Sue Morrow: Carson’s first female patrol officer took no guff
For the Nevada Appeal
With the Carson City sheriff’s race so far attracting two of incumbent Ken Furlong’s officers for this year’s primary, I am always curious about the atmosphere in the workplace when a boss is challenged by his staff.
I remember when Sheriff Hal V. Dunn was running for re-election in 1982. Deputy Gladys Brister, one of my favorite cops, was among the primary election competitors. Brister, who joined the department in 1971, became its first female patrol officer in 1977 and had a reputation for not taking any guff from an offender.
I wanted to know about Brister’s work environment while she was running against her boss. What she revealed was a shocker.
She told me that Dunn had persuaded her to run to split the vote in order to give him, as the incumbent, the advantage.
Dunn ended up with four other primary opponents and won that election as well as the general.
My plan to write about possible animosity when she ran against her boss was shot after learning it was prearranged. But I considered Brister a worthy subject to write about.
Brister held several positions during her service at the Sheriff’s Department, including dispatcher before going on patrol. She served a stint in detectives during the investigation of the murder in 1982 of Sheila Jo Harris in her Carson City apartment.
While serving as the Nevada Appeal’s police reporter, I had heard stories about Brister’s take-no-backtalk attitude.
Visiting recently with Brister, who retired in 1995, she recalled pulling over a man who was speeding in a school zone. The man got out of his car, used some choice words at her and poked his finger into her chest. She said she grabbed his arm and “took him down onto the ground.”
Another time, the 98-pound Brister flipped a 6-foot-tall bartender back over the bar during a confrontation in the establishment where a patron had been threatening others with a knife.
The story Brister likes to tell is about the time she pulled over a limo leaving Carson High School bearing then-brothel baron Joe Conforte of Mustang Ranch fame and two teenage girls.
Brister handed a speeding citation to the chauffeur, and Conforte reached forward, grabbed the ticket and tore it into bits. Brister wrote another citation adding the new offense.
Nowadays, Brister continues to pursue a favorite hobby – collecting arm patches from law enforcement agencies all over the world. She began collecting them years ago and some of her patch boards still grace the walls of the sheriff’s office.
• Sue Morrow is a longtime journalist and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.