A Tribute to Professor Bob Lansing (Berkeley P.D. Sgt., Retired)
It was a warm and sunny afternoon that September in 1966 when I curiously joined the crowd of fellow students gathered by the fountain at the College of San Mateo. They were listening to some guy with a bullhorn named Mario Savio who was protesting against the Vietnam War.
This was my second semester at CSM. After managing to totally screw up my first semester I decided to come back and give it another try. It really wasn’t a very difficult decision for me, especially since I had a low draft number and I was likely to get called up into military service.
At this point, I still wasn’t quite sure where I was headed in school, or in life for that matter. I was just getting by in most of my classes, none of which really interested me, and to this day I still have the spiral notebooks with the scribbled drawings and doodled pages to prove it!
One day, my career counselor called me into her office to talk to me about my grades. She could see that I was struggling in my classes and wanted to help me out. Little did I realize that this would become a changing day in my life. I came into her office and sat down.
“Steven”, she said. “I think I’ve got an idea on what might grab your interest. Why don’t you give the Criminal Justice Program a try?”
Criminal Justice? Me? Hmmmmm. I don’t think that’s quite up my alley, I thought to myself. And besides, this kid from Chicago probably would feel more comfortable riding around in the back seat of a police car!
Still, I pondered her suggestion for a moment. Despite my skepticism I figured I couldn’t do any worse in school than I already had, so I told her I’d give it a try. I registered into the Criminal Justice Program.
The professor’s name was Bob Lansing. He was a graying retired Berkeley Police Sergeant who would tell entertaining and sometimes funny tales of his exciting adventures as a cop in Berkeley. He was spirited, engaging, and comedic; not anything like I expected a cop to be.
I’m not exactly sure what it was about him. It may have been his teaching style; maybe his stories. But Criminal Justice began to appeal to me. Even my grades improved. I began to think that maybe my counselor was right. Perhaps criminal justice wasn’t a bad idea after all.
I soon decided that police work was for me, and I set a career path for myself. Several years (and an Army tour of duty) later, I reached my goal and was sworn-in as a police officer with the City of Daly City. I remember when they pinned that shiny silver police star on me. It was then that it really hit me. I had made it! I was going to be a cop!
It’s unbelievable how quickly 33 years can go by. I retired from the police department in March of 2003. It was a great career and I miss it a lot, especially patrol. I think I made a difference in people’s lives. I often go back and visit, and sometimes help out in the Training Division. While there I get to see some old faces, and a lot of new ones, too.
Sadly, I never saw Bob Lansing or my career counselor again but I suspect they knew I’d probably do OK for myself. Still, I would have liked to have thanked them for helping me find my niche in life. Now that I’m retired from police work, I find myself following in Bob Lansing’s footsteps. I, too, teach in the Criminal Justice Program. I hope that I can inspire my students, as he had once done for me, so that they may one day reach their dreams of getting that Silver Star.
(D.C.P.D. Sgt., Retired)