Three area young adults are now donning blue police uniforms as they follow the legacies of their fathers and other relatives in law enforcement.
Scottsbluff Police officer Megan Brady and Mitchell Police officers Quintin Enlow and Cody Ybarra graduated on Aug. 11 from the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Academy, members of the 208th Basic Training Class. During their graduation, each of the new recruit’s fathers — retired Nebraska State Patrol and current Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Jeb Brady, Scottsbluff Police Sgt. Cody Enlow, and Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Travis Petersen — were recognized as legacy officers, standing up and getting their own round of applause. Megan Brady also had the added honor of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during ceremonies.
Desiring the badge
Not one of the officers had a direct route to a career in law enforcement, each pursuing other opportunities before deciding on a career doing police work.
Though Megan Brady grew up with her dad, Jeb Brady, who served for more than 30 years at the Nebraska State Patrol and retired as a sergeant, in law enforcement, it was not a career she had ever considered.
“I always thought that what my dad did was like, super cool,” she said. “But I just never thought I had the ability to do it. I just didn’t think of that as something that I had the personality or traits for.”
However, Brady, who started with the Scottsbluff Police Department in January, found her own way into law enforcement, first following in the footsteps of her mother, Dee.
Dee Brady, whose own father had served as the chief of police in Henderson, Nebraska, and had encouraged her to pursue a career in dispatching, encouraged her daughter to also join in the career she had enjoyed. In fact, Dee met her husband, Jeb, while working in a dispatcher/jailer. Dee served different stints as a dispatcher over 39 years, first starting at a Sheriff’s Office in Kansas, at the York Police Department, the York County Sheriff’s Office, where she was also a jailer, at the Scotts Bluff County Communications Center and at Air Link.
While working at Air Link, Dee and Megan both received emergency medical technician training. Megan continued on that pathway, working as an EMT in Gordon for several months before deciding to pursue a law enforcement career. After doing ride-alongs with the Nebraska State Patrol and an area police department, she said, “I thought, 'This is actually a really cool job. I don’t understand why I thought I couldn’t do it.'”
On those ride-alongs, she said, she connected with the principles of serving in law enforcement.
“I think most people would say, ‘driving fast cars,’” she said, laughing, when asked what about the ride-alongs made a connection for her. “But, I always thought what law enforcement did was pretty honorable. I respected law enforcement pretty much my entire life and watching them (officers on the ride-alongs) do their jobs, and handle difficult situations and some difficult people and really come out with some really positive outcomes, made an impact. ... I thought, you know, that’d be really awesome to make a difference, even if it’s really minor on my end. ... I wanted to be a part of that.”
She began the process to be an officer, first pursuing serving as a Nebraska State Patrol trooper, and then as an officer with the Scottsbluff Police Department. She has a week left of field officer training before she is on patrol on her own, to which she is eagerly looking forward.
“It was kind of funny, when I told my dad,” she said. “He kind of looked at me. He was like, ‘You want to be a cop?’”
Megan said he and her mom kept her on track after her initial rejection when she tried for a state trooper position, calling her parents “beyond excited and super supportive.”
Jeb credits Dee’s inspiration and influence with beginning his daughter’s interest in law enforcement more so than his, saying that she talked more about her role as a dispatcher, and her family’s experiences in law enforcement with his children while they were growing up. He admits that he had been surprised by the announcement because his daughter had been focused on a career in the medical field.
“I have six boys,” he said, “and she is the first one to really show an interest.”
Like Megan Brady, the legacy of law enforcement officers in Quintin Enlow’s family is several layers deep. His father, Sgt. Cody Enlow has served with the Scottsbluff Police Department for 23 years. Cody Enlow told the Star-Herald that he attended the Nebraska Law Enforcement Academy with the brother of his wife, Marci, and she has additional family members, including a cousin who is married to a police captain in Kansas, with ties to law enforcement. In addition, his brother, Travis, is a sergeant at the Gering Police Department.
“He (Quintin) grew up around it (law enforcement),” Cody Enlow said. “So I think just probably having done that and obviously seeing dad come home in uniform, many nights or many mornings, probably was kind of inspiring, if you will. Even though I never, I’ve never pressed upon the issue of trying to get either of my kids into this line of work.”
