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O’Neil seeks to revitalize Mancos Marshal’s Office
By Suzanne Strazza
Look out, criminals, there’s a new marshal in Mancos and he aims to clean up the town.
After months of unrest within the Mancos Marshal’s Office during the past year, things finally might be settling down. With a new marshal and a new deputy, Mancos leaders say they have a law-enforcement team that they can count on.
Marshal Steve O’Neil is a low-key family man with a quick sense of humor and a love for law enforcement. He applied for a deputy position in Mancos because after working as a gaming investigator for the Southern Ute Tribe, he “wanted to get back into real police work.” and “missed being out in the community.”
On Oct. 31, O’Neil began his new job as Deputy II, working alongside Marshal David Palacios. The relationship lasted for a very short period before Palacios resigned and O’Neil was temporarily promoted to interim marshal until a proper search could be performed. While O’Neil was serving in this position, Robert Galin was hired as Deputy I and started just before Christmas. Since then, a search has been conducted, and O’Neil has been officially hired as the marshal of Mancos.
O’Neil seems completely at home in this small Western town, but the Staten Island accent gives away the fact that he was not born and raised here. His 28-year career in law enforcement began in high school in New York, where he was an auxiliary police officer for the 122th precinct. After graduation, he pursued a career in electronics, which included six years in the naval reserve as a sonar technician in the Naval Reserves. In 1977 he was called for the New York State Police Academy and served as a New York State Trooper for the next 20 years.
A year before his graduation, he and his family took a trip west, fell in love with Durango and moved here as soon as he retired.
He, his wife and their two children are happy in the area and are planning on staying for the long haul. He is involved in the community; he is a member of the Masons, the Kiwanis Club and president of the area Shrine club. He and his wife are also leaders for both Boy and Girl Scout troops. When asked about being so busy within the community O’Neil said, “Someone’s got to do it and we usually step up to the plate.” He and his wife are both taking classes at Pueblo Community College to further their educations.
According to O’Neil, who is taking a law class, “There are new things every day, new investigative techniques, new products, new forensics information. It’s important to know what’s available.”
Robert Galin also appears to be committed to the Mancos area. He and his wife own a home here and plan on being here for a while. Galin has been in the area for many years, having worked as a journalist and a ranger for both Navajo State Park and Mesa Verde National Park and the Archuleta County Sheriff's office. Galin also teaches English, criminology and speech at PCC.
The two men have not only experience but also extra certifications to help them in their jobs. They are both Red Card wildland firefighters, Galin is an EMT and O’Neil is a certified mounted ranger. O’Neil’s goal for the department is to have each person (including another deputy) have the ability to wear two hats: police officer, firefighter, EMT. This way they can better do their jobs and serve the community.
So with these two on board and the process beginning for hiring a second deputy, what does the future look like for Mancos law enforcement?
O’Neil’s goal is to create a more professional and pro-active department — although, he said, they “won’t be wearing uniforms with the stripes down the pants – this is still the West.” He feels that things have already changed here. He is working to have officers be more of a presence — they are patrolling the streets more frequently and more laws are being enforced than in the past.
One law that is causing quite a stir is the one that states that it is illegal to leave a car running unattended. In other words, starting your cold car in the morning and going inside while it warms up will result in a ticket.
People are complaining about it but O’Neil said if you let people break one law, then you get a reputation for not doing your job. Although the enforcement of this and other laws may not make people ecstatic, Galin and O’Neil are trying to treat citizens with respect. “If a person is having a bad day, I don’t want to make it worse by treating them badly,” stated O’Neil. “How hard is it to treat someone well?”
Besides ticketing “non-motorists,” the marshal’s office has been busy investigating burglaries, drug dealings, and the Bounty Hunter fire, plus rounding up stray animals. They are also beginning to strongly enforce seat-belt laws.
When asked what his goals are, Galin said, “My role is to support the marshal, the town administration and the town board in creating a safe and secure environment for Mancos. Our role as a force is to support the safety of the community.”
Responding to the same question, O’Neil said, “I try hard to do the best job that I can. I expect to be held to the highest standard and to tell the truth. When all else fails, people call the police and I want to help those folks. I want to make people feel that they can count on us.”
O’Neil wants to be ready for anything to happen. “I want to be prepared. As they say in the West, I want to head trouble off at the pass.”