Orcas rounds out its police force
By COLLEEN ARMSTRONG
Islands Sounder Publisher, Editor
April 27, 2012 · Updated 5:37 PM
Orcas Island’s newest additions to the police force go way back.
Jack Wilsey and Steve Johns have known each other for decades, working in the same Reno, Nev. department. Now the friends have relocated to Orcas, where they are filling two empty deputy positions.
“We’re both easy going,” Johns said. “We don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Wilsey was hired as an Orcas deputy last year, but left in fall 2011, fearing a lay-off. He jumped at the chance to return to the island, especially since his friend and coworker was interested as well. The pair share an easy rapport, swapping jokes and telling stories.
“We both wanted the quiet, rural life,” said Wilsey, who spent 31 years on the Reno force, primarily as a detective handling sex crimes, auto theft, drug offenses and burglary. His most memorable case involved investigating a cult leader who was sexually abusing children. The man is now serving a life sentence.
Johns put in 22 years in Reno, working patrol and on the downtown enforcement team. He also has experience in mental health crisis intervention. He was featured in a 2006 story called “Million-Dollar Murray” in “The New Yorker” magazine. It profiled Murray Barr, a homeless alcoholic man. Two police officers, Johns and Patrick O’Bryan, tracked chronic inebriates for six months and found that just one of them ran up a bill of $100,000 at a single hospital. For the 10 years Murray had been on the streets, he had a medical bill as large as anyone in Nevada.
Both officers say their favorite part of the job is “helping people and making a difference.” Wilsey and Johns are joining Orcas deputies Bruce Distler, Herb Crowe and Doug Maya. There are also two reserves: Dennis McKinney and Raymond Harvey.
“They’ll do absolutely fabulously on Orcas,” said Sheriff Rob Nou. “They’ll be a good fit both for the agency and the community. I’m excited to have a full crew going into summer.”
Nou expects the Orcas/Lopez sergeant position, recently left vacant by long-time officer Steve Vierthaler, to be filled in early 2013. In the meantime, four officers will share the title on a 90-day rotation: Distler and Crowe on Orcas, Scott Taylor on Lopez and Eric Gardiner from San Juan.
“But not necessarily will one of them be appointed sergeant,” Nou said. “It’s an open, competitive process within our agency.”
Wilsey’s wife of 30 years, Andy, is currently looking for work on the island. They have two grown children.
Johns’ wife Marla, who is an administrator for an assisted living facility in Reno, will be moving to Orcas in June. Their two kids, a 14-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, will be attending the public school. They also have three dogs: an Australian shepherd, a mini dachshund, and a terrier/chihuahua mix.
The families both enjoy mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and camping.
“Island living is what you make of it,” Johns said.Contact Islands Sounder Publisher, Editor Colleen Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-360-376-4500.