Ed Senior stepping down as volunteer officer
When Ed Senior hears people talk about what it means to be a Tahoe local, he can’t help but laugh. It’s not surprising, Senior earned the right to chuckle years ago. Not only was the 53-year-old born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, but he’s spent the last 28 years giving back to the city as a volunteer reserve police officer.
If volunteers could receive back pay the city would owe Senior one big check.
“Even if we only paid him a nickel an hour we’d still owe him a lot,” joked South Lake Tahoe Police Cmdr. Bart Owens. “He is almost a historian of the department.”
Only one regular officer can compete with Senior’s longevity. Cmdr. George Brown beats Senior by a year.
After many late hours and cold nights spent in the field, alone and backing up full-time officers, Senior announced his resignation as reserve commander this month.
“It made me want to cry almost,” Owens said. “He’s a really good, good guy. He’s the kind of guy who even though he might not be a reserve anymore if he saw an officer in a tough situation, he would be there.”
After two tours of duty with the Navy in Vietnam, Senior returned to Tahoe in 1970 to take over his father’s plumbing business. In 1971 he joined the reserves.
“I always wanted to go into law enforcement, but I had the family business to run. The reserve program allowed me to do both,” Senior said. “I have always enjoyed it. It is a good feeling to help people.”
In 1971 reserves were given a basic training by the department. In 1999 they must complete hours of formal training and attend more on a continuing basis.
“Back then it was nothing all that formal. Reserves always worked with a regular officer. They were there to be a backup for you in the car,” Owens explained. “Over the years laws have changed. Ed was kind of forced as he went along to go back to school to stay up with the times, but he stuck with it. People like Ed and Joe Riboli (a reserve for 23 years) were kind of the backbone of the reserve program. As the officers have come and gone over the years, they were always there to hold it up.”
Not many people would donate 15 to 20 hours a month, with no pay, for the opportunity to go out and risk their lives, but to hear from Senior his commitment is nothing extraordinary.
“I believe very strongly that you need to make a goal and stick with it,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything that police officers do. I’ve been on stakeouts, done a little bit of detective work, and undercover work. You get to talk with a lot of people, and counsel them. There are always calls, it’s always busy. It’s a job that keeps your adrenaline pumping. It’s a different world from my business.”
The reserves are never more needed than during peak holiday seasons. The regular police force would have a hard time handling a tourist and resident population of more than 100,000 people without them.
“They are a critical link in helping us supplement our staffing,” Brown acknowledged. “They are also another opportunity for us to reach out to the community and have highly qualified people become ambassadors for us.”
During his tenure Senior has been honored as reserve officer of the year and helped bring home more than 20 awards for the police pistol team. For the past five years Senior has helped lead the volunteers as reserve commander. Senior said he felt the time was right to step down.
“My business has grown so much that I don’t have the time to devote to it. I want a new reserve commander that can devote the time to the reserves that is needed.”
In another life, with different responsibilities Senior probably would have been a career law enforcement officer, but he doesn’t express any regrets.
“I think this is one of the best departments, and I have visited other departments,” Senior observed. “I’ve known these officers. I’ve watched them come up through the ranks. Many were hired from the reserve force. I’ve made a lot of good friends here.”
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