For Police Chief, It’s 30 Years of Small Moments Helping People
This article is part of a series focusing on individuals who dedicate their careers to serving the public in honor of Public Service Recognition Week.
Gary Minor spent 30 years in law enforcement, retiring as the Chief of Police of the Brier Police Department in Washington. He was also certified to practice law in Washington State until his retirement. Gary currently teaches criminal justice courses for American Military University.
We asked Gary why he chose a career in public service and how his work as a police officer helps others.
What inspired you to pursue a career in criminal justice?
I have often thought about this. I have no idea what made me go into law enforcement; it’s just always something I wanted to do. I went to college to earn my degree in criminal justice and become a police officer. I never regretted it, nor have I ever looked back.
What do you wish you knew before going into this field?
I entered this field completely blind. My first position was as an undercover narcotics investigator for the Washington State Patrol, straight out of college. Nothing could have prepared me for that role, and I went into it having no idea what to expect.
After two years, the Redmond (WA) Police Department hired me and I went to patrol. Patrol was very different. I spent my time cruising the streets learning what to look for, how to look for it and making arrests. That position was also not what I expected it would be.
What was the most satisfying and/or enjoyable part of your career?
I cannot say that there was any one part of my career that was more satisfying than another. Although it was highly dangerous, working undercover for the Washington State Patrol Drug Control Assistance Unit (DCAU) was highly satisfying. I was actually shutting down drug dealing.
Being a patrol officer was satisfying in a different way. I was assigned to an area, and it gave me the opportunity to really know the residents and the business owners. Patrol was a great way for me to help people without making arrests.
When I became police chief, a position that I held for five years, I revamped the department and made it operate the way I thought it should. I helped my officers see new and inventive ways to protect and serve the community.
Is there a moment or incident that you reflect upon fondly as being highly representative of why you pursued this career in the first place?
It’s hard to pick any one moment or incident that exactly captures why I chose this career. It was really 30 years’ worth of small moments helping many people.
However, there was one incident where I talked a man out of committing suicide in front of his daughter. He had a shotgun in his mouth and was ready to do it.
I also helped save a man who found out he had HIV/AIDS. He ran in and out of traffic trying to get hit by a bus because he felt he had nothing to live for.
These stories are moments that I know I had a direct impact on someone’s life. Police officers have so many small moments of helping people that are not as dramatic, but are still very influential.
What impact does your work have on people?
When I look at my work, I look at how it affects the community in general. If it is done correctly, law enforcement provides the community with a feeling of safety. The community realizes that they have an agency to go to when they have problems.
What advice would you give others pursuing a similar career?
I always advise people to leave their prejudices and TV beliefs about what police do at home. What happens on TV is just not reality.
Also, remember that police officers are there to protect the entire community. Officers must treat everyone the same.
Those wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement should also be prepared to miss holidays and family events. For those just entering the field, you must realize that you will likely start by working the graveyard shift and weekends.
Lastly, get ready to write. I would say about 90 percent of a police officer’s job is paperwork.
To learn more about Gary’s contributions to criminal justice, please read some of his recent articles:
- Use of Deadly Force on Fleeing Criminals
- Court Rules on Civilian Drones Used to Record Police
- Unequal Disciplinary Actions for Officers After Shooting Deaths
- Legal Perspective: Men and Women Often Receive Disparate Sentences in Sex Cases
- The Cases that Led to the Supreme Court Ruling on Cell Phone Warrants
- Kim Davis, Religious Freedom and Accommodations
- Interview Questions for Victims of Domestic Violence
- Illegal Aliens and the 14th Amendment