Beloved Arvin police lieutenant, retiring after 43 years, signs off

Local News

ARVIN, Calif. (KGET) — For the City of Arvin, it’s the end of an era. Lt. Olan Armstrong, who had two distinct careers with the Arvin Police Department, has called it quits after a combined 43 years.

Arvin is one of those small towns where everyone tends to know everyone and when they stick around for half a century, a lot of people get to know them, which makes it harder to say goodbye when it’s their time to go.

That’s the case with Armstrong, who’s been walking the streets of Arvin his entire life — 69 years — including 43 in the uniform blues of the Arvin Police Department.

Armstrong was just 20 and a couple of years out of Arvin High School when he joined the Arvin Police force in 1972. He admits it wasn’t an ideal fit so after 12 years he quit.

The Olan Armstrong who returned to the ranks of the Arvin P.D. six years later was different.

“It’s like I was more mellow,” he said. “I just had a different feeling, you know? I could tell that I was different. It not only made me a better police officer, it probably made me a better person.”

This new Olan Armstrong was a more approachable cop. But, says Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, he was not a pushover either.

“Don’t mistake that for weakness,” he said. “Olan is a big teddy bear but you piss him off and then he can be the real policeman. He’s such a good guy. He knew what community policing was 40 years ago when nobody else did.”

{When Armstrong got started that community had a population of  barely 5,000. It’s still no metropolis, but today Arvin, population 23,000, has many of the problems that come with growth.

Armstrong has been at the fore of the fight, not only in the traditional sense, but behind the scenes, working with businesses and community organizations. One that has been especially dear to his heart is the Explorer program, which gives kids a glimpse of the duties and responsibilities of being a cop.

Jasmin Garcia, who is the Arvin Explorer program’s adviser, was among the friends, family and colleagues who gathered Monday for his retirement luncheon. 

.”The kids just love him,” she said. “He’s great with the Explorers, he’s great with everybody in the community. And people in the community come up to him all the time. I grew up in Arvin so I already knew who he was. He’s very well known in the city. He’s just a good guy.”

And what does Armstrong have to say to the people of Arvin?

“Oh, I don’t know, Probably just ‘thank you,'” he said, swallowing hard.

It was mid-afternoon when Armstrong climbed into an APD patrol car for the traditional end-of-shift sign off.

“On behalf of the Arvin Police Department and the City of Arvin,” the dispatcher said over the two-way radio, “we would like to give you a heartfelt thank you and thank you for 43 years of service to our community and for your time as lieutenant.”

Armstrong waited a couple of beats to let the moment sink in before responding.

“Ten-four,” he said.

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