Beards on Patrol

When a Payson police officer recently resigned in part after suffering an on-duty injury, the town ordered her to pay back part of her training costs.

At the end of July, the town sent Laura Linkey a bill for nearly $20,000.

Linkey owes the money since she did not stay with the town for two years, the minimum time Linkey agreed to complete in return for the town spending $45,183 to train her to become a certified Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) officer.

Linkey had 10 months left on her contract for the town to forgive the debt entirely.

After filing multiple records requests, the Roundup learned Linkey resigned July 29 because of health-related issues. She could no longer work in patrol following those injuries and had been on desk duty. The nature of the injuries is unknown since the town withheld those documents citing medical privacy.

The settlement stipulates that Linkey cannot discuss the matter with the media.

According to the documents, Linkey owed the town $19,880. The town garnered $1,920 from her last paycheck, leaving her with a balance of $17,960. The documents do not state if Linkey has paid that amount back yet or if the town has agreed to a payment plan.

The Roundup reached out to acting town manager Sheila DeSchaaf for comment. She said she had none as she was not “involved or aware of the specifics of her employment or departure” as it happened before she became interim town manager.

Linkey signed a training payback agreement in December 2017 when the town hired her, acknowledging in part “Payson will be put to considerable expense in providing salary and training for trainee to be certified as a law enforcement officer in the State of Arizona.”

The $45,183 to train Linkey included her salary during training, according to the agreement.

Once certified, an officer can transfer to another law enforcement department within the state. That department benefits because it does not have to pay the high training cost.

Towns across the state, like Payson, have seen officers come and go, starting their careers in a small town, only to leave in a few years for a larger agency and often a bigger paycheck.

So, the town requires officers to sign an agreement that states if they leave before working two years, they will reimburse the town a pro rate share of the cost of training.

Before the town council let him go, the Roundup asked then-town manager LaRon Garrett when the practice started. He said he did not know because it was before he became town manager.

The Roundup also reached out to then-town attorney Hector Figueroa before he resigned. He would offer no comment on the settlement.

In a letter dated July 22 to then-police chief Don Engler, Linkey explained her reasons for leaving.

“I have experienced recent health-related issues that have made it difficult for me to continue to serve as a police officer,” she wrote. It has always been my goal to become a detective, but I understand it takes years to learn the job while on patrol and I am unable to continue working in a patrol capacity.”

Linkey indicated she has accepted a position with the state, working as an investigator with Adult Protective Services.

“That position has recently been created for Payson and I firmly believe the time I’ve spent working for the Payson Police Department has allowed me the opportunity for an investigator position with the state,” she wrote. “There may be cases I am able to work alongside the Payson Police Department and I look forward to that.”

Linkey’s husband, Garth Linkey, is an officer with the PPD.

Linkey thanked Engler for giving her the opportunity to fulfill a “lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.”

“I have never been more proud than I was to represent the department at the academy and to graduate to begin an unforgettable job.”

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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