The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office no longer should be seen as a “stepping stone” move for Nevada police officers building a career in law enforcement but as a department serving its community in a meaningful way, Sheriff Brad Pope says.
Pope told the Appeal recently he sought to run for the office last year to make a difference in the department’s leadership after having served in LCSO since 2005.
“I don’t want to speak negatively of the former administration, but I saw the direction or the lack of direction the agency was going, and I thought I could provide a better service to our deputies and ultimately to the community as a sheriff, so that’s what made me run; the state of the agency,” Pope said.
Pope was sworn in as sheriff at the Lyon County Commission’s first meeting of the year on Jan. 3 but had set to work early in December, having chosen his command staff and restructured his office to better serve the county’s needs. He also requested the county commission to eliminate a vacant lieutenant’s position and create a deputy position instead while keeping a separate grant-funded position.
Pope said these early steps are meant to help address a problem that has plagued the office for at least four years: a high turnover rate for an agency that Pope sees as one of Nevada’s premier law enforcement offices with the proper oversight.
“It’s a lack of leadership outside of the ranks,” he said. “It’s a basic principle of leadership not to ask guys to do something you’re not willing to do yourself, and I think (the administrators) have lost sight of that.
“Pay has a factor in it, as well,” he added. “Agencies around us make a little bit more money than us … well, sometimes a lot more money than us. So guys can go to another agency where leadership is present and can make more money, so it’s more appealing.”
Pope, who grew up in Henderson, left Southern Nevada when he was 21 and went to work in Ely State Prison in 2002. It was a long commute, but he liked the feel of a small town.
“So I moved to Yerington and started with the LCSO in 2005 as a patrol deputy,” he said. “After two years, I went to narcotics and I did a pretty good job. I was promoted to sergeant. I went to the jail, and then they sent me back to narcotics to transform the unit into a special investigations unit.”
He remained there until former Sheriff Frank Hunewill was sworn in in 2019. He’s since continued to watch the department and has stayed involved in the community as Yerington High School’s head football coach. Although he said the 2023 season likely will be his last in his coaching role, he praised his coaching staff for the support he’s received as he campaigned and in his early start in the sheriff’s office.
Pope said his other plans for the department involve getting a sheriff’s enforcement team running for traffic stops, with several retired officers who have expressed an interest in assisting along U.S. 50 in issuing citations.
“We want to increase our presence there, and hopefully that reduces the amount of accidents and safety violations we have going on,” he said.
He said he worked in Dayton, one of Lyon’s most notorious areas for speeding, for more than three and a half years, and said the corridor through Stagecoach needs to be addressed.
Programs to help young adults get involved or to encourage them to consider careers in law enforcement could get a trial run by the early spring, Pope said. He spoke highly of the school district’s school resource officers and said he wants to be able to work on the logistics of what other communities call their “explorers” to get a similar junior deputy program launched for local youth by April 1.
“If I could, I would expand the SROs (school resource officers),” he said. “They do an incredible job. … Right now, I don’t have any positions on the street to spare, and we’re down about 17 positions.”
But he hopes with the Nevada Legislature entering its 2023 session in February, Lyon might receive some assistance, including a proposal that would not require Sundays for appearances in bond or court hearings. Pope said that would help to relieve pressure on the Lyon County Jail.
He also mentioned the 2021 session changes (in effect as of Jan. 1) that turned misdemeanor crimes into civil infractions. That’s led to staff implementing changes in the department’s computer system and what seems to be an effect on productivity.
Overall, however, he said Lyon County is becoming a more proactive agency, and he’s proud of the positive outcome it’s having for its rural communities.
“Crime has gotten out of control in certain areas and we’re looking at suppressing that, like the flow of illegal drugs,” Pope said. “We’re doing the best we can. We’re sending the message that we want to stop it. We want to suppress it. We’re not just going to sit by and let it happen anymore.”
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