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“Looking Forward to the Challenges that the Day May Bring.”


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

Phil and his mustang Abby
Phil and his mustang Abby

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.


Richard E. Perkins
Richard E. Perkins

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.


“A Dangerous Arrest” by Richard Perkins, John Knowlton, Kathy Sexton, Jenna Morgenstein, MaryGipson-Knowlton, 2000. This mural shows an “Old West” event that broke the peace and quiet of  Bishop on March 10, 1887. Philip Staiger was reported to be drunk and disorderly, threatening a abystander with a gun and resisting arrest. 207 West Line Street, Bishop Police Station . 11.5' x 15'
“A Dangerous Arrest”
by Richard Perkins, John Knowlton, Kathy Sexton, Jenna Morgenstein, MaryGipson-Knowlton, 2000.
This mural shows an “Old West” event that broke the peace and quiet of
Bishop on March 10, 1887. Philip Staiger was reported to be drunk and disorderly, threatening a abystander with a gun and resisting arrest.
207 West Line Street,
Bishop Police Station
11.5′ x 15′

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

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A Tribute to ‘Me and My Merry Band of Men’

By Lieutenant Phil West, Mono County Sheriff’s Department

Phil and Abby
Phil and Abby

The mounted unit was a highly visible unit yet had a soft demeanor: “The war horse: resolute in action, gentle in manner.” As Rich Perkins used to say, “No one ever comes up and asks to pet our patrol car.”

Richard Perkins, Bishop Police EOW August 15, 2001
Richard Perkins, Bishop Police EOW August 15, 2001

The mounted unit was able to direct large numbers of people that would take five or more officers on foot. The mounted patrol could accomplish this with one or two horses and in a gentle manner. The detail grew into an “Interagency Mounted Detail.” With the neighboring agencies together deployed up to 8-10 mounts at events that drew large numbers of people. At one event, we were asked back each year by the Chamber of Commerce because we (the horses), “had made it a family event again.”

Over the first few years, the unit made several arrests, but that began to taper off as a “particular element” saw the horses and either quietly leave the area or properly maintain themselves. It afforded the opportunity for folks to talk to a ‘cop’ in a more personal manner and not have the metal barrier of the patrol car in the way.

Quite a testament to the proactive nature of working mounted.

Unfortunately, with retirements and officers coming into the business that are not equestrians, the detail has diminished due to attrition. As Perkins would say, “Me and my merry band of men.” ~;o)

Phil put another photo video together.
He says, “Some are the same pictures of Abby, but some additional with Sally and Bigun. It ends with my last mounted radio call to dispatch”:
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Abby, the Police Horse

By Phil West, Lieutenant Mono County Sheriff’s Department

Phil and Abby
Phil and Abby

Phil, an old friend from my Bishop PD days, recently lost his partner, Abby. He posted a moving video on Facebook a few days ago. I asked if I could re-post but needed a bit more info for the readers. Here are his answers. The video is sentimental, unabashedly patriotic and very touching. If you love animals, you owe it to yourself to watch. It’s only three and a half minutes. It features Phil, his wife Karen and two kids, Sheryl and Phillip as well as Modoc, Abby, friend and and partner Richard Perkins. The link in the first sentence “Abby” will take you to the video on Mono County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page. Bring Kleenex.

We had Abby for 21 years. She was late 22 years old and was sent up on Oct. 19th, 2013 due to the complications of Cushing’s syndrome. She patrolled with me for 17 years, although I was idling her back and using Bigun (Phil’s current mount) periodically from the end of 2006 until completely retiring her in 2010. She showed with both kids (flat classes-showmanship, equitation, gymkhana, etc…), calf-roped, cutting, reining classes, in High School Rodeo.

Now the hard part. Can’t make this any shorter:

In the middle of the slide show, there is a big red horse, Modoc. We got Modoc shortly before Rich (Perkins-friend and partner killed in the line of duty, August 15, 2001) gave Abby to us in the late summer of 1992, “for the kids.” Rich said he didn’t have any desire to train and thought she’d get a good start with us, then be a great horse for Sheryl and Phillip.

