A 97-year-old Texas deputy who has notched up 74 years on the job has officially been recognised as the “oldest working law enforcement officer in the world,” according to the Chisholm Trail Museum.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Hardin told KTVT that he is feeling “pretty good for an old guy,” and that he has no intention of retiring from the force.
“I’m going to keep doing this until the sheriff runs me out,” he told the news outlet. “If I can make it to 75, I may go ahead and retire.”
Deputy Hardin’s epic law enforcement career began in 1947 when he joined the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD), he said during a 2018 interview.
He can still recall his first day on the job.
“They were only hiring people who were at least 23 years old. I was only 22, but I was going to be 23 in a month, so they went ahead and hired me,” Deputy Hardin told the Cleburne Times-Review in 2013.
“When I got on the bus, I was in full uniform, except for my cap shield and my badge.
“When I got [to the red granite building that housed the police department], they gave me my cap shield, my badge, a call box key and a plastic whistle,” he said. “I worked a six-day week, and I made $165 a month.”
While working as an FWPD narcotics officer in 1970, he and a group of fellow officers founded the Texas Narcotics Officers Association.
He also worked as a police academy instructor during his FWPD career.
After retiring from Fort Worth in 1985, Deputy Hardin went on to serve another eight years at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office before he again retired, the Cleburne Times-Review reported.
Deputy Hardin then joined the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and will celebrate his 27th year with the department in June.
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King described Deputy Hardin as a “people-person” who takes the time to talk with the local citizens he serves.
“We want him to know that he is important to us and he’s important to the community,” Sheriff King told KTVT.
Deputy Hardin said he is humbled and appreciative of the honour.
During his 2018 interview, Deputy Hardin acknowledged that society had changed a lot during his seven decades of service.
“When I [first started], there was, more or less, a respect – more than now – for police officers,” he explained. “You didn’t have that much to worry about. But the way things are right now, I would say that you would have to be 100 per cent alert at all times.”
He said that developing that alertness is a must for new officers.
“The first thing I’d do would have them to be sure that they can see out of the back of their head,” Deputy Hardin said. “You know, you gotta wonder what’s going on behind you.”
“I’ve learned over the years, it’s not the body inside the uniform, it’s the uniform,” he told KTVT. “I don’t understand why…every time you get out on the street, you’re a target.”
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