Todd Stanyon’s journey in law enforcement began in college when his parents gave him an unconventional Christmas gift — a police scanner.
Although Stanyon was majoring in architecture in Dayton, Ohio, at the time, listening to the scanner inspired him to go for a ride-along session with police.
“We actually got into a high-speed chase with a convicted drug dealer that was just released from prison,” Stanyon recalled. “It started off with a routine traffic stop. The guy ended up coming back at us and going the wrong way on the interstate. After that, I was hooked.”
Stanyon credits the police scanner, high octane ride-along and chance to help the community with motivating him to become a law enforcement officer. He started working part-time in Ohio in 1990 and tallied 15 years in Miami Township before moving to Wyoming.
After 17 full-time years with Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Stanyon retired April 18 as a sergeant.
“I loved going on wildlife calls,” Stanyon said. “I also enjoyed the public relations stuff, greeting people in Town Square. Nothing made my day more than a family super excited from seeing their first buffalo.”
Stanyon seemed to find himself “in the thick of things,” he said.
In 2005 his “welcome to Jackson Hole,” as he put it, included a high-profile encounter with a streaker at the soon-afterward-canceled Demolition Derby. Stanyon tasered the man, who had picked up a fire extinguisher. The incident initiated community discussion around the appropriate use of force.
“I had not experienced something like that,” Stanyon said. “I was new to Jackson Hole. I was very surprised by the incident and by people’s reactions to it. I still stand behind it and the way it happened.”
“Obviously when I was chasing him I could see he was messing around with the safety release of the fire extinguisher,” Stanyon said. “There’s no reason to do that unless he was going to use it. He refused multiple commands to drop it. We had just gotten the tasers at that point, we hadn’t had them that long and it worked exactly how it was supposed to. It stopped him instantly; he had no injuries whatsoever.”
The incident became famous in local lore. Stanyon said he still has his “I was tased in Jackson Hole” T-shirt around the house. And that year he was patrolling the KMTN Halloween bash at Snow King when he encountered a man in a nude bodysuit posing as the streaker and his date in a sheriff’s uniform.
“You know you’ve made it when you’re a Halloween costume,” he said. “That was my 15 minutes of fame, I guess. That was my welcome to Jackson Hole.”
The next year, determined to avoid any potential streaker interactions, Stanyon picked his location at the Derby carefully, away from the fray. Unfortunately, another streaker barreled right into him, giving him a hematoma on his right knee.
In 2007, just one year later, Stanyon was injured again in the line of duty while he was escorting a drunk man out of the Mangy Moose.
“He had been fighting staff and throwing barstools,” Stanyon said. “We arrested him and as we were walking down the stairs, the guy stopped, planted his feet and mule-kicked back. It caught me in the side of my right knee. I had to have reconstructive surgery.”
Other high-profile cases during Stanyon’s tenure were two homicide-suicides in Teton County. Stanyon worked as the primary officer on both cases, one on Fish Creek Road that ended in arson and another near Hoback.
Stanyon said it wasn’t just the 40 pounds of gear that got heavier to carry as the years went on.
“Thirty-two years is a long time, wears on your body and your emotions,” Stanyon said. “I noticed it was harder to deflect the really negative events, they were affecting me more. In my later years the more emotional scenes were starting to bother me more.”
It’s been quite the ride, and despite the lows, Stanyon is quick to recall the highs in a community where he felt “well supported.”
Stanyon said he’d sometimes go weeks on end without buying his own lunch, courtesy of citizens picking up his bill in drive-thrus and restaurants.
One memento Stanyon never forgot.
“A citizen flagged me down when I was sitting in my cruiser and he handed me a cross on a chain and said he prays for us,” Stanyon said. “I kept that in my cruiser for the rest of my time there.”
Stanyon also recalled the kids on Town Square who’d ask for a hug and a photograph, saying “that can erase so many bad things in an instant.”
What’s next for Stanyon, who lives over the pass in Victor, Idaho, is to take advantage of the natural environment that caused him to move out here in the first place.
“I’m playing it day by day,” Stanyon said. “I want to take some time and enjoy the area. Go out and see wildlife, fish. I want to get out and experience the reasons I came here in the first place.”
Stanyon said the transition, though hopefully streaker-free, is bittersweet and he’s feeling some fear and anxiety as to what the future holds.
“I will miss the day-to-day camaraderie and my friends,” Stanyon said. “I’m really proud of my people. I’m proud of the sheriff’s office. The community I hope realizes what a great group of people there are working there.”
During his career, he said: “Everybody I’ve experienced is there for the right reasons, to help and make a positive impact on the community. That’s the legacy I’m hoping they carry on.”