The Olympian
The Olympian, Olympia Washington
Sunday, March 23, 2003
PUBLIC SERVICE AND GOVERNMENT

Dusty Pierpoint | Policeman builds trust
Commander puts stereotypes to rest

Originally published Sunday, March 23, 2003

Pierpoint

"He's put in thousands

of hours of community involvement on his own."

-- Larry Dickerson, Lacey police chief

Dusty Pierpoint

Age: 38

Town: Lacey

Job: Commander, Lacey Police Department

Family: Wife, Shelly; two children, daughter, 17, and son, 12

Activities: Crime Stoppers board of directors, Thurston County Together!, Black Hills Youth Football League assistant coach

Lacey police Cmdr. Dusty Pierpoint says wearing his uniform into a room of high school students easily leads to a meaningful discussion about stereotyping.

"High school kids think all we're out doing is harassing them," Pierpoint says.

He points out that preconceived notions on both sides builds distrust between the police and students.

"I'll say, 'Wait a minute. Don't talk to me about stereotyping. Just because I'm a cop, you thought you knew who I am, all about me just because of the uniform I'm wearing,' " he said, recalling some of the discussions at local high schools.

"We have a lot of good conversations that way," he added.

Pierpoint, 38, has focused the past few years on kindling trust between the police and the community, whether with high school students or adults.

His superiors say he has been instrumental in working with local high schools and implementing programs that rely on citizens' help in solving crimes.

"He's put in thousands of hours of community involvement on his own, and he hasn't really been compensated for any of it," Chief Larry Dickerson said.

As one of the department's three commanders, Pierpoint oversees detectives, internal investigations, drug officers and the school resource officers, who are assigned to cover the city's three high schools.

He's also been assigned as commander of a county narcotics task force.

Before being promoted to his current rank, Pierpoint was assigned as a police liaison to the North Thurston School District.

He was in daily contact with students and administrators, working closely on school safety issues. School officials say his work paved the way for the current School Resource Office program, which places police officers full-time in local high schools.

Pierpoint sees the program as invaluable.

"These young adults are going to become citizens in our community. I think we've made some real progress there," he said.

North Thurston Superintendent Jim Koval credited Pierpoint with laying the groundwork for the School Resource Officer program, which places officers on-duty in local high schools.

Pierpoint is coordinating another project under way called the Citizens Roundtable, which is a forum meant to open up dialogue between citizens and the police.

The group comprises people of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds. The goal is not only to educate citizens about police work, but to hear feedback and hear what's happening in the community, Pierpoint said

"We want to be progressive and be on top of crime trends," he said.

Pierpoint started with the department after high school as one of Lacey's first community service officers.

The program gives young adults a chance to explore a career in law enforcement. Community service officers transport prisoners to jail and assist officers at a traffic accident.

"If it hadn't been for the CSO program, I don't know I would have gotten in as early as I did," he said.

Pierpoint moved to Thurston County when he was in the fourth grade. His father took a job as one of the county's first paramedics.

Toward the end of high school, Pierpoint knew he wanted to pursue a career in public service. The choice, however, was between putting on a badge as a cop or following his father's footsteps to become a firefighter, he said.

"What I liked about the police department is you're out serving law enforcement functions more often than firefighters are out fighting fires," he said.

In April, he'll attend the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

"I've been extremely lucky to have opportunities," Pierpoint said. "This city has offered some wonderful opportunities. If some of them hadn't been there, I don't know where I'd be now."

Pierpoint graduated from Timberline High School in 1983. He's been married for 15 years to his wife, Shelly, with whom he has two children, a 17-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.

2003 The Olympian