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Chief Spreine to step down

January 14, 2005

Barbara Diamond

Laguna Beach will be looking for a new police chief.

James Spreine, who has helped protect lives and the property in

Laguna Beach for more than 21 years, announced Tuesday that he will

retire in late October or early November.

"My heart is here, but there comes a time when you have to let go

and step aside and let others step up," Spreine said. "And it will

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give me more time with my beautiful wife."

Spreine and his wife, Linda, a lieutenant in the Orange County

Sheriff's Department, are a two-chief family, at least until she

retires Jan. 19 as Laguna Niguel's Chief of Police Services.

The Spreines are building a home in Sequim, across the Olympic

Peninsula from Seattle, where they will settle after retirement.

"Jim has done a fabulous job of making the police department

visible and accessible to the community," Mayor Elizabeth Pearson

said. "He is one of us and he will be sorely missed."

A law man to the core who finds it hard to resist the call to

duty, Spreine expects that he, and perhaps his wife, might get

restless after the edge is off the joys of retirement and consider

taking short interim jobs while departments seek permanent chiefs, or

the couple could serve as consultants.

Spreine will take into retirement the memories -- good and bad --

of almost 35 years in law enforcement. Asked about his worst memory,

Spreine said two were tied.

"The first was the storm when we lost two lives," Spreine said.

"I don't blame the department or myself after this many years or

even then. But when your career is based on protecting life and

property and you do, in fact, lose a couple of lives due to such a

horrific and catastrophic event, it is very hard on you, your

department and your profession.

"So, I took that very seriously. It really did bother me and it

bothers me to this day. "

The second worst memory is the day rookie officer Larry Bammer was

shot.

"It was quite frightening for me," Spreine said. "I think it is a

chief's greatest fear to have an officer shot or killed in the line

of duty. That was a difficult day.

"I don't want to short anyone, but those are the two that

immediately spring to my mind."

On the other hand: there are good memories.

"I didn't know it at the time, but when I accepted the offer to be

a police lieutenant in the city of Laguna Beach and became a member

of the Laguna Beach Police Department it was the best moment in my

career, other than when Linda said she would marry me. Everything

after that has been good."

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