Willow Creek Resident Promoted to Captain of Eureka Police Department

Brian Stephens has served 16 years with the Eureka Police Department. He worked consistently towards gaining experience and law enforcement achievements throughout the course of his career. Stephens said that being promoted to captain of the EPD is a humbling experience./Photo by Rhonda Bigovich, Two Rivers Tribune

Brian Stephens has served 16 years with the Eureka Police Department. He worked consistently towards gaining experience and law enforcement achievements throughout the course of his career. Stephens said that being promoted to captain of the EPD is a humbling experience./Photo by Rhonda Bigovich, Two Rivers Tribune

By RHONDA BIGOVICH, Two Rivers Tribune

Willow Creek man, Brian Stephens was promoted to Captain at the Eureka Police Department (EPD), after 16 years with the department. Stephens has received extensive training in several units within the agency as well as many honors and awards throughout the course of his career.

Stephens gave a wide grin and said, “When I was a young kid I wanted to play baseball. I kind of held onto that dream until I was a senior in high school, then I realized that even though  I was good, I wasn’t Major League material.”

That dream was quickly replaced with vision. Stephens was born and raised in Kentucky where his family still resides. His parents supported his new dream of becoming a police officer.

He enjoys helping people and liked the idea of joining the police force. So, he began to test and apply for police officer positions in his hometown. Stephens was not aware of how competitive the field was. He found that 300 other applicants were vying for just one of the positions he applied for.

“At 19-20 years old I realized quickly that a high school kid with a very small amount of education does not have what it takes to beat out 300 people for a job,” he said. “That’s where the military came in. I wanted to serve my country but I also knew that this was going to give me background experience that would set me apart from a large group of 300 people for the next job I applied for.”

Serving five years (1993-1998) in the Army as a military police officer gave him a wealth of knowledge and the background experience to help him toward his goal of becoming a police officer.  He served in two military tours. One, to the

Panama Canal in a normal rotation of safety detail to protect the U.S. base, and two, in Haiti as intervention  and support in 1994 when the U.S. intervened to remove the military  regime installed by a Haitian Coup overthrew the elected president.

“I was in Haiti two days after the U.S. military landed. Once the infantry went in we were there within two days with all of our equipment and security detail all throughout the country,” Stephens said.

Stephens said going to Haiti under hostile conditions was dangerous. There he learned he had to trust in others, not just himself. Camaraderie is imperative, and he carried that outlook into his policing career.

He was released from the Army in 1997 as a promotable specialist. Stephens met his wife Kimberly Colegrove in basic training. The couple became friends immediately, and was married soon thereafter.

How did Captain Stephens end up in California? Stephens laughs lightly and starts to explain the bet he made with his wife, Kim. It was the bet that changed his life forever.

“Well, I can tell you, the funny part about how I ended up here in California. Kim and I were in Kentucky.  I was getting ready to be released from the military. We made a bet that whoever got a job first, that’s where we were going to move,” he said.  “I think she already knew she had an ‘in’ at the school because she made a phone call Monday, had a phone interview on Tuesday and was on an airplane Thursday, that’s how quick it happened.”

“My chief (Andy Mills) even alluded to it at my promotion ceremony for captain—losing the bet with Kim.  “Thank you, Kim for winning,” he said. It was quite a hilarious moment,” Stephens said, as he laughed and shook his head.

There have been several changes at EPD since Andy Mills was hired as the Police Chief. Mills laid it out to all fellow officers that a restructure was planned that would allow promotions and advancements.

“It was at that point I knew I was going to test for it,” Stephens said. “I found out a few days before it was announced publically that I was getting the promotion, and I had done well enough on the test.”

Mills called early with the news and woke Stephens, who had been working graveyard shifts.

Stephens said, “My first reaction was, it was a humbling opportunity. Every accolade, every award that I have ever gotten, compliments I’ve received from peers—it’s always humbling just to be recognized for anything that you do.”

At the beginning of Stephens’ career at EPD, he received Rookie of the Year two years in a row.

“In 2007 I was a member of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force (DTF) and I was recognized as the Region Eight Narcotics Officer of the year,” Stephens said.

“It was good experience and an opportunity to meet different people and make connections on state and federal levels with other law enforcement agencies that have been a huge benefit to my career,” Stephens said.

Working on the DTF was a favorite for Stephens. He thoroughly enjoyed the investigative process, starting with small leads and building a case from minimal information. He said it’s different from working homicide cases or other major crimes, because there is no substantial evidence.  DTF often starts from a mere phone call, or hearsay.

Having been in the military and on a SWAT team, Stephens said the experiences helped him to keep control, and not get overly panicked or excited.

“I have been a chemical agents instructor, defensive tactics instructor, field training officer, member of the EPD SWAT team, spent four-and-half years with DTF, field training coordinator, patrol sergeant, and military police corps. Those are probably the major things that I have done,” he said.

Stephens said that his military skills have helped him solidify his career in law enforcement. Through respect, discipline, and work ethic he gained a command of presence.

“I’ve learned to be proud of who you are what your stand for,” he said. “Serving your country is the most honorable thing anybody can do.”

“My parents have always supported the decisions I have made throughout my career, even though it has always been extended support. You learn a lot about your parents, especially when you’re deployed in the military. They have been very strong and supportive of me and they have been very happy for me, more so in this recent promotion,” Stephens said.

“I have always had this sense of comfort in my training, and the people that I work with. If you get tied up with worry then you will make mistakes and will not allow your training to take over. So you have to trust in what you have been trained to do. I have friends who would die for me any day of the week. To have that level of respect for somebody that you work with is something bigger than any award you can get,” he said.

Currently, Stephens is a field training coordinator. He oversees the training of newly recruited officers.

“I see guys go from the interview process to getting their badges,” he said. “It’s real fulfilling to see that take place.”

Stephens looks you in the eyes as he speaks. And although he has the persona of a high ranking officer, there is a soft side to the well-trained officer. He said he had to work on his communication skills as criteria for his promotion. Even if he didn’t get the job, learning to speak to people was a reward in itself.

Stephens holds many more crucial responsibilities. He is now one of the two direct supervisors under Mills, his primary duty is to handle all incidents in his service area. He serves as the point of contact and is on-call 24 hours, 7 days a week.

He said, “I proactively determine problems, and mitigate solutions, figure out crime fighting strategies, improve public safety and security, and about a dozen other things.”

“This is not just for Eureka. It is the goal of the EPD to make Eureka a safer place for anyone who comes to town. When members of Willow Creek, Hoopa, and other parts of Humboldt County come to town we want them to feel safe. We serve our community as best and as proudly as we can. If you have any issues or want to talk, come find me,” said Stephens.

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