Deputy Cyndi Johnston enjoys working with people
Cyndi Johnston of Neligh, Neb., has worn many different hats through the years.
Fifty-year-old Ms. Johnston was born and raised in the Royal, Neb., area and graduated from Orchard High School in 1977.
“After graduation I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life Ms. Johnston said. “I worked at several different jobs in the area; a cafe, bank teller, etc. A girlfriend and I decided to go to Seattle, Wash., where I worked at a variety of places. One day I saw an ad in the paper for the Tukwila police department. It looked like it paid pretty well; I took a civil service exam and worked there about three years and loved the work. I moved back to Neligh, Neb., got my certification at the Grand Island Law Enforcement Training Center and was hired by Kenny Drobony, the sheriff at that time. Sheriff Drobony wanted me to work in the office as dispatcher.
“I know you’ve been through the Grand Island Academy,” he said, “but I really want you to work in the office to be a dispatcher for awhile.”
“I had gone through the Academy and he wanted me to work in the office? It wasn’t that he thought I wasn’t capable for the job. He thought I might get hurt.
“That wasn’t what I wanted. I am a people person and wanted to work on the road.” Ms. Johnston said. “However, I worked as dispatcher in Neligh about a year, then decided to go to Omaha. I was hired at St. Joseph’s Hospital (now Creighton University Hospital) as a security guard. I went through the Omaha Enforcement Training Center and also took a test for the Omaha Police Dept., which was for psychological and physical agility, also a written exam. There were several candidates applying and it was a huge process for women to get into the police department at that time, but much to my surprise I was accepted.
“I got on the police force in 1986,” Ms. Johnston continued. “Just before I got my badge my grandpa Everett Johnston from Royal, Neb., passed away. He had always wanted me to work in the Sheriff’s office, and planned to pin my badge on me. I graduated in June 1986, and my father, LaRue Johnston from Royal, Neb., pinned my badge on me.”
She worked in several different sections within the police department in Omaha … gang unit, intelligence unit, selective enforcement, which works on speeding, drunk driving, accidents, hit and run, then went into traffic unit, whish is accident investigation, fatalities, serious injuries, day-to-day basis on the street. She worked nights from 4 p.m. until midnight, and worked in north Omaha her entire career, which is a rough neighborhood.
“What I’ve seen in my lifetime working for the police department in Omaha I pray no one has to see in their lifetime,” she expressed. “It is amazing how cruel the human race can be toward each other. The things you see you carry with you, but God has blessed me in a way to learn how to give things to Him, which I didn’t learn until the end of my career.
“I’d be lying if I told you I’m a perfect Christian,” she continued, “because I’m not. In my line of work it’s still a man’s world. When I was hired there were very few female officers, so we kind of set the stage. I looked up to a female officer in Omaha, Nancy Bradshaw. Over the years they have come to understand that women have skills, the ability to communicate. As I worked the neighborhood a lot of people knew me by my first name. I could stop in, have coffee with them, and maybe I had taken their son or daughter to jail, but it’s all about respect. No matter what level of economic life or social structure one comes from you have to show people respect.”
The city of Omaha had what’s know as ‘Citizens Patrol.’ Citizens patrolled the streets looking for anything unusual. Ms. Johnston worked closely with them and for several years was chosen Citizen Patrol Cop of the Year. She was also nominated twice for Officer of the Year.
“I did not receive the final award, but was honored to have stood with my fellow officers,” she stated.
“If you never get scared being a cop you have something to worry about,” she said. “I had a blessed career in Omaha. When a position for deputy was offered in Neligh, Neb., it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I miss the people, my neighborhood, etc; I had been gone 25 years, but it’s like I’d never left. It’s good to be home.”
… And she’s where she wants to be … ‘back on the road again.’
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