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About Jim Gibbs, Badge 254

While an amateur historian Jim Gibbs is a professional law enforcement officer, educator and trainer serving nearly 50 years in a variety of positions.

Jim graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and attended an additional two years of undergraduate work at Weber State College in Ogden Utah majoring in law enforcement. He participated in first year of graduate studies at the University of Nevada pursuing a master’s degree in public administration.

Jim graduated from the Utah Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Instructors’ School and graduated as valedictorian from the10th Northern Nevada Police Academy.

Jim Gibbs is also a Certified Paralegal. He graduated from the Professional Career Development Institute with a specialty in civil litigation, real estate and criminal law. Jim served a college internship as a legal assistant to the city attorney for Reno Nevada, and as a law clerk for city attorney for Logan Utah and has been commended for prosecuting a criminal case as a police officer in Wyoming when the city attorney fell ill and was unable to attend the trial. Jim has authored courses on contract law, regulatory rules & procedures and criminal law.

In addition to the numerous law enforcement certifications earned over the years, Jim Gibbs is licenses in both Tennessee and California as a private investigator.

Jim owns the Career Institute which is recognized by the State of Tennessee and provides real estate education and security officer education to meet the requirements of the Tennessee Department of Commerce. Career Institute also offers law enforcement continuing education worldwide. Jim Gibbs is certified by the State of Tennessee to teach firearms, baton, Taser and mace classes to security law enforcement officers. 

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Officers Rick Griffin and Jim Gibbs assisting an injured suspect (August 1978)
Photo by Marilyn Newton, Reno Evening Gazette/Nevada State Journal

by Jim Gibbs

Those words are a constant reminder to me that there are choices in life and each choice has consequences. Each consequence that you experience provides a new challenge and another choice with even more consequences. A distasteful consequence does not mean that the choice you made was a bad decision. Not everybody agrees and sometimes the best intended choices result in difficult consequences.

I have wandered but I was not lost. I have experienced life as a cop in five different states serving eight separate police agencies. I have looked for utopia in law enforcement and can tell you it does not exist. I am a person full of ethical ideals and I have discovered many lessons in life regarding my ideals. I have become aware that it is the journey that matters most, not what you found. I have regrets but I look back with pride and self satisfaction that I have always done what I thought was right.

Of all the agencies that I have worked for, I personally identify with the Reno Police Department. I am not sure why. Perhaps because I became friends with Chief Elmer Briscoe in the late 60’s. I found him to be an honorable person. I suspected political motivation behind the pressures that brought about his retirement and my reaction may have shaped my future in law enforcement more that any other factor.

I began my law enforcement career in 1966 at Pittsburg California. I migrated to Reno in 1967 seeking a position with the Reno Police Department. Unfortunately I did not make it through the testing process. Not to be deterred, I enrolled at the University of Nevada and retested again for Reno in 1972. This time I failed the polygraph test showing “deception” regarding drugs. I was very disappointed as I had never in my life used illegal drugs.

I was invited to join the ranks of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department as a reserve deputy which at the time was the avenue to elevate to a full time paid position. I served honorably receiving several letters of commendation. I also continued to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice at UNR.

While working for the sheriff's department, I discovered supporting evidence that the tarnishing of the reputation of former Reno Chief of Police, Elmer Briscoe was a planned attack by the sheriff and facilitated by abusing the grand jury system. The goal of the sheriff was control of all law enforcement in Washoe County through the consolidation of the Reno, Sparks police departments with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office. In addition to former Reno Chief Briscoe, Tommy Hill, Chief of Police in Sparks who had traded the top cop position in Sparks with Galli several times was also targeted.

My concerns about the Grand Jury system being abused for political purposes were brushed aside by the sheriff's department and I made one of those previously mentioned choices with extreme consequences: I crossed “The Thin Green Line” of silence and took my suspicions public; I filed my papers as a candidate for Washoe County Sheriff in 1974.

I was 30 years old and immediately placed on a leave of absence from the sheriff's department. The truth was that it was not a leave of absence it was a political termination. While not proper, in my own mind, it was totally understandable. What I did not appreciate was that in obvious retaliation for my public opposition to his attempted power grab, Sheriff Bob Galli would do his best to keep me from working in law enforcement again.

After losing the election to my primary opponent, Chief of Police Tommy Hill offered all he had to offer in the form of a position as police dispatcher for the Sparks Police Department. Dispatching for Sparks allowed me to stay in law enforcement as I completed my degree and to make an attempt to attend law school.

For credit to complete my degree in criminal justice at UNR, I arranged an internship with the Reno City Attorney’s Office. Having the intention to go to law school at the University of Utah, I arranged another internship with the City Attorney in Logan Utah. The only law school to which I applied declined my application based upon being an older student but more importantly having the responsibility of raising three children.

I was encourage to stay in Logan Utah after I completed the internship and recruited by both the city attorney and the city manager to join the Logan Police Department.

In 1978 a personal situation in Reno caused me to once again apply for a position with the Reno Police Department. This time I was successful and was given a week’s notice to accept the position and report to the police academy.

A friend, who would later become my wife, volunteered to watch my children in Utah and help sell my house as I returned to Reno and entered the 10th Northern Nevada Police Academy. I was given Badge 254.

The academy was intended to be stressful to prepare the officers for the streets as a cop. We attended the academy during the day at Stead and we were free to leave at night and weekends. I used my weekends to return to Utah for personal business and to complete the process of moving back to Reno.

After about 3 or 4 weeks at the academy an old friend came to my home with a personal message. His name was Larry Dennison, a lieutenant with the Reno Police. He was in charge of the Reno Police Detective Division. Larry told me that Bob Galli had discovered that I had returned to Reno and he had friends within the Reno Police Department administration and the intent was to “wash me out” of the police academy. He left me with a simple piece of advice, “to watch my back”. So there I was, the unwanted man behind Reno Police Badge 254. I had quit my position with the Logan Police, sold my home in Utah and moved my children to Reno.

Haunted with a “political black ball” there was really no option for me but to go into survival mode. There was only one choice and that was to reach to my heart and grasp Badge 254 while thinking, “If you want this badge, come take it”.

In the afternoon of June 16, 1978 I married the young woman who had stood beside me in my quest, my journey from Utah to join the ranks of the Reno Police Department. My best man was my friend Lieutenant Larry Dennison. Many of my police classmates attended the wedding in the Reno Rose Garden. Ironically the ceremony was conducted next to what would later become the James D. Hoff Police Memorial a year before he died in the line of duty.

That same evening I graduated with the honor of being valedictorian of the 10th Reno Nevada Police Academy.

Less than 6 months later I would be released from my probation period without any specific reason or just cause. Remember, -- NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST --

Set adrift I wandered. I would reenter the political world in Washoe County and Reno running again for sheriff in 1982 and with the support and endorsement of the Reno Police Protective Association I ran for a seat on the Reno City Council in 1983. Neither campaign was successful.


While many law enforcement activities and functions in Washoe County have been consolidated and are under the directed control of the Washoe County Sheriff, the Reno City Police Department remains a city department controlled and managed by people elected by the citizens of Reno.

My love for the City of Reno and its police department had never subsided. As an amateur historian I have discovered an entrenched political tug of war that has shaped the police department from the very beginning. I have proudly become part of its history which I share with you here.

Please enjoy this online version of "The History of Policing Reno, LOOKING BACK 150 YEARS".

P.O. Box 60631
Reno, NV 89506

Phone: 775-200-0578
Fax: 888-496-0270