watsonville police sgt mike ridgway
Watsonville Police Sgt. Mike Ridgway is shown on his final day as a WPD officer on Dec. 21. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

A festive farewell lunch Dec. 21 set the tone for the final day of duty for Watsonville Police Sgt. Mike Ridgway as he set his sails toward retirement.

As part of the departure, a 911 dispatcher delivered a statement over the police radio: “This is the final call for Sam 1, Sgt. Michael Ridgway after serving for nearly 28 years. He started his career in 1992 at Watsonville Police Department as a reserve officer. In 1996 he was hired by the department as a full-time officer. Sgt. Ridgway has had many accomplishments and assignments throughout his career. In 1998, Mike was assigned to the WPD Traffic Unit where he completed the highly respected LAPD motor school with top honors. He served as a motor officer until his assignment to corporal in 2003. Ridgway was promoted to patrol sergeant in 2007 and eventually went back to his beloved motorcycle as the Traffic Sergeant in 2008.”

Ridgway served as a master Taser instructor and taught how to use Lidar and Radar, among other things. 

“Mike, thank you for your dedicated years of service to the city of Watsonville,” the dispatcher continued. “On behalf of your Watsonville family and Netcom, we wish you a very happy, healthy and relaxing retirement.”

WPD Chief Jorge Zamora said, “Sergeant Ridgway has truly been a person of influence at WPD. He served in a variety of special assignments and was part of many efforts that improved the police department and this community. I’m proud to call him a coworker and a friend. Sergeant Ridgway will surely be missed at WPD.”

Sgt. Charles Bailey said Ridgway was his first training officer.

“He really helped me get a start and transition into my career,” he said. “He’s a good teacher and very patient and he definitely helped me get to where I am today.”

Ridgway said he is planning on “taking it easy for the time being” and will look into part-time work.

“I do believe there is something special about WPD,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have worked there because there is a special ingredient to the place. It’s plainly evident and has been exposed to me a number of times from folks at other agencies.”

Among the lengthy lists of high-profile incidents Ridgway responded to, he said the 2011 shooting at the Big 5 Sporting Goods store and the double homicide shootings outside the Fish House restaurant in 2014 stood out.

“These were high profile, high risk incidents,” he said. “At the Fish House, everyone there had more than their hands full and everyone stepped up and dealt with a very trying situation. This stood out as one of the most chaotic events where everyone did an outstanding job, including neighboring agencies. That really helped show what a good relationship we have with our surrounding law agencies. Looking back, I was very privileged to have worked for this department and I am proud that I can be a contributing factor to the quality of life here in Watsonville.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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