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November 25, 2014

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random: Stories about people we meet :

He retired to Vegas, but he’s still a cop at heart

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Leila Navidi

Tom Wozniak served as a police officer in Chicago for 29 years and moved to Las Vegas in 1996. He works for a roadside auto service, the latest in a string of local employers including Sheldon Adelson. His big beef about Las Vegas is the number of bad drivers he’s observed at all hours.

Tom Wozniak spent 29 years as a Chicago cop before retiring in Las Vegas.

He’s still on the prowl but he doesn’t have the swagger.

For the past three years he’s been working for a roadside auto service, specializing in starting cars with bad batteries. Have cables, will jump.

He’s on the road all day long, and sees plenty of lousy drivers. Ah, if only he could still pull out his badge and pull them over.

“People are driving way too fast, and cutting in and out of traffic, in complete disregard for traffic laws,” he grouses. “They think every road is an expressway. And at intersections, you’ve got to slow down even if you have a green light” to watch out for motorists running red lights.

Las Vegas, he says flat out, has the most dangerous drivers he’s ever encountered. He blames it partly on Vegas’ being a 24-hour town and people drinking and driving at all hours.

“They need more police patrols here. Back in Chicago, my patrol district was a four-block-square area. Out here, oh my gosh, patrol areas are a few square miles.”

Wozniak, who’s 65, eased out of law enforcement. His first job in town was as a security guard at the Monte Carlo, a dozen or so years ago. He said his supervisors were young know-it-alls, and he quit. He spent more than six years at the DMV, first as a security guard but mostly as a vehicle inspector.

For almost a year, Wozniak drove a cab. “Fun job but, whoa, the people you meet and what they wear — and don’t wear.”

His favorite job was as a bodyguard for billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson. That job — back when Adelson had just begun building the Venetian — lasted just a few months before the security company Wozniak worked for lost its contract to a bunch of Israeli soldiers, Wozniak said.

“He was one of the nicest people I’ve met in the upper echelon,” Wozniak said of Adelson. “He was a real gentleman, a down-to-earth, wonderful guy.”

Sometimes, Wozniak drove Adelson. More often, Wozniak said he followed in another vehicle.

So, tell us a story.

“Well, there was the day he was driving his Rolls-Royce and banged into a curb and blew out a tire.”

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