The Chadron Police Department will lose a valued member as this Saturday is Sergeant Jarvis Wallage’s last with the department.
Wallage’s interest in law enforcement started with his father, Wayne, who worked at the county courthouse in Fremont County, Wyoming.
“Most of the time, when I was younger, I was hanging around with county deputies and other officers in that building,” Wallage said. “And my close friend’s dad was a deputy sheriff. I was very impressionable, of course, being a teenager and being around law enforcement.”
Raised in the Shoshoni, Wyo. area, Wallage came to Chadron in the summer of 1992. He had just obtained and Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Central Wyoming College in Riverton and, looking to continue his education, he enrolled at Chadron State College. He further added CSC had an appeal because Wyoming residents were being offered in-state student tuition rates, and he remembers his Wyoming professor, Walt Francis, endorsing CSC as being one of the up-and-coming regional colleges for its Criminal Justice Sciences program.
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After graduating from Chadron State in 1994 with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, Wallage went home that summer to pursue prospects in Wyoming. “That just wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s what led me back here,” Wallage said. He also had other family and friends here, and worked some odd jobs before joining the Chadron Police Department.
Wallage first began in 1995 as a part-time dispatcher. At the time, he said, it was a 20-hour position. He further explained there were spots for 20-, 30- and 40-hour dispatchers. Though he started at the lower end, as other folks left he gradually was bumped up the ladder until he reached the full-time 40-hour spot.
When a Dawes County Deputy Sheriff position opened in the summer of 1998, Wallage applied for it. He noted it was actually former sheriff Steve Crile who was interested in hiring him, and Wallage already had familiarity with local law enforcement through his work as a dispatcher.
Following an interview, Wallage was officially a deputy sheriff. A couple weeks of training later he received his keys, gun, badge and vehicle, and was out on his own.
Aside from the obvious changes in venue and responsibilities, Wallage said the biggest changes for him were the job tasks of getting out and seeing the physical geography of the county. “Seeing it on a map was one thing,” he said. “Driving it for real was completely different, as far as understanding the vastness of Dawes County. It’s a good-sized county, which a lot of people don’t understand. When you start patrolling it and responding to calls in it, it gets a whole lot bigger real quick.”
Wallage said he was in the deputy position for 10 years, with no foreseeable room for advancement in the near future. Two sergeant positions had opened up to the public, and based on his experience Wallage submitted his application.
He was kept in limbo at the time, as then police chief Jerry Crews and city manager Al Vacanti had recently lost their positions. Margaret Kuiper was hired the acting chief of police, while Donna Rust became the acting city manager. Eventually, Sandy Powell was appointed the city manager and Tim Lordino was hired as the police chief, and the hiring process moved forward. After 13 years, Wallage returned to the Chadron Police as a sergeant in June of 2008.
Wallage said because of the years of experience and the training given, it is his and other sergeants’ job to mentor and train new officers, and oversee their responsibilities, as well as doing all the other associated duties the officers perform.
“For what the city’s invested in me, I was very appreciative to be able to pass that along to anyone who came through of the doors of the Chadron Police Department as a new hire. The calls will be there. The good calls will be there; the bad calls will be there. I’ve saved lives. I’ve done the Shop with a Cop. It’s all rewarding.”
Wallage added there are some things he has done, in the long run, to protect his own mind from the stressors of the job, and he passes along this knowledge to the new officers.
Policing is generational, he added, and in his more than 13 years as a supervisor he’s become more aware of who is coming through the doors, particularly in what period they grew up in, to better train and understand the officers and make them successful.
Wallage’s last day with the Chadron Police is Jan. 22. He has accepted a position with the Lincoln Police Department as a sworn officer and begins his new post on Jan. 27. He’ll be one of 350 sworn officers on the department, though he’ll have some seniority with being certified.
The decision to move to the capital, he said, was made after he looked at a lot of different agencies, and spoke with friends and people who had been in the area. Among them was former Lincoln Police officer Roger Suhr. They commented well on the Lincoln area and the police department.
As for moving to a more metropolitan area, Wallage feels like police work is always police work, and it’s a matter of personalizing it to the area and the people he’s policing. He acknowledged he will lose some of that personalization, because he won’t know anyone right away in Lincoln. He further added Chadron “will still be my home.”
Wallage also shared he’d just started as a deputy when he met current police chief Rick Hickstein, who was getting a haircut before an interview to join the Chadron PD.
Hickstein said, “Since I’ve known Sergeant Wallage, he’s been an outstanding law enforcement officer. He’s always provided our community and the area a quality law enforcement service. He’s a top-notch guy. He’s dedicated. He’s passionate about the work that we do.”
What’s impressed Hicketsin the most, however, is Wallage’s care about everything. “It’s not just a job for him,” the chief said. “I’m sorry to see him go. I was hoping I’d get to keep him.”
As to the numbers in the department, Hickstein said when Wallage leaves there will be 11 officers, 10 of whom are certified and one in the academy. The department will have four open spots, and is actively hiring.
It is yet to be determined whether an officer will be moved into a sergeant position. Hickstein said he will be looking at the makeup of the department. They are entering a new contract year, and some of the staff has voiced they would like to move to 12-hour shifts.
“If we do that,” Hickstein said, “I want to look at that and make sure we’re doing the right move . . .It’s a good time for us to sit back and take a good solid look at how we’re functioning.”