ARLINGTON — Nelson Beazley has witnessed a changing landscape in law enforcement during his three-decade career.
The new Arlington Police Chief said a diminished amount of respect and an increasing level of danger for police and sheriff’s personnel are the two most noticeable shifts in the profession.
“Society has changed — it’s not the same as it was in the 1970s and 1980s,” Beazley said. “Respect is not as high as it once was.”
Although attitudes toward authority figures may be different from what they once were, Beazley said he’s looking forward to bringing his experience in the profession to Arlington.
The 55-year-old former captain for the Fresno County, Calif, Sheriff’s Office took over as police chief on Sept. 20.
He replaces Bob Sullenberger, who spent a year and a half in the Arlington position before announcing in August that he had accepted a job as Division Chief with the Boulder County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office.
Sullenberger cited family reasons for the change.
Beazley was originally one of the candidates competing against Sullenberger for the job in December 2008.
Beazley said at that time he was not interested in leaving his position in California, but after being contacted about the position from former Marysville Police Chief Bob Carden, he looked into the Arlington job.
“He knew I was getting ready to retire,” Beazley said. “He just described Arlington and spoke highly of the department and the (City) Council. We came up and really fell in love with it.”
While Beazley did not ultimately get the position, his wife, Arlene, and he ended up moving to Washington to help his son settle at the University of Washington.
“During the past two years I just haven’t found another opening,” Beazley said. “It was hard. Arlington was my benchmark and everybody I met made me feel that this was it.”
In August, Beazley was again contacted by city of Arlington administrators regarding Sullenberger’s announcement.
“I couldn’t have written a better script,” he said.
Beazley came back up to Arlington to meet with City Administrator Allen Johnson, and the two hashed out a contract over a lunch. Beazley’s wife also got to meet Mayor Margaret Larson.
“I joked that the Mayor hired my wife,” Beazley said. “They got along great.”
The police chief’s new jurisdiction in Arlington is much smaller than 6,000-square-mile Fresno County, but Beazley said his new city shares characteristics with his hometown of Clovis, Calif.
Beazley joined the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office in 1977. During the next 30 years he rose up the ranks.
“There was no magic wand,” he said. “I was fortunate. A lot of it had to do with the opportunities given to me.”
Beazley said he’s most proud of his involvement in his former department’s Cops in Schools program, which put sheriff’s deputies in nearly every school in the Fresno County area.
Deputies not only went to individual schools on their patrol beats; they also got involved in school functions and the lives of children.
“Children loved them,” Beazley said. “They were like the pied pipers of their schools. A lot of these kids were from the farm worker community and may have been the first of their family to get an education.”
During his short stint so far in Arlington, the new chief said he’s gotten to know officers and personnel in his department, as well as other city departments. Doing so has caused him to put in some long days.
“It’s been face-paced, but that really was a priority for me,” Beazley said. I’m just a people person and this is a great group of men and women in this department. They do great work.”