The Sparks Police Department wants to get closer to the community it serves.
Sparks Chief of Police Brian Allen announced last Tuesday that officers Ken Gallop and Damon O’Connell have been hired as Community Resource Officers thanks to a three-year grant the department was awarded. They will be pegged numerous responsibilities to help improve the department’s relationship with the city.
Sparks PD received the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant through the Department of Justice after the Sparks City Council formally accepted in October. Gallop and O’Connell, both of whom were hired from within the department, were officially assigned to their new roles on March 21. Their previous positions were filled.
“(These hires) build back what we lost during the years of the great recession,” Allen said.
The responsibilities of Gallop (who will do the work of the department’s first Public Information Officer) and O’Connell include coordinating with Information Technology to develop an improved sparkspd.com website, enhancing the department’s social media presence, growing the relationship with the community, addressing neighborhood quality of life, and re-implementing the Citizens Police Academy.
The Citizens Police Academy is a 10-week program that allows community members to participate in police-related training to gain insight of the program while grow trust and support.
Gallop has 23 years of law enforcement experience, the most of which has been as a patrol officer. He’s been with Sparks PD for 11 years.
He said the importance of a Community Resource Officer, or more specifically a Public Information Officer, is what made him want to take on the new role.
“This stuff right now, getting our information out about law enforcement, not only about the Sparks Police Department but about law enforcement in general … is more important than me,” Gallop said. “It’s more important than my career. It’s more important than my aspirations to continue to be a detective.
“Getting this information out to people effectively, timely and accurately is really important now days.”
O’Connell has 20 years of law enforcement experience, also spending the last 11 at Sparks PD.
He’s spent the last couple years involved in 360 Blueprint—a school-based mentoring program that works on preventing small issues from growing within youth.
The Washoe County School District started the program in 2013 and Sparks PD got involved the following calendar year.
He will get to focus more on the program in his new role.
“This is exactly what I wanted to do since my early days, before I began as a police officer,” O’Connell said. “Seeing officer friendly come into your class was pretty cool so it’s something that’s always been on my mind, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So this is a great opportunity for me.”
A second program O’Connell will work with is the Community Contact Team, which aims to reduce fear within the community following a major crime.
The life of the COPS grant is three years, but Allen said he intends to keep the positions beyond 2019.