January 13, 2008

Retiring Mesquite Chief Gary Westphal to Lend Voice to Police Forum: Veteran Mesquite Officer Known for Innovation to Lend Voice to Consultant Group

By Richard Abshire, The Dallas Morning News

Jan. 13--Gary Westphal is a lawman and a Mesquite guy at heart, and his retirement after 35 years with the Mesquite Police Department, the last six as chief, isn't going to change that.

"I plan to be active with the Senior Texas Police Chiefs' Forum," he said.

The forum is a brainchild he shares with dozens of other retired professionals. It will be a consortium of former chiefs and city managers that will offer consulting services to law enforcement agencies.

"We want to try to involve ourselves in controversial issues with cities that need a rational and logical voice," Mr. Westphal said.

He expects that will leave him plenty of freedom to look after his investments, participate in the program he helped start for Mesquite officers' spouses, and enjoy time with his family, especially wife Susan.

"It's time for me to divorce this police department and get back to being married to my wife," he said. "She's got a smile on her face."

The smile was evident in her voice over the phone.

"I think it's about time," she said. "I'm ready."

One project they are considering, Ms. Westphal said, is moving out of the north Mesquite neighborhood where they grew up and raised their children.

But it won't be far away.

"We were raised here, we raised our kids here, and we're not going to go too far from Mesquite," she said.

She's also looking forward to traveling with friends.

For years, when she and Mr. Westphal made travel plans, something always seemed to come up, and he couldn't make it.

There were times when he got phone calls at home or had to go back in to work every night for months on end, she said.

Their younger daughter, Kasey, used to worry about him. She would sleep on a couch in the living room until he came home. Today, she is married to a Mesquite police detective.

That makes her the third generation with ties to law enforcement. Her grandfather, Mr. Westphal's dad, Roy, retired as a lieutenant from the Dallas Police Department.

Mr. Westphal announced his retirement Tuesday. His last day on duty will be Jan. 31, but he will remain available to the city until later this year.

City Manager Ted Barron named Assistant Chief Bill Hobson to be interim chief.

Throughout his career, and especially as head of the department, Mr. Westphal has been known as an innovator. It was his idea to send recruiters to South Padre Island for spring break, for example, because he knew the beaches would be full of upperclassmen faced with making career choices.

The list of programs he helped start fills three typed pages.

It includes Slama Bama Jama and What If? -- programs that teach middle school students the importance of making good decisions and staying away from drugs.

Tasked with attacking a growing gang problem in the late 1980s, he favored approaches that stressed prevention and interdiction as well as enforcement. The School Resource Officer program, with a staff of 20, was one of the results.

"Mesquite had its one and only gang-related homicide in August 1990," Mr. Westphal said.

Mr. Westphal said he was grateful for the support of the community, City Council and Mr. Barron, whose motto, the chief said, is: "Do what's right."

Mr. Westphal said he has enjoyed his career and shares credit for his successes with the men and women of the Police Department, both sworn and civilian employees.

"We have high standards," he said. "We only hire the best."

That certainly includes Assistant Chief Morell Cotton, a childhood friend who joined the department two years before him, and who also announced his retirement last week.

His plans?

"To be retired," said Mr. Cotton, who is known for not wasting words.

"It's been a good run," Mr. Westphal said. "Now it's time for the old to go out and the new to come in."


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