Four Lodi Police officers were scheduled to attend Friday's swing-shift briefing, but nearly 30 showed up. They came to say goodbye to Lt. Steve Price, a nearly 30-year veteran of the police force whose last shift ended when the meeting did.
The swing-shift meetings are held daily to inform officers about important events to be aware of during their shift. Typically, meetings held on Furlough Fridays feature a skeleton staff and end quickly, but Friday's session featured officers congratulating Price on a career that spanned multiple decades and investigation skills that brought down a local embezzler. While members of the audience joked with Price and said he would be coming back to the department in a matter of months, Price said he was definitely calling it a career.
"I joined the Army when I was 18 as a military police officer, and I've basically been in law enforcement since then," he said. "I'm done."
Price started his career with the Lodi Police Department in September 1982 as a dispatcher and went on to serve as president of the Lodi Police Dispatchers Association. He advanced through the ranks of the department and was promoted to lieutenant in 2007. During Price's tenure with the department, he was assigned to the Major Accident Investigation Team and was supervisor of the Special Investigations Unit.
Price's diligence led to the conviction of Shelley Kenefick, a Lodi bookkeeper who bilked multiple seniors for a total of nearly $1 million. The case had been assigned to police to investigate, but nothing materialized. After a year, Price took on the case and found out the corruption ran deep.
Kenefick would take her clients' money through her business and make personal investments. Working with the district attorney, Price obtained a search warrant which helped uncover more victims of the scheme.
The case was important to him. After spending nine months investigating, Price attended Kenefick's 2007 sentencing on his day off. When asked for comment after her 11-year prison sentence was handed down that day, he didn't mince words.
"She got what she deserved; she destroyed these people's lives," he said.
As he reflected on the investigation Friday, Price said Kenefick's actions still disgust him.
"She was preying on the elderly," he said. "It felt like someone was stealing from my mother."
The swing-shift meeting was filled with laughter and light moments as Price went through the briefing remarked about suspects who looked like officers in the room. But he soon took a more serious tone as he addressed the room for the last time.
"This is one of the finest departments in California and definitely in the county," Price said. "I'd put our people up against anybody."
Members of the audience were quick to return the compliments.
"I've been here long enough to see people with similar experience to Price leave," said Officer Jim Pendergast, who has been with the department for about four years. "Every time it's a huge loss because we lose a lot of knowledge and expertise."
Pendergast, whose locker is right next to Price's, said he would miss the friendly trash talk the two would engage in.
"I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and he's a Seattle Seahawks fan," he said. "Anytime he wants to get at me, he'll start saying the Steelers stole Super Bowl 40."
Price enjoys golfing and expects to spend time traveling during his retirement. He and his wife, Susan, who retired earlier this week after 20 years doing private daycare, will be touring the country in an RV this summer. They plan to visit San Diego and the Grand Canyon in the coming weeks. Although he will be moseying around the nation's highways and byways, Price said he intends to remain a Lodi resident.
Cpl. Scott Bratton said would also miss Price's sense of humor and work ethic. Even though Price was one of Bratton's superior officers, Price was also a friend, he said. The reason so many off-duty officers came to the briefing Friday was because of their respect and admiration for Price, Bratton said.
"It's like a family around here," he said.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.