The Clewiston Police Department is saying goodbye to a long-time officer and friend, and celebrated his service at a surprise retirement party at the Clewiston Elks Lodge on June 23.
Tito Nieves began his career in law enforcement in his native Puerto Rico at the behest of his father. But what started as a means to tame a wild teenager turned into a career that spanned 44 years and created a lifetime of memories.
Nieves admitted the transition from wild high school graduate to first-year officer was difficult.
“It was a tough first year,” said Nieves. “But it is a great career.”
Nieves worked as on officer in Puerto Rico before he moved to Florida and applied for a position in Glades County. When the Glades County job did not pan out, he set his sights on the Clewiston Police Department where he would serve as an officer for 30 years.
Over his 44-year career in law enforcement, Nieves has had his share of highs and lows, seen his share of violence, and connected with people on the most basic levels of human existence.
“You can’t be afraid. If you have the heart for [law enforcement] go for it. It is a great career. It has its ups and downs but overall it’s a great career,” said Nieves to potential officers.
Nieves has been involved with three shootings in his four-decade career, both in Puerto Rico and in Clewiston. Despite the danger, despite the violence, Nieves said the experience received as an officer interacting with people on a daily basis “as they really are” is an invaluable “treasure of knowledge.”
Nieves said the highlight of his career, however, was being named “Officer of the Year” the same year his son, who serves as a deputy in Glades County, was also named “Deputy of the Year.”
Summing up his career, Nieves cited three songs: “Let It Be” and “Yesterday” by The Beatles, and Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way.”
Not to be mistaken for apathy, Nieves said he learned to “let it be” a long time ago because no one can fix the world. “Yesterday” seems so far away to Nieves because at 65, he’s not as young as he used to be.
As for doing it his way, Nieves climbed into his police car every day and said an “Our Father” before asking God for protection against the world he was putting his own life on the line to protect.
As seasoned commanders and bright-eyed first-years gathered together to celebrate the accomplishment of Nieves’ tenure as a law enforcement officer Tuesday night, it might be assumed that a few prayers were whispered as thanks for 44 years of coming home safely to his family.
And as Nieves closes this chapter of his life to open the next, the Clewiston Police Department will continue without one of their longest-serving assets.
“Nieves has been the anchor at this police department,” said Clewiston Police Chief Don Gutshall. “No one will ever replace him.”