Captain Steve Windisch, Ret., Badge #1020 (Retired March 31, 1978)
Sergeant Steve Windisch, Badge 2011 (Retirement date September 19, 2009)
VANGUARD: I'm fortunate to be sitting here chatting with a father-son team that has served our department for many years.
Captain Steve Windisch, you retired as a captain in 1978 after how many years with our department?
SENIOR: 30 year and three months.
VANGUARD: And Junior?
JUNIOR: I'll be 30.01 years when I retire.
VANGUARD: So you didn't surpass your dad?
JUNIOR: No, I didn't.
VANGUARD: So he's still the top guy. (To Senior) You've still got the most seniority regardless.
So here we have the two Windisch's. One's a captain and one's a sergeant. Steve Senior, what got you interested in law enforcement?
SENIOR: Childhood ambition. I just wanted to be a cop all my life.
VANGUARD: And what prepared you for that?
SENIOR: Nothing. (laughs) I was exposed to a form of it when I was in the Navy. I was on a shore patrol in different instances, but other than that, no experience at all as far as police work.
VANGUARD: So tell us about your military career. Were you drafted?
SENIOR: No, I enlisted two weeks after my 17th birthday in 1943. I went through boot camp in Rhode Island; then I went to Aviation Ordinance School and prepared to be an aerial gunner. Never saw any action-I was overseas but I never got into any action. I was due to leave the service after two years in 1945, but they gave me an offer I couldn't refuse--$700 if I reenlisted for two years, and they promised me my choice of duty stations. So I talked it over with my then-wife and I selected Moffett Field. Much to my surprise, instead of Moffett Field, I got an aircraft carrier on the East Coast. (laughter) So much for the Navy's honesty.
VANGUARD: It was a promise, right?
SENIOR: That's it.
VANGUARD: Did you get your $700?
SENIOR: Yeah, I got that.
VANGUARD: So it's a half-truth.
SENIOR: Two more years on the aircraft carrier, and then I was discharged in October of '47.
VANGUARD: And what was your rank when you left the Navy?
SENIOR: I was a 3rd Class Aviation Ordnanceman.
VANGUARD: What did you do after that?
SENIOR: My wife and I had been married while I was in the Navy. I was stationed in Norman, OK and we had been going out together-I had met her when I was stationed at Moffett Field during the war-and we got married January 7, 1946. We were both underage and lied about our ages to get a marriage license. In fact, I was just looking at it the other day.
VANGUARD: I didn't know there was a required age limit to get married.
SENIOR: There was in Oklahoma. You had to be 21.
SENIOR: So I got out of the Navy, and since I'm from the East Coast originally, I took my wife back there with me and after about two weeks she said, "Make up your mind. It's me or New York." So we decided to come to San José. I was familiar with the area and she actually lived here. We came out here in August of 1947 and I was idle for a few months. My wife went to work as a waitress and one day she came home and told me she talked to a police officer, and he told me that the department is giving exams. The officer was Joe Pinchton, a real old-timer. So I went down and took the exam in the latter part of October and was appointed on December 1, 1947.
VANGUARD: October, November, December. Three freaking months, man! Not a six-month or year-long process then?
SENIOR: No, they had a big push on at the time. They needed 10-11 officers and they gave this exam and I lucked out.
VANGUARD: Well now we know the foundation. So how many children?
SENIOR: We have two living. We had a child that died at birth, but Steve is the eldest, and my daughter Shelly is next in line.
VANGUARD: So you could have stayed on the East Coast, Junior.
SENIOR: I'm real happy where I am.
VANGUARD: You're happy where you are, huh? Obviously. Okay, now Sarge, tell me about what got you interested in the P.D.
JUNIOR: It's interesting. When you see someone having so much fun doing what they do and enjoying it, it kind of leaves a spark. Watching my father do what he did spurred the interest and as I went on in my career, I looked at either being an attorney or a cop. I had originally considered law because I'm a good arguer as anyone knows. I took a look at how much college was required and decided to be a policeman.
VANGUARD: So how much college do you have?
JUNIOR: I got an AA degree at Moorpark University which is actually San José City College and that was enough for me. Of course you have classes during your career that give you credit, but pretty much I got my 61 from Moorpark.
VANGUARD: And you're a married guy?
JUNIOR: I am. Been married since 1987. We have two children. My daughter Michele is from a previous marriage-very proud of her. She's 33 and lives in San Francisco; my other daughter, Jessica, is living with me right now. She's in college and she just turned 21. She's majoring in Police Science-keeping it in the family.
VANGUARD: Is she going to come on?
JUNIOR: She's really interested in it. Hopefully the benefits and the pay will stay as good as it is now.
VANGUARD: Senior, you arrived here and within three months you were on the P.D. What was your training like in the academy?
SENIOR: No academy.
VANGUARD: No academy? Okay, so what was your training like?
SENIOR: I got a call from Assistant Chief Joe Carter on a Tuesday, and he says, "You go to work Saturday night, report to midnight Sergeant Harley Adams." Told me where to buy my uniforms, told me I was cleared to get a weapon at Schillings, and that was it.
VANGUARD: So did you pay for all of this out of your own pocket?
SENIOR: I did.
VANGUARD: Okay, and who was the Chief of Police and who was your FTO?
SENIOR: Ray Blackmore was the chief; we didn't have FTO's back then-we just called them, "Officer," and mine Garinger. He had been on two weeks.
