It was a bittersweet moment for Dave Bricker Thursday morning.
As the Manteca Police Chief rounded the corner of Cherry Lane on the way to work he couldn’t help but get emotional as he saw rows of SHARP vehicles, volunteers, officers and police department staffers that had lined up to wish him well in his retirement.
Bricker – a Manteca-Lathrop product that first got involved with the Manteca Police as an explorer in 1969 when he was only 15 – spent his last day behind the badge in uniform, and was the guest of honor at a SHARP gathering inside of the council chambers. With his wife Ruth by his side, he was presented with a plaque for his service to the community by the senior volunteer group. Bricker then thanked those in attendance for supporting him and showing up on what turned out to be a very sentimental day.
And he was quick to thank the all-volunteer SHARP group for all that they do not only for the police department but the citizens of Manteca as well – noting that without their assistance large portions of standard police work would likely be backlogged or untouched.
“I was crying even before I got to you guys today – before the motor guys picked me up. I had such an amazing career. It’s been a ride that I never expected,” Bricker said. “I always wanted to be a police officer, but moving up the ranks to police chief has been very challenging – it’s been hard with the economic setbacks that the city has faced.
“I honestly believe we could not pay for the amount of services that you guys provide the city of Manteca. I live in this town and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. If I really want to see you I’ll leave my car parked out front for 72 hours.”
Councilman John Harris – who has known Bricker since 1972 – said he gives him credit for being the guy that never panics and is always cool, calm, and collected. It’s that approach, Harris said, that made him very good at his job as a police officer and allowed him to work up through the ranks and still maintain that level of respect.
While working as a probation officer Harris spent 13 years working closely with Bricker on a variety of cases, and always appreciated his professionalism.
“He was always one of my favorite officers, and early on you could tell that he had that leadership potential,” Harris said. “He’s going out on top right now, and there’s no better way to walk away from a position like that.”
Mayor Willie Weatherford – who was the Chief of Police when Bricker got hired as a full-time officer in 1979 – described Bricker as the “ideal image of a police officer” and said that his legacy here in Manteca is secure.
“When you can leave a job like that in good standing – it says a lot,” Weatherford said.
Bricker was overwhelmed
While he spent most of the time during the session shaking hands and saying thanks to those who offered him warm wishes in retirement, it was the scene that unfolded before him on his way into the department earlier in the day that really stuck out in his mind.
It was unexpected, and caught the usually composed chief off-guard.
“I was just overwhelmed when I saw that,” he said of the group lined up on Cherry Lane. “The whole Department was out there – 50 to 60 SHARPs and the office staff and everybody – it was just amazing.”
And even though it’s hard for him to walk away from a job that has been in his blood since he was a teenager, Bricker believes it’s time to turn the reins over to somebody else.
“It’s a bittersweet moment because I’m ready to be retired and take that next step. My family and my wife have been extremely patient, and I’ve got kids and grandkids that I want to spend time with,” he said. “I think that it’s time to travel and work around the home. I’ve got those projects where you say ‘If I had a couple of minutes I’d fix that.’ Now I have those couple of minutes.”
The transition from his time at the helm to whoever takes over the post next, he said, should be a seamless one.
“I believe that this department has some very quality seasoned officers – some of which I’ve seen grow up in this town,” Bricker said. “We have some great people in charge of making decisions here, and I’m sure they’ll make a good one.
“With any organization, if you’re not careful you start to circle back around instead of going forward, so getting a new set of eyes is never a bad thing. I think that the management of the city is amazing and we have a good council that supports the department. It’s just time for me to focus on my family, maybe travel a little bit and see what happens.”