Quintin Enlow began his forays into law enforcement after first pursuing a career as a lineman. He completed the WNCC program and had even worked a job in Florida before returning back to the Scottsbluff area. It was a career choice, Quintin said, where he was “chasing money” and “that definitely wasn’t my calling.” His dad directed Quintin Enlow and his brother, Brayden, to corrections opportunities at the Scotts Bluff County Corrections Center.
It was there that Quintin said he developed his interest in following in his father’s footsteps. His dad also started out his career working as a corrections officer.
“It took me five days, just working there,” to pique his interest in joining a police department, he said. “It just went from there.”
He worked for a year and a half at the corrections center before joining the Mitchell Police Department. As Mitchell Police Chief Kevin Kryzanowski, who is also a retired lieutenant from the Nebraska State Patrol, sought new officers to fill positions there, Quinton Enlow and Cody Ybarra were among the young men who were recommended and tried for positions.
Ybarra, who began in his position in March, said he has always known that he wanted to work in law enforcement.
“I’ve always had an interest in it,” he said, saying he was heavily influenced by his dad, Sgt. Travis Petersen, and his grandfather, Sgt. Ed Petersen, a retired Nebraska State Patrol trooper.
“Growing up, I’d see my dad get home in his patrol car and I knew, that’s what I wanted to do.”
As he grew up, though, he said his dad did encourage him to examine other opportunities and be sure that law enforcement was a good fit for him.
“He told me to, you know, look at other options, especially now, how things are changing (in how some view law enforcement),” he said. “It’s a different world when he went through (the academy) and when he started, but he’s always supported me.”
Travis Petersen said he remembers his son always being curious about his job.
“He was always interested in what I was doing at work and how we did things,” he said, saying he supported Ybarra when he decided he wanted to go into law enforcement. “I’ve always tried to let the boys go their own way and when he told me he was interested in law enforcement, I gave him some advice and told him what to prepare for.”
Asked about that advice he gave his son in those early days, Petersen said: “I told him, things were changing in today’s society, and the perception of law enforcement was changing. It’s still going to require honest people and honest working people.
“And that’s one thing I’ve preached to all my kids, when they were growing up was honesty and integrity and I’ve told them that if you ever go into this line of work, that’s a requirement,” he said, saying his dad brought him up the same way and shared similar messages about respecting people on calls, taking responsibility for your actions and other lessons learned through years in the career. Petersen has worked 19 years in law enforcement, serving the last 11 of those years in Scotts Bluff County.
Some of the advantages law enforcement offered, such as getting to know people and helping others, were motivations for Ybarra to continue down the law enforcement pathway. However, until he turned 21, he wasn’t old enough to pursue a career as a police officer, so like Quintin Enlow, started his path as a corrections officer.
“I worked at the jail for almost two years,” he said. “I wasn’t old enough to join a department, so I worked there until I was old enough to go somewhere else.”
As Quintin pursued this new career choice, beginning with the Mitchell department about six months ago, he said, he thinks his father was definitely excited. However, he said, he thinks at times he might be a little “annoying” to his dad.
“Honestly, I think I’m probably annoying him now,” he said with a laugh. “Every time I see him, I’m asking him what he would do in certain scenarios and situations. He probably doesn’t want to see me anymore because I’m talking about being on duty when he just wants to be off duty.”
Advice about the badge
With law enforcement reporting a change in attitudes toward officers over recent years, none of the three new officers, or their fathers, seemed particularly concerned about the decision to start a police career in a climate cited as demoralizing, and even dangerous in some areas.
Though some people across the nation, and even in the community, can lump all officers into one category because of bad interactions with law enforcement that spurred backlash, Megan Brady said, “It was kind of frustrating for a little while, but then I had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes, it’s just a lack of understanding, and needing to have conversations with people.”