VANGUARD: That's a lot of experience. Kinda feels like that around here nowadays, but anyways…
SENIOR: I was amazed. But anyway, he took me down First Street and says, "Okay, kid, we walk down the street, we rattle the doorknobs, we check the (inaudible-fransoms?) and we walk down to St. James Park. We turn around, come back to St. Carlos Street-San Salvador Street-and then back again. We rattle the doors twice a night." And that was about it.
VANGUARD: How long was it before you got into a patrol car? Or did we even have patrol cars?
SENIOR: We had about five patrol cars on a shift to start out with. East, West, downtown and then two on the outlying.
VANGUARD: So how many districts or beats throughout the city?
SENIOR: It was just East, West and downtown. We had a roving car. It was just bare bones. It's amazing when I think back-it's like the Stone Ages. It gradually improved until I retired and now it's been 31 years since I retired and it's like the Stone Ages when I retired until now. The implementation of computers and practices-it's amazing what's happened.
VANGUARD: It's amazing that you guys even functioned like that back then. So Sarge, tell me about your academy experience.
SENIOR: My first academy was for the Campbell P.D. in September, 1974. I worked with them for four years or so, and I went through a basic academy which was 11 weeks, and the one I attended was held in a couple of portable classrooms in the old West Valley College lot. They closed that school down, and they put a couple of these trailers there to host the academy. 11 weeks seemed like forever then, and when I got out of the academy, Campbell P.D. didn't really have a formal training program like you see here. Being in a small community, they used to do vacation checks. We had two beats at the time-Eastside and Westside-and on my first day, Sergeant Bob Lockwood handed me the house check books, a Chevron map and the keys to a car and told me I would learn the city by going around and doing the vacation checks. It was a nice service that could be done by a small community police department. We'd keep an eye on the house, throw the newspapers into the backyard, etc. I did that for a couple of months besides handling the calls that came out, and that's how I learned the city of Campbell.
VANGUARD: So what made you leave the P.D. there?
JUNIOR: Campbell was a great department. It taught me a lot about what is really important here. We were real close to the citizens-we went Code 3 to everything. I learned to be one of the better Code 3 drivers. But there was the allure of a bigger city-especially one that my father had come from-and at the time that I applied, it was very difficult to get hired. You'd have 10 positions open and 3,000-4,000 applicants. They'd give you the test at the fairgrounds. It was difficult, and you got on wherever you could. Of course there's a certain amount of loyalty and I really enjoyed working in that city, but I really wanted to come to San José. My father had been there-I was born and raised here and this is where my roots were, and this is where I wanted to end up.
VANGUARD: Senior, you retired in March of 1978. Did you guys ever have a chance to work together for SJPD?
SENIOR: No. I don't think he wanted to come on the department while I was here because I was a captain. That's what I thought.
VANGUARD: Was it the influence?
JUNIOR: Well, it's a little bit of that. Once I was where I was…my father, in my opinion, is one of the greatest guys in the world, and everything I heard from everybody that worked for him and with him, he was one of the greatest cops. That's tough to live in those shadows, especially while he was still on the force. It's tough to meet those expectations, and my father has always had high expectations for me, so maybe I was a little chicken.
VANGUARD: I would probably feel the same way, especially when you're well-situated. I really would, only because you have a captain of a father, and you're coming in as a lateral or as a regular officer, and of course everyone always thinks that your dad has the ability to take care of you and cover for you…or it could be the other side of stuff.
JUNIOR: That's true.
VANGUARD: So, Senior, how long did you work the streets?
SENIOR: About 3-3.5 years. Most of it was on day watch. It wasn't necessarily my choice but I had to take that shift because my wife had a nighttime job. It took both of us working to get by. I was the babysitter while she worked, and vice-versa.
VANGUARD: So the department accommodated you?
VANGUARD: Okay. That's a great thing. What was the population back when you were working patrol, and what was the number one crime?
SENIOR: Population was about 70k; there wasn't too much violence. The biggest thing going at the time was traffic, if you can believe that.
VANGUARD: Well, it's a big city.
SENIOR: It wasn't a big city. That was it. The east city limit was King Road; south was two or three blocks beyond Storey Road; north was Taylor Street and west was Santa Clara boundaries. We were the only big city around, so every night there were cars going back and forth on First Street. That was it.
VANGUARD: So you did three years of patrol. Where'd you go after that?
SENIOR: I went into traffic cars-that was a good assignment. Worked that for about two years. They gave a sergeant's exam, and it was the first sergeant's exam they gave in 7-8 years. Two officers had filed a suit against the former sergeant's exam, and it was on hold for seven years. They finally gave a sergeant's exam in 1954. I had been on seven years at the time, so I applied for the exam. They needed 11 officers, and I was 8th on the list. Merlin Wheatley (sp) was on that list. From there, I was a desk sergeant for 8-9 months and then I was transferred to the Detective Bureau.
VANGUARD: So after seven years on the streets you were promoted to sergeant.
Junior, when did you come to San José?
JUNIOR: I was hired in 1979, and as a practice for the test I took the airport test, and then took the P.D. test within the same month. They were hiring airport security at the time. It was a civil service test and scored #1 on the test. I was #10 or #11 on the SJPD list and at the time we were in a consent decree order, and 1/3 of all the officers we had to hire needed to be Spanish-speaking or bilingual. Because of that requirement, I didn't get in the first round since they had to hire so many Spanish speakers. So I took the airport test and I was told it would be 6-8 months before I got hired. Something fell through and lo and behold, I had been at the airport for one month when they called and said, "Come to San José and sign your papers." I took TO from the airport, jumped in my POP, ran up Guadalupe Expressway and got stopped by Officer Franzen (sp) working traffic and wondering where I was going in such a hurry. I told him and he was going to give me a ticket anyway until he found out who my dad was.
