The Oakdale Police Department is retiring a man whose character speaks for itself. For the past 30 years, Lt. Vernon Gladney has personified integrity, honesty, and compassion and he has brought those personal values to everything he does, whether he’s wearing the uniform, working with his church, or helping out a friend.
In the words of Oakdale Police Chief Marty West, “He is a person of his word and one who people trust. His professional demeanor and his delivery has a calming effect on most people. For this reason, Vernon was called upon frequently to deal with very difficult situations. This is not a skill that is easily replaced and is one that I will certainly miss.”
Gladney started and will end his career with Oakdale Police Department. He hired on as a reserve in June 1977 where he went on to receive two Reserve of the Year awards. In the fall of 1979 he put himself through the police academy and graduated in March 1980. He started full-time that same month. He promoted to corporal five years later and spent 16 years serving as the Police Officer Association President. He promoted to sergeant in 1990, took on the bicycle patrol in 1996 and spent a year as the SWAT team leader then team commander until July 2009. He was detective sergeant for four years, administrative sergeant for three years and at the pinnacle of his career he was named lieutenant in 2007.
Gladney garnered a reputation for being the “go to guy” for his dependability and commitment to the department, so it’s no surprise Gladney took home top honors with the Police Officer of the Year award four times in his career.
“The Oakdale Police Department has always meant more to Vernon than a place to work,” West shared. “He gave a lot of himself to the people who work here and to the community as a whole. He volunteered thousands of hours through the years helping make the police department a great place to work and the community a great place to live. We owe a lot to Vernon for the fact that we have a nice pistol range, great volunteer programs like CAPS, successful social events, and well-maintained police vehicles.”
Fate is a funny thing. While Gladney certainly found law enforcement to be a good fit, initially, he’d considered a career in forestry.
In 1974, he started work as a park ranger for Stanislaus County regional parks, based out of Woodward Reservoir.
“I liked being outside,” said the avid sportsman. “And I had two uncles who were in similar fields. I’d always been an outdoorsy kid and I liked working with people. It was a gradual progression from parks to law enforcement but I made the right choice. I’ve been able to make an impact as a training officer and in people’s lives.”
After graduation from the academy, Gladney was offered two jobs: one with the Stanislaus County Sheriff and one with the Oakdale department. For Gladney, the choice was simple.
“I liked the people working here and liked the smaller department,” Gladney said. “I just felt that Oakdale had more to offer…maybe not in the way of wages but in other things.”
A 30-year career is often filled with ups and downs and Gladney’s is no different.
“There are some disappointing times because there’s a lot of tragedy in this job but you do your best to help people when they need someone the most,” Gladney shared, admitting, “There are cases I wish I could’ve done better. You try not to get emotionally involved but there are cases that make an impact on you.”
Gladney recalls a particular case that stuck with him when he was with the SWAT team.
“We did some drug search warrants that were pretty dangerous but one in particular stands out. We made entry, secured the residence and one of the SWAT team members came out carrying a baby in his arms. It felt good to make a positive impact. We were doing something that truly made this community better.”
While retirement will loosen Gladney’s schedule, he’s not going far. Gladney plans to return as a reserve with a focus on the CAPS (Citizen Auxiliary Police Service) and range program.
“I spent my whole career going up the ladder and it’ll be a little weird coming back as a part-time reserve because roles will change but I’m looking forward to it,” Gladney said. “Law enforcement has been very good to me. I’ve had a good career. It’s been very rewarding.”
He’s going to miss the day-to-day routine and working with the public but he’s not going to miss the paperwork and the hectic schedule.
“I’m looking forward to having a bit of free time,” he said.
Gladney, married to wife Teresa for the past 36 years with two grown children, said he plans to travel a bit and indulge in a few hobbies but mostly, he wants to relax.
When asked if he had any parting advice for the new cops just coming into the job, he took a minute to think, then said, “Learn how to deal with people…aside from just doing your job and be ready and willing to give service.”
The department is hosting a retirement party for Gladney on Saturday, Jan. 9. His official last day is Dec. 31.