Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Sgt. Kerry Harris, the official voice of the department for media sources in town and in the South Bay, announced Wednesday afternoon that he's retiring after 31 years in law enforcement.
His last day on the job is today, Thursday, March 14.
Harris, 55, spent six years with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department and 25 years with the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department.
"I have enjoyed working with you and have only fond memories as we’ve participated together in providing important information to the community," he wrote in an email to media sources saying goodbye.
"I consider my work as a PIO [public information officer] to be one of the bright spots of my career, hopefully, you’d agree, and consider our public information partnership to be an indispensable part of an effective public safety team," he said.
Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Foundation President Jonathan Knowles said Harris' positive impact on the community will last for generations.
"He has committed a significant part of his life to making Los Gatos and Monte Sereno the special places they are today,” the Los Gatos civic leader said. "We owe him a debt of gratitude for his dedication to our residents, business owners and visitors.”
Harris began his law enforcement career with the sheriff’s office in 1982, working first in the jails then in patrol, on the east side of San Jose. He completed a tour working a DUI enforcement specialty team for the SO in Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Cupertino and Los Altos Hills.
In 1988, he joined the then Los Gatos Police Department, which later became the LGMSPD, working patrol for two years as a field training officer in patrol, three years of undercover narcotics with a state narcotics task force "pony tail, beard, earring and all" and was promoted to sergeant in 1993.
As a sergeant, he worked as patrol watch commander and in personnel and community services, supervising hiring, training, school resource officers, crime prevention and community outreach.
From 1993 to 2006, he was a SWAT team leader and from 2004 through 2012, he was a Police Explorer advisor.
From 1996 to the present, Harris has handled emergency management for the town, including working on its Emergency Operations Center, the first one in the old-Neighborhood Center and the current one in the Police Operations Building, 15900 Los Gatos Blvd.
He also worked on the town's emergency operations plans, emergency preparedness programs such as Los Gatos Prepared and emergency response programs such as the Community Emergency Response Team.
From 2003 to the present he worked for the department as a terrorism liaison officer, a program to allow local law enforcement agencies to send and receive Homeland Security information and intelligence.
Off and on since about 2000, and principally since 2009, he worked as a public information officer for the department.
In addition to SWAT, he's supervised a variety of specialty teams over the years, including the Bicycle Patrol team, Recruitment team, and Major Accident Investigation team.
In 2003, Volunteer in Policing (VIP) Bill Mercer and Harris founded the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno CERT program.
"Mostly through Bill’s great work, we built a program where over 450 Los Gatos and Monte Sereno residents have completed the 23 hour emergency/disaster response program, and many of them are organized into neighborhood teams ready to respond in an emergency and help their neighbors," Harris said. "We have lots more to do and the future is bright for CERT and Los Gatos/Monte Sereno."
Harris said he's been teaching and consulting around the country for the last two years in the area of active shooter/violent intruder response and facility threat assessments, and plans to do more of it in the future.
"Law enforcement has been a wonderful career," he reminisced. "I have had the chance to work with really amazing people in the department and in the community. I have been witness to incredibly sad and tragic events that I carry with me, but have also been party to fantastic, renewing moments, that I will likewise carry with me."
Harris expressed appreciation for all the friends he made in Los Gatos and Monte Sereno, "but most of all to my wife, Stacey, and my sons Eric and Matt who’ve supported me, and accepted that I love a job that kept me from home on too many Christmases.
To the local media, he said: "Thank you for the grace you’ve shown me and the assistance you’ve given me to get the message out, and make me look and sound prepared and professional. I am sure it was not always easy."
Public information duties for the police department will now shift to Detective Sergeant Michael D’Antonio and Sgt. Steve Walpole, he said.