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Life after policing
Manteca cops in retirement and beyond reflect dedication, ethics and teamwork
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Chief Tom Brockman is flanked by his two night patrolmen in the 1930s. They are Jim Toupin and Manuel Asdruble. - photo by Photo Contributed

Manteca police officers of the last 50 years reflect a common passion to serve and protect the community they were sworn to patrol.

Some have carried that responsibility into retirement.

Partners Sam Gallego and Steve Harris were brought out of retirement last year to work part-time as school safety officers at the Manteca Unified School District’s 15 elementary campuses.

Gallego, 55, also doubles as a booking officer on the weekends, transporting prisoners to the county jail. He’s also available to assist on patrols.

Officially, Gallego retired in January 2010, while Harris’ 30-year career in law enforcement ended in December 2011.

Neither settled into a life of ease, tee times and slow days.

As a safety officer, Gallego works on Mondays and Tuesdays and every other Wednesday, sharing coverage of the district’s elementary schools with Harris. Both work limited hours because of their retirement provisions.

On Saturdays, Harris also oversees an alternative work program that cleans up homeless camps and picks up abandoned furniture throughout the city. Harris is accompanied by three Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) members and directs 15 individuals who have traded service for jail time and fines.

Tragedy lured the longtime partners back into the field.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut nearly a year ago prompted service clubs in the area to fund two officers to provide protective cover for the district’s children.

No rest for the retired

Life beyond the badge can be just as busy for Gallego and Harris.

They share vice president responsibilities for the Swiss Club in Ripon, an organization with a year-round calendar full of service events, socials and fund-raisers.

Gallego has become something of a jack-of-all-trades. He maintains a 60-acre farm and a string of rental properties, and he often plays the role of handyman for friends and family. It’s not uncommon to find him under a sink, behind a lawn mower or wielding a tool of some sort.

Gallego and his wife, Julie, have five children: Emily, 30; Natalie, 27; Sam, 24; Annalisa, 21; and Sam, a 16-year-old junior and three-sport athlete.

You don’t know busy, Gallego quips, until you see his youngest in action. In addition to his extra-curriculars, Sam also carries a demanding academic workload.

“He is busy 12 hours a day,” the elder Gallego said. “He makes me tired watching him taking all college prep classes.

Retirement: ‘Doing something that is rewarding’

Gallego and Harris are just the latest examples of Manteca police officers who have maintained a commitment to protect and serve even in retirement.

Clancy Rogers, 70, served 24 years as a full-time officer. After retiring from the force, Rogers worked four years as a bodyguard and security manager for A.G. Spanos, a tenure that included a meeting with President George W. Bush. He’d later take a position with the Jackson Rancheria Police Department, retiring again as deputy police chief in 2009.

Rogers currently manages the Manteca Historical Society.

Dave Thompson, a retired sergeant, oversees the Raymus House on Union Road and is the executive director of the Hope Family Shelter. He also manages a third location – long-term transitional housing – near Doctor’s Hospital on North Street.

The 71-year-old worked for MPD from 1973 to 2000.

“The real advantage to retiring is doing something that is rewarding and that you enjoy doing,” said Thompson, also an associate pastor and choir member at Northgate Community Church. “My job is not work.”

Zeb Hammonds parlayed his affinity for computers into an online security start-up,

The website sells personal protection items with the focus a barking dog alarm that uses microwave technology. When set up by a door or window, the alarm will bark like an aggressive German Shepherd.

Hammonds and Thompson helped develop a computer system for the department while in uniform.

Grant Flory, 58, can still be found on MPD grounds. The longtime patrolman and canine officer works as a range master for the department, splitting his time between a Modesto-area gun shop.

Speaking of canines: Gary Lee, 59, has assisted the Manteca and Stockton police departments in the training of their police dogs, leaning on his unique experiences with the four-legged species.

Lee’s career included stints in canine, narcotics, street crimes, as well as patrol and detective assignments. 

He has remained close to a department that he says he joined “almost be sheer accident.”

“I was working graveyard in Galt and saw a flier for the City of Manteca crumpled up on the ground. I picked it up, filled it out and turned it in,” he said. “In the ‘80s, Galt was paying $800 a month and Manteca was paying their officers $1,300 – the highest paid agency in the county.”

Former Police Chief Charlie Halford continues to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club, where he served as director from 2008-2012.

‘I am enjoying life’

For others, retirement has represented a fresh start; an opportunity to follow life’s other ambitions.

Like family and fun.

“My family is what I do,” said Clei DeFreitas, former Manteca High School resource officer. DeFreitas came to Manteca in 1982, serving most of his last 11 years at the city’s oldest high school. “I’m a stay-at-home dad.”

Danny Erb, 54, followed his wife into the restaurant business. Claudia Erb owns a Mexican restaurant in Manteca, and the two have a young daughter.

He enjoys the flexibility of his schedule, once so rigid and controlled by the rigors of police work.

“I get to play Mr. Mom at home,” Erb said. “I just play in the morning, fixing stuff and getting stuff for my wife at the restaurant.

“The last thing I want is to be tied to a schedule. Luckily, I can do a little bit of everything such as the plumbing.”

Erb has turned his backyard into a “man cave,” complete with a garden, barbeque and TV.

“I saved and built,” he said. “Now I can enjoy what I saved and built.”

Greg Lassell, 55, echoes that sentiment ... as he should. Lassell is Erb’s former partner.

Lassell has followed his passion for cars to shows near and far since retiring from the force four years ago.

He and his wife Rita, a kindergarten teacher, have a 17-year-old son, Chase.

“It was a fulfilling career and I enjoyed it a lot, but it was time to move on to greener pastures,” said Lassell, who also enjoys camping and spending time at his cabin in the foothills.

Longtime Detective Rick Adams greeted his retirement in December 2007 with open arms.

Adams, who started his career as a reserve officer, said he enjoyed his years of service, but never once wavered on his retirement date.

Once it was a set, it was set. He never regretted his decision. He never looked back, starting the next chapter as a farmer in earnest.

“My trees are smiling. My cows are smiling,” Adams said. “I’m usually out of the house by 6 in the morning. ... There’s always something to do as farming is a 24/7 operation, especially with our cows that need attention.”

Adams’ other passions are hunting and fishing. He recently returned from Montana and Wyoming where he bagged an antelope and elk.

“I am having a good time,” he added. “I’m enjoying life.”