CHP officer ends unique tenure in Tracy
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Jan 03, 2013 | 6069 views | 3 3 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CHP sergeant retires
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Gray Burlingame in sits in the Tracy-area office’s briefing room Friday, Dec. 28. Burlingame retired from the CHP after 29 years in the local office.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Most California Highway Patrol officers work in one area for a few years and then move on, but Tracy-area Sgt. Gary Burlingame is an exception.

The 58-year-old was an officer in Tracy for 30 years, finally hanging up his badge this past weekend.

“I like Tracy and I never wanted to leave,” said Burlingame, as he sat inside the sergeant’s office at the Tracy CHP headquarters on Grant Line Road on Friday, Dec. 28, one day before his retirement. “I’ve enjoyed every year, but it’s gone by really, really, really — did I say really? — fast.”

Burlingame was hired by the CHP in 1981 and graduated from the academy in 1982. His first year on the job was out of the Oakland office, but he was granted a transfer to Tracy, where he started in August 1983.

He’s been patrolling the roads around Tracy ever since.

Adam Shelton, CHP spokesman for the local office, said Burlingame’s tenure with the Tracy office is “very rare.”

“Usually you only have one or two officers that stay there, and it’s usually not for more than 20 years, so if you have a guy staying for 30 years it’s extremely rare,” he said.

For Burlingame, becoming a law enforcement officer is a family tradition.

His father, Frank, once served as a sheriff’s deputy in King County; his older brother Philip was once an officer with the Tracy Police Department; and his twin brother Larry, who has since left the CHP, had already been on duty for two years when Burlingame started his career.

Over the years, he has filled a variety of roles for the CHP, including patrol officer, background investigator, training coordinator, weapons officer, Multi Disciplinary Accident Investigation team member, coordinator for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, and a coordinator for Amber Alert.

But each position has kept Burlingame in Tracy. He even refused a job as background investigator that required him to relocate to the CHP headquarters in Sacramento.

He accepted a promotion to sergeant in November 2009 only because he was allowed to stay at the Tracy office, which was then in need of sergeants. Typically, officers are transferred when they are promoted.

“Tracy always had a lot of good people,” Burlingame said. “I never wanted to leave.”

Although Burlingame has been on several high-profile calls over the years, including going to the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Chico Halloween riots and the 1982 demonstrations at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that resulted in 1,800 arrests, he said no one day on the job stands out above another.

“Every day is different, nothing is routine,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to do. I love meeting people and talking to people.”

One thing he enjoyed was the excuses people would give him for being stopped for a violation, ranging from “my uncle is an attorney,” to “I wasn’t speeding, you got the wrong car.”

“You usually hear the same ones over and over again,” he said, smiling. “I always enjoyed people who always knew the law.”

Since his start in Tracy, Burlingame said he has seen significant changes on Tracy’s highways and interstates. He said that in the early 1980s, heavy traffic in Tracy was considered to be one to two cars after midnight. There was possibly an accident every three to four months.

According to Shelton, current stats show that Tracy patrol officers responded to 115 to 160 accidents a month before the recent expansion of Interstate 205, which lowered the numbers to 50 to 80 crashes per month.

During his time in Tracy, Burlingame was accompanied by the same nightstick and handcuffs he had carried since his academy days. Both were returned to the department on his last day as a CHP officer Saturday.

He said the only things he would take home were a few pieces of equipment he had purchased over the years, various uniform patches and his array of CHP models from his grandchildren that decorated his desk.

Burlingame will also get back his badge with “retired” added on, he said. The badge will become his during a special ceremony at his retirement party March 22 in Manteca.

When he was asked if he will miss the job, he said, “not as much as the people.”

Burlingame plans to spend his retirement with his family and grandchildren.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or
Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 03, 2013
Gary, welcome to the world of retirement, it was great working with you on all those accidents over the year;, you were one of the most professional and respectful officers. And thanks for all the help with the book CODE 1144 you look so young in the photos. Now, who am I going to have coffee with? Hope you will still come to Tracy often.


Lawrance Smith
January 03, 2013
Thank You, Gary Burlingame, for your work. When I saw him wearing a CHP Uniform, I had to meet him.

He probably does not remember me, but I remember meeting him at Black Bear Diner after I had dinner there last year.

If I remember correctly, he said he was also involved with Every 15 Minutes a few years. We do not remember, however, if we were together one year?

Anyway, Thank You and enjoy your time with your family and grandchildren!

-Lori Martin

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