VANGUARD: See, it worked!
JUNIOR: Yeah, it worked. I'll tell you what, I got a lot of mileage out of that when I was a kid.
VANGUARD: There are some captains nowadays that will still cite you.
JUNIOR: So it was two weeks from the time that they notified me until I entered the academy. At the time, SJPD required everybody to go back through the academy. I went to the academy with 16 people-eight of us had intermediate post certificates. Terry Simpson, Ray Barrera, Dennis Dolozol, Al Mason-we had some great folks in there. My second academy, which was five years later, was really extended-I had to go for 12 weeks. After I came out I did my usual mids time.
VANGUARD: Do you remember any of your academy TAC officers?
JUNIOR: Mike O'Connor and Press Winters. We were in a large academy-I believe they had 40 deputies. They had an SO academy going at the same time so they kind of split us up. Since there were only 16 of us from San José, we went with Palo Alto, Milpitas and Los Gatos. We were over at the Agnews facility.
VANGUARD: I got into that one in 1981. Back then I remember SJPD putting out 60 people.
JUNIOR: Yeah, right after us there was a big academy.
VANGUARD: Holy mackerel. There were some huge academies.
Okay, so you graduated from the academy and went into the FTO program. How was that?
JUNIOR: Now, you've got to remember this was my first FTO program, but it was pretty good. I had some really good FTO's. I had Steve Marcott as my primary, and then I got work with Rick Bowtar who's a hell of a cop and a great guy. They really taught me a lot. I had about the same amount of actual police officer time as Marcott, but Bowtar had been in MERGE and had already been involved in a shooting. He was real low-key and a really smart, smart guy.
VANGUARD: After the FTO stint, did you go to mids on patrol?
JUNIOR: I had a couple of months between my time in the FTO program and the next shift bid, so I did two months for Larry Lundberg on swings in District Yellow which was District 6-huge, huge district-and then at shift bid I was assigned to Larry Lundberg out in District 3 which is now mostly District Paul. It went as far south as we go, but it ended at Storey Road. We had King and Storey, so it was like Charles and Paul together.
VANGUARD: How long were you in patrol for?
JUNIOR: I'll never forget my first shift bid. We used the city credit card because I was with Larry Lundberg and the team. We were in Reno, and Larry knew all the tricks. I was out there with Art Munoz, Keith Little and Gordon Pagino-they all took me under their wing and Larry said, "Okay, you've got to call in," and they handed me the credit card number to call in. I called in and Lee Wilson was on the other line and Lee says, "Do you want Team 39A or 39?" And that was the original King and Storey team. They had 'A' and 'B' because you worked opposite sides and you flip-flopped, so half the time you worked the district on mids, and the other half you worked the cruise which was at King and Storey. My entire academy class had to go to that, so we worked that for six months and then got out as quickly as possible. Worked for Kenny Herman-great sergeant-and then I worked another midnight shift out in District 3 which is Paul.
VANGUARD: So Senior, you got promoted and worked a desk job. What else did you do as a sergeant?
SENIOR: I was in the Detective Bureau, and that was a career in itself. I was there for 17 years.
VANGUARD: And what did you specialize in?
SENIOR: I specialized in burglary. I just loved that job. I worked with some really good investigators and progressed up and made lieutenant in 1969 and was put in charge of the Burglary Unit. I had 16 guys in there-that's how many guys they had assigned there at that time.
VANGUARD: Wow. How many do we have now?
VANGUARD: Oh my God.
SENIOR: They were really sticklers for property crimes back in those days.
VANGUARD: Well you had a population of 70k for cryin' out loud.
SENIOR: Well, when I went in there was probably 150k. That was it. Bart Collins, who was my boss, made sure we had enough investigators. He was a stickler for cars, so each team of investigators had a car. We had eight cars and we attended different seminars, SAFE conferences and stuff like that. It was a great job. In 1973 I was the next guy on the list for captain, and my boss, Bart Collins, said, "You ought to go downstairs to patrol. You haven't been down there for 17 years." So I went down to patrol and learned the job all over again.
VANGUARD: Okay, so you were a BFO lieutenant?
SENIOR: Yeah, and that lasted for about three years, and then I made captain.
VANGUARD: So after you worked BFO, you never worked graveyard shift as a lieutenant?
SENIOR: No, never did.
VANGUARD: So being in BFO, what were you the commander of?
SENIOR: I'm trying to think back now. That was over 30 years ago. I can't remember what I was doing as a lieutenant. I must not have been doing much.
VANGUARD: Well, it's no different now!
VANGUARD: Just kidding.
JUNIOR: I remember him telling me there was a lot of paperwork as a lieutenant.
SENIOR: Oh, yeah. That was it.
JUNIOR: In fact, he soured me on ever wanting to be a lieutenant because all you do is paperwork.
VANGUARD: So once you got promoted did you have to take a test for the captain's position?
SENIOR: I did. It was a written test and oral interview, and I was next up on the list anyway. I didn't know if I was going to be selected. My boss told me I'd have a better chance of being selected if I was down in patrol with a little experience seeing as I'd been upstairs for 17 years.
VANGUARD: Who was the chief then?
SENIOR: I think it was Murphy.
VANGUARD: Okay. Did they have the Rule of 10 and were they able to pick and choose who they wanted to or did they go down the list for captain?
SENIOR: They generally went down the list unless there was some reason why the guy wasn't qualified for the job. It's not as severe as it is today. I'm lucky there.
VANGUARD: Hey, times are good.
