Dennis Neverve, whose career in the Palo Alto Police Department spanned more than 46 years and included more than 100 commendations, died suddenly Sunday, March 2, just two weeks after his retirement and one day before the city was set to pass a resolution in his honor. He was 70.
That didn't stop dozens of his fellow officers from attending the Monday night meeting to pay their respects and watch the City Council adopt the resolution.
Neverve, who served as a full-time officer between 1967 and 1997 and as a reserve officer after that, retired on Feb. 14 after working under six different police chiefs, from William Hydie, who hired him in 1967, to current Chief Dennis Burns. His duties included patrol officer, traffic enforcer, range master, warrant officer, property-crime detector and hostage negotiator.
His commendations include a notice of merit for talking an armed suspect out of his weapon and a medal of valor for rescuing several citizen from burning homes during a 1985 fire in the Foothills, according to a resolution that City Council plans to pass in his honor March 3. In 1986, the Lions Club named him "Officer of the Year" for his courage on the job, the resolution states. It singles him out for "sensitivity, loyalty, fairness, courtesy and professionalism."
In an interview Monday, March 3, Burns called Neverve a "throw-back" officer, known for an "uncanny ability to get along with anybody who he came into contact with." He had lived in Palo Alto for many years, Burns said, and was a guy who "really enjoyed the purest form of police work -- being on the street, working with people in the community."
"In Palo Alto, you come into contact with a variety of different people and he would always treat them with dignity and respect," Burns said. "He used his influence as opposed to his authority and he managed to get great results. He didn't have any airs about him."
After learning about Neverve's death, the department thought about canceling the March 3 celebration but decided against it. The feeling was that the departed veteran would have wanted the city to proceed with its plans and celebrate his career. Burns said people will be arriving from other parts of the country, including Arizona, Utah and Idaho, to pay their respects to Neverve.
Though his tenure as a full-time officer concluded in 1997, Neverve maintained a regular presence as a reservist, Burns said. He was particularly devoted to honoring the department's three fallen officers, Lester Cole, Gene Clifton and Ted Brassinga. The council's recent resolution lauds him for organizing the memorial events for these officers. It also recognizes his contributions as a "pioneer of the evidence team" who had "mastered the art of photography and fingerprint collection."
Mayor Nancy Shepherd read the resolution at Monday night's meeting and led the council and the crowd in attendance in a moment of silence for Neverve.
In an email notifying the police community of Neverve's sudden passing, he was praised as "an extraordinary police officer, a loyal servant to Palo Alto, an outstanding man, and above all, our faithful friend."
Burns, who spoke at Monday's meeting about Neverve's sudden passing, quoted another officer's description of Neverve as "a cop's cop and also a gentleman's gentleman."
Two weeks before his retirement, Neverve penned an essay to his colleagues titled "My Legacy" recounting his first contact with police when he was about 10 and he joined Burbank police in a ride-along to find two boys who were shooting out streetlights with BB guns. He moved to Morgan Hill in 1956 and found himself living across the street from then-Police Chief John Moreno, who Neverve said "allowed me to 'ride along' before 'ride alongs' were considered." At 21, he began applying to various police departments in the area, finally joining Palo Alto's in July of 1967.
"Now, after a total of 46 years, 7 months and 7 days (30 years full; 16 years, 7 months and 7 days reserve) I retire as R-4," Neverve wrote. "I have worked for six different PAPD chiefs and protected seven United States Presidents and the Queen of England who visited our city at various times of my career.
"My journey throughout my police career with PAPD actually turned into an adventure which I will never forget. I hope other PAPD officers follow in my footsteps."