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Manteca Police officer Steve Harris left his mark

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A Manteca Police Officer for the past three decades, Steve Harris found his last two years were the most enjoyable. In his own words he said “it’s the best” to be working with kids who love and re...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin/

POSTED June 8, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Badge 611 is being retired from the ranks of the Manteca Police Department with the passing of Steve Harris — a loved and respected school resource officer.

Harris was a great friend of mine and I was among the first to learn of his death.  My wife and I had been to dinner and were returning home when I noticed two Ripon officers circling the outside of his home only a block away from our residence.  Checking out what looked like a welfare check, I soon learned I had lost a close friend apparently from natural causes.

The three Ripon officers at his home shared the grief of his passing in seeing a 53-year-old fellow officer who had a passion for his community and for police work. All officers throughout the state regard each other as brothers and sisters on the same team and willing to give their lives for each other. 

Steve had been splitting his part-time schedule with his partner and longtime friend Sam Gallego —both having retired from full-time duty a couple years ago.  One would be walking through the elementary school campuses Monday and Tuesday and the other taking Thursday and Friday in a given week. They would switch their Wednesday assignments in the odd weeks.

Steve was a valued friend. To say we had mutual respect was mild a statement — we were friends, and we still are friends.

Some two hours after I learned he had died I was filling up my car with gas, feeling lost in the moment.  It was exactly 10:24 Friday night and my cell phone rang three times.  Taking it off my belt, I saw the caller’s name on the screen.  It simply read, “Harris.”  Answering the phone, there was no one there.  Whatever the cause, or whomever the sender, it is a moment I will never forget.

All that came to my mind was, “Godspeed my friend.”

Steve has served in just about every capacity at the MPD from patrol to detectives in the last 30 years.  He has also served as a field training officer, Special Weapons and Tactics Team member, narcotics and investigations detective.  Fellow officers have filled Facebook with their own personal memories of a man who was very kind and giving in his nature and couldn’t say no to someone asking for a favor.  Many have changed their Facebook profiles to include a picture with Steve or posting the single blue line logo representing family and the fallen officer.  On a blue and black field it reads, “In Memoriam — Badge 611 — Never Forgotten.”

And it’s not only the officers who have been deeply touched.  A neighbor of his in Ripon mounted an American Flag from the roof’s edge above Steve’s front porch — in respect for the man who also served in the U.S. Navy.

One non-sworn community service officer at the police department wrote, “In the blink of an eye, everything can change.  So forgive often and love with all your heart.  You may never have that chance again.”

Another posting from Steve’s partner’s daughter,  Annie Gallego,  pictured with family members said, “You will be missed so much Steve, such a big-hearted and loving man. My Dad’s partner in crime.  So many great memories we have with you that my family will cherish forever.  Until we meet again, Rest in Peace.  We love you so much.”

Steve worked with a passion to keep his weight down, walking his tiny dogs throughout Ripon’s residential neighborhoods both in the mornings and in the afternoons at something of a slow pace, making new friends as he walked as much as five miles a day.

It was during the last school year that I did a ride-along with Steve at a couple dismissal periods with the children walking home.  The concern was traffic and the related safety of the students in the crosswalks with parents driving up and double parking to pick up their kids.

It is almost beyond my comprehension that our friend is gone, somebody I have often waved to while driving home seeing him water his front lawn.  He had caused the many he met to have a better, a richer life in passing.

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