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Chance meeting brought officer to Fallon

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Councilman Bob Erickson, left, and Mayor Ken Tedford, right, present a gift to both Laura and Vern Ulrich upon his retirement.

A chance meeting more than 25 years ago led to a monumental change in the life of a man willing to help others. After serving the city of Fallon since 1989, Capt. Vern Ulrich recently retired as Mayor Ken Tedford, his friends and colleagues recognized him at a luncheon.

Ulrich, who served in the U.S. Air Force and then with the La Junta, Colo., police department, had been traveling through the West. He stopped in Fallon and liked what he saw.

“I spent four hours in Assistant Chief Dale Carr’s office, and we talked about a wide range of subjects,” Ulrich said, adding that he was considering moving from eastern Colorado because of the poor economy. “I applied after talking to Dale and went home (to La Junta). Fallon seemed like a nice community, and I have been here ever since.”

Ulrich had an interest in law enforcement when he joined the reserves as a young airman stationed at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs. Once he left the military, he began to pursuit his interest in the form of full-time employment with a police department.

Once he submitted his application to the Fallon Police Department, he sat through an oral board, and afterward, former Chief Danny Wood hired him. Ironically, Wood left the FPD, and Carr became acting chief.

Ulrich, who graduated from high school in Montana, moved up through the ranks. He became a Fallon patrol officer in 1989 and three years later was promoted to sergeant. In 2006, Ulrich achieved the rank of lieutenant and two years later became a captain, responsible in overseeing the detectives, dispatch and records.

Police Chief Kevin Gehman said Ulrich was a captain when he, Gehman, was hired in 2008.

“When I walked in, he provided a position of support to the chief’s office,” Gehman said.

What caught Gehman’s eye, though, was Ulrich’s attention to detail and the thoroughness of his work. Gehman said he was never concerned with Ulrich because the FPD captain could complete tasks with accuracy and detail.

“He was the guy you would assign it (a task) to,” Gehman added.

Over the years, Ulrich was involved with many cases and situations. He remembers one when he arrested two homicide suspects from California who were staying in a motel room. When handcuffing one suspect, he noticed the other was reaching for a weapon.

“I convinced him it was not in his best interest,” Ulrich said.

Other cases, though, bothered Ulrich when children were involved. He also handled sex offenses and battery cases and dealt with situations when victims were severely beaten, all incidences that made an impact on Ulrich. He also said the most challenging situations are when suspects reach for a weapon.

During his career with the FPD, though, Ulrich said he enjoyed his assignments with the different divisions.

“Each one has it own focus and its own challenges,” Ulrich said.

He enjoyed working investigations, but only detectives handled the larger cases. In his early days of patrol, Ulrich said he was able to investigate certain cases. He also assisted his colleague Ray Dolan on the Linda Tompkins murder case, which occurred in 1992 when her former boyfriend killed her.

“We were very involved with that case. The investigation took a long time,” Ulrich recalled.

As with any profession during the past 25 years, law enforcement encountered many technological advances. Ulrich was the “go-to” man.

“If we needed something tested, we went to Vern. He had enough technical savvy to test the product and software that came with it,” Gehman pointed out.

With a solid career behind him, Ulrich began contemplating retirement months ago, thinking he would turn in his badge and service revolver in another year or two. Instead, he retired in August.

“I knew he had been contemplating retirement, but I was surprised when he announced it,” Gehman said. “Vern was always at work, lived and breathed the job and loved the work.”

With his career behind him, Ulrich and his wife, Laura, whom he met in Fallon when she was a corporal with the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office, are now taking one day at a time.

The Ulrichs have no definite plans for the golden years as of yet, but for the immediate future, Vern Ulrich said he is going to take a sabbatical and enjoy life.