Dec 6, 2010 9:52 PM by Ariel Wesler

Community remembers former Santa Maria Police Chief

Family, Friends, and colleagues from throughout California gathered to remember former Santa Maria Police Chief John Sterling.

He passed away November 14th after complications with his liver. A memorial was held for him Monday afternoon at the Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Lompoc.

Those who worked with Sterling walked with him one final time during a memorial service in Lompoc.

"There was never any doubt about where you stood when you stood next to John Sterling. You stood there together, as a team," said Santa Maria City Councilmember Mike Cordero.

It was a salute to a law enforcement leader who saw his position in a different light, a quality his wife saw everyday.

"It wasn't just a job. It was an interaction," said Carol Sterling, John's Wife.

"He really truly believed that the police and the community should be friends and they should all work together on issues that are affecting the community," said Joyce Howerton, Sterling's close friend.

But he wasn't exactly friends with city leaders. After taking the job in 1999, Sterling retired four years later due to a conflict in management with the city manager.

"I don't believe his ability as the chief of police was ever called into question," Cordero said.

Those who knew him say he was passionate about community policing, a problem solver who opened lines of communication with the Hispanic community.

"The Hispanic community could call him, leave a message, and he would call them and talk to them, even if it was through a translator, he always listened to them. They don't have that now," said C.C. Todd, an advocate for the Hispanic Community.

Some call Sterling one of a kind, a man who protected lives while changing others.

"My life is better for having met him, and it was great to be part of his life," Cordero said.

Sterling began his law enforcement career 35 years ago in Oakland. In the early 1990s, Governor Pete Wilson recognized Sterling for his outstanding work with the joint-area task force in East Palo Alto.

He is survived by his wife Carol of 34 years, his daughter Emily, and his son John.


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