Always be fair, have fun and remember everything happens for a reason: those are the things Carson City Undersheriff Steve Albertsen reflects on as he comes to the close of his 35-year law enforcement career.
Albertsen has served as the undersheriff for the Carson City Sheriff’s Office for the last 13 years, with an extensive career in law enforcement prior to that, and now he’s preparing to retire Dec. 27.
“I think I’ll miss the people the most and the anticipation of what’s next, of what calls you will get next, when you’ll have to wake up in the middle of the night to respond to something,” Albertsen said.
As undersheriff, Albertsen was second in command for the Sheriff’s Office, overseeing different departments and acting as sheriff when necessary
Out of high school, the Southern California native knew he wanted to go into public safety, only back then his career path was geared toward the fire service.
“Ever since I was a kid I liked the idea of public service, I was playing cops and robbers and fireman,” Albertsen said. “I have always tried to help people and treat people fairly.”
Albertsen spent many years as a reserve fireman in California, and that’s what initially brought him to Carson City. But as he was waiting to be hired with Carson City Fire Department, a friend convinced him to join the reserve deputy program with the Sheriff’s Office.
“I am kind of glad I didn’t continue my efforts to be a firefighter,” Albertsen laughed.
“When I progressed through it, I never thought I would become undersheriff, I never thought about promotions or anything like that, I just wanted to do a good job and have fun with it. I have gotten to see and do things a lot of things most people never will.”
After starting on patrol, the 62-year-old grandfather of 14, worked in the investigative division as a detective then on the Tri-Net Narcotics Task Force, as the Explorers adviser, part of the Juvenile-Gang Investigative Task Force and SWAT.
Then in 1993, he joined the Nevada Division of Investigation where he worked various task forces around Nevada and California before ending up back at the headquarters in Carson City. There he was promoted to the Major Crimes unit in NDI where he acted as supervisor for now-Sheriff Ken Furlong.
“Then one day, he told me he was thinking about running for sheriff and asked if I would support him and help him out,” Albertsen said. “So I told him I would ... then during his campaign he asked if I would be the undersheriff if he won and the rest was history.”
The two started in 2003 and have served Carson City side by side since.
“I have enjoyed it; it was a challenge but Furlong and I had the same philosophy of crime prevention and working with the community as a partnership with us and working with surrounding agencies,” Albertsen said.
Furlong said the retirement of one of his close friends is bittersweet.
“He is the greatest undersheriff this town has ever had,” Furlong said. “No one expects us to be perfect but everyone expects us to create solutions and do the extraordinary things and Steve thrives at that.”
He was all smiles and laughter as he recounted numerous memories.
“He keeps everyone laughing, he is such a people person,” Furlong said. “He is my undersheriff, and I can’t think of a more trusted, compassionate, more accountable person than Steve. He is like the father of this department, everyone loves him.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him and it will be hard to see him go, he has done a tremendous job. I will miss him terribly.”
The two implemented programs and events such as National Night Out, School Resource Officers, spaghetti dinners, mental health programs and more, all with the intention of uniting the community, youth and law enforcement.
“We wanted to get the community together, especially the kids in the community,” Albertsen said. “People deserve to know what is going on with the department so we wanted to be open because we couldn’t do our jobs without the community.”
Furlong also credited Albertsen with restarting the K9 Unit, helping with Search and Rescue and helping provide any and all necessary equipment for the deputies including the MRAP for SWAT and vehicle maintenance.
“On the social side Albertsen is our shopper, if something was needed, he will find and get it,” Furlong said. “He’s always there to come through for his employees. He is just Johnny on the spot, when something happens Albertsen comes flying and that is comforting.”
Albertsen said he has been a big proponent of transparency in policing because residents can help solve crimes and keep the community safe.
“We can’t do what we do without the community so I don’t understand why we wouldn’t want it any other way,” Albertsen said.
Over the last 35 years, Albertsen has seen it all, from immense tragedy to a community united.
Some incidents that stuck out to Albertsen were tragedies from the IHOP shooting to the death of Deputy Carl Howell, and even small incidents like having to tell a 12-year-old her mother was killed in an vehicle versus pedestrian accident on Christmas Eve.
“There are calls you will always remember; good and bad,” Albertsen said. “I have been involved in numerous investigations and crimes from homicide to narcotics. I have seen how drugs have ruined families.”
But not all were bad. Albertsen said one incident that will always stick with him was when he and some deputies traveled to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to help law enforcement. While there, he came across a man standing on a slab of concrete that used to be his home.
“He asked me where I was from and I told him Carson City, Nevada, and he was just thanking me for being there,” Albertsen said. “I kept saying ‘I wish there was something I could do, I wish I could do something,’ and he had lost everything but just kept thanking me for being there.
“To me, that support is amazing.”
For him, that community support is what kept him going throughout the years.
“I have seen a lot of changes in policing over the years, where people support law enforcement then that declines, after 9/11 it increased again then dropped but in this community, we are always supported,” Albertsen said. “And I think it’s because we’re open with our citizens.
“After Carl died, it showed how the community supports us because everyone just rallied together behind us with the cards, food, cookies, watching people line up along the streets for the precession, it is just amazing.”
It’s always been about getting to interact with different people for Albertsen.
“This has been great, I have worked with so many different people, so many great people inside this department and out,” Albertsen said. “That was the best part of being the undersheriff was working with different people and agencies and I could be involved in so much.”
But after all that, Albertsen decided it was time to hang up his badge and enjoy the retired life while he’s still healthy.
“I still enjoy my job, I still love it, but I am getting older and hopefully my health is still good for a while so I can enjoy the plans I have made when I retire,” Albertsen said. “I want to travel and camp and such and I think it’s better to do now while my health is still OK because never know when it’s your time. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow so I want to enjoy it.
“I have Furlong to thank for all that he has done for me, with the opportunities he’s given me. I just have to remember everything happens for a reason.”
Those in the community don’t have to worry they will never see his snowy hair and big grin again; Albertsen said he and his wife Tammy plan on staying around Carson for a long time, and he hopes he can volunteer with the Sheriff’s Office post-retirement.
“It will certainly be different, but hey, if I get bored I will find something to do,” Albertsen said.