New WMAT chief of police is law enforcement veteran

Police Chief Theodore Shaw and Tribal Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood are flanked by White Mountain Apache Tribe Councilmen Alvin Declay, left, and Travis Tessay.

WHITERIVER – The White Mountain Apache community has a new police chief in 52-year-old Theodore Shaw.

Shaw is a former police officer, sheriff’s deputy and detention officer with 18 years experience under his belt.

“I think it was in part because of my experience and because I grew up here on the reservation and I am well known here,” Shaw said when asked why he thinks he was hired.

His experience includes four years as an officer with the San Carlos Apache Tribe Police Department, one year with the Gila River Police Department, around six months with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office under the administration of former Sheriff K.C. Clark, and about a year as a detention officer in Whiteriver before transferring in 2002 to the police department.

He has been a patrol officer, a sergeant, a K-9 officer and a patrol lieutenant with the Whiteriver Police Department before being chosen Chief of Police earlier this year.

Shaw said that the incident in 1999 that took the life of Officer Tenny Gatewood Jr., who responding to a robbery call at the Hawley Lake store, inspired him. Tenny was killed with his own weapon that was apparently taken from him by the person who killed him.

Shaw said the other thing that made him decide to go into law enforcement was his experiences growing with his single-parent mother in McNary when the sawmill was still in operation. He said his mother taught him right from wrong and how to be a responsible member of his community.

He took that with him as he went through school and in his time playing JV and varsity basketball at the Whiteriver’s Alchesay High School.

He said another thing that influenced him was seeing and experiencing for himself how hard it was to make something of himself on the reservation where there still are limited opportunities for young people who want to move ahead.

“I saw how hard it was here on the reservation and decided I was going to make something of myself. Going into law enforcement helped me do that and stay out of trouble,” Shaw said.

When asked what he foresees for the reservation communities while he is Chief of Police, Shaw had a simple answer to match his down-to-earth approach to life.

“I’m here to better serve my community. I think that starts with professionalism and how we (police officers) present ourselves. I want to gain the trust of the community and I think my long time association with members of the community and growing up here will help make that happen,” Shaw said.

He has a 17-year-old son who lives with he and his wife, a 28-year-old son who is a detention Sgt. with the NCSO, and a 33-year-old son who lives in Cibecue.

What is his message to the community that looks to him for leadership?

“With this new leadership we are here to better serve the people and gain their trust. Long gone are the days of ‘same old, same old’,” Shaw said, adding that he wants to make sure the department does not remain stagnant under his command and makes strides forward to make Whiteriver and surrounding communities better places to live.

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