Galt Police Lt. Jim Uptegrove is retiring next month after one of the longest career stints in the department's history.
While often visible at public meetings and community events, the Elk Grove resident has emerged as the face of the police department in recent months with the fatal shootings of fellow K-9 officer Kevin Tonn and animal control officer Ray Marcum. Both incidents occurred within city limits while the men were on regular duty.
Uptegrove, who emerged as the police department's spokesman after the events, was hired by Galt as a reserve officer in 1985 fresh out of the Police Academy and went full-time in 1986. He was promoted to sergeant in 1988 and lieutenant in 1990.
During his career, the 51-year-old has supervised investigations for many years, and as Operations Division Commander currently oversees units including patrol, traffic, SWAT, K-9 and the crime prevention coordinator. He also teaches at Los Rios Community College District's training center.
He may not be the longest-ever employed person in the department — that designation belongs to former Chief Doug Matthews — but he is currently the longest-employed officer.
"That makes me feel like it's time to pass that honor on to the next person," said Uptegrove, whose last day is April 30.
He recently answered a series of questions from News-Sentinel reporter Jennifer Bonnett.
Tell me why you decided to retire now.
It's been the plan for several years to retire in 2013. It seems most people retire at the end of the year, but I didn't want to retire in the middle of winter, so I chose spring instead.
How has Galt changed during your tenure?
The city has changed a lot.
When I came here in 1985, the entire northeast area consisted of dairy farms. A school occupied the Save Mart shopping center property, and there were two bars downtown which occupied a lot of our time. There were no stoplights and no fast-food restaurants.
Galt has grown into a city with many appreciated modern conveniences.
The police department has definitely changed physically and grown professionally. Before we moved into the new building in 2003, we occupied the same building as City Hall. Early on, all of the city departments, along with the library and the county court, were all under that same roof.
Professionally, we have added personnel in nearly all departments, expanded opportunities for special assignments, and added more rank structure. The agency is also better able to maintain and utilize modern equipment and technology.
What is the single event or case in your career that stands out for you?
I've worked a lot of memorable cases through the years. One event which stands out was taking our SWAT team to Los Angeles in 1992 for the riots. We had four hours to assemble our team and equipment and make it to Mather Air Force Base before flying to L.A. As we came over the city, you could see fires burning everywhere.
There are also a number of missing person and homicide cases I'll always remember. One took me to Hawaii twice.
Anything you would have done differently?
There are always things I might have done differently if given the chance, but I have no regrets. The department has always worked hard and has done a good job in serving the community.
Any idea how your position will be filled once your retirement is final on April 30?
The city posted the position last week. We have some sergeants who are definitely qualified to move up, and I hope they test (for the position).
What do you feel will be most challenging for the department in the coming years?
Employee hiring and retention. The department has always struggled with hiring and retaining qualified personnel.
Although we have good people working for us, retention strategies are a challenge. Galt is a small department, and the wages are not as high as some of our neighboring agencies. This makes it difficult to compete with these larger departments who can pay better and offer more opportunities. As business and construction come back to the city, I think that could change.
The Public Safety Measure passed in 2008 can make it possible to address some of those challenges.
I understand you still plan to be involved in law enforcement in some capacity following retirement. What might this involve?
I work part-time for the Public Safety Training Center in Sacramento instructing academy and in-service personnel, and I'll continue to teach in this arena. I've had the opportunity to acquire a lot of experience that I can hopefully pass on to help others establish a law enforcement career.
Any big plans for your retirement years?
Not immediately. I've had a couple part-time job offers, but I'll continue teaching when I can. We purchased a ranch in the northern part of the state, and eventually we'll move out of the area and do some traveling.
Can you estimate how many employees you've supervised? People arrested? Traffic stops made?
I've worked in or supervised nearly every area of the department at some point in my career. I don't know how many people I've actually supervised over the years, but I know we began assigning personnel numbers in the late '80's, starting with 1. My number is 13, and the last one issued to date is 192.
We currently have about 50 employees in the department. It is surprising how many have come and gone through the years.
Not a clue on traffic stops.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.