New Washoe police captain on board
Although Capt. Rick Norris is the new man in charge of the Washoe Tribe Police Department, he is certainly not new to law enforcement or new to the tribe.
Norris has nine years experience in law enforcement. He has only been captain for one week, but he has been an officer for the Washoe Tribe since April 1997.
Although Norris is not a member of the Washoe Tribe, he said he has never found cultural differences to interfere with his work.
“As long as you’re fair and forthright with people, I don’t think (cultural differences) enter into it,” Norris said. “I’ve lived all over the world – from Europe to Central America to the Middle East – and people are pretty much the same wherever you go. They all have the same wants and needs and desires. If you treat people fairly, you’ll come out ahead no matter where you’re at.”
His father was a career military man, so Norris grew up living at various places throughout the world, such as Germany and Puerto Rico. When his father retired, Norris’s family moved to Kansas City, Mo. Later, after going to college at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City and the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., he joined the Army.
Achieving the rank of captain, he served as a platoon leader, executive officer, company commander in the 82nd Airborne Division and a detachment commander in the Special Forces. After seven years in the military, Norris spent four years as both a production supervisor and quality control supervisor for Hallmark Cards Inc., in Lawrence, Kan. Then in 1988, he pursued what had been his goal since before going into the Army – becoming a police officer.
Norris has worked in the Reno and Carson City police departments, and he has experience in street patrol, drug and gang interdiction, and preliminary investigation in a wide-range of crimes.
Although he has been all over, Norris said he likes working for the Washoe Tribe.
“I like it here, I like the people, I like the people I work with,” he said. “We have the time to sit down and talk with people. I like having the ability to do that.”
The Washoe Tribe Police Department oversees law enforcement in the tribe’s four colonies – at Dresslerville, Woodfords and the Stewart and Carson colonies in Carson City. Norris estimates there are 1,200 to 1,500 people at the colonies. As a small community police force, the tribal department is able to respond differently than a larger community’s force would be able to.
“In a place like Reno, a lot of times they have to respond out of necessity,” he said. “They start 30 calls behind every shift, everyday. They don’t have time to address people’s needs. Here, we can slow down and take the time to stop and talk to people during calls.”
Although Norris’s title is captain, the position is equivalent to the chief of police. Including him, the Washoe Tribe has five police officers and two probation officers.
Making sure the officers receive the best training possible is one of Norris’s first goals. Something else he wants to accomplish soon is to introduce himself to and open up communication with other agencies the police force works with, such as Carson City and Douglas and Alpine counties.
However, Norris said his first goal is to focus on community-oriented policing and to work with the residents of the colonies, because “the police department is part of the community.”
He said he wants to hold some community meetings as soon as possible. He wants to introduce himself to community members who do not already know him and to find out what services the community wants from the police force.
But the position of captain has been vacant for more than four months, and, for now, Norris has some catching up to do.
“I’m just trying to get my feet on the ground,” he said. “We know where we need to go, what we need to do, but right now we just have to play catch up.”
Norris said he was a little reluctant at first to take on the responsibility, but said he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I guess I had cold feet at first, but it’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s not a challenge that I think will overwhelm me. I think I can do a lot here, make some changes. Hopefully, I can make the community happy.”
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