Katapodis retires from LAPD

Jim Katapodis experienced it all as a police officer: being shot at a couple of times, going undercover as a paraplegic in a drug bust and almost getting stabbed during a domestic dispute.

After 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Huntington Beach councilman and sergeant is retiring from the force.

"I think 35 years is plenty for a police officer," Katapodis said during a recent phone interview. "In my mind, I can go over fences, jump walls and fight kids that are younger than me. The reality is it's probably not a good idea. I know people go longer than that, but I think it's just one of those things you know when you're done. Not that I won't miss it. I will miss it."

He officially retires on Thursday.

The Northern California-native started his career with LAPD in April 1978 after his cousin's husband, who at the time worked for LAPD, sent him an application for the department.

"I wanted to be a police officer, but not in L.A.," Katapodis told his cousin's husband. "Northern California is my home and I'm not going to leave."

But after failing to land a position up north, he gave Southern California a shot and after some testing was accepted into the academy.

For his first 10 years, he worked various beats in Los Angeles. He was the sergeant-in-arms for L.A. council meetings, walked the foot beat in downtown doing plain-clothes detail and worked the undercover narcotics division for 18 months, he said.

Katapodis recalled one sting where he was disguised as a handicapped Vietnam War veteran in a wheelchair during a drug bust at what was then the Grand bus station.

"This isn't like on TV where five minutes later, you're catching somebody," he said. "It's more like eight hours later, you might catch somebody."

While in the wheelchair, Katapodis went over to a vending machine to buy candy and was helped by a stranger. As they were talking, the bust started going down.

"He makes the buy, gives me the signal and the guy runs and I get up and run after him," he said. "The guy I was talking to was astonished. I really sold him on the whole 'I'm a paraplegic' story."

Most of Katapodis' time was spent at the academy, where he instructed almost 6,000 cadets. He also helped revamp the way cadets were taught.

"We went from lecture-based to critical thinking, scenario-based and problem solving," he said. "The thought was problem solving was the way to go instead of standing up and telling war stories."

Katapodis considered transferring to Daly City, but couldn't leave the LAPD.

"I took a few tests with a few sheriff's departments up there and I finished No. 1," he said. "But I don't know. All of a sudden, I rode along with them and it just seems that there was nothing to do. It didn't seem like the opportunities that LAPD had were there."


Twitter: @acocarpio

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