‘I’m looking forward to not knowing’ says
retiring police records manager in Gunnison
By Anita Lyons
GUNNISON—It’s clear Carolyn Childs, who is retiring after 20 years as records manager for the police department, will be missed.
Childs says citizens from Gunnison and Centerfield have brought cookies, candy bars and thank you notes to the office. “I’ve seen more support than any other time since I’ve worked here,” she says.
In her opinion, “If CHOP (the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone in Seattle) is not a perfect example to you of what would happen in a city without police, then I don’t understand where you’re coming from,” Childs says.
“It’s an interesting thing. We hate our police until we need them. When you’re in an accident, you want a policeman. When someone breaks into your home, you want a policeman.”
It’s hard to be a policeman when the job can involve people hating you, swearing at you and people shooting at you, she says.
Gunnison Valley officers don’t face getting shot at much, but they face other issues being policemen in a small town.
She says she’s glad three of the Gunnison Valley officers live “enough away that people aren’t on their doorstep all the time. When people know you’re a cop, they have no boundaries. Going to a policeman’s home is not appropriate. They deserve down time, too.”
She is begging for people to call dispatch instead, which is run by the Sanpete County Sheriff Office. For emergencies, dial 911. For non-emergencies, or if you have a question about procedure, call the local office at 528-5532, or after hours, call the nonemergency dispatch number, 835-2345.
The hardest part of her job has been knowing things about people she sees around her. Child’s job was to gather the policeman’s report and photos, as well as witness statements, and write up a case record, which she turned over to the court system. (In many cases, the documents went to Pam Barrus, clerk of the Gunnison City Justice Court.)
Childs says one time she was grocery shopping and looked up just in time to see a woman making a U-turn so she wouldn’t have to encounter Childs.
“She knew I knew,” Childs said. “It’s been 20 years, and I don’t want to know all that goes on anymore. It’s not a fun thing. I’m looking forward to not knowing.”
Law enforcement agencies do not operate under laws like HIPAA, which require medical records and information to be kept private. Childs chose on her own to keep people’s secrets.
“Rumors spread,” she said, “I wanted it left in the Police Department.” She called her personal law the “cone of silence.” Asked whether her knowledge kept her from sitting by certain people at the Fourth of July auction, she laughs and says, “No, but sometimes my daughters would come home and tell me whose house they’d gone to, and I would tell them, ‘Don’t do it again.’ They knew they couldn’t ask why.”
Back in 1999, when her oldest child, James, went on a mission and her youngest child, Hannah, started kindergarten, she needed a part-time job to help pay for James’ mission. Her job with the Police Department has remained part-time through the years, although Childs went full time with the city by becoming the librarian as well. She is staying on as librarian.
She says the fact that her job at the Police Department is part time says something about the level of crime in the valley. Still, some people are surprised Gunnison needs a police department at all. Childs says the bulk of the policemen’s time is spent taking care of domestic cases—fights at home, arguments over custody turns, etc.
“Civil disputes take so much of their time because people are unable to get along,” she says. “It’s pretty sad in my book.”
Then there are the drugs. “It’s surprising to me how much we have in the way of drugs here,” Childs says. “It’s been pretty steady [through my career]. It’s just always there.”
As for car accidents, “We go for months without one, and then we’ll have four in less than two weeks,” Childs said.
Part of her job is registering sex offenders. When someone with a record of a sexual crime moves to town, the person is required to check in with the Police Department and register his or her address, job and car information. Childs sends the information to a national registry.
Some sex crimes require being registered for a certain number of years; others require being registered for life. Offenders are not allowed to live near elementary schools or parks.
Another part of her job was to discard records, she notes. A hit-and-run has to stay open for seven years; most case records are destroyed five years after the court disposition date and after fines have been paid; citations go in the garbage after two years.
Criminal histories are submitted to a national website by the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI). Police officers who need to know about a person they’re dealing with can find criminal information using the Technical Assistance Center (TAC) program. The Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) program keeps track of what officers are out on what calls.
On one recent Monday (June 30), there was nothing going on in the whole county, Childs says. She and Chief Brett McCall were amazed.
Childs says she won’t miss the scanner always broadcasting in the background. “When an officer comes in with the scanner going on his belt, I get it in stereo, and it drives me crazy,” she says.
She shared two times that she “busted out laughing” while listening to the communications:
An officer had a citizen stopped along the roadside to issue a ticket. A man rode by on a bike, wobbled and crashed, landing right in front of the officer’s car. When the officer jumped out to see if he was okay, the man, who was drunk, said, “Your magical lights messed me up.”
Richfield dispatch put out an ATL (Attempt to Locate) for a car. Officers quickly found it. The message they were asked to deliver is, “You left your wife at the gas station.” The man in the car replied, “I’ve got my dog and my son. I’ll think about it.”
Childs worked under four police chiefs—Joe L. Christensen, Blain Jensen, Trent Halliday and Brett McCall. She remembers listening to Christensen talking one day about how he was seven years away from retiring and thinking to herself, ‘I could quit then.”
That evening, Christensen took his own life. “I went up to the house and hugged Beth (his wife),” she remembered.
She didn’t quit the police department after seven years. “I attribute that to our good police officers,” she said, “I felt like I was making a good contribution, and I enjoyed the job enough to stay. It was always a good atmosphere, and there were always great people around.”
Childs couldn’t name an officer she didn’t like, from all she’s worked with over the years, including current officers Brett McCall, Tyler Donaldson, Carl Wimmer, Seth Hendrickson and part-timer Erick Pratt,
For the past three years, Childs has had help in the office from Tammy Winegar, who, as bookkeeper, pays the bills, handles insurance and issues paychecks. Winegar will be the new records manager, replacing Childs.