Nevada residents are remembering retired police Chief Ray Couser following his death last month.
Couser, 84, passed away Sept. 22 at his home in Salem, Oregon.
Couser joined the Nevada Police Department in 1965 and was there for only two years before assuming the role of chief, which he held for 25 years. In 1992, he retired and moved with his wife, Marlene, to Oregon to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
Both of their daughters, Susan Rogers and Jennifer Reznicsek, had already moved to Oregon, and their son Tom was living in California. When Reznicsek was engaged to her husband, they decided to make the move.
“It was hard for them to leave,” Reznicsek said. “They had been there so long and they both grew up in the Nevada area.”
While Couser retired from police work, Reznicsek said he still kept a watchful eye on his new home community. Many of the neighborhood kids called him “grandpa,” and the Couser’s front porch was always a gathering place for the neighbors.
Retired Nevada Police Chief Mark See said while it was hard to see Couser leave, he knew how important his family was to him and admired the way he handled his work and personal life.
“You raise your kids, like Ray did and some of us did, in the same community you patrol,”
See said, “it’s not an easy balance to maintain at times but Ray did a good job with it.”
Reznicsek said she always loved having her dad as the police chief, although she knew that might have been a little out of character for a teenager.
“I just dug up a picture the other day from the prom. He was always the police officer at the school dances,” she said. “A lot of people would have thought that was terrible, but I always thought it was really cool to have my dad there.”
See, who became police chief after Couser’s retirement, fondly remembers their time working together. He was hired by Couser in 1977. According to See, Couser served as an example for other officers during his time as chief and treated them like family.
“Ray thought a lot of his officers. He was very fair, he was very caring, but he was also very humble,” he said.
According to See, the growing town of Nevada pushed the police department to modernize and improve their force. During the time Couser was chief, he created a detective position, updated the appearance of the squad cars and instituted the use of bulletproof vests.
Police work has changed further still since Couser’s retirement. According to Director of Public Safety Rick Martinez, his role as chief of police has gotten more complicated as the city grew and technology advanced.
Over 25 years as chief, Couser probably knew everyone in town, Martinez said, making it easier and quicker to resolve crimes. Now, the prevalence of social media makes law enforcement that much more difficult.
“Crimes that take place on the internet are the same as the ones that take place in the community, but faster, quicker and more anonymous,” Martinez said.
At the same time, some things from Couser’s time as chief remain the same. According to Reznicsek, he started a “movie with a cop” event with John Chadwick, former pastor of the Memorial Lutheran Church. This event and others like it were revived this year by the current Nevada Police Department, with a movie night held earlier this month.
“One of the many goals of the NPSD is to be involved in the community as much as possible. These most recent events are to that end,” Martinez said. “We will be looking for other opportunities in the future, so we ask our community to check our Facebook site for upcoming events.”
According to See and Reznicsek, Couser always had a soft spot for the children in the community and made extra efforts to keep them safe. During his time as chief, the department put together a school crossing program and did extra patrols around the schools.
“He was very conscious of patrolling the school areas both before and after school to make sure students were able to make it to and back from school safely,” See said.
Tonya Valentine, who the Couser children considered as a sister, remembered the care Couser took of her own children. When she was pregnant with her daughter, Valentine said she was on bedrest and unable to take her 4-year-old son on a long awaited school field trip to the farmers market when she asked Couser if he could go.
“Ray didn’t even hesitate, he said he’d love to take Wesley,” Valentine said. “I have the best picture of them sitting together with their bag of veggies. Wesley is 21 now and he still says that is one of the best days ever.”
Those that knew Couser said he was strongly tied to the Nevada community and worked passionately to preserve its roots and keep it safe. While See was chief, the department created a mission statement that he said perfectly matched Couser’s dedication to the town.
“When we were done it really boiled down to, it was our job to make the community feel safe,” See said. “His [Couser’s] concern was that Nevada be kept safe, and I think he was guided by that no matter who or what kind of person you were in the community.”