So Sarge, what other units did you work besides patrol? It seems like I've always known you to be pushing a patrol car.
JUNIOR: I'm really proud to say I've spent my entire career-in both departments-uniform. Again, YSD was considered a patrol-type thing, and later on it morphed into traffic. I went to a traffic team and everything else. I went from the YSD to patrol, was in patrol for a couple of years, and they got in the original parks detail. It wasn't even a unit-it was a detail. We didn't have cars-the parks department bought three white Ram Chargers for us. That was a pretty good deal because if you bumped into something or hit a tree, you just wrote a memo. Here, you have to do an accident report. We were always off-road. That was a great detail. There were six of us. We had Holme Parks (??); mine was Kelly Park. We took care of all the park problems at the time. Back then they had a lot of people that would go to the parks and make it uncomfortable for the people that were legitimate folks, so they had us go in there and really enforce all the rules and regs. Once we got them all cleaned up, it became a real good detail. Lieutenant Mels was taking care of cars at the time, so he retired three police cars and replaced them with Ram Chargers. We wound up with those blue and white Ram Chargers and if you look at the pictures, you'll see they have a big steel cage over the lightbar because they didn't want us breaking them. That was a fun detail. We didn't really have a sergeant, so we just answered to a sergeant that was in the district that was our home district. We went all over the place where no one else could go, and we would catch the 4-wheelers out there. Jeff Sanchez rolled the truck down a hill one time-it was great-and we got stuck more often than not. They had to buy tow straps mainly for us. That of course was when Alviso flooded the first time and we were on the front line of that; drowned a 4x4 a few times. I hate to say that I had a lot of fun during that time because a lot of people were really put out and a lot of property was lost, but as far as going out and doing something and being the leaders, it was great. We commandeered boats and did a lot of rescue work in the beginning.
I went back to patrol. I was a swing shift cop my whole officer career; in the late 1980's they talked about doing away with the Forever Traffic Unit and decided there would be a limit. Lieutenant Basuzi (sp) came to me and said, "Hey Holme Parks (??); mine was Kelly Park. We took care of all the park problems at the time. Back then they had a lot of people that would go to the parks and make it uncomfortable for the people that were legitimate folks, so they had us go in there and really enforce all the rules and regs. Once we got them all cleaned up, it became a real good detail. Lieutenant Mels was taking care of cars at the time, so he retired three police cars and replaced them with Ram Chargers. We wound up with those blue and white Ram Chargers and if you look at the pictures, you'll see they have a big steel cage over the lightbar because they didn't want us breaking them. That was a fun detail. We didn't really have a sergeant, so we just answered to a sergeant that was in the district that was our home district. We went all over the place where no one else could go, and we would catch the 4-wheelers out there. Jeff Sanchez rolled the truck down a hill one time-it was great-and we got stuck more often than not. They had to buy tow straps mainly for us. That of course was when Alviso flooded the first time and we were on the front line of that; drowned a 4x4 a few times. I hate to say that I had a lot of fun during that time because a lot of people were really put out and a lot of property was lost, but as far as going out and doing something and being the leaders, it was great. We commandeered boats and did a lot of rescue work in the beginning.
I went back to patrol. I was a swing shift cop my whole officer career; in the late 1980's they talked about doing away with the Forever Traffic Unit and decided there would be a limit. Lieutenant Basuzi (sp) came to me and said, "Hey, you need to put in for traffic." I said, "No, my allegiance is to those traffic guys." He actually gave me a really good piece of advice. He said, "They're leaving anyway. Nothing you do or say is going to mean anything, so if this is truly what you want to do, you should put in for it or you'll lose it." So I put in and was accepted into traffic in 1989, and worked for five years in traffic and had a ball. I loved everything about it. We took traffic reports and accident reports. It was a very important thing. I had Gary Herrada (sp) as a sergeant, and he set a high standard. He said, "Patrol officers will not handle traffic details while we're in their district," and that was his big deal.
VANGUARD: Hoo-rah. Nice.
JUNIOR: And he handled 1182's before he called in patrol guys. We took a lot of pride in that. It's kind of a cool deal when you have even seasoned officers calling you on the radio asking for help. We became experts and it was great. Got to do a couple of presidential escorts and the like. We got to use our crowd control techniques on motorcycles when they had the World Cup stuff here. We went to Los Gatos and we had a ball there; just did a lot of fun things.
I left there and went straight to the Mounted Unit and did five years there. My last sergeant there was now-Captain Diane Irvin and it was kind of a cool deal. I'd never really ridden a horse except for when I was a kid, but Jenny Tropino (sp) was the trainer and did an awful lot to get us through. After that I was promoted to sergeant.
VANGUARD: And ever since then you've been in patrol?
JUNIOR: I have. And this is my true love. I signed up to wear the uniform, and I want everyone to know that I think detectives are great. My father was one of the best detectives here and thank God there were a lot of guys that wanted to be detectives; it let me stay where I really wanted to be, and that was in uniform.
VANGUARD: How did you feel about that, Senior? That he didn't want to put on a suit?
SENIOR: I was proud of him. Whatever he wanted to do that made him happy, it made me happy.
He mentioned something, and I'm gonna show you a little picture.
JUNIOR: Oh, no…
SENIOR: This was to prepare himself for the Mounted Unit.
VANGUARD: We'll make sure to get a copy of that one. Just to let you know, Steve is bright red right now if you can imagine that.
Actually, you know what, you got more hair here as a child!
JUNIOR: I know…gimme a break.
VANGUARD: You know what, this is niiiiiiice.
JUNIOR: I think you need to do some editing on this.
