Spotlight on Los Alamos: Mother inspires daughter’s choice to fight crime

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By Carol A. Clark

Det. Shari Mills of the Los Alamos Police Department has inspired her daughter, Paige Early, to enter the law enforcement field.

Early, 30, is a participant at the San Juan College Police Academy in Farmington and intends to return to the LAPD as a patrol officer following her graduation just before Christmas.

“My mom is absolutely my role model,” Early said during an interview from Farmington Monday. “I’ve thought of a career in criminal justice and watching what my mom has accomplished made me decide that I could do it also. I’m really interested in community policing and the juvenile system because I’m drawn to helping kids.”

Early also is completing her bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology online from the University of Colorado at Pueblo.

“She gets straight As and is on the National Dean’s List,” Mills said of her daughter’s academic skills.

Early is the mother of three children ages, 9, 6 and 4. Her husband is in a recruiting squadron in the Air Force in Indianapolis and is moving to Los Alamos in September.

Mills, 51, spent 18 years as a dental assistant in Los Alamos before joining the police academy in 2002 at age 45.

“I became interested in police work partly because of my husband, Lt. Scott Mills,” she said. “He’s been a police officer for the LAPD for nearly 10 years and it always sounded so interesting when he’d come home and talk about his day.”

Mills has taken martial arts for several years and said she felt physically fit and knew she was up to the challenge of the academy as well as the duties of a police officer.

She specializes in child protective services and sexual assault cases. Mills has completed a number of training programs and seminars in those fields and said one of the biggest challenges of her work is the unpleasantness of those types of cases.

As part of her work, Mills conducts presentations on child abuse awareness to new teachers in the Los Alamos Public Schools and also to day care employees.

“In Los Alamos, we average eight to 10 cases a month, but it’s hard to tell if there are more that aren’t being reported,” Mills said. “Statute mandates that it’s the duty of anyone aware of child abuse to report it and it’s important for people to know they can remain anonymous.”

Anyone wishing to report abuse, Mills said, can do so by calling the Children, Youth and Families Department Statewide Central Intake at 800-797-3260 or the LAPD at 662-8222.

Mills describes the people she works with as “fabulous.”

“Det. DeWayne Williams is a great leader of our investigations team,” she said. “Det. Doug Johnson has the best sense of humor and is always on the ball and Det. Ron Binion, having worked as a detective in Española, brings a wealth of experience and resources to our department.”

Mills and Early expressed pride in each other’s accomplishments and said they’d recommend law enforcement to others.

“It’s a wonderful field to work in because it’s challenging, demanding, very physical at times, and I’d say 80 percent of the time it’s difficult work,” Mills said. “But when we do get a conviction, it is so rewarding.”