Police Academy Graduates Fill Payson Spots

Mayor Bob Edwards says academy program is a success

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Mayor Bob Edwards was not in favor of the Payson Police Academy when first proposed by former Police Chief, Gordon Gartner.

Faced with above-average test statistics from academy graduates, Edwards conceded the program is a success and a benefit for the community.

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Payson Police Chief Don Engler introduces six new town officers to the council at a recent meeting. The six were among eight recent graduates of the Payson Police Academy. Pictured are Michael Hansen, Mike Barker, Jesse Davies, Jared Meredith, Bryan Watson and Matt Zimmerman.

"I didn't support the academy at first, but obviously it has worked very well and I have to eat a little crow here," Edwards said.

Police Chief Don Engler said all six of the recently hired officers are academy graduates and they have passed their written exams on the first attempt.

Engler said that while it's not typical for cadets in Arizona to pass the written exams on the first try, he is not surprised at the cadets' performance.

"It all goes right back to those academy cadets who excelled under pressure, and I am extremely proud of their performance," he said.

"We had a very good group of people apply," Engler said. "And the ones that were accepted were even a cut above the rest."

Engler said the credit for the cadets' success needs to be shared with the instructors at the academy.

"We have a fine set of instructors, many of them certified, and they did a terrific job of teaching [the cadets] what they needed to know to be successful," he said.

"When you start with the cream-of-the-crop though, it makes it a lot easier to graduate cadets who are above average," he added.

Gartner had tried to get an academy going in 2004, but the cost-per-cadet at the time was prohibitive.

The department was able to lower the cost to about $500 per student, making it more affordable. When first proposed, the cost of attending the academy was estimated at approximately $4,000 per cadet.

The police academy was Gartner's "brainchild," Engler said.

"He was the one who foresaw the great need that we were going to have at this time," he said.

Engler said one of the main benefits of the academy is that it offers the department a pool of local candidates to fill positions as they become vacant.

Engler said that being a police officer in a community where a person grew up could potentially be a double-edged sword.

He pointed out that while there is benefit in officers having an intimate knowledge of the community and its residents, those same officers might have to deal with people they have known for years, in a law enforcement capacity.

"The drawback is the fact that many of them have grown up with people here in the community and they're going to have to deal with them," Engler said.

"And in some cases they are going to have to deal with them in a negative way," he said.

The six new hires include:

Jesse Davies was born in Orem, Utah and his family moved to Payson in 1992.

Davies became interested in police work in high school and worked as a dispatcher for Payson Police from 2001 to 2005. He graduated from the police academy on June 30, and began working for the department on Aug. 16.

Matthew Zimmerman was born in Great Bend, Kansas and his family moved to Arizona in 1990. Zimmerman has lived in Payson for 10 years and completed high school here. Zimmerman left Payson after high school to complete a degree in business, before moving back to Payson to attend the police academy.

Michael Hansen graduated from Payson High School in 2003. Hansen was married in 2004 and attended the local community college, as well as being enrolled at ASU, when he heard about the police academy and decided to become a police officer.

Mike Barker, born in Payson and graduated from Payson High School, where he was a state champion wrestler.

Barker suffered an injury to his arm and had to give up wrestling. He worked at various jobs, before attending the academy and being hired by Payson Police.

Bryan Watson was born in Santa Anna, Calif., and moved to Payson in 1984. Watson attended elementary, middle and high school in Payson and graduated in 2000. Watson served in the United States Coast Guard from 2001 to 2006.

After leaving the service, Watson moved back to Payson and attended the police academy before joining Payson Police.

Jared Meredith was born in Bountiful, Utah and has four brothers and a sister. Meredith graduated from Bountiful High School in 1996 and then attended Salt Lake Community College. Meredith moved to Phoenix in 2001 and attended DeVry University for one year.

While going to DeVry, Meredith met and married his wife in March of 2002.

They have two sons together, 4 and 2 years old.

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