WALLA WALLA -- After nearly 36 years on patrol, Capt. Gary Bainter is putting his badge in "park" after this month.
Bainter will retire at the start of the next year, capping a career with the Walla Walla Police Department that began in March 1975. The move comes "with mixed emotions," he said in an e-mail to friends and colleagues, "but I would like to pursue other interests of an artistic bent as well as being healthy enough to do the traveling Jan (his wife) and I put off while raising a family."
In his small, but well-ordered office at City Hall, Bainter recounted how he started in law enforcement as a military policeman at West Point in the early 1970s, then joined the Spokane Police Department after being discharged.
"They hired 60 of us during Expo 74 and I was the 60th one hired, so I was the first one laid off when it ended," he recalled.
Spokane's loss was Walla Walla's gain. A native of Dayton, Bainter was able to return to this area and join the Walla Walla department as a patrolman, working under then-Chief Bert Watts and, later, Chief Chuck Fulton. The continuity in commanders was a bonus.
"I've been real fortunate that I've only worked under two bosses during my career," he said with a smile.
Bainter advanced to patrol sergeant in 1979 and then in 1983 was promoted to lieutenant. He attained patrol captain's rank in 1998.
Among the highlights of his career, Bainter said, was working with Bernie Lang and Peggy Needham to create the Walla Walla Traffic Safety/DUI Task Force.
"That started out as just the three of us and that's expanded to many other agencies, so that's been real special," he said.
Another two highlights have been writing the "Street Smarts" column for the Union-Bulletin, a feature that has covered topics ranging from "how to save gas" to "why there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop," and helping form the department's special weapons and tactics unit, which is now known as the Emergency Services Unit.
The latter came about in the 1980s after "we had three weekends in a row (where) we had armed, barricaded subject calls ... and everyone had their own ideas of how to handle it," Bainter said. "And after the third one I went in and talked to the chief about how we ought to expand our tactical capabilities, because up to then we were flying by the seat of our pants. And that was the start of the ESU."
Bainter said he was a little sad he won't be moving into the new police department building now under construction on Moore Street, but what he will miss will be his co-workers.
"The terrific part of working for this department is the people," he said. "They've made my job a lot better."
Reed to retire also
Bainter is not the only long-term member the department loses at the end of this month, said Tim Bennett, WWPD public information officer.
Ofc. Robert Reed, the department's crime prevention officer, is taking a forced retirement due to the city's budget cuts. Reed has worked as a patrol officer and was the longest serving Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer on the force before taking over running the crime prevention programs, which he has done for the last five years.
Reed's last day will be Dec. 30 after a career spanning 30 years, Bennett said.
Andy Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8318.