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On the very first day of the very first week of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, 24-year-old Tim Smalley signed up.
It was 1986. Mammoth had just incorporated. It was a brand new job in a brand new town. Heâ€™s still here. â€śThe first five days were good,â€ť he said. â€śWe just drove around town to get the lay of the land. We just checked it out.â€ť
Now, that day and that week is a distant memory. On Wednesday night Smalley received a 25-year service award from the Town Council. He is the longest tenured officer on the force. His award, given to him by Mayor Jo Bacon, came immediately after Sergeant Karen Smart also received a 25-year service award (see p. 1).
Smalley, 49, who specializes in traffic investigations, said itâ€™s almost unbelievable. â€śItâ€™s gone by quick,â€ť he said. â€śIt doesnâ€™t seem that long ago that we started.â€ť He said he did not really know at the time where heâ€™d find his niche. But the niche found him.
â€śI was assigned to a training officer. Iâ€™d just gotten out of the academy a month earlier. He did mostly traffic. He wrote a lot of radar tickets, so I set up to learn to write a lot of radar tickets. My first few weeks were all about writing radar tickets.â€ť
After about a year in uniform, Smalley got his first big case. â€śIt was a fatal traffic accident and that got me hooked on traffic accidents, and Iâ€™ve been doing that ever since. It was on Meridian on the curve above Minaret. â€śIâ€™ve done the majority of the fatal accidents ever since.â€ť
For two years he was a detective, but that didnâ€™t suit him very well. He gravitated back to traffic accidents which is where he is today. â€śMost officers have a feel for what they really enjoy. Thatâ€™s where they excel.
â€śSome guys like working narcotics, and theyâ€™re very good at it. Others may specialize in sex crimes, or whatever. Me? Iâ€™m not that good at narcotics. I like traffic investigations. Iâ€™ve done everything over the years. Iâ€™ve been a detective and a lot of little things. But my rule is that you pick up what you like.â€ť
As for promotions, Smalley seemed skeptical in an interview on Thursday. â€śIâ€™ve put in for promotions, but itâ€™s a lot of politics, especially above sergeant,â€ť he said. â€śAt one time I had the desire, but we donâ€™t have a lot of turnover here. It just didnâ€™t happen.â€ť
Even a promotion to sergeant has not appealed in him.
â€śI like what I do. A sergeant sits in the office and does paperwork most of the time and thatâ€™s just not as attractive as being out here with the people.â€ť