Some say it's the best job in law enforcement. If that's the case, Rod Dash and Don King are living large.
Both Dash and King were recently promoted to sergeant with the Merced Police Department. In police circles, reaching sergeant is considered a career milestone, a major professional advancement.
Besides that, being a sarge is a fun job, they say.
Not only do they plunge into front-line management, supervising about 10 officers during their 12-hour shifts, but they keep their hands in regular patrol activities, often responding to calls along with the officers.
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Dash, who turned 42 on Monday, has 19 years in law enforcement, 18 of them with the Merced Police Department. He said he feels rejuvenated, like he's starting all over again in his new sergeant assignment.
He has worked with the street crimes unit, Merced Multiagency Narcotics Task Force and as a major crimes-homicide detective before the promotion.
"I forgot how fun patrol is, working the streets again. I like being able to share my knowledge, the life experiences I've had with newer officers in their 20s," Dash said.
Cmdr. Tom Martin said being a patrol sergeant is the best job in the department. You still get to do police work, the fun stuff, and work with young people. Before he moved up the administrative ranks, Martin spent 10 years as a sergeant.
The challenge, Dash said, is getting the department's newer officers fully trained, passing on information he learned over the years from the sergeants and commanders who were his bosses.
There are 11 sergeants on Merced's police force.
King, 38, has 13 years with the department. He received a bachelor's degree in criminology from California State University, Fresno, just before becoming a patrolman.
He worked in an auto parts store while in college and discovered inside retail work was not for him.
Dash was about halfway through junior college when he decided being a radiologist wasn't his life's calling. He has no regrets about the career decision -- saying he needs the excitement and adrenalin police work provides.
King said being a police officer fits his personality.
"In retrospect, it's been a rewarding career. I wouldn't change anything. I still have fun after 13 years coming to work," King said.
A native of Pomona and raised in Fresno, King was on the Special Weapons and Tactics team for eight years and the Crime Scene Response Team for six years, along with the Traffic Division.
He is a certified Taser instructor who also has taught arrest and control techniques for nine years and has been a field training officer twice. He now supervises the crime scene team that processes evidence found at major crimes and is in charge of the Volunteers In Police Service program.
Lt. Floyd Higdon was a sergeant from 1988 to 2004 with the Ft. Bragg Police Department. He said the sergeant's job has always been the best spot in law enforcement because officers are "still doing things on the street" while functioning in a leadership capacity.
King said being a sergeant is somewhat like being a field training officer, except the sergeant is working with 10 to 12 people at one time.
In both roles they are building on new officers' strengths and making them more well-rounded.
King is about eight months away from getting a master's degree in business administration, with an emphasis on public administration, from the University of Phoenix.
"I'm very busy now. There's a lot more to police work than you see on the 'Cops' television program. There is a lot of paperwork, and you work holidays and weekends. You need to look at the whole picture; it's not for everybody," King advised.
Dash's father, the late Tom Dash, was a 23-year veteran with the Atwater Police Department, retiring as a sergeant.
The elder Dash suggested his son test the waters a little bit by becoming a reserve Atwater police officer.
He credits retired Sgt. Wally Broughton and Atwater police Cmdr. Frank Pietro for steering him into police work and mentoring him.
His great-grandfather also was a customs agent in New York.
The only thing that stands out negatively, Dash recalls, was the unexpected murder of Officer Stephan Gray in April 2004. That was a "really bad time for everybody."
Dash's wife, Sandra, is a federal probation and parole officer based in Modesto. They have two children.
Dash said he likes riding quads, jet skis and mountain bikes when he gets a chance. King likes riding motorcycles offroad along with boating and camping with his wife Denise and their three children.
King said the biggest changes he has observed in police work are advancements in computer technology.
The police radio system is much better than it used to be and the advent of Tasers is a welcome less-lethal option for officers.
Dash thinks drugs, particularly marijuana and methamphetamine, are big problems throughout the Central Valley, not just Merced.
He looks back on the four years with the task force as his favorite time.
That is until he became sergeant.
Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.