By Jean Schurman
After 33 years of wearing the familiar brown uniform of the Ravalli County Sheriff’s office, 13-8 is 10-10. Deputy Chuck Gividen, whose radio number has been 13-8 for at least 20 years, retired on Friday. He spent the day tying up ends, completing paperwork and then capped it off with a reception with his past and present co-workers. Gividen has been at the Sheriff’s Office longer than any other employee there, including four sheriffs – Dale Dye, Jay Printz, Perry Johnson and current sheriff Chris Hoffman.
Technically, Gividen was hired 32 years and 10 months ago, by Dye who he said was a very strict, good teacher. A native of Utah, Gividen arrived at the RCSO after working for the Mapleton City (Utah) Police Department for a year and a half. Prior to that, he worked for the Brigham Young University Security. He graduated from BYU with a degree in justice administration and a minor in sociology.
Gividen vividly remembers his first ‘brush’ with law enforcement. One day his father accompanied a friend during a prisoner transport. Prior to picking up the prisoners, Gividen’s dad and friend stopped by the elementary school to see him. The transport went without any trouble and Gividen was so impressed with the man in the uniform that he decided law enforcement was what he wanted to do.
“I always liked the ‘good’ guys,” quipped Gividen, “and I was always wanted to help people.”
This combination made law enforcement a natural choice. His early years were spent as a patrol officer, traveling the back roads of the Bitterroot. During that time, he handled anything and everything from burglaries to assaults to serving civil papers. Many of the calls often involved simply talking the problem out between two parties or listening to a grievance. Gividen feels that one of his greatest assets as an officer has been his ability to talk and communicate with people, especially those in distress.
“My mom was a great communicator. I think I picked that up from her,” he said.
In the early 1990’s, a new program was initiated at the Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Jay Printz after receiving a four-year grant. The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program was offered to all the schools in the valley and all decided to participate. Gividen became the instructor and traveled to each of the schools every week. The pace was tough but Gividen found he really enjoyed his interactions with the kids and being in the schools. He did this for four years until the grant ran out. For the next three years, he combined the teaching with fund raising to keep the program going.
His role was limited to teaching and so he could not work any cases that came up in the schools. Because it was getting more and more difficult to raise the money needed for the DARE program, the Sheriff’s Office decided to end that program and instead, have a school resource officer. Then, if the need should arrive, the officer in the school could work a case. Gividen initially was in Corvallis, Victor, and Florence. For several years he was in Victor and Florence and then for the last few years, Florence. His day was spent getting to know the students in all the classes, letting them know that officers are people too, and occasionally writing a citation or giving a warning.
“I always told them (the ones that were in trouble) that they would thank me some day,” he said with a grin. He goes on to say that in one particular case where he had to write a citation for marijuana, the students recently told him thank you and said that the citation got them out of the drug culture. “It was a wake up call for them,” concluded Gividen.
As with any law enforcement career, there have been highs and lows for Gividen. Anytime there have been incidents involving his fellow officers or their families, that has always been tough. But there have been good times, too. He tells of a case where a two year old child was reported missing.
“There was a canal next to the house and we all thought the worst,” he said. Gividen was the first officer on the scene. After some initial questioning, they set out to look for the child. He followed the canal, thinking it would be better for the family if he found something there.
“As I was looking along the bank, something caught my eye back away from the canal.” There was a bit of color and Gividen went to investigate. As he looked closer, he found the two year old, sleeping beneath some bushes. He gently picked the child up and started back to the house without waking the child.
“At first, when the mother saw me with the child slumped down sleeping, she thought the worst and let out a cry. But then the child sat up and mom saw everything was ok. I even had to wipe a tear away then.”
Gividen has seen many changes both inside the Sheriff’s Office and in the valley. When he first began, the radio at the SO was a low band frequency. This meant that officers were out of radio range in many areas in the valley. In the late 1980’s, high frequency radios were finally available for the deputies. The Forest Service donated portable radios to the officers about the same time so they were always in radio contact. Handwritten case files were the norm at the beginning of his career but now everything is done by computer. One of the biggest changes has been the increase in population. When he started, the population of the valley was about 12,000, now it’s about 40,000.
The bane of Gividen’s career has been dogs. He has been bitten more times than he cares to remember. Dye even gave him an equalizer stick to be used for dogs. “They just don’t like me.”
Now, Gividen plans on spending much more time with his family. He and his wife, Rhonda, have been married 37 years. They have five children – Tina, Stacey, Wendy, Travis and Trent. They also have 14 grandchildren. Always an avid hiker and back packer, he and Rhonda have recently taken up competing in triathlons. Rhonda is the swimmer and he does the biking and sometimes running. Their daughter Stacey also competes. He is also working on the family history and has done one book so far.
As he sat among the memorabilia marking his career, he said the one thing he tried to do throughout his career was to treat everyone with respect. “It doesn’t matter if they are in the jail or on the street, you treat them with respect,” said Gividen. “The key is letting other people know what your rights are while still respecting their rights.”
13-8 is 10-10.