If elected, rebuilding trust between the people of Storey County and their police force will be paramount for sheriff candidate Tyler S. Clarke. A 12-year veteran of the Reno Police Department, he would like to see a return to small-town policing.
"Deputies need to interact one-on-one with the public, talking to shopowners and tourists," he said. "They should drive through a neighborhood and talk to people rather than simply passing through in a squad car."
The issue of trust came to a head after the shooting death of town character Bob McKinney. The 57-year-old resident was shot and killed by Deputy Mark McCreary May 10, 2001, on Virginia City's main street after an alleged confrontation with some tourists.
"I knew Bob all my life," he said. "He had the potential to be dangerous, but the system failed him."
Clarke said problems between residents and the sheriff's department started long before the tragedy.
"Ninety percent of the damage was done in the two years before McKinney was killed," he said. "There were a number of incidents, and regular use of force can and should be investigated within the department. That should include a follow-up with the person who made the complaint. The citizen should be given the chance to take the investigation a step farther if they're dissatisfied.
A lifelong Virginia City resident, Clarke said the youth of Virginia City are alienated from the sheriff's department. He'd like to change that through special programs, like the Boy Scouts Explorer program.
"Youths aged 13 to 21 could become active in and learn about law enforcement ," he said. "Both Gary Hames (Storey County fire chief) and I started in high school as volunteers. That's when the interest was sparked. It's important."
Clarke said he learned a lot growing up about law enforcement from Bob Del Carlo, who was sheriff at the time.
"I saw the way he handled problems and I always knew where I stood with him," Clarke said. "If I did something wrong, Del Carlo would be at my house, having a cup of coffee with my parents when I got home."
Clarke said he would also redistribute staffing in the department.
"I believe in direct supervision of all shifts," he said. "Currently that exists only on day shifts. After five p.m. there is only one deputy for Mark Twain, Virginia City and Highlands and another for Lockwood and Rainbow Bend. If more coverage is needed, deputies must call for an assist from Lyon County or call an officer in. The department needs at least one deputy and one senior officer/supervisor at night and evenings and two deputies and one supervisor during the day."
Clarke, 36, holds an associate degree in criminal justice and law enforcement from Truckee Meadows Community College in addition to holding an advanced certificate in Police Officer Standards Training.
"I can go on the street as a police officer if need be," he said.
An instructor in police canine training, he is nationally recognized by the North American Police Working Dog Association and instructs in many areas of police work, including problem-oriented policing, officer survival training and crime prevention through environmental design.
He said he loves his job in Reno, but believes he will be more satisfied working for and with the people he calls neighbors.
"If elected, I'll be taking a $13,000 cut in pay," he said. "But I'm 100 percent sure this is what I want to do. I'm young, I'm dedicated to this job and I'm willing to serve for many terms."
Clarke is president of the Storey County School Board and has two children with his wife, LaRinda. Trenton is two and LaRissa, 7. He coaches basketball coach at Virginia City High School: three years with the junior varsity team and one year with the varsity.