Jeb Brady said, “I think civil turmoil because of the events that have happened the last couple of years have created concern because a lot of ideologies are out there that are competing for a narrative on what they think law enforcement is, and was, going to be. But, I think here in the area — Scottsbluff, Gering, in Nebraska, specifically — I think in some ways, we’re sheltered from a lot of that. ... Most people, even the people who are having the laws enforced on, have a tremendous respect for law enforcement. It’s been more of a heartening thing for me.”
Each of the officers said that their dads had talked to them about the huge responsibility of serving in law enforcement, and serving the community well. However, those lessons were not just lessons that their dads taught them as adults, but throughout their lives.
Quintin Enlow said he learned personally how much his dad embodied those principles when he began working as a corrections officer.
“Probably the best thing he told me is to just respect everybody. Everybody’s human, and when we’re dealing with people, it’s most likely on their worst day,” he said. “It’s about being nice, respectful. Working at the jail, a lot of the inmates, about 90% of the inmates (who had contact with his father as an officer) were appreciative of my dad because he was respectful and he was just a good person to them.”
Ybarra also felt that working in corrections gave him helpful insight into working as a police officer.
“It helped out a lot,” he said. “It really teaches you how to use your words, instead of relying on anything else. It really teaches you how to talk to people.”
Wearing the badge
Completing the 16-week Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Program has helped shore up their interest in law enforcement, each of the new recruits said.
Megan Brady said, “I feel more solidified as an officer and confident in my abilities to do what I need to do,” she said.
Each of the officers described seeing their dads come home after their shifts in uniform, and though their dads might not have talked about the details of their job, it formulated their perspectives. They also had the unique perspective of knowing other law enforcement officers through their fathers.
“You don’t fully understand it, as a kid,” Megan Brady said. “But doing it, I’ve learned, ‘This is what dad did. This is what the uniform represents.’ My dad was really respected in the community. And so that not only developed my love for what law enforcement officers do, but the respect that I had for them as well.”
In his short time in law enforcement, Ybarra said he hasn’t experienced some of the troubles that other law enforcement officers might report in other areas.
“I’m super thankful that I’m in the area that I am, just you still see a lot of support, especially around here,” he said.
Through getting to know other officers as he grew up, and with the support of the Mitchell Police chief, he said he knows that he has a good support network.
Like other milestones throughout his son’s life, such as graduating high school and graduating college, Cody Enlow said he was proud to see him earn his certification as a law enforcement officer. As a parent, he said, you experience pride when you see your children grow, be successful and handle things with maturity.
“I’m pretty honored that (these young officers) would even consider going into law enforcement,” he said, talking about the trials that law enforcement can experience in their careers. “It can be a pretty thankless job. To even have them think about going into law enforcement is pretty special.”
Petersen acknowledges that “I’m very proud, but I’m also a little nervous” about his son being in law enforcement due to the turmoil and dangers associated with the job. Though he has confidence in him, he said, he still sees him as a kid, recalling taking him to sports and other activities.
Cody Enlow echoed similar sentiments, saying, “We all worry about our kids, even when they are adults.”
He relies on the lessons he has taught his son, first while growing up and now as a law enforcement officer.
Cody Enlow said, “The biggest thing I’ve tried to instill in him that just because he’s a police officer and he’s having interactions with the public, that doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person,” he said, saying he had told his son that he has to treat people with respect. He said he believes that if you don’t treat people with respect on the job, you’re not going to have their respect when you need it, such as needing information for a crime or in other parts of the job. “Just because (people) have gotten themselves tied up in law enforcement, criminal situation doesn’t mean that person is a bad person. People make bad decisions in their lives. We all do, and sometimes, they’re worse than others, and unfortunately, we have to arrest them and they are in a corrections facility.”
For Ybarra and Petersen, there will likely be times that their jobs will intersect. The Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department and Mitchell Police Department assist each other on calls, often.
“Even though we’re a small department, we’re never far from anybody,” Ybarra said.
Quintin Enlow and Ybarra said they both see themselves at the Mitchell Police Department for at least a couple of years, but do have their sights set on pursuing other law enforcement opportunities. Like his father, Ybarra said, he wants to serve as a sheriff’s deputy. Quintin said he is also interested in going to a larger police department, like his dad.