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Bittersweet: Sgt. Walsh Retires After Three Decades Of Service
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Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse presented Sgt. Jim Walsh with a plaque at his retirement celebration at Riverbank Police Services last week and thanked him for service to the department with a handshake and a smile. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
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Sgt. Jim Walsh is retiring after 29 years of service in law enforcement, ending his career where he first began in Riverbank. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS - photo by Photo By Virginia Still

Riverbank Police Services Sergeant Jim Walsh made his final log off with dispatch last Friday, Jan. 17 to begin a new chapter in his life: retirement. The 29-year veteran has worn many hats over the years as he served the Stanislaus County community including the City of Riverbank.

With one final lunch and a celebratory cake at a retirement celebration for Walsh at the Riverbank Police Services (RPS) substation, it was a bit overwhelming. There were several of his comrades in attendance including RPS Chief Erin Kiely, and Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse as well as Walsh’s family including his wife Lisa.

The first time Walsh worked in Riverbank was in 2000 as a patrol deputy and he served here for about five years, which is where he lived at that time as well. He went back to the main office in 2008 where he became a detective and then was back at RPS in 2011. In 2014 he was back at the main sheriff’s office where he was promoted to Sergeant and then returned to RPS last year in March where he did his final run as a patrol sergeant.

“When I started with the City of Riverbank there was a lot more dealings with gangs and drugs and violent crimes,” said Walsh. “Now it is a lot better. There are some problems out there with gangs but not as much. Due to new laws that have come into play in the last five years, property crime has gone on up. A lot of the felony crimes were possession of drugs and certain property crimes have all been dropped down to misdemeanors now. Of course there has been a natural up swing. The threat of going to jail is just not there as it used to be.”

Walsh has seen a lot of things over the years with laws changing as well as the attitude towards law enforcement and the growth of Riverbank. He was glad that the department implemented the use of body cameras and expressed that he would have liked to have them many years ago.

“The body cameras show the perspective of the deputy while dealing with a particular incident,” he said.

The reason for retirement now, Walsh said simply, it is time. Retirement comes after almost 30 years of service in many roles from being a detective, a training officer, in corrections, a training sergeant and working for contract cities.

“I have done a lot in my career,” he said. “Twenty-nine years I think is enough so it is time for me to enjoy life.”

A memorable story Walsh shared about his first time patrolling Riverbank in 2002 off of Estelle and Stanislaus, he responded to a call regarding a burglary in progress. There was a man driving around the neighborhood in a utility van with a side door open with the lights off running up to houses and vehicles. Walsh and his partner made contact with the suspect and the suspect tried to run him over. He had to discharge his firearm in order to prevent being run over. Remembering that incident, he noted he was only an arm’s length away from having his name put on a granite wall somewhere.

The thing that Walsh expressed that he will probably miss the most is the camaraderie with his colleagues, the people that he has seen on a daily basis. Over his career he has seen many of their kids grow up to be law enforcement, including one of his son’s friends.

“It is funny because you are with these guys more hours in a day than you are with your spouse,” said Walsh.

The current plan for this new chapter in his life will be to spend time with his five grandkids and a retirement trip to Hawaii with wife Lisa. He plans on returning as a reserve part time working a couple days a month but that last Friday was his final day in a patrol car.

“It takes a special person to take the oath to serve and protect,” expressed Walsh. “To put your life on the line for people that you don’t even know but after a while you do get to know them out there. Like I said with all my guys even when I was a sergeant as a training officer, my motto is be safe, drive safe, always do it right the first time. It is not like any other job. We see things that (most) people don’t. We see the best of people and we see the worst of people.”

The retirement celebration ended with a few kind words from Kiely, Dirkse and Riverbank City Manager Sean Scully.

Kiely commented on his career of almost three decades, touching on Walsh’s résumé and accolades, and also thanked him for his outstanding service as well as his family for their many years of sacrifice and support.

“Your expertise is incredible,” added Dirkse. “You have left an indelible mark on me. I can tell you that. I want to thank you personally for that and everything that you did. I thank you again for your 29 years with the Sheriff’s Department.”

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The cake was the final part of the retirement celebration for Sgt. Jim Walsh, which had a picture of him from the beginning of his law enforcement career many years ago. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS - photo by Photo By Virginia Still