So Pas Motor Officer William “Bill” Earley is retiring after 32 years of service. A long time by anyone’s standards. He has seen just about everything and has served the local police department in just about every capacity.
Earley has been a drug recognition expert, theft investigator, sexual assault investigator, senior detective in charge of detective bureau, certified arson/explosive investigator, and, of course, a patrol officer.
The veteran also created a warrant due diligence program here in So Pas along with a warrant amnesty program and a vehicle booting program for “scofflaws,” he said.
Earley has successfully investigated and prosecuted numerous felony cases he characterized as “serious” in state and federal court, including attempted murder, fraud and robbery. The burly cop also has investigated, apprehended and prosecuted a serial arsonist responsible for dozens of fires in South Pasadena, neighboring Pasadena and even Los Angeles. His rank is corporal and he likes it that way.
He says that he turned down several promotions because he’s not a politician, he’s a cop. Early uses the term “cop” because it’s what he’s wanted to be ever since he was a child growing up on the southside of Chicago.
“I grew up on the southside of Chicago, a somewhat rough neighborhood,” Earley said during a lengthy sit-down interview in The Review offices, where the veteran law enforcement officer reminisced about his career. “I was one of eight kids, seven boys and a girl. My dad has a lot of respect for cops. He was a crane operator. And the fact that he respected them showed me a lot. He explained to me that the reason I sleep in a bed at night safely is because the cops were out there taking care of our families. I always looked up to police officers from that point (on).”
He was so enamored with police officers that he put himself through the Rio Hondo police academy without any affiliation.
“It’s called pre-service,” Earley said. “You have to buy your own equipment, your own ammo. You have to pay the tuition. I graduated with straight A’s and was picked up by So Pas and started Oct. 25, 1986.”
To say that Earley hit the ground running would be an understatement.
“I was excited,” he said. “I had a foot pursuit my first day. There were fights every week. It was very, very active and the entire time there has been a lot of support from South Pasadena, all the residents. You know, I wanted to work in a place where it was worth risking my life for and I feel here that has been true, always. I’ve been in fist fights where residents have come to help me. Where (in) a lot of other cities (it) would be the opposite.”
Earley did offer a caveat to his So Pas support, saying that sometimes the City has not been as supportive as it could have been.
Because he loves being a police officer, he said it’s time to move on and it’s not with a smile or optimism. He’s doing it because things are not the way they used to be.
“It’s time for me to go because I can’t be a cop anymore,” Earley said. “Everything is a misdemeanor now, heroin, cocaine, everything is a ticket. So what’s the deterrent? It’s horrible.
I’m leaving the state because of what the governor has done. We are not safe anymore.”
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 109 reducing some drug-related sentences to misdemeanors and subsequently caused the release of hundreds of state prisoners. Brown’s motivation at the time was to ease the overcrowding in state prisons. Earley said he is no fan of the governor and believes that the state now is a lot less safe than 30 years ago.
His son is a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff stationed in Lancaster and he’s concerned.
“My son’s been a deputy for L.A. for two years now and I feel bad for him having to start in this environment,” Earley said.
As Earley approaches his last day, Oct. 25, he does acknowledge the people he’s worked alongside are the best.
And his sentiment about his co-workers is shared by those he’s worked alongside for the past 32 years.
Interim police Chief Brain Solinsky, who’s been on the department for 25 years, said Earley is one of the best law enforcement officers he’s ever worked with.
“Police Officer Bill Earley is a name woven into the fabric of the South Pasadena Police Department,” Solinsky said in an email to The Review. “He is a cop’s cop, and understands that the role of a police officer is one of service and dedication to the citizens in which we serve. He took that perspective seriously from the start of his career to his very last day. Whether it be the time when he won the Medal of Valor by rushing into a burning building to rescue an elderly women, or when he used his own money to build an entry ramp for a disabled person so they could get in and out of their home. He is always a professional with a big heart. He has been a tremendous assist to the organization. Long after Bill leaves, his legacy will have lasting effects on the department through the officers he has trained. He was my first training officer and I am grateful for the opportunity to have stood in the ranks with him.”
The sentiment is not lost on Earley, who said it’s the people that matter. Whether it’s citizens helping him during a struggle or fellow officers backing him up during an arrest. He said the people are the most important.
“I will miss the comradery the most,” Earley said. “I have really enjoyed the people here in South Pasadena. That has made this entire experience, all the ups and downs, worthwhile.”