are currently five weeks into their five-month training program at the Yuba College police academy in Marysville, and while they have been enjoying their experience at the academy so far, they are anxious to finish their training and begin their new careers in Truckee.
Both men have some background in law enforcement.
Safford, 40, has made a career out of serving the public ever since finishing high school. He has served in the Army, as an emergency medical technician and, most recently, as a dispatcher for the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office in Truckee.
While he has worked closely with local law enforcement for five and a half years now, Safford never intended to become an officer.
“I didn’t want to get a foot in the door as a dispatcher in Nevada County and then become a cop. That wasn’t my intention in the beginning,” he said. “It was about two years into my dispatching experience over there that a reserve deputy with Nevada County inspired me. He made a difference in my life one day that inspired me to want to become an officer and get out and make the public contact versus over-the-phone-type contact. He’s the one that showed me that an officer can make a difference in someone’s life, and that’s what I want to do. That’s my motivation for becoming an officer.”
While Safford’s inspiration came later in life, Joshua Akright, 29, always knew he wanted to go into law enforcement.
“I always knew I wanted to be a police officer growing up,” he said. “It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do because a couple of my uncles were state troopers in Michigan and I heard their stories about their adventures and their job …”
Akright grew up in Detroit and joined the Navy in 1993 after finishing high school. He completed his basic and technical training in San Diego and then was stationed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk for five years.
While in San Diego, Akright had begun doing volunteer police work in the Midcity precinct, and after his time onboard the Kitty Hawk, he was set to become a police officer in San Diego when the USS Cole was attacked in the Persian Gulf.
“I have a lot of patriotic emotion in me, so I pulled my package (with the police department) and I extended on active duty,” Akright said.
Finally, after a total of 10 years in the Navy and a final 10-and-a-half month deployment in the Persian Gulf, Akright was ready to pursue a civilian career in law enforcement – a career he hopes will allow him to spend more time with his wife and three kids.
Safford has two young daughters of his own, and ironically, Akright and Safford’s new jobs have actually forced them to spend more time apart from their families.
Both live in the Yuba College dorms during the week. And while they make it home over the weekends, the strain of being away from their families for so long has been one of the toughest hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
“It was really tough the first couple of weeks,” Safford said, “especially being away from my kids. But we’re getting in a routine down here, and they’re getting in a routine up there, so it’s actually getting a little easier to deal with.”
The desire to be home with their families and the excitement of knowing that they have a job with the Truckee Police Department when they complete the academy have the two newest Truckee police officers anxiously awaiting their May 26 graduation date, still almost four months away.
And back in Truckee, no one besides their families will be happier to see them graduate than Chief Berry.
“We’re excited to have them,” he said, adding that the department has been keeping in close contact with their newest officers in training.
“Our training officers go down and touch base with them about every two weeks, so if they ever need anything we’re in constant communication with them,” Berry said.
[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series profiling two of Truckee’s newest police officers as they complete their training and join the Truckee Police Department.]
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