Lisa Whitney, Ventura Co SO
Richard Perkins, Bishop PD

When I brought Modoc home, he was originally to be Karen’s (Phil’s wife) “dressage” horse. After he settled in, I discovered the freeze marking under his beautiful mane. Rich and I started the mounted detail and Karen lost her dressage horse. She had been training with a neighbor in dressage and I would watch/listen intently. I applied what I was vicariously learning to Modoc. He had a neck like a serpent and his barrel would roll the opposite direction in which you were riding (if you were riding a counterclockwise circle, his barrel would roll right instead of into the center and vice versa). I put literally hundreds of hours on that horse in the short year-and-a half that we had him. There were some folks in Bishop they found out we were starting a mounted unit said, “That horse will NEVER work the street. They were wrong.

We hit the streets.

Modoc and I worked the park, the fair and red ribbon week with the kids all around him while Abby’s training at home was coming along very nicely. Karen did the majority of the work. On November 5th, 1993 (20 years ago this Tuesday), Modoc suffered a torsional twist of his intestine and we had to send him up. There went our newly formed mounted detail with only having two members. So, Karen and I went on the road to find a replacement, “police horse.”

The owner of every horse we looked at (and you’ll see a lot of the poem in all of this) thought their horse would make an excellent police horse. Go figure… used car salesmen. We looked at many different breeds, levels of training and such, but with each horse I would look at and/or ride, I would tell Karen that something was missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. She began to pick up on it much sooner than I and started telling me to use Abby. She said that Abby isn’t as big or flashy as Modoc, but she has the “mentality” that you are not feeling in these other horses. She was right.

As I began to work with Abby for police work, she went from a moderate dominance to a dominant horse. When putting on the department saddle pad and broken stick, it was as if her demeanor created a horse another hand taller. Resolute in action while gentle in manner, is the best way I can describe her as an, “officer.”

She made the adjective ‘diva’, into a noun, “Diva.” When not performing in the arena, she knew when a camera was focused on her and would look at it as we walked the street, posing from side to side as the cameras came up to focus on, her. She was a mare, though. She loved the strokes and attention only for the first few hundred, then I had to direct folks to stroke her neck and shoulder for she was tired of the face thing and I had to be cognizant of the colt disciplinary nip.

She was like a police dog when hearing the handcuff case unsnap, knowing that was when it may go to crap. We had chased a thief through the parking lot of the fair and pinned him up against a pickup truck. I dropped the reins to go hands on with him and when she heard my handcuff case unsnap, I felt her lean just a little bit more into him to hold him in place as I cuffed him from her back.

Another instance was after I arrested an intoxicated fellow who was seated on the ground in front of a raised planter bed (the Mammoth statue at Mammoth Mountain). The arrestee’s buddy was being mouthy and getting too close to the 10-15 (arrestee). I’d had enough and put Abby up in between the two. The buddy went off yelling about how he was going to sue, have my horse (a bit more colorful language) etc… All the while we were quietly side-passing (a gentle sideways movement by the horse) him back. As the guy was yelling, I noticed with each side pass step, Abby took a bite of flowers and was enjoying the smorgasbord. Very concerned.

This is my favorite involving the fireplug, (Officer, now Sergeant) Danny Nolan (of Bishop PD): We had a fight on the Mule Days parade route in front of the park because someone was blocking someone else’s view. Go figure. We went into the crowd to secure the area for the guys on foot, and here comes Danny with his “take-command” walk as he came upon the scene that we had secured. His approach was aggressive/determined and Abby read it. Without command, she began to side pass him back.

“HEY, I’m a good guy!” Danny told her.

Needless to say, Modoc and Abby were the ones that set the wild horse mentality apart, “for us.”

Lisa Whitney, Ventura Co SO
Lisa Whitney, Ventura Co SO

I’ve only written two poems in my life, Abby’s and, Mounted Patrol. Both encompass what we experienced together and that bond. Mounted patrol I wrote after a friend, Officer Lisa Whitney was killed in the line of duty while in her investigator’s unit (a t/c). She was also a mounted officer with Ventura S.O. and then of course, later also dedicated to Rich. “The ride for now is over, the tack is recounted…” at the end of the poem refers to the death of the officer or the mount.  I’ll attach it along with the press release that our PIO did so well with some of the info I gave her.

Between the two poems, you can see what the inspiration was to write both of them.

Like I said, it’s pretty doggone hard to condense!

A long story to be sure, but worth reading.