VANGUARD: Oh my goodness, I think this is a photo that needs to make its way into the Vanguard. Look at that. That's a proud papa moment.
JUNIOR: I was on a Paint.
SENIOR: You know, I didn't spring this on him. I showed him the picture outside and I said, "If you don't want me to show it, I won't show it."
JUNIOR: And I said, "Don't show it." You see how far THAT went.
SENIOR: No, you didn't say that.
VANGUARD: But you made it into the Mounted Unit. Look at that. Aspirations.
JUNIOR: Well, there you go.
VANGUARD: I think what would be nice is to have this picture next to one of him on the Mounted Unit, side-by-side. A child's dream comes true.
JUNIOR: I'll give you one of my baseball cards.
VANGUARD: That would be fine too, but this is awesome.
JUNIOR: That's enough on this topic.
SENIOR: One other thing: remuneration. Guys are paid pretty well now. When I came on in 1947, the starting salary was $231/month, and we worked six day weeks. If you calculate that, it comes to about $1.25/hour.
VANGUARD: Who's complaining?
SENIOR: Strangely enough, in the middle 1950's, we were up to $360/month and we were the one of the highest paid police departments in the country.
VANGUARD: So when did you retire as a captain, and what was your salary back then?
SENIOR: March 31, 1978. I retired at 75%, and my retirement was $1,975/month.
VANGUARD: Okay. So Sarge?
JUNIOR: Uh, yeah?
VANGUARD: How are we doing here?
JUNIOR: Actually I'm doing much better than he was doing. I won't have to get another job to be able to support myself. The POA has done a great job in advancing not only our benefits but our pay, because there was a time you guys didn't even have health insurance, right?
SENIOR: Right, but when we finally got it, we had to pay for it-I was paying about $200/month for insurance.
VANGUARD: Did you guys have a union?
SENIOR: No. The union wasn't formed until 1959-1960.
JUNIOR: And the actual union-the PBA-was the bargaining unit for the officers, and they actually were a real union. I can't remember if it was Teamsters or who it was.
SENIOR: I can't remember what the affiliation was.
JUNIOR: And then in 1968, the POA-which was formed in 1962-wound up with more members than the actual union and took over the negotiating duties.
VANGUARD: So once the union went into effect, your benefits changed a little.
SENIOR: Yeah. As soon as we had some representation, our benefits gradually increased.
VANGUARD: Was your relationship back then always good with the mayor and the city council?
SENIOR: Yes. I've got to say that I thought the city treated me fairly, considering everything else. I had pride in working for the city, and San José's police department was well respected as we went along. It just gradually got better. This was a great job, and it treated my family and me very well.
VANGUARD: You being a commander, retired as a captain, how were the commanders viewed back then?
SENIOR: It's hard for me to say. I'm trying to think who the deputy chief was then-I think it was Ed McKay.
VANGUARD: All the commanders had to work their way up and put their time in patrol?
SENIOR: Oh, yeah.
VANGUARD: So once you got into that position and you worked BFO, obviously you did a couple of years there…
SENIOR: I did three years there before I retired.
VANGUARD: And you retired right out of BFO.
So Steve, you're going to be retiring right out of patrol?
JUNIOR: I am.
VANGUARD: And you've been there for how long?
JUNIOR: I left the Mounted Unit the day I got promoted which was shift change in March of 2000, and I've been a sergeant there ever since-almost 9.5 years.
VANGUARD: And where are you on the seniority list?
JUNIOR: I believe I'm like 60 or 70. In 10 years, we've dwindled the numbers greatly. I promoted kind of late in my career, and I would tell officers who are truly interested to start looking around at year 12 instead of year 20; although my seniority points didn't hurt me when I tested. If you promote late, your chances are advancing-especially in the future if they look at a slow-down-are slimmer. I was very fortunate just based upon the way guys from those big academies before me started retiring. I was able to come up in a short amount of time. My seniority in the rank is really good for nine years.
VANGUARD: So when you took the sergeant's test, how long did it take you to prepare for that test, and how many manuals did you have to read?
SENIOR: When they finally announced that they were going to have a sergeant's exam, it was only about two months. I had taken a correspondence course right after I first came on because obviously there wasn't any training and because of my circumstances, I couldn't go to San José State, but I did a correspondence course and picked up a lot of valuable information, and it fit in with what I was doing anyway. And then I took a bunch of courses as I went along, so basically that was it. I never got any formal training in college; I went to San José City College for a while but just to pick up specific courses.
VANGUARD: So when they tested for sergeant, was there a list of books you had to read?
SENIOR: No, no. Just take the exam and whoever applied just took it, that's it.
VANGUARD: Did they go back on your experience or your background?
SENIOR: They didn't even have orals. You just took the sergeant's exam and if you were up on the list you made it.
VANGUARD: And they just went down the list.
SENIOR: They did. Down the list.
VANGUARD: Sarge, if you had to change anything regarding the promotional exam for sergeant, what would you change?
JUNIOR: I consider myself really fortunate to be where I am. My father prodded me for years to take the test, and I like being an officer. I like wearing the uniform and I was happy where I was. In the Mounted Unit I had a couple of friends-Mario Hernandez and Chris Wilson-that were going to take the test, so they dragged me down in the police truck and we did some studying together. I don't think my seniority points hurt me, and the test kind of hit me in the nose-it was a great test. I was high up on the list and got promoted. I don't think I'd change any of that. I've had a ball. Think about this: I drove around in a boat in Alviso that was under water; drove around in all the hills looking for guys that were 4-wheeling where they weren't supposed to, so I got to go there; worked patrol with some of the greatest teams. I worked for Jerry Alvericci…everyone has "that team," and I'll tell you, as an officer, Paul Deenie, Rich Westfall, Mike Fernandez, Ted Urban, what a team. The first seven days we had seven fights-major fights. It was a great team. We took several trips to Tahoe together before it was gauche; we started the down-under thing. We were the originators-we had the first original beach party in a garage. We brought in sand and surfboards…
VANGUARD: Where was this?
