City’s longest serving employee has retired from the Great Falls Police Deparmtent
After 44 years with the City of Great Falls, Sergio Carrion retired on Friday.
He’s the longest-serving employee with the Great Falls Police Department and across all city departments.
Carrion started as a civilian jailer in 1974 when the city jail was located where the Cascade City-County Health Department is now. In Christmas of 1974, the jail moved to the basement of the current PD building.
During his time as a jailer, he decided he wanted to become a police office and in 1976 he became an accident investigator and a sworn officer in 1979. In 2002, he retired as a cop and became the city’s process server.
Mainly, that involves delivering subpoenas to victims and witnesses for the Great Falls Municipal Court, delivering notices of city code violations from the city planning department, entering warrants into the city system and more.
Over time the job has gotten busier, Carrion said.
When he started, only had about 1,500 warrants annually.
“The case load when I started here was a lot lower,” he said.
Now, it’s 400-500 warrants monthly and he handles about three-quarters of those and the police officers do the other quarter.
Municipal court handles traffic citations, misdemeanor criminal cases, city ordinance violations and orders of protection.
But now there are more trials and more subpoenas, which is part of the reason the city legal department has added another prosecutor and an assistant city attorney. Municipal Judge Steve Bolstad also requested a new part-time judge to help with the case load, but it’s not included in this year’s budget proposal. Space has also been a concern for the increased case load and city staff has been looking for a place to add a second courtroom.
Carrion said he got some help this year in the department and the new dispatch supervisor allowed some volunteers to help entering warrant into the system.
Since Carrion primarily deals with victims and witnesses, he said most interactions are pleasant, but some are reluctant to testify, especially in domestic cases.
A native of Puerto Rico, Carrion grew up in New York City where he said police officers were treated like dirt.
“I never wanted to be a police officer,” he said. “But after working as a jailer, it got into my blood.”
Carrion had started on active duty in the Air Force in civil engineering, but switched to security forces when he decided he wanted to become a police officer.
The Air Force sent him to Great Falls in 1966 and he worked here for four years then moved back to Puerto Rico for a short time.
During the first two years in Great Falls, he hated the town, but then it was just okay. After returning to Puerto Rico, he said he had nightmares about coming back to Great Falls.
Since he’d been raised in the U.S., his Spanish wasn’t great and he felt as if he was illiterate in Puerto Rico and wanted to move back to the States and ended up back in Great Falls where he plans to remain and enjoy retirement and his carpentry hobby of making unique birdhouses.
He joined the Montana Air National Guard and served a total of 32 years between active and Guard duty.
He spent five years of time with a badge as the officer for the city housing authority from 1991-1996.
During that time, he tried to mentor, council and steer people in the right direction and started a club for the neighborhood youth.
Carrion spent 20 extra hours in the housing authority weekly as a volunteer playing basketball and other activities. Once a month, they held a meeting and one Sunday a month he took them bowling.
“I tried to make a good rapport with the kids,” he said. “That’s what community policing is all about. It starts with the kids.”
Those years were satisfying, Carrion said, in developing relationships and working to address problems in the public housing area.
Whether his efforts paid off will always be a bit of a mystery to him though.
“You could see some impact, but because it is a transient community, it’s so hard to maintain continuity,” he said.
Some of the former residents who were young at the time still say hello, but “if I made an impact on them for the rest of their lives, I’ll never know.”
With such along career in different aspects of law enforcement, Carrion has seen changes in attitudes toward cops and other societal changes.
In the early days, Carrion said most children respected the police.
“Well, I don’t know if you call it respect or fear…but not they don’t care, they don’t respect us,” he said.
Most young people still have a healthy fear of running afoul of law enforcement, which often comes from parental influence, Carrion said, but “unfortunately, more kids are being told not to respect the police.”
Cases of police misconduct in some areas have been widely reported nationally, but Carrion said, “that doesn’t mean all police officers are the same. Sometimes they categorize all cops as bad guys.”
Local caseloads have gone up and Carrion attributes any increases in crime to population growth, lack of family structure and upbringing.
Over nearly half a century, there were good days and bad, he said.
“It’s been up and down. It hasn’t been fantastic my entire career, no career is that way,” he said. “But I like to think that I remember more good times than bad. If you treat somebody with respect and dignity, things will go better. If you do that, they’ll remember you.”