Working with the Escalon Police Department ever since he was a teenager, Sgt. Dusty Brookshire bid farewell to the department on Friday, his final day here. He started a new assignment with the Walnut Creek Police Department on Monday but, before he left, the long-tenured local officer sat down with The Times to discuss his past, present and future. A special going away party was also hosted for him on Friday by the police department.
When did you first get interested in police work as a career?
I’ve always had an interest in police work, but it wasn’t until I became an Explorer and began working at the police department that I knew that I wanted to pursue it as a career.
How did that (Explorer) experience help you prepare for your job and how have you, in turn, helped the Explorers you have now, including helping with the competitions?
I started as an Explorer and was hired on July 22, 1999…the summer after my sophomore year in high school. Being an explorer helped me tremendously. While in the academy and learning criminal law, I was able to take what I saw while volunteering as an explorer and apply it to what I was being taught at the academy and vice versa. It helped me understand the reason and theories behind laws and not just whether an act was legal or illegal. Being an explorer also helped me mature and learn what behavior and attitude was acceptable at a police department and what wasn’t. I turned 20 years old while in the academy and was hired as a Reserve Officer when I graduated. Looking back, I had a lot of maturing to do, but I already understood the mindset an officer has and a strong working knowledge of how a police department functions.
When I was hired as a Reserve Officer, I took over as coordinator of the explorer post. Having been an explorer, I knew how much the program could help those interested in this career. I started structuring the program around those explorers who wanted to pursue this career. We had one explorer when I took it over and we quickly increased our ranks to five, which is the maximum we allow. With some dedicated explorers, we were able to make the program a success. Attending competitions was something the explorers wanted to do for years, but because of financial restrictions, we were unable to travel to the competitions. When Modesto PD, Manteca PD, Ripon PD, and Tracy PD organized their first competition in 2011, we were quick to register. The explorers worked very hard to prepare and performed well in 2011 and again in 2012. I wish them the best of luck at the upcoming competition.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Even though Escalon PD is a small department and we don’t have many special assignments, I’ve been privileged in that I’ve been able to take part in everything the department had/has to offer. I was a School Resource Officer, Field Training Officer, have been to a lot of training in the area of collision investigation, and have been lucky enough to promote to Sergeant. What I’ve enjoyed the most was being a Field Training Officer and being able to be a part of the Every 15 Minutes program.
I began training new officers in late 2006 and, although we haven’t had a full time officer to train since Officer (K.J.) Vandagriff was hired, still train new Reserve Officers. I think that being a training officer is the most gratifying assignment we have. I enjoy seeing somebody come here after graduating the academy and leave our field training program to begin working on their own. It’s an awesome feeling to know that I’ve had some sort of impact on their career.
The Every 15 Minutes program hit home with me and is something I’m very passionate about. When I was a child, my uncle died as a result of injuries he suffered after he was driving drunk and hit another vehicle head-on. Seeing what my mom and grandparents went through after his death and seeing how many families suffered after students of Escalon High died from alcohol related collisions, validated a need for the program in Escalon. Every year, I was very vocal about wanting to be involved in the program in some way. Chief Shaw and Chief Dunford were nice enough to allow me to step away from my other duties for a couple of days so that I could take part in it. Although there are critics of the program, there hasn’t been an alcohol related death involving an Escalon student since its inception and I hope the program continues to be a success
What are your thoughts on how Walnut Creek will be different and how are you approaching the adapting you will have to do?
Aside from the obvious size difference between Walnut Creek and Escalon, I don’t think I will have much of a problem adapting to how their police department conducts business. In Escalon, we have high standards in report writing and we try our best to provide a high level of service to the community. From what I’ve learned, Walnut Creek expects the same. One thing I will have to adapt to is how Walnut Creek addresses issues compared to Escalon. The investigation of a crime is very similar from one agency to the next. The difference lies in the documentation and the resources used.
Was it difficult sometimes patrolling the city where you grew up and, in some cases, probably arresting people you were familiar with?
I don’t think that patrolling the city where I attended school was too difficult. I’ve had to arrest a distant family member and former classmates. For the most part they understood it was because of something they did and not me picking on them. I’ve been told by a few people that I went to school with that I should have their, “back,” and not arrest them or not allow another officer to arrest them. For the most part I think attending school here and working at Big Boy helped because it gave people a familiar face to talk to. My family has also had a long history with the community, even though we don’t live here. My grandfather worked for the school district and sat on the recreation committee. My mom has worked for the school district for over twenty years (mostly at Dent School). She, my uncle, and my brother attended the same schools I attended and were athletes as well. My sister is currently a senior at the high school and is very much involved in several extracurricular activities. There’s been a bunch of times that somebody (usually drunk) tells me and other officers that they’re from Escalon so they should receive special treatment. I’ve also been told by many, many people that they’ve lived in Escalon for so many years so they deserve a break and that we need to focus our enforcement efforts on those who live elsewhere. Generally, once I told them that I graduated from Escalon High and they realize I’m not, as they say, “An Outsider,” they changed their attitude.
What was the biggest lesson you learned while serving here?
The biggest lesson I learned while working here is that I was going to have multiple contacts with the same people and that I needed to leave every contact as positive as possible. There are times when people weren’t happy with decisions I’ve made, but I learned to try my best to treat people with as much respect as possible. I also learned that between my mom and Dorothy Vandagriff, they know everybody in town and that people would “tell on me” if I wasn’t nice.
Anything else you want to add?
There are a couple things I want to add. The first being that leaving Escalon PD was a very difficult decision. July of this year would have marked my 14th anniversary, but I think I’ve reached a point where I need to expand my career and that can’t be done in any small agency. I hope that I’ve given this department as much as it has given me. I’m leaving with some memories, and some funny stories, that I will cherish forever.
What I will miss the most are the people at Escalon PD. I’ve learned a lot from them. Dorothy Vandagriff has an unparalleled work ethic and the department would fall apart without her. Joe Rosa taught me (and many others) how to shoot and kept me company during countless graveyard shifts were I would have otherwise been working alone. Chief Shaw and Chief Dunford are the best mentors anybody can ask for and were instrumental in not only building my career, but in building the careers of other officers as well. Milt Medeiros taught me the importance of a supervisor being consistent and supporting his subordinates (even if that means defending them to the Chief). Most importantly, I learned that a department is only as effective as the officers it employees. The Reserves are a vital part of the police department and they work very hard to help the department, all without being paid or receiving benefits. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with them (whether I was training some of them or when others would tell me stories about how things used to be done.) Matt Price, Anthony Hardgraves, Richard Francis, Dave Armendariz, KJ Vandagriff, Rob Lackey, and Gus Flores are people who I will always consider friends and I sincerely appreciate the support they’ve given me. We’ve had some fun times and been through some tough experiences, and I will truly miss each and every one of them.
This police department is full of people who are a part of this community and want nothing more than to maintain a high quality of life in Escalon. Officers in Escalon hear, “Escalon is a small town and nothing ever happens here,” on an almost daily basis. I just hope residents of Escalon recognize the amount of crime taking place in nearby Riverbank, Modesto, and Manteca and that they recognize the efforts of the police department to try to minimize the effects that gangs, violence, and crime in general has on the community. The officers have grown to take, “Nothing ever happens here,” as a sign that they are doing their job.