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Police lieutenant moves up to commander spot

Lt. Floyd Higdon has been promoted to commander in the Merced Police Department. Higdon, a veteran of more than 27 years in law enforcement, replaces Tom Martin, who retired in late December.

Merced Police Chief Russ Thomas announced Higdon's promotion Thursday, which is effective Jan. 28. The 55-year-old Higdon will earn $110,316 as one of three commanders in the department. He will be in charge of investigations and also serve as the department's public information officer.

Thomas said Higdon is the best fit for the job, with his many years in law enforcement and his depth of experience is vital to the department's future plans. One of Higdon's first long-range projects will be to help in the design of a new police facility that will last at least 20 years.

"I look forward to continuing the groundwork that has been laid," Higdon said. "I never foresaw this promotion when I came here. My challenge will be carrying on the tradition that has been established in the department."

The police department has patrol, administrative and investigations departments. Higdon will be overseeing 12 detectives, a lieutenant and a sergeant. Higdon began work here Dec. 18, 2006, and is one of six lieutenants.

Thomas said Higdon came to Merced as a stranger and melded well with the department. The chief said Higdon is highly respected and came out on top of a very competitive selection process.

Higdon said six lieutenants took the test for the commander's position and all scored well. He said he still will be the same person he always has been and "likes to have fun."

"This is too serious of a job not to have fun," Higdon said. "The lighter side of me makes it that much easier for others to accept me."

One of Higdon's big tasks is trying to develop a young staff. He has been in charge of the field training officer program, where 13 veteran officers train department newcomers. Thanks in part to the Measure C sales tax, which provided more funding for law enforcement, the Merced Police Department has nearly 40 new officers.

A group of eight patrol trainees, the last of four groups, are now starting their classroom instruction and will complete training in June. Higdon said he is enjoying watching this new generation of officers come along and hopes to help them avoid the mistakes he and others made as rookie officers years ago.

In the 1970s, Higdon sold Fords and Chevrolets at Novato and Santa Rosa auto dealerships before deciding he wanted to make police work his life's calling. He said he has no regrets and has always been intrigued by the law enforcement profession.

"There are never two days that are the same," Higdon said. "Ninety percent is sheer boredom followed by 10 percent of sheer panic. I don't like the mundane, doing something over and over. You just don't know what's going to happen next."

Police officers have to react positively and correctly with split-second decisions, Higdon said.

A native of San Francisco, Higdon graduated from Lincoln High School in San Francisco in June 1970 and received an associate degree in administration of justice in June 1973 from Santa Rosa Junior College. He expects to receive his bachelor's degree in criminal justice management in August from Union Institute and University in Sacramento.

While in college he worked as a cadet dispatcher for the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety for nine months and was a correctional officer for 2½ years with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office. He attended the Los Angeles Police Department Academy in late 1974.

"I'm very proud of this accomplishment," Higdon said. "I never looked this far down the road. I thought I'd spend most of my career as a sergeant. I would have been happy to end my career as a sergeant."

Higdon and his wife, Peggie, a retired social worker with the Mendocino County Adult Protective Services Department, have two grown daughters, Patrice Higdon, 28, who works for the Mendocino County Department of Mental Health in Ukiah, and Kristine Higdon, 25, a lab technician/phlebotomist at Healdsburg General Hospital. Higdon said his older sister married a San Francisco police officer, who retired recently as a commander.

Higdon spent 25 ½ years with the Ft. Bragg Police Department. He was promoted to field training officer in July 1985, sergeant in October 1988 and became a lieutenant in March 2004, under Thomas, then Ft. Bragg's police chief. When four lieutenant positions opened up in Merced, Higdon applied and was hired here.

Thomas said he will be working with other candidates for an open commander's position later this year. Cmdr. Jeff Schindler has indicated he will retire in December.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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