Commander retires after one long ride

During 40-year career, John Anderson watched town, police department grow

Posted 5/29/18

There was a time when the Castle Rock Police Department was a force of merely four officers. Today, the town is approaching a population of 65,000, and the department has grown with it, to 75 …

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Commander retires after one long ride

During 40-year career, John Anderson watched town, police department grow

Posted

There was a time when the Castle Rock Police Department was a force of merely four officers.

Today, the town is approaching a population of 65,000, and the department has grown with it, to 75 officers. Longtime Cmdr. John Anderson, hired in 1978 at barely 22 years old, has seen it all.

He’s spent all of his 62 years living in Douglas County, watching the town’s growth as a resident and an officer.

Anderson has seen “huge, huge culture changes” in the community. From “ranching communities to watching them succumb to developments,” he said.

“You grow with it,” he said. “You look for new ways to be better.”

Officially retired as of May 17, Anderson walked into the police department roughly one week prior — dressed in a black cowboy hat, jeans, boots and flannel — to reflect on his 40 years in law enforcement. When he wasn’t in uniform, Anderson could be found on his family’s ranch. That week, he was busy bottle feeding a couple calves whose mothers died.

Anderson smiled big and cracked jokes. He’d come back to the station after retiring, Anderson told the department’s public information officer, Joe Cybert, just to give him a hard time.

Over the years, Anderson has run for sheriff, climbed the ranks from patrol to commander and twice acted as the interim police chief. His most challenging calls, he said, were in the early days, when sometimes he would have to break up bar fights between bikers — by himself.

Everybody knew him, said Sgt. Marc Ruisi, whom Anderson helped hire in 1985. By then, the department was a force of 11 officers.

Anderson left his post as the longest tenured employee of Castle Rock.

Overcoming the grind

Police Chief Jack Cauley met Anderson during the chief’s hiring process in 2011. Since then, the department has turned to Anderson for advice on various occasions, particularly when running special events, Cauley said. Why was this route chosen in the past? Why was this policy in place? Often, Anderson could provide answers.

He brought the kind of historical knowledge, both of the community and the police department, that’s only accumulated with time.

Cauley said it’s rare to find someone who devoted their life to any one profession.

“It’s hard to really describe how much dedication it takes to serve in the capacity of a law enforcement officer for 40 years,” Cauley said. “Law enforcement is a profession that, you’re never off the clock. It’s stressful. It can be hard on your personal life, and you are asked to put your life on the line to serve others.”

The grind wears some officers down by the time they reach retirement, Cauley said.

“John is as happy today as he was when I met him 6 1/2 years ago. That’s the piece I think is pretty neat,” Cauley said.

What made Anderson stand out was his ability and willingness to change with the times, Cauley said.

Ruisi has come to know Anderson well in their 33 years working together, he said. He calls Anderson a good officer, who could be strict when needed, but skilled at connecting with the community as well.

“I’ve been here for three chiefs, and during that time, Cmdr. Anderson has been the chief twice, the interim chief,” Ruisi said. “He always was able to maintain the direction of the police department and keep it going.”

‘A wild town’

Castle Rock, when he started in the 1970s, was “kind of a wild town,” Anderson said. A rural stop along the interstate, it wasn’t uncommon for biker gangs like the Hells Angels or the Sons of Silence to pull through. Anderson recalled breaking up a couple bar fights among them.

“When I hired on, there was four of us. The word `backup’ was nonexistent,” he said. “You did everything. You did your own investigations, did your own follow-ups. You responded to calls, whether it be animal control or shootings.”

In the 1980s, Anderson responded to reports of two roommates arguing in an apartment that once sat near where The Barn and The Emporium are today. Anderson told the men to work things out, and with no evidence of a crime, left the residence.

But his gut told him to stay nearby. He drove around the block and waited. Roughly 20 minutes later, reports came in that one man had shot the other. He pulled back around the block, strapped on a helmet, then part of department policy, and ran toward the apartment.

“As I’m running, I could hear bang, bang, bang,” Anderson said, explaining the shooter took aim at him when he saw a police officer approaching.

“I was too quick,” he added, with a laugh.

When Anderson got to the apartment, he tried kicking in the door. His foot went right through and got stuck.

“I’ll never forget it,” he said.

Once he’d freed his leg, he peered through the hole and saw a man dash by. He then reached through and unlocked the door’s deadbolt. Gun raised, he braced himself against a wall as he saw the armed man standing over his injured roommate, poised to shoot again. Suddenly, the chief arrived, and the two arrested the gunman.

Always a rancher

On his last day of work, Anderson left the station, not in a vehicle, but on horseback. He rode to the top of the town’s iconic Rock to look down at the town he helped police for 40 years.

Looking back, Anderson said he’s most proud of the people he helped hire within the department. He focused on finding community-minded officers who could make a personal connection, no matter how rapidly the town grew.

In retirement, Anderson said he’ll stay busy, like he always has. His wife, Lisa, the town clerk, helps him on the ranch, and they have three sons, one of whom works as an officer for the Denver Police Department. Lisa said he’d always given his time to the community — from serving on boards to running toy drives before there were established programs that did so.

He doesn’t bowl or play golf and was too busy on his family’s ranch growing up to pick up skiing. Instead, he rode bulls and bucking horses. His favorite hobby today, breaking horses, is also part of his work on the ranch.

Anderson said he’ll stay focused on Douglas County’s old way of life, ranching. He may also try to expand his cattle operation.

“Probably go as far as I can with that,” he said, “Until I’m in a physical position where I can no longer do it.”

One week after his last day, that’s exactly what he was doing, Lisa said.

“I know his passion has always been ranching. He’s done it his whole life,” Lisa said. “In fact, he’s out checking cattle right now on his horse.”

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