On the very first day of the very first week of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, 24-year-old Tim Smalley signed up.
It was 1986. Mammoth had just incorporated. It was a brand new job in a brand new town. He’s still here. “The first five days were good,” he said. “We just drove around town to get the lay of the land. We just checked it out.”
Now, that day and that week is a distant memory. On Wednesday night Smalley received a 25-year service award from the Town Council. He is the longest tenured officer on the force. His award, given to him by Mayor Jo Bacon, came immediately after Sergeant Karen Smart also received a 25-year service award (see p. 1).
Smalley, 49, who specializes in traffic investigations, said it’s almost unbelievable. “It’s gone by quick,” he said. “It doesn’t seem that long ago that we started.” He said he did not really know at the time where he’d find his niche. But the niche found him.
“I was assigned to a training officer. I’d just gotten out of the academy a month earlier. He did mostly traffic. He wrote a lot of radar tickets, so I set up to learn to write a lot of radar tickets. My first few weeks were all about writing radar tickets.”
After about a year in uniform, Smalley got his first big case. “It was a fatal traffic accident and that got me hooked on traffic accidents, and I’ve been doing that ever since. It was on Meridian on the curve above Minaret. “I’ve done the majority of the fatal accidents ever since.”
For two years he was a detective, but that didn’t suit him very well. He gravitated back to traffic accidents which is where he is today. “Most officers have a feel for what they really enjoy. That’s where they excel.
“Some guys like working narcotics, and they’re very good at it. Others may specialize in sex crimes, or whatever. Me? I’m not that good at narcotics. I like traffic investigations. I’ve done everything over the years. I’ve been a detective and a lot of little things. But my rule is that you pick up what you like.”
As for promotions, Smalley seemed skeptical in an interview on Thursday. “I’ve put in for promotions, but it’s a lot of politics, especially above sergeant,” he said. “At one time I had the desire, but we don’t have a lot of turnover here. It just didn’t happen.”
Even a promotion to sergeant has not appealed in him.
“I like what I do. A sergeant sits in the office and does paperwork most of the time and that’s just not as attractive as being out here with the people.”