At the end of old westerns, the cowboy often rides off into the sunset. A horse is needed to do that and retiring Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen has two of them.
“I’ve been involved with horses all my life,” said Nielsen. “When I was growing up, my aunt and uncle had a boarding and training facility and I learned a lot from them.”
He’s trained horses, ridden in the Wagon Train and helped Davey “Doc” Wiser with stagecoach rides. After his retirement on May 17 from nine years as police chief and 28 years in law enforcement, Nielsen, 50, will have time to work with his horses, spend time with his family and explore business opportunities.
“Growth is good. It expands our world; I am looking at different ways to use my skills, knowledge and experience,” said Nielsen. “I’ve been through the FBI Academy and the Point Man course, so I have desired skills, but I’m not going to dive into another highly responsible, time-consuming endeavor. My family has been on this journey with me and I want to be able to give them more of my time.”
One of the accomplishments during his years as chief that Nielsen is most proud of is the reduction in crime rate. “Since 2004, we’ve dramatically reduced the rate of reported crime by about 47 percent,” he said. He attributes part of this accomplishment to another thing he is proud of: community involvement.
“Our community partnerships have helped reduce the crime rate,” said Nielsen. “We (the police department) have made a concerted effort to create good relationships with community businesses, organizations and individuals. National Night Out has been a focal point of our community policing effort because it creates good will and support.”
The city of Placerville has been awarded first place three times, second place three times and fourth place once in the National Night Out judging for the community/police event. “The national recognition is great and being involved with our community makes us part of the solution,” said Nielsen.
Community involvement isn’t just important for the police department — Nielsen values it personally and is involved with the community through his own interest in victims, children and health. He was a member of the Women’s Center Board of Directors for 11 years, is a member of the Marshall Foundation Community Health Board and part of the Cancer Center Campaign as well as the campaign for the new South Wing.
He serves as a member of New Morning Board of Directors, the Western Slope Boys and Girls Club Board, the Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Board, is president of the Placerville Masonic Center and a member of the Highway 50 Wagon Train Association.
Resolving problems for visitors and businesses in downtown Placerville is another accomplishment. “We’ve dealt with some serious problems that were damaging the dynamics of downtown. We brought in ABC (Alcoholic Beverages Control) and worked hard on documentation that enabled us to close down a bar downtown. The dynamics started changing,” said Nielsen. “It really improved the quality of the downtown experience.”
The stability of the police department has increased in his years as chief, said Nielsen, with the average years of police officer experience having risen from 2-3 years to about 10 years. “We’ve had some great people come on board and some great people who’ve chosen to stay. We were struggling 10 years ago,” he said.
One of the biggest accomplishments is continuing to make a difference in the community and make Placerville a safer place in spite of the economic crisis. “We’ve cut our budget by more than 20 percent and still reach out to the community,” said Nielsen. “I’m proud of our response to the homeless problem. We are working with organizations and with the City Council to do this.”
The economy continues to be a challenge for law enforcement. “Every agency I know of has had to make measurable cuts,” said Nielsen. “Reshaping how law enforcement reorganizes around resources and making sure those resources are in the right place when you need them is the challenge.”
Time intensive as his personal community involvement has been, Nielsen plans to stay involved after retirement. “Maybe not as involved as I am now, but still active, especially in Scouting,” he said. As an assistant Scoutmaster and a former Eagle Scout, Nielsen values his two sons’ involvement in Scouting and is looking forward to increasing his own involvement.”We’re an active, outdoor family and do a lot of backpacking, hiking and camping. We already have a couple of Scout trips planned.”
He’s not worried about what changes a new police chief might bring. “I’m replaceable,” Nielsen said. “Someone else will do things differently and that’s okay. Things need to move and evolve. Change can be a good thing.”
“I think I’ll really miss our police chief walking down Main Street in those red heels in the ‘Walk A Mile in Her Shoes’ event every year,” said Placerville City Councilwoman Carol Patton.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.