By the time you read this our resident deputy, Craig Walker, is already policing the sedate streets of Moraga. Deputy Walker's departure is a big loss for the Anderson Valley where he'd become a crucial member of our wildly diverse community.
A ten-year resident of Philo, the popular deputy sheriff had successfully filled the huge shoes of the legendary Keith Squires, a lawman who functioned as Anderson Valley's stern patriarch for almost forty years. Where Squires was big and tough when he had to be but gruffly understanding as he maintained order in Anderson Valley's rambunctious family all those years, the less physically imposing Deputy Walker managed to seem just as large and just as authoritative, but more like the sensible uncle.
In his decade as the Valley's go-to guy, "Craig," as he was familiarly known to most of us, was never a source of complaints about how he handled this or that matter, much of it resolved informally via his freely dispensed private cell phone number, a gift he must have occasionally regretted. Few people would have been reluctant to call him at whatever the time of day or night to intervene in matters large and small. In these fragmented times, Mendocino County's resident deputies are often the one person in the community who knows everyone in it, and Walker, like Squires before him, knew everyone in the Anderson Valley, often resolving matters informally that might otherwise have resulted in an arrest by an officer less familiar with his patch.
The deputy's more vivid memories of his ten years? "Lots of them," he says, before rattling off the names of the Anderson Valley's most vivid characters including Vince Ballew, Dino Mariani, the fun-loving rover boys of Navarro, not to mention the occasional call to round up wandering livestock, the last an experience his prior work as a Berkeley police officer never included.
"And," Walker recalls, "there was the dramatic shooting near Philo when Bobby Kuny shot Lorenzo Rodriguez. I won't forget that one." Kuny, a high school student, shot Rodriguez at point blank range with a faulty legacy revolver as Rodriguez menaced Kuny's mother. Rodriguez, miraculously, was released from the hospital three days later, in plenty of time to be processed on into state prison. "It's not like I'll ever forget this place," an already nostalgic Walker insists. "I'll miss it for sure."
"That one," remembers the deputy, "wasn't dangerous in the way the Del Fiorentino tragedy was." In that awful Fort Bragg episode Walker arrived on scene when, as one of the first responders, it wasn't clear what was happening. Were there two shooters? One, as it turned out, had been seen running for cover but was determined not to have been involved. Del Fiorentino's killer, a young meth addict on a murderous rampage out of Oregon, was shot and killed by Lt. John Naulty of the Fort Bragg Police Department. As most of us know, and as Walker's long experience, certifies "hard drugs has made police work more dangerous than it's ever been."
Oddly, Walker recalls feeling the most personally menaced when, as contract negotiator for the upgraded detective's contract, the "math-challenged" sleuths he was representing did not understand their new contract that Walker had painstakingly worked out for them; it was a significantly better contract than they'd ever had. "This new deal contained a lot of benefits, including bonuses and shift differentials and special duty pay. “Yet the detectives somehow felt they had been shortchanged and that I'd done them dirty. It took a while to calm them down and explain what the contract was before things settled down."
His position as president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association put Walker, who worked as a money manager before getting back into police work, in an awkward position. He had to negotiate with county officials, the sheriff himself, and an outspoken law enforcement union membership which included some very irritating welfare fraud investigators. (The regular cops don't think welfare fraud work is a real police job.)
Sergeant Quincy Cromer will replace Walker on the county's pension oversight board. (Presumably, Cromer's math skills are current and Mendo cops have upgraded theirs.)
Deputy Walker seems to have a tendency to self-excruciate. He has somehow also found the time to serve on the Anderson Valley School Board in the wake of sandbox-quality tensions at Anderson Valley's elementary school and a revolving door school board. Enter Walker, peace and stability reigns in the elementary hen house. For now.
We were surprised to learn that Deputy Walker had accumulated a large file of Anderson Valley's "usual suspects," complete with their photos, backgrounds, tendencies and known associates. He laughed when we said we'd love to have a copy of that slam dunk front pager, but the deputy says he has already turned the file over to Luis Espinosa, a department detective born and raised in the Anderson Valley. "I hope it will be of as much help to Anderson Valley's next resident deputy as Deputy Squires was to me when I first got here."
Walker estimated that he has 3-5 more years in law enforcement before retirement but has no plans to retire any time soon. He said that his experience in Anderson Valley was every bit as good as he expected it to be when he started out, "even though it has had its aggravations and frustrations at times."
He said he was particularly grateful to Marv and Bev Dutra and the Unity Club for their work in arranging for his long-time canine partner Zeke, the deputy's faithful four-footed back-up who will accompany Craig to Moraga. "Zeke was essential to me and dogs are essential to any other deputy patrolling remote places where we can't get backup very easily. In a number of cases, just the presence of the dog provided officer safety and was a calming influence approaching and confronting suspects."
The deputy "will be in and out of the valley" over the next few weeks and promises to visit regularly, a promise he can be counted on to keep.