Sunday, March 12, 2017

Badge Number 1 for Monument Police Department

Town names street for first police officer




By Rob Carrigan, rob.carrigan@pikespeaknewspapers.com

Dozens of well-wishers turned out in chilly, gusty weather Saturday morning to shake long-time Monument Police Officer Kevin Swenson’s hand and help the town rename a road after him. The road, which has been there for probably 125 years or more, meanders west off of Mitchell Road leading to Monument Lake.

Swenson was the first officer here in the Town of Monument’s separate Police Department, and served for nearly 34 years from Jan. 18, 1978, until Dec. 13, 2011. His badge number was 1. Police Chief Al Karn, who recently passed away, was the first employ of the department after the separation from a single force under El Paso County Sheriff for Monument, Palmer Lake and Woodmoor, arriving only a year before Swenson.

A few hours after the dedication and ribbon cutting of the new road, many in attendance were planning to gather about 100 yards away in memory of Karn, at Cy Cybil’s barn. Karn passed away earlier this month and Swenson paid tribute to his former chief prior to the dedication of the road.

Rick Tudor, who said his badge was Number 2, was also in attendance, even though he now lives nearly seven-hours driving distance away Thermopolis, Wy. City officials, former officials, citizens, business owners and city employees blocked the roadway temporarily, cut a red ribbon in honor of the event, and unveiled the new street sign.

“It has changed a lot,” said Swenson Saturday about policing here in town from the time he started in the late 1970s. “I knew all 365 people in town of Monument at the time.”

In fact, he said, he even delivered welcome packages to any newcomers for a longtime that included a new phone book, map and some other stuff.

“It was much more of dealing with people on a one-to-one basis then,” he said of his early duties and described himself as a “Citizen’s Officer.”

“We, at times, would would give someone who had too much to drink at the bowling alley a ride home, so they wouldn’t try to drive it.”

They could be short-staffed back then, necessitating some creativity.

“We actually would park a car on Front Street sometimes with “Officer George,” a dummy in the driver’s seat. “It was alright for a short period,” he said. “But we got a lot of calls about ‘Officer George’s’ welfare if we didn’t move him pretty often.”

He counts among his firsts at the department, writing a grant for the department’s first computer (remembering it a K-Pro of some kind) and the first Intoxilizer to check for inebriation, the first Radar gun, and was even one of the first bicycle officers.

Swenson was the first officer here in the Town of Monument’s separate Police Department, and served for nearly 34 years from Jan. 18, 1978, until Dec. 13, 2011. His badge number was 1. Police Chief Al Karn, who recently passed away, was the first employ of the department after the separation from a single force under El Paso County Sheriff for Monument, Palmer Lake and Woodmoor, arriving only a year before Swenson.

“When we first started, we were working out of the trunk of the patrol car,” he said, later sharing part of a laundry mat, small trailers, various other office setups, and finally the current police department in town hall.

He has a number of memorable arrests to recall including the time he noticed someone climbing through the broken glass door of a Chinese restaurant in the strip center near King Sooper on Baptist Road. “That led to a high-speed chase and shots being fired at me, before they finally ditched the car.”

He has other stories involving chasing cattle off the Interstate, and military vehicles, complete with M-16 mm machine guns and lives saved and people who have turned their lives around. Swenson served under six different Chiefs and probably close to 30 different mayors, he said.

For the last few years, his struggle has been with his health, forcing his retirement. First suffering emergency gallbladder surgery and complications, that kept him hospitalized for eight months, and in and out of the hospital for nearly two years. Then finding out that he had stomach cancer, he has been on experimental Chemotherapy for four years.

Interestingly, however, the journey has brought him around almost full circle.

“After being a mechanic in the Air Force for 6 years, 8 months, 28 days, during Vietmam, I did several things here in Monument from 1975 to 1978. After discharge, I was a lifeguard out at Monument Lake. They had a roped off area for swimming there with a slide on a floating platform. That is where I started training in first aid, CPR, and became EMT, drove an ambulance for a while.” Because of the that the road to the lake has particular significance.


Cutlines:
  1. Kevin Swenson cuts the big red ribbon.
  2. Friends and family gathered to wish Swenson well.
  3. Current Chief Jake Shirk shaking hands.
     4.  Former employees traveled from afar to help rename the road.







 





  1. Swenson, prior to his retirement.
  2. Kevin Swenson, early in his police officer career.

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