Veteran Officer Trades In Cuffs For Commander Post

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Don Engler has been named Payson Police Department's first commander.

The 21-year police veteran moved up from the rank of lieutenant, which he's held since 1995.

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Don Engler

According to police chief Gordon Gartner, the department added the commander position to conform to current trends in law enforcement.

"Ranks and job descriptions are changing in most police forces," he said. "We no longer have a captain, but now a commander."

The difference between the two positions, Gartner said, is as commander, Engler will have more political responsibilities.

"He'll be working more with the town staff and town personnel," Gartner said. "He'll be more active in town business."

With the creation of the commander position, the rank of captain has been abolished.

"I don't think we will have a captain again, I don't see that happening," Gartner said.

Once the commander position was created last fall, Engler was the obvious choice to fill it.

"He's been with us a long time, he has earned his bachelor's degree, is working on his master's and he is a very honorable man," Gartner said. "He also has a good background, having always been active around town."

During Engler's career he has attended the FBI National Academy, served as the department's original DARE teacher and had a stint on the Gila County Drug Task Force.

Currently, he is the commander of the Special Response Team and the department's primary firearms and tactical instructor.

For Engler, the challenges of the new position are welcome.

"I'm looking forward to the expanded duties and learning some of the aspects of police administration," he said. "I'm excited to work with the (town) staff and the council."

Among those who applaud the choice of Engler to the position is town councilor Tim Fruth.

"It's a great selection," he said. "I've known him for many, many years and worked with him in a lot of capacities, he has excellent customer-service skills and communicates well -- those are very important in his (new) position."

Engler's law enforcement career began in 1984 when he decided to fulfill an interest in the subject he harbored since high school.

"I'd been working for the National Park Service, taking some college classes and finally enrolled in a (police) academy here in Payson," Engler said.

The academy eventually produced several officers still with the department.

"It was known as the Payson Law Enforcement Training Academy, PLETA, we got a lot of good officers out of it," Gartner said.

After completing his training, Engler served as a patrol officer until 1989 when he was appointed a corporal.

According to Gartner, Engler's abilities and work ethic are the keys to his success, earning him a promotion to sergeant in 1992, to lieutenant in 1995 and now, to commander.

In addition to his law enforcement duties, Engler is a member of the Payson school board.

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