Ray Saylo has a few beads of wisdom for the deputies he left behind when he retired earlier this month.
Saylo spent 36 years with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, rising from a volunteer to assistant sheriff with extensive responsibilities for, among other things, training officers.
“Rather than confront, good law enforcement will become part of the community,” Saylo said. “You need to realize that the majority of people are great people, people who will stop and help you if you need help.”
He said that was his experience in the 1970s when he first started and he can remember more than one occasion when he was along breaking up a fight or trying to control a situation and people in the crowd jumped in to help out.
He said he has a lot of respect for the new guys coming into the department in a much more complicated world than the one he started off in, but he tells them they need to look at the situation, talk to people and figure out what’s needed before they act.
“Too many of the deputies we bring on board just don’t have the patience to do the talking,” he said. “A lot of them are just too quick to act.”
He said talking to the people involved in a bad situation can often resolve things rather than escalate the problem.
“If it doesn’t work, what have you lost? Two minutes?”
Saylo said when he started out, he had “my mouth and a stick” to get through a situation so talking to the people involved was important.
“I’m glad we’ve got Tasers and pepper spray but sometimes the officer jumps into that tool kit a little too quickly,” he said. “You have to have a connection with the community, recognize that the people you serve are just like you. They’ve got families, kids, they’ve got bills, houses.
“The sooner they learn that, the better off they will be in this line of work,” he said.
Saylo said in the old days, learning to communicate and get along, to defuse heated situations, was important because “we rarely had a lot of deputies on the road.” He said he and the others who worked with him knew that, most of the time, they were on their own to resolve whatever problem they faced.
A couple of other notes, he said, are to recognize that, “it’s not personal so don’t take it personal.” He said it’s important for a deputy to “have a thick skin.”
He said being able to communicate with people “was always one of my best attributes.” And he said it resolved a lot of issues without an arrest.
“I made a lot of arrests in my career,” he said. “I tried not to do it but when I did, they deserved it.”
He said it’s important for officers to get out of the patrol car. He said he has worked for five sheriffs and, all the way back to Hal Dunn in the 1970s, was told it was important to get out and walk around, talk to people.
“That’s actually a good concept,” Saylo said.
Saylo said he has a lot of memories he wouldn’t trade — including chasing a drunk driver for several miles on William Street and through town.
“Guess how fast we were going: Five miles-an-hour. It was an old man who was drunk. He told me I thought you were back there. I was just trying to get home.”
He said his dumbest moment probably came after he and then-fellow officer Rod Countryman chased down a driver who had stabbed his wife in a domestic fight. He said the guy was sitting in the car waving a bloody knife while Countryman was trying to talk him into surrendering when Saylo attacked, dragging the man out of the vehicle by his arm and taking the knife.
“I could have been stabbed,” he said. “But I tell people I saved that guy’s life because Countryman would have shot him.”
Among the things he says he has learned: “If something doesn’t seem right, it’s not.”
He said he found that out when he was called to a residence because the elderly woman there hadn’t been seen for several days. There was no sign of her and, ordinarily, deputies would just hold off. But he said he felt something was wrong and had a locksmith open the residence. Inside, the woman was trapped between the bed and wall, unable to get up for at least two days.
He said the best memories are like that — about helping people.
“I’ve had a good career,” he said. “I’m very happy with it. I’ve got some scars but no complaints.”