Aleck Shilaos poses by an album full of police insignias from across the nation.
When Aleck Shilaos entered the University of Utah as a student in the mid-1960s, the last thing he ever thought he would be was a police officer.
And certainly not the police chief of the force in his home town.
But the way things worked out, he became both, and after serving as the head of the Price Police Department since 1987, he will retire at the end of May.
"I just didn't think I would ever be a police officer," said Shilaos in an interview last week in his office. "I majored in Sociology and graduated from the U in 1969. It was then when I got my first taste of police work."
Shilaos was the very first parking officer the university hired. He worked there with another guy named Keyes, who went on to become an FBI agent.
Then as the university transformed the campus security became a full fledged police department. Shilaos became one of them.
"I couldn't turn it down," he said. "They were paying more than anyone at the time, $600 a month."
Shilaos said this was the heyday for the campus police. Up until that time, theft was rampant on the campus because of little police presence. This was particularly true at the University Hospital.
"The prison would bring these felons up for treatment from the Point of the Mountain," he explained. "While they were there they would case the place. When they got out they would come back and steal all kinds of stuff because they knew the security was lax. Once the police force was in place we were arresting felons by the gross."
After a time he went from the university to a job in Lakewood, Colo. as a police officer.
"Lakewood was a new city, very much like West Valley City was back in the 1980s," stated Shilaos. "It was the days of the LBJ reform. We weren't police officers but police agents. We wore blazers and there was no military structure there."
A decade later he found himself looking for something else and he found it. A job back in Price where he had grown up.
"It was a boom time in the town and I got the chance to come to Price as a lieutenant," he said.
Five years later he became the Chief of Police.
Asked about changes in the way police work has been done in the last 30 years brings about a variety of responses from Shilaos, but one, he said, was the biggest.
"The advent of computers has transformed the way we do everything," he stated. "We got our first computers in 1987 or '88. I remember we had a grant ($15,000) with a match to buy the first three office computers. One officer at the time said he didn't want to deal with computers and put his badge on the table."
Now the force has them in their cars and officers couldn't get along without them.
When asked about what stuck out in his mind as some of the most important things that have happened since he became chief he answered "the homicides, of course."
The one he most remembers wasn't because of the murder itself, but it was because of the location.
"We went out in the dark of night and there was this murder near the Carbon/Emery county line," he said. "We found the body and I told everyone to start cordoning off the area. At the time Mike Milburn was working for me and he looked at me and said 'I'm sure the body is actually in Emery County and not in Carbon.' He was right. We called Lamar Guymon to handle the case. I still can't figure out how he knew the location that in the dark like that."
Shilaos said he is proud of the force as it exists now. He says they operate on the idea that the faster an officer begins to investigate a crime the more likely it is to get solved.
"That's why I want our best cops out on patrol and responding to calls," he said. "We are very effective and efficient and I would put our force up against anyone in the state. I think we are very non-traditional. We leave our partolmen alone so they can do their job."
He is also proud of the people who have passed through the department onto other things. He has a list he calls the Price Police Honor Roll. Some of the people who worked on the force during his administration include Terry Marshall (former regional administrator for Adult Probation and Parole), Willie Draughon (Carbon County Attorney's investigator), Mike Milburn (former Lieutenant with DWR), Charlotte Sayer (former East Carbon Police Chief, now retired), Mark Liddiard (formerly head of security for Carbon School District), James Cordova (present Carbon County Sheriff), Roger Taylor (investigator for the Carbon County Sheriff's office) and Manny Escoto (Assistant Cheif of Police in Naples in Uintah County).Eight officers have also retired from the force during the time Shilaos has been chief.
As many people know, Shilaos is a cancer survivor. It took everything he had to get through his tough bout with the disease. He is in remission now and still has some maintenance left. He admits to bad and good days, but that now good days outnumber the bad ones.
As for retirement, he has no plans. He says he is a blank slate as to what he is going to do.
Funny, when you think about it. That is where he was when he first came into law enforcement, too.