A unique time in Seal Beach Police history will soon fade away.
Chief Jeff Kirkpatrick is retiring after 34 years of service to law enforcement and six years with the Seal Beach Police Department: one as a captain and five as its chief.
As we wait upon this changing of the guard within the city’s public safety ranks, it is right to reflect about the future of the city’s police department without Kirkpatrick at the helm. However, we should first look upon the fine footprints he has left on our sand.
If Seal Beach really is a “Mayberry By The Sea,” as many people claim, then Chief Kirkpatrick has been its Andy Taylor.
During his tenure with the city it was not unusual to find Chief Kirkpatrick making personal appearances on the front lines of various charity fundraising activities, speaking at local functions and having a presence with his officers at things like the St. Patrick’s Day crowd control. That particular effort the police have co-coordinated with the city and the local Lions Club over the past few years to make sure everyone involved in what had once been a scene of mayhem, stayed safe.
I recall one light-hearted fundraising event at which Seal Beach Police personnel dished out ice cream at the local Coldstone’s on Main Street. There was the chief, sleeves rolled up, ice cream scoop in hand, a smile on his face and a balloon hat crown upon his head. The funny thing was that the man had more dignity in a balloon hat than I ever saw in my dealings with other, much larger law enforcement bodies such as the Orange County Sheriffs, where too many of the front line people seem to carry a large chip on their shoulder.
If Chief Kirkpatrick was able to be a man of the people, he was also dedicated to his work and its credo of existing to “Serve and Protect.”
He was an effective chief of police, respected and liked by the people he supervised in the department. He ran a tight ship while maintaining a professional demeanor and also stayed accessible to the public.
A measure of Kirkpatrick’s dedication to his work is that he stayed at his post for as long as he did.
The fact is, with his many years of experience, the chief was a good deal for the city of Seal Beach.
I will tell you why.
Chief Kirkpatrick came to Seal Beach during a time in his law enforcement career at which he could have retired. Had he retired, he could have received a high percentage of his full salary in his pension.
Many people would have jumped at the chance for such a comfortable arrangement. Not Chief Kirkpatrick. He was too used to his work, his badge, which he wore with honor and the job that defined much of the purpose of his life.
I have heard some the chief’s admirers mention that by continuing to work when he could have been collecting retirement pay, he probably only made about five bucks an hour for carrying the responsibilities of being the Seal Beach Police chief.
Dennis Kaiser is the editor of the Sun Newspapers.