JUNIOR: I'd really rather not say which building it was in.
VANGUARD: City Hall?
JUNIOR: No! It was not in City Hall. It was in a parking basement over there off Miller and Taylor. In fact, the day we had the beach party, the people were coming to work the next day and we were still shoveling the sand out of the parking lot into the trucks. It was a time where we really got together, not only as a team, but as a shift. The dispatchers would come from the hill and it we were really close. It was a lot of fun.
VANGUARD: Why do you think we've gotten away from that?
JUNIOR: I think the main thing is the distance people have to travel. A guy gets off on swing shift now, and he's got an hour commute. That's a long way. Then to go have a few drinks and then go home, you're not getting home until the sun comes up. The officers-not that we weren't family-oriented-tend to spend more time with their kids and have more responsibilities, and you can't be out late at night. I think distance is the main thing. To be frank, the DUI situation has changed. It was a 1.0 back then, and we didn't have the scrutiny that you have now. Guys probably drove home when they shouldn't have. There is a lot more at stake now. You see that with Keith Kelly. It's a great organization, and I remember when I first got hired on, my father-who was a member-told me, "You gotta join this." They had the bbq at Alpine Meadows-now 87 is going through the middle of it-and it was a great place to go and a good party. In the old days there were some pretty good fights, but it was a place where all the guys could get together and rank really didn't mean much there. That was the real nice thing-it was a great mixing pot and there'd be a few poker games going on. Times have really changed. I tell kids now, "Imagine smoking in briefing." We used to smoke in briefing, and there were a lot of other situations that went on in briefing I probably shouldn't talk about. It was just a different era. I can't say it was all good, but it sure was a lot of fun. We talk about the harassment stuff, and I'll tell you, those gals in those days that were the original women of the department…when I came on, there were fewer than 20 female officers. They were just like us. You didn't have people griping about hurting people's feelings. The gals were cops just like us. We all told the jokes, and it's different now. Maybe it's inappropriate now, but when we were in the room, we were all just cops. We didn't look at it any other way. It was a great time then. You could tell jokes and it was always good-natured. Everyone just made fun of everyone, and we'd all walk out of the room laughing. That's how you started your shift everyday. My brother-in-law, Will Bataglia, was great. He just knew. He made everyone laugh. He was a really funny guy and out of everyone I've ever seen here, he's probably one of the best at motivating guys to get set and walk out of that room in the best frame of mind. He is fantastic at that, and that was recognized throughout the organization. Everyone knew that if you ever needed to bring up morale or make folks laugh, Will was the guy to do it. Even with the academy guys now, people still remember his name. You say his name and they still chuckle, because they remember all the funny stuff. It's a great place.
VANGUARD: Your briefings, captain? Were they large or just a few officers?
SENIOR: I'd say a normal briefing had 30-35 guys when I left. They weren't too huge. The lieutenant was the one who did the briefings; sometimes the sergeant.
Just to digress a bit, in the days when I came on, not everyone had a car. And the police department was pretty accommodating to the night shift; they had the swing shift guys bring the midnight guys into work because the town was so small. That was a great benefit.
VANGUARD: Wow, that's amazing. Imagine that now if you lived in Tracy or whatever. They had a residency requirement back then, right? 30 miles or something?
SENIOR: When I came on it was shorter than that. One duty that some midnighters had was you had to bring the desk sergeant in.
SENIOR: (inaudible name) lived out in Willow Glen and whoever had the Willow Glen beat had to bring him to work every morning.
VANGUARD: So where did you live during your career?
SENIOR: We lived in an apartment for the first 1.5 years, and then got into a brand new house on 446 North 20th Street. They built the whole block of brand new houses-1,000 square feet, two bedrooms-for $9,950 which was about 3.5 times what I made annually. I got two raises; when we got a 5% raise, I'd get an extra $15. That wasn't too much. I had a wonderful wife who went out and worked hard, and she made more money as a waitress than I did as a cop. That's the only way we got into that house. We lived there and moved to Willow Glen; bought a nice house there in 1955. It was a custom home that was built in '47. We paid $12,750 for it and before the housing meltdown, I could have sold it for $900k. Everything is relative. You get a low salary, you buy a house at a low price.
VANGUARD: What's the biggest change from your time to today?
SENIOR: Quite a few things outside of police work. When Steve grew up, he was happy with getting a bicycle or a football; now a kid isn't satisfied unless he's got an iPod or a $1,200 laptop. Things were simpler back then. Crime was simpler. Now with computers, you've got this sophisticated crime, and it's a headache for investigators. It was relatively simple when I was a cop, and I applaud everyone that's in the work now because they're doing a terrific job.
VANGUARD: You come to a lot of the POA meetings. Do you see a difference in the attitude between our officers and the officers back then? I know times are different…
SENIOR: The thing is, we didn't have meetings in the old days.
SENIOR: So it's hard to make a comparison. The attitude is different in the POA meetings and the PBA meetings. You've got the guys that are retired already and they're reminiscing about having a good time and the guys that are still in it are ready to hit bricks and do some work. So you've got different culture and thinking process. The camaraderie is there, though. It's great to see guys that I used to work with. In fact, the training guy, Garinger, that I told you about, he still comes to the meetings. Of all the original guys that came on when I did, I think I'm the sole survivor.
