This address was presented to the Bishop (California) City Council on the ten year anniversary of the Line-of-Duty death of Officer Richard Perkins-August 15th, 2001. The presenter was his best friend and partner, Phil West, now a lieutenant at Mono County Sheriff’s Department.–Thonie
By Lieutenant Phil West
Bishop City Council Members and Chief Carter: thank you for allowing me to address you this evening in reflection of our friend and Bishop Police Officer, Rich Perkins, as we approach the 10th anniversary of Rich’s In the Line of Duty Death, and in recognition of National Police Week.
Waddie Mitchell said, “A man that’s good to his horses makes the best kind of friend.” This could not be more true of Bishop’s first fallen officer, Rich Perkins—a true friend, a God-fearing loving husband and father, as well as good to his horses—the best kind of friend. I don’t believe Rich knew how many friends that he had, for everyone that he encountered walked away feeling that Rich was their friend too.
Rich could quote every line in Paint Your Wagon before the actors could say them while playing cards in “Lizard Gulch,” Rich’s “saloon” in the old town that he had created near his horse corrals. Maybe that was the influence in a voice that would remind you of W.C. Fields, Lee Marvin, John Wayne, and Yogi Bear combined, along with a familiar and many times repeated phrase, “Looking forward to the Challenges that the Day May Bring.” That is a phrase spoken in that distinctive voice that many of us recall. We will not hear it in its original intonation for some time yet to come. But that phrase encompasses Rich. It was his philosophy, his devotion to God, his family, and to law enforcement in general. That simple phrase is what he and others have dedicated their lives to in those tasks asked of them by the citizens that they serve.
When an officer is killed in the line of duty, the death reflects upon more than the loss of the officer, but the loss of a dedication to an ideal and to an oath. An “oath,” is held in much higher regard than a promise. That ideal is held both by the society that has asked the officer to dedicate his or her life to, as well as the oath and belief that is already held by that officer.
In that respect, a portion of what we have asked an officer to do for us hasn’t left with that fallen officer, but rather like Rich, it has inspired us to live up to our oath, and inspire other officers as well in the tasks and events that we as a society have asked them to respond to, for us. Many of those things that we ask our officers (and all of our first responders) to do are things that we in general are not supposed to see or hear. Still, we ask our law enforcement to do those things for us.
If I were to say, “Rich was my friend,” that would infer that Rich was no longer my friend. Although separated through time until we will see each other again, Rich “is” my friend. Officer and friend, Rich Perkins, held these ideals and told me once, “I am ready to go at any time if I am called.” The impact that Rich Perkins had on this community is still felt as you look upon the many murals that Rich took part in creating with the Mural Society in the city. An aura is felt because of the person that he was within this community as an officer and involved citizen, whether or not all citizens knew him. It’s no surprise that St. Peter needed this individual just prior to the tragic events of 9/11 2001, to assist him at the gate. Knowing Rich, I’m sure many a conversation took place as to how it should be done.
A sense of humor not lost within the task at hand, Rich had the innate quality of utilizing that humor on the job. There are many a “war story,” most of which are past the statute of limitations. One in particular I remember was of being on a traffic stop with Rich. The driver asked imploringly, “Can’t you just give me a warning?” The reply came, quick- witted with a response that would garner other cops a complaint, “Sure. Do it again and I’ll give you another ticket.” I was sure I was going to be a witness to the complaint that would be forthcoming, but only Rich could get away with that. That was his way of getting the point across, a signature on the citation, and a conceding chuckle from the recipient.
Rich personified the term, “letter of the law versus spirit of the law.” He never lost sight that in doing his “job” of enforcing the law; the person he was dealing with was still God’s creation and a person too. That thought was brought home when his funeral procession left the church service and proceeded down Main Street toward the cemetery. Main St. was lined with those giving their respects to Bishop’s first fallen officer in the line of duty since the city was incorporated May 6th, 1903.
Caring citizens lined the street and included some of those that law enforcement and Rich had “contacts” with in the past. A true testament to this person who never lost sight that the officer in the uniform was bigger than the 3-inch badge and never the other way around.
Rich and I started the mounted enforcement unit in the City with his beloved, “Ginger.” As we stood at the graveside, Abby, the rider-less horse, stood at attention unaffected by the goings-on’s around her. It was as if a sense of the magnitude of the event at hand had somehow been conveyed to her. Rich had given Abby to us in 1992 and I retired her last year after 17 years of law enforcement service. But that day, she stood at attention with me and the other officers, un-moving, focused straight ahead as all of the officers were, through the playing of taps and the 21 gun salute.
Now, we reflect upon the dedication to the ideals held by our friend, Officer Perkins, as well as the other fallen officers who have given their all during this year’s National Police Week. I thank you for the time to reflect upon the ultimate sacrifices by Rich and the other officers, but also by their families who have ‘given their all’. And finally to the community in which this officer has served and the service of all officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, know that all of us are affected by those losses.
Bishop 2,…. 8Sam2,….. 912 is 10-10 (end of watch).
Perkins was also a gifted artist who devoted his off duty time to the Bishop Mural Society. Above is a mural that Perkins was particularly fond of.–Thonie