Roberto Hernandez; The Press-Enterprise December 11, 2000, Monday Copyright 2000 The Press Enterprise Co. THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE (RIVERSIDE, CA.) December 11, 2000, Monday
(COLTON, Calif.) -- Police work has changed considerably during the span of Colton Police Lt. Bruce Rauch's 30-year law enforcement career.
During the early 1970s, he and other officers drove big Mercury cruisers with a single rotating red light on the roof referred to either as a "bubblegum machine" or a "coffee grinder." Cops were armed with large revolvers -- the type commonly seen in cowboy westerns.
And computers? Virtually unheard of in police work, much less installed as essential equipment in patrol cars, he said.
But what has remained constant is the zeal Rauch has for his job.
"I love the action," he said. "Where else do they pay you money and give you a new car, a badge and a gun and tell you to find trouble?"
Rauch, 54, will retire Dec. 29 after 26 years with the Colton Police Department. He said his last day on the job will be like his first -- in uniform, on patrol.
"You come back to where you started," he said. "It's kind of a tradition."
Several fellow officers praised Rauch for his integrity, dedication and his prominent role in community outreach programs that allow police to interact with the community they serve.
"I'll tell you, he's one of the good guys in law enforcement," said Sgt. Bob Miller, who will replace Rauch as patrol commander. "Bruce was doing community policing way before it became popular."
Rauch first got a taste of law enforcement during a two-year stint in the Army, where he was assigned to work as a military police officer. After his police academy training, Rauch was hired by the Inyo County Sheriff's Department in June 1970 as a deputy. He patrolled the town of Independence, a rural community with a population of less than 400 people. Rauch, who was born and raised in Riverside, said his graduating class was larger than the number of residents he served.
One night in Independence, Rauch was awakened by a late-night phone call and had to respond to a report of a bear scavenging in trash cans. He managed to scare the wild -- and hungry -- beast away using his spotlight and the red light on his patrol car. But the bear gave Rauch a scare, too.
"For a city boy, the only bear I had ever seen was in a zoo," he said, chuckling.
After four years, Rauch and his wife tired of country living and decided it was time to "get back to civilization."
He started working for the Colton Police Department in June 1974. He has had various assignments, including patrol sergeant, internal affairs sergeant, public information officer and SWAT commander.
He has organized programs such as the Colton Community Park Days, when officers display police equipment such as motorcycles and SWAT gear at a local park. Rauch organized the Colton Christmas Festival of Lights, in which officers and their spouses and children drive throughout the city in patrol cars and hand out candy.
Among the changes he has seen is the switch from bulky, standard-issue police revolvers to smaller, lightweight semiautomatic handguns. Gas-guzzling police cruisers -- sans power steering -- slowly disappeared as smaller economy models were introduced. He began using a computer in police work during the early 1980s.
One thing that hasn't changed is his outlook.
"Let me tell you something: I love this job," he said. "I've had a job that I've loved doing for 30 years. . . . I'm going to miss the guys."