By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Colleagues honor former police chief
john johnson
Retired Turlock Police Chief John Johnson (center) was presented with a special award of recognition for his years of service to the community of Turlock. Surrounding Johnson are some of the individuals he hired during his tenure, many of whom now hold command staff positions with the department. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD/The Journal

The Turlock Police Department gave a special award to former department chief John Johnson for his years of service to the community and his ongoing support for the department.

Johnson served in Turlock Police Department from 1967 to 1993 and was the chief of police from 1979 to his retirement in 1993.

“I’m really honored by this,” Johnson said of the award.

Johnson’s career in law enforcement began when he took an interest in his brother-in-law’s position as a sheriff’s deputy. He started taking correspondence courses in criminal justice while working his day job in construction. Once finished with the coursework he applied with the Turlock Police Department and was hired on as a patrol officer.

“Coming from construction I thought how am I ever going to get used to having three days off,” Johnson said. “My sergeant at the time told me that on my first day off I would probably have a subpoena for court, so I could forget about that day. On the second day, he said the wife will want you to do things around the house, so that day is gone. But if I was real inventive I might just get a whole day off on the third day.”

Johnson’s work ethic helped him rise through the ranks until in 1979 he was approached by the city manager to be the interim chief of police.

“I asked if I could have some time to think about it, and he said sure, you can have till five o’clock,” Johnson said. “Well, it was already one o’clock.”

Johnson took the interim position and a few months later the city council appointed him the new chief.

“I almost fell out of my chair,” Johnson said of being offered the position.

During his time at the helm, Johnson was responsible for increasing the department’s public involvement and oversaw the implementation of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education in Turlock’s schools. He was also responsible for increasing the staffing level at the police department and some of those people he hired now fill the department’s command staff positions.

“When I look at them it makes me want to pop the buttons off my chest,” Johnson said. “I’m so proud of them all.”

During those hiring times, Johnson made sure he got a chance to interview each qualified applicant and always had one question he would ask of them all.

“I would ask them if they had someone special in their life, someone they can always count on and someone they can talk to when they’ve had a bad day,” Johnson said. “Sometimes they would look at me a little funny, so I’d explain that this is a job that you cannot do by yourself. It will test you in ways you never thought and you’ll need someone there for support.”

Johnson said his someone special has been his wife Carol, who raised their six children.