Nearly his entire adult life, Brian Shimmel has worn a uniform. This month he becomes a civilian for the first time in over 30 years as he is retiring from the Oakdale Police Department at the rank of sergeant.
At age 18 in 1984, Shimmel, from Clearfield, Pennsylvania, enlisted in the US Marine Corps and for more than 15 years, earning the rank of gunnery sergeant, would serve his country. Part of his USMC service included being the crew chief for Marine One – the President’s personal helicopter.
“I had Marine One duty at the end of Reagan’s term and all through the George (H.W.) Bush presidency until 1992,” said Shimmel. “On the day of Clinton’s inauguration, I was on my way to California for another assignment.”
At the time of his Honorable Discharge in 1999, Shimmel was serving as a military recruiter in Modesto and stayed in the area, eventually putting himself through the San Joaquin Delta College Police Academy in 2001. He was hired by the Oakdale Police Department while still in the academy.
“I liked the town because it reminded me of where I grew up in Pennsylvania,” Shimmel said about choosing Oakdale. “The city also recognized my military service in lieu of college credits that so many others were asking for.”
Shimmel recalled that his field training officers when he started were Joe Johnson, Mike Nixon, and Joe Carrillo, all of whom would be promoted to sergeant themselves.
“They were mentors and set the bar for me,” Shimmel said.
In 2002 he hit the streets as a solo beat officer and would later serve as a school resource officer for three years, a field training officer, a detective, and in 2012 was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
He was also president of the police officers association for a few years, an elected sign of support from his peers.
In recent years, Shimmel was a key figure in bringing back the department’s K-9 program, going out soliciting donors and researching policies.
“I became eligible (for retirement) early this year, and for quality of life, I figured I would take advantage while I was still young,” Shimmel, 50, said. “There was a lot of decision making before I made the choice.”
Shimmel said his youngest daughter also had been hired as a dispatcher with the city and he wanted to step aside to let her develop.
“She doesn’t need Dad there looking over her shoulder,” he said. “I also have a grandchild on the way from my other daughter.”
With retirement, Shimmel doesn’t anticipate slowing down. He plans on staying aboard the department to assist with applicant background investigations and other investigations as needed.
He also has been recruited by a friend to assist with selling small business security systems in the Valley.
“It’s a normal job without all that weight from equipment on my body,” Shimmel said. “Not that anything is a ‘normal’ job.”