Della Bradley, police support services manager, was honored by the Town of Payson Dec. 7 for her 25 years of service to the police department.
Bradley joined the department when it was known as the Payson Marshal's Office in Dec. of 1976. Forey Hinderliter was the marshal.
The Payson Police Department was formed in 1978. Illness led to Hinderliter's resignation as chief in 1979. He was replaced by Dave Wilson who remained in the position until he was killed in the line of duty Sept. 11, 1992. Payson's current chief of police, Gordon Gartner, who joined the department in 1979, assumed the helm following Wilson's death.
It's safe to say that Bradley, whose beginning salary was $2.10 an hour, has lived with and through the struggles of a department that had its beginning with eight employees, including four dispatchers.
The department now has 39 full-time employees, two part-time and a host of volunteers.
Bradley remembers the days when she had the title of dispatch supervisor, but was the dispatcher, receptionist for all town departments, issued dog tags, permits, typed reports and was the person you talked to in "records."
Today, Bradley has her own office and is ultimately responsible for the communication and record departments. There is a dispatch supervisor, six full-time dispatchers and two part-time handling routine and emergency calls for service.
Bradley said the changes and growth in the department are good."
"There is a lot more emphasis on equipment and officer safety training now," Bradley said. "In the beginning, we got by with what we had."
Bradley chuckled as she referred to the first police cars, which were basically hand-me-downs from Arizona Department of Public Safety with 100,000 road miles. When the DPS cars lost their zest for the road, they were replaced with used rental cars.
Today's patrol vehicles are specially designed and equipped and built for use in law enforcement.
When asked what were some of her most traumatic times with the department, Bradley recalled three incidents that have remained with her over the years.
"Chief Wilson's death would be one of them," Bradley said. "The worst part was his wife, Kay, heard about it from someone who had heard a radio broadcast. She called to see if it was true and I had to tell her over the phone."
Bradley also recalled the time she had just returned to work after giving birth to her second son, Cade, who was three months old.
"A couple came in (police station) to report their baby was dead," Bradley said. "They had left it at home to come in and tell us. They did not have a phone and the husband was afraid to leave his wife alone at the house. That one was harder to deal with because I had just returned to work and had a baby the same age."
The third incident occurred during the day with a new dispatcher on duty. It involved a call from an elderly man who wanted to tell the police he was going to kill himself.
Bradley was given the call to handle due to her training and experience.
"I was talking to this suicidal subject on the phone and he shot himself," Bradley said. "Because of all the training I had, I knew he was going to do it, and there was nothing I could do. He was in his 80s and felt his life was empty. He had lost his wife and said he had nothing to live for."
One of the momentous times for Bradley was the inception of the 911 system, which she had worked toward for two years.
"Chief Wilson was the one who said we will have it, so Capt. Craig and I went to work on it," Bradley said.
The system was put into operation in December 1992, three months after Wilson's death.
Bradley has no plans to leave the department soon, especially if Gartner, who referred to Bradley as the "barometer" for the department, has any say in the matter.
"Della has been a leader and a steady force for the police department," Gartner said. "Her integrity helps to maintain the standard for the organization."
Bradley is married to Payson High School assistant principal, Dave Bradley, and has two sons, Ky and Cade.