VANGUARD: Let me ask you: would you do it again?
SENIOR: Yup. In a heartbeat.
VANGUARD: Steve, when you first came on, Campbell, San José-you've been the POA rep for how long now?
JUNIOR: 15-16 years.
VANGUARD: People consider you sometimes to be straight-faced. They can't read you really well; some people call you a stick in the mud. You look like you're always on a mission. Until they know you, you actually do have a nice smile, and you really can blush-(laughter)-which is a wonderful thing! Is there anything that's different since you've been involved with the POA for so long?
JUNIOR: I do. First off, and it's sad that we've gotten away from this, I had some great sergeant chew my ass out. I mean, we're just human beings. If you look at the sergeant's reading list now-he's talking about no books and you're talking about 30 books by the time you're done-when you say it was simpler, it truly was simple. It's almost hard to allow a guy to make a mistake today and it not be made a big deal of. And that's a shame. I understand liability, I understand the need to address problems and everything else, but every once in a while all it takes is walking up behind the rookie or the guy that makes a mistake and giving him a whack against the back of the head and saying, "Hey, dope, what are you doing?" For me, that went a long way. I think that's important, and maybe we need to get that back a little bit. Everything now has to be set in triplicate and etched in stone, and that's a shame. I think that it's a clean department. I've gone to IA repping guys for many years, and honestly, this is one of the cleanest departments around. Guys make mistakes, and they're over there for those mistakes, but a lot of it is just everyday stuff. We don't have GRAFT here. Does that mean no one has ever cheated or done the wrong thing? No, I'm not saying that. But as individuals and a police department, we're clean as a whistle, which makes me laugh at all the oversight groups. I don't know what they're looking for, but this is probably the wrong tree to be barking up. If an officer here gets a letter of reprimand, they're freaked out, and I think this department should be proud of that. If an officer does something and all they receive is a letter of reprimand-for some guys, that's the end of the world. Guys want that stuff erased from their record so that it doesn't impact their career. Other places, when guys screw up, they get days off. They're happy about it and go on a picnic or something. The officers here are really highly motivated and worry about that. I think we've lost a little bit of the luster that we had when I first came on, and obviously when my father came on. We were very well-regarded, but unfortunately-because we're so understaffed and so stretched out in a city with over a million people and where the traffic division is smaller than it was in 1968-sometimes it's hard to do that stellar job. It's almost impossible. You can't. You've got the next thing to go on. As soon as you're ready to do what you need to do and you have a direction, all of a sudden something else comes in, and you've got to go do that. It's really tough. We were steeped in tradition when I came on. There was tradition, tradition, tradition and you lived up to that. I see a lot of the tradition going by the wayside, and that's because of the youth. We have a lot of young folks on the department now, and we don't have a lot of people passing on the traditions. Maybe the seasoned officers need to step up and I think our police administration needs to recognize that. They should embrace that. We have an administration that has embraced the youth; don't put the tradition and the history out to pasture. Embrace it, because those guys have been, to coin the phrase, "Where no man has been before," and they've been there, done that. They might have some of the answers, and they may be able to help the younger guys solve some of the problems of the department. I hope that happens.
The POA-what a great organization. You talk about the reputation of the SJPD-the POA has a wonderful and well-deserved reputation. We've had some great presidents. I know some of the older guys and I've been around them-Hal Ratliff, etc.-but the guys I've worked with like Carm and Mike Fair and Jim Tomynol and Don DeMeers and now Bobby-and each one of them has brought something different to the organization. We have an organization where city officials come to us to help them solve problems. It's not adversarial. The chief of police comes to us asking us to help him solve problems. What a great organization. They're very watchful of what goes on and everybody's rights. It's a tough job; it's tough juggling the needs of some against the needs of others, and it's a job that can be unpopular. I hope these guys that are taking over now hold true to how we have always been. You will do the most for the most, but don't forget the little guys either. Always, always look at everybody and never forget where you came from, because if you never forget that, you'll always remember who to stand up for. That's important.
VANGUARD: How many officers do you think are going to be leaving in the next year or two?
JUNIOR: You go back to the city. I'm proud to work for the city. I was a recreation leader in the 60's and I've worked around the city my whole life. I think that right now that with the current city administration, they're not as employee-friendly as they've been. It's almost becoming cold; I hope they realize that and move back. If they continue in the direction they're going and trying to strip employees of benefits and pay and everything that made us work harder and made us make the city as good as it is, people will start realizing that and they'll jump ship. Luckily I've got my 30 years and I'm retiring at probably the best time a person can retire right now. If I was 27 years on right now and looking at what the city is doing as far as our wages and benefits, and how they're treating us as employees, I'd be putting in my papers, even if I didn't have my goal of 30 years. I'm sad to say that. I think the city and the administration should truly take a look at what they're doing to the people that drive the engine-they're employees-and realize they have a responsibility to those folks as much as to the citizens of the city. If you take your work force and make them feel unappreciated, you won't get that extra effort. You won't get the guys that are so dedicated. On the whole, you'll get a few here and there as opposed to everyone being dedicated, because they know there's a payback-appreciation from the city. Rather than not stick up for us because the bottom line is the almighty dollar, when we're out there busting our butts and doing great work and keeping this city running well, sometimes rather than saying, "Yeah, but they make too much money," maybe they come in and say, "We've got quality people that are making this city work even in the worst of times." I think that should be the message.
