Paul Retires After 37 Years Behind The Badge

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This is the last week people at the Gila County Courthouse in Payson will see the familiar face of Officer David Paul.

Paul's last day on the job as judicial enforcement officer is May 9. He will be using vacation time until May 23, when he officially retires after 37 years in law enforcement.

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Officer David Paul of the Payson Police Department has been assigned to the courthouse as judicial enforcement officer since November 1998. He retires this month and plans to do a lot of fishing and traveling.

This is not the first time Paul has retired.

"I retired in May 1989 as a lieutenant from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," he said.

The law enforcement bug had too big a bite on him though. He joined the Gila County Sheriff's Office reserves almost immediately after retiring, then became a full-time officer with the Payson Police Department in May 1993.

And while his retirement is "official," Paul will be joining the police reserves, keeping his hand in the law enforcement business.

His work as judicial enforcement officer is to get people to pay their fines and meet other responsibilities imposed by the court on a timely basis.

"It reduces the amount of time in jail and the number of warrants issued for noncompliance," Paul said.

In the last two years he estimates he has probably collected double his salary in fines.

"The court participates in the tax intercept program, so we can collect fines from state income tax returns," he said. Soon the federal tax returns also will be made available to cover unpaid fines, he said, and that will really make a difference.

Pointing to a couple of quotes he has posted on the walls of his small office, Paul said they express his philosophy about his job.

"An uncollected fine is an untaught lesson in accountability" -- Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank X. Gordon.

"Leaving these fines uncollected is comparable to walking a convicted man to prison, then leaving him outside the gate" -- Sen. Alfonse D'amato, N.Y.

Paul said he is going to miss the people he works with, but doesn't expect he will be able to stay away.

"I'm going to miss the guys and the day-to-day contact with people in the community," he said. "Working with people in here, I meet them because some sort of action has been taken against them by the court. Ninety to 95 percent are upstanding people who just got themselves into a jam. But the fines have to be collected because it's an order of the court, and those orders can't be ignored," Paul said.

He said the best part of his job has been, "the people of Payson overall and the closeness of people at the police department to each other."

The biggest change Paul has seen over the years in Payson and Gila County is the amount of narcotics in the community.

"There used to be just one patrol officer working Sundays, now there are four, plus their supervisors. It's increased that much," he said.

Asked what he attributed the increase to, Paul said, "The availability and the ingress of people from the Valley has a lot to do with it. We're a bedroom community with a lot of grandparents raising grandchildren from the big city."

He said the problem with drugs has led to an increase in thefts and domestic violence. The continuing problem with alcohol also contributes to the growing number of domestic violence cases law enforcement is seeing.

"There's zero tolerance on drugs and alcohol and I credit that to Chief (Gordon) Gartner," Paul said.

As for the future of law enforcement in Payson, Paul said he sees more community policing.

"Officers getting out and talking with their neighbors and the people on their beats instead of being a pretty boy just driving by. Community policing is feeling the heartbeat of the community. Knowing the neighbors adds eyes to the force. They know who you are and feel comfortable talking to you."

Paul and his wife, Ann, who is a volunteer with the police department, came to Payson in 1991. They had a home in Tonto Basin, using it during vacations, then moving to it full-time in 1989 after his retirement from Maricopa County.

They stayed only about 18 months.

"My wife found one too many scorpions in the house," Paul said. That's when they moved to Payson.

The first thing on their post-retirement itinerary is a fishing trip to Canada and Alaska.

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