By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Turton, 65, has set a number of firsts for the department since becoming an officer in May 1976.
He was the first officer to be certified as an emergency medical technician and the first to hold a bachelor's degree.
“It's gone by so fast,” Turton said. “I can't believe I've been here this long.”
Born and raised in Sequim, Turton attended Peninsula College and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Washington in 1971.
He was drafted into the Army, where he spent nearly two years working in the personnel data support center at the Edgewood (Md.) Arsenal.
Realizing he wasn't cut out for a routine desk job, he returned to the North Olympic Peninsula to became a Port Angeles police officer.
“Every day is different, and everybody you deal with is different,” Turton said of being an officer. “There are many, many positive things. You work through the negatives and try to accentuate the positives.
He added: “I love going to work every day.”
First certified EMT
Turton took a night course at Peninsula College and became the department's first certified EMT during his first year in uniform.
“I just thought it would be good to know a little bit extra, a little more than a first-aid class that you could do in eight hours or a day,” he said.
“We [the police] were usually the first ones at car wrecks where people are all screwed up.”
Turton, who earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Peninsula College in 1978, was one of the first officers in the department to be assigned as a detective.
When off duty, Turton enjoyed coaching his now-adult children, Sarah and Ryan, on the baseball and softball diamonds.
“It's a good place for kids to grow up,” Turton said of Port Angeles.
Since becoming a support services technician in May 2000, Turton has supervised volunteers and managed the junk vehicle abatement program and sex offender notification program in partnership with the Clallam County Sheriff's Office.
He has assisted with fleet management, served subpoenas and managed traffic control for civic events.
Turton also took on the role of department historian, with Deputy Police Chief Brian Smith crediting Turton for saving a large number of historical documents and artifacts from the old police station on Oak Street.
Looking back, Turton said his most difficult cases were those involving young people who committed suicide.
Smith said Turton and his productivity will be sorely missed, adding that Turton has always been willing to lend a hand to a fellow officer.
“There's always one guy in a police department who's got the institutional knowledge and actually shows you stuff,” Smith said. “Gale is that guy.”
Current and former Port Angeles police officers recognized Turton at an informal luncheon Wednesday.
“Gale Turton has spent the greater part of his life in service to others, both as a Vietnam-era Army veteran and a public safety employee,” Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher said in a statement.
“His everyday contributions to the operation of the police department are many.”
Gallagher recalled one of his first encounters with Turton.
“In 1985, I remember a young patrol officer struggling to write his first search warrant during the course of a residential burglary investigation,” Gallagher said.
“It was Gale that stepped up and taught that patrol officer what he needed to know. The burglary was solved, and the heirloom silverware set that had been stolen was recovered.
“That patrol officer was me, and I have never forgotten that it was Gale that took the time to get my career off on the right track.”
In retirement, Turton and his wife, Susan, plan to remain on the Peninsula and go camping.
“I would do it all over again,” he said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.