Deputy work runs in the family for Jeremy Gallagher

Sheriff's department also employed new deputy's father, grandfather

03/15/2010 5:56 AM

03/17/2010 10:50 PM

Today a unique trio will form.

Jeremy Gallagher, 21, will be sworn in as a deputy for the Merced County Sheriff's Department. He's one of three generations of Merced County sheriff's deputies.

Gallagher's maternal grandfather, Jerry Sanderson, was the first point in the triangle to join the department. He began working in Los Banos in 1971 after serving as a police officer for the Dos Palos Police Department.

Gallagher said he never met his grandfather because Sanderson died in 1987 from brain cancer.

Gallagher's father, Vince, who works as a detective for the sheriff's station in Delhi, said his father-in-law was the gentle-giant type and was a genuine, kind-hearted person.

John Saavedra, a 31-year veteran of the sheriff's department, worked with Sanderson and said Sanderson was always upbeat about life, even when events hit close to home.

Once during a routine traffic stop in Los Banos, Sanderson pulled over a truck, Saavedra said. He looked inside and saw several rifles and guns that looked familiar.

After scrutinizing them, Sanderson realized those guns were his -- and he had solved his own burglary before he even knew his house was broken into, Saavedra said.

After booking the suspect, Sanderson laughed about the randomness of the incident.

Those were the days when people stealing weapons from homes was big news, Saavedra said. Unfortunately, now incidents like that are all too common.

Vince Gallagher said Merced County has a much higher crime rate now then when he joined in 1991.

"When I started, I asked deputies if there were ever officer-involved shootings. There was one in 1982," Vince Gallagher said. "In my tenure, I've lost track of those."

The danger Vince is exposed to in his job is one reason why he said he never pushed a career in law enforcement onto any of his seven children.

Jeremy Gallagher, the oldest of the seven, said his dad never tried to talk him into becoming an officer.

After graduating from Merced High School, Jeremy took general education classes and one administration of justice course at Merced College.

After that, he was hooked.

He applied for a job with the sheriff's department as a dispatcher in the courthouse, where he has worked for three years, while also going to school full-time.

"Jeremy has lived up to