VANGUARD: I agree. So, Senior, you're retired. Do you have any hobbies that you do?
SENIOR: First of all, when I retired in 1978, I didn't do anything for 3-4 years, and then because my pension was relatively low, I had to go out and find another job. I went out to Lockheed and I spent 10 years out there. Pretty good job-I was security. That's the only thing that brought me through the storm. We didn't have enough money to get by, and the biggest thing that happened to the retirees was when we started getting that 3% COLA. That was a wonderful benefit, and it brought us up to the point where we can survive. I'm lucky in that I bought my house cheaply and my kids are grown, and what I get now is sufficient to serve my purposes. If you're raising a family during these times, it's really tough.
VANGUARD: What will you do after you retire, Steve?
JUNIOR: I hope to teach a little bit. I have some friends that do construction work and they've been mentoring me. I'll swing a hammer a little bit. I keep forgetting to mention that I grew up across the street from Paul Deenie, and most people know him because of his tenure in the FTO Program, and I respect him very much. He has a place in Tahoe, so he said that if I retire on the 19th, we'll be painting his Tahoe house on the 21st.
JUNIOR: Hopefully we'll get to do some things; a little bit of traveling. I don't want to HAVE to do anything. I want to do stuff on my own accord. I may have to go back to work if we go into super-inflation, even though I have decent benefits-much better than my father enjoyed. You never know what will happen.
SENIOR: I was just thinking back on all the improvements that were made in the police department. When I came on, the only way that we were able to communicate with headquarters was through landline. We didn't have handpacks; we had to call in every hour if we were on nightshift, depending on the sergeant. Sometimes they just didn't know where we were or what we were doing. When did that last article on John Covaless that was in the newspaper?
JUNIOR: A month ago, I think.
SENIOR: Frank Anchebauer and I were at headquarters when that came in, and Anchebauer and I responded to that scene. That was the first time that the reality of police work struck me. Thinking back from what I know now, you hear people say, "Why didn't he call for backup before he went in that place?" There was no way for him to call for backup. He was by himself and he was doing what cops did in those days. They found a door open, they didn't have backup-they went in. They brought up the fact that he didn't have regular ammo in his gun; he had reloads. We had to buy our own ammo in those days, and he couldn't afford to buy the ammo, so he took the reloads from the range and used them. Things that happen in your lifetime…you just reflect back on them. It's been about 60 years since that happened, and that incident was probably the worst experience of my time on the police department.
VANGUARD: The way times are now, we may have to buy our own rounds here pretty soon again.
JUNIOR: I would tell everyone coming through, when you go to the police academy now, you take that class-Bitching 101-and it's okay. I think they should remember that this is a great job. I can't imagine doing anything else. We truly are our own bosses. We do make a difference, each of us on our own small scale. We should cherish the people we meet, because they're doing the same thing we are. Cherish and try to remember and document everything you do; I was always as camera-shy as I could be, and I didn't take a lot of photographs. Now everyone has a camera-photograph everything, so when you retire in 25-30 years you can remember these things and show them to your kids. Say, "Look how much fun I had. Look at the things I did." When I got hired in 1974, my father told me he could never become a cop in this day and age, and I'm telling that to my daughter now. But I made my own fun, and I know she'll make her own fun if she comes on. Cherish that. They're being watched a lot more, and there are more rules. Just work within those rules and truly have a great time. This is the best job in the world, and you'll have the best time. And cherish your friends. The friends you'll make here are probably the most important. For everybody, it's been a great ride for me. I'm honored to have shared the field of battle with every officer out there. I hope that I'm remembered that way.
VANGUARD: On your last day, you'll be in uniform, and the end of shift will be the end of shift.
VANGUARD: Good for you. Well, it's been a pleasure and an honor to know you for all those years since I came over in 1988. You don't realize until you start signing those retirement papers how well we have it, especially with benefits. We are truly, truly blessed as a department. It's nice to go that route and it's nice to see what we have.
I thank both of you Steves. It's not often that I can do a father-son interview, but I truly learned a lot. Obviously we've come a long way. Steve Sr., you look very well and extremely healthy. Look like you've had a lot of good times in your life.
SENIOR: I have. That's a fact.
VANGUARD: And you will no doubt continue to have those.
SENIOR: Well, I've been fortunate. I've had two great kids and my wife is great. I've made a lot of friends here.
VANGUARD: And you've been married how long?
SENIOR: We were married twice. First time in '46 by a justice of the peace and our folks said, "You're living in sin." And April Fool's Day in 1947 we got married in a church in Rhode Island.
VANGUARD: That's great. Well, thank you both for this great opportunity. I think people will get a kick out of this. It's awesome to have you both here, and hopefully down the road we'll have your daughter be the third one, Steve.
JUNIOR: I have to mention that my wife, Diane, has been very supportive. She was with me when I went through motor training-hardest training I ever went through-and then I had an accident on the horse and was out for three months, and she was there with me during that process getting promoted. She's been stalwart. With all of my years in the POA, she's put up with my getting phone calls at 2am, or if I had to come down and do something at the hall sometimes, she's been side-by-side with me. Truly, I couldn't end this interview without thanking her for backing my plans.
VANGUARD: So she's actually doing the full 30-year retirement.
JUNIOR: (laughing) Yes, she is!
VANGUARD: Well gentlemen, I want to thank you for this opportunity, and best of luck to you both and continued health in both of your retirements. Captain, enjoy, and Sarge, I'm sure you'll have plenty to do. I don't think you'll ever relax.
VANGUARD: Thank you very much.
SENIOR: Thanks, Juan.
JUNIOR: Thank you, Juan.