Public memorial being planned for Bill Kolender - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Public memorial being planned for Bill Kolender

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Family, friends and members of the law enforcement community were mourning Wednesday former San Diego Police Chief and county Sheriff Bill Kolender, who died after a battle with Alzheimer's disease Tuesday at age 80.

Kolender, a fixture of San Diego law enforcement, had suffered from Alzheimer's disease since retiring in 2009. His more than 50-year local law enforcement career included 13 years as police chief and 14 as sheriff.

San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who was hired by Kolender in 1982, said she would miss him deeply and was grateful she had the privilege of working for him.

"Our hearts are heavy and all of our thoughts and prayers are with his family as we all grieve the loss of a legend," Zimmerman said. "Please keep Bill in your thoughts as you go about your day, for although he may be gone, his memory and his legacy will continue for a lifetime."

Current Sheriff Bill Gore recalled that the lawman who "seemed, in many respects, larger than life" delivered the eulogy at the funeral of his father, Assistant Police Chief William D. Gore.

"He cared deeply for the frontline deputies and officers who worked for him and loved them as family," Gore said. "Thus, for many of us, this loss is deeply personal. It certainly is for me, as he has been a close friend of my family for many years."

A statement from the National City Police Department said Kolender "holds a special place in San Diego's heart."

"Sheriff Kolender was a pioneer in changing how (law enforcement) interacted with the community," according to the statement. "He had a knack for showing compassion, humor and humility."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer heralded Kolender as "a legend in local law enforcement circles" and "a great San Diegan."

"As San Diego's police chief in the 1970s and 1980s, Bill Kolender was a leader who championed community-oriented policing and established the city's first civilian review panel on police practices," Faulconer said. "His influence still resonates decades later, and he will be dearly missed."

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis credited Kolender, her mentor and friend, with being "a pioneer in changing how law enforcement interacted with the community."

"During his time as sheriff and San Diego police chief, Kolender engaged the community and challenged his officers to provide the best possible public safety for San Diego County," she said. "He was a warm, funny and calming presence during some of San Diego's most painful events."

Among those tragic milestones were the crash of PSA Flight 182 in North Park in 1978, a mass shooting that killed 22 people at a San Ysidro McDonald's restaurant in 1984 and historic wildfires that ravaged the region in 2003 and 2007.

Kolender, a Chicago native and San Diego State University graduate, became one of the SDPD's youngest sergeants at age 26. He continued rising steadily and rapidly through the agency's ranks, becoming chief in 1976.

Gore said Kolender is widely recognized as the author of community-oriented policing and set the standard for partnership among agencies.

Kolender worked early in his tenure as chief to ban racism and sexism in the ranks of the SDPD, promising to fire violators following a second offense, according to the San Diego Police Historical Association. He also established the department's service-dog program in the early 1980s.

However, his lengthy tenure as chief was not free of scandal. In 1986, then-City Manager John Lockwood reprimanded Kolender for fixing traffic tickets for relatives and others, improperly using municipal staffers and equipment for personal benefit, failing to report gifts on conflict-of-interest disclosures and helping a friend skirt a 15-day waiting period for buying a gun. Kolender responded by telling reporters he was embarrassed and regretted the improprieties.

After retiring from the department in 1988, he worked for a time as an assistant publisher for the Union-Tribune. In 1991, he was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson as a director of the California Youth Authority, a role in which he lobbied for rehabilitation programs for youthful offenders.

He was sworn in as San Diego County sheriff in 1995, and went on to be re-elected to the post three times.

A private memorial will be held Friday. Kolender's family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 6632 Convoy St., San Diego, CA 92111.

It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of Sheriff Bill Kolender. He died this morning, surrounded by family, after a valiant battle with Alzheimer's Disease. When Bill was elected the 28th Sheriff of San Diego County in 1994, he was already a legend in law enforcement. His life's calling began with the San Diego Police Department in 1956, as a patrol officer and his professional career spanned more than 50 years. In 1975, at the age of 40, he was appointed Chief of the San Diego Police Department, and served with distinction in that office for 13 years. He is widely recognized as the author of community oriented policing and forged strong relations with leaders in San Diego's minority communities. Bill set the standard for true partnership amongst agencies. When the Chiefs and Sheriff meet on a regular basis, egos are left at the door – a legacy from Bill Kolender.

After his retirement from the San Diego Police Department, he was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson to serve as Director of the California Youth Authority, where he championed rehabilitation programs for the state's youngest serious offenders. Bill was one of the first to realize incarceration is not the complete answer to rehabilitation. Educational programs, and re-entry initiatives were another of his innovations.

When Bill was sworn into the office of Sheriff in 1995, he took control of a department that had been through a hard-fought election. Working alongside Undersheriff Jack Drown, Sheriff Kolender took on the challenge of bringing together the department and turning it into a professional team with a common purpose and shared mission. Under his leadership, public confidence in this department was enhanced. He was re-elected as Sheriff in 1998, 2002, and 2006.

Recognized wherever he went in San Diego, Sheriff Kolender seemed, in many respects, larger than life. Yet, what we will remember most about him will be his personal touch. When a deputy was injured, he could be counted on to be standing at the hospital bed. During his days as Chief, and then Sheriff, he was called upon to deliver news a family never wants to hear – that their loved one was killed in the line of duty. He often reflected it was the hardest thing he ever did. He cared deeply for the frontline deputies and officers who worked for him and loved them as family. Thus, for many of us, this loss is deeply personal. It certainly is for me, as he has been a close friend of my family for many years. He delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Assistant Police Chief William D. Gore, my father.

A memorial service is in the planning stage and details will be forthcoming. Flags at all Sheriff's Department facilities will be lowered to half staff to salute this hero and friend.

Below is a statement from District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on the passing of Sheriff William Kolender:

"I am heartbroken that my friend and mentor, Sheriff Bill Kolender, left us after a long illness. Today, San Diego lost a true law enforcement hero and legend. Sheriff Kolender will always hold a special place in my heart and that of my family. He was a pioneer in changing how law enforcement interacted with the community and providing his deputies and officers the tools they needed to be professional organizations. During his time as Sheriff and San Diego Police Chief, Kolender engaged the community and challenged his officers to provide the best possible public safety for San Diego County. He was a warm, funny and calming presence during some of San Diego's most painful events.
 
In addition to his professional expertise, Sheriff Kolender had a knack for knowing when to show compassion, support and humility. I will never forget how he visited my dad at the hospital before he died. Sheriff Kolender placed a small Sheriff's pin on my dad's hospital robe, which meant so much to my family during our time of need."

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