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Veteran Officer Says Goodbye
McKinnon 7-1
Police Officer Nick McKinnon, now 58, holds up a 15-year-old photo of when he rode a motorcycle as a traffic officer in Oakdale. McKinnon, after 28 years of regular service and four additional years as a reserve officer, is leaving the department for retirement. RICHARD PALOMA/The Leader

After more than 31 years of law enforcement service to the City of Oakdale, Officer Nick McKinnon is finally unpinning his shield and hanging up his gun belt.

Starting as a full-time patrol officer for the city in 1982 and retiring in 2011, McKinnon carried on with his wealth of knowledge and experience to assist the then-personnel depleted department as a valuable reserve police officer continuing to work when needed.

Now, after four years of working to fill in for shifts and being called out for major accident investigations, McKinnon is officially saying goodbye.

“I’m giving it up and letting a new watch of young officers take over,” McKinnon said. “I’ve spent more than half my life working for Oakdale. There will definitely be a void left in me.”

McKinnon, 58, attended the Modesto Academy in 1982 when he was 25 and it was only a 12-week course. From there, he briefly worked for Selma PD before getting picked up by the Oakdale Police Department.

“Oakdale was the premiere police agency of Stanislaus County then,” McKinnon said of the department that patrolled a city of only 8600 residents and only one stop light.

McKinnon spent the majority of his 28 full-time years on the street as a patrolman or working as a motorcycle traffic officer.

McKinnon said the traffic position was valuable in making the city safer.

“Enforcement leads to lower accidents and a lower accident rate leads to better insurance rates for citizens and a better safety rating for the city,” he explained.

Those years assigned to traffic did come with some drawbacks of having to investigate the tragic fatal accidents that happened in or near the city, an expertise McKinnon is still called upon to perform and a reason he stayed on as a reserve officer.

“A couple of them still stick with me,” McKinnon said, mentioning one case of a rear-ended Volkswagen crushing the skull of a toddler in a car seat or an incident involving a vanload of migrant workers that all died when their van went up in flames after a head-on collision.

McKinnon said he’s seen many changes in the department and city during his time spent on the force.

“We’ve come into the 21st century,” McKinnon said, describing how when he started the department had a Motorola base radio and only four portable radios. “Now, each officer has his own portable with computers in the cars – a lot more technology for today’s cop.”

McKinnon also joked that today’s officers “seem to have gotten a whole lot younger” but for the community to keep the faith in the men and women of the department.

“They want to serve just like I did,” McKinnon said.

Those at the department had kudos for McKinnon’s tenure.

“Nick was one of the guys who raised me as a new cop and for many years after that,” said Oakdale Police Sergeant Joe Johnson. “A lot of what I know about police work and how to treat people, I learned from Nick.”

“Nick will be missed,” said Sergeant Brian Shimmel. “He has many years of knowledge and experience you just can’t replace overnight – definitely a go-to guy for any issues that pop up.”

“I wish to publicly acknowledge Officer Nick McKinnon for three decades of service with the Oakdale Police Department and wish him continued success with his ventures in the private sector,” announced Chief Lester Jenkins. “We will sorely miss him at the department”

With his free time, McKinnon plans to spend more time at a successful auto body and paint shop he owns with a partner in the Modesto area. Also, he plans to continue his passion of moto-cross racing.

“I owe a successful career to the citizens of Oakdale and the business community because they’re the ones that made success in my career,” McKinnon said. “Having the support of the community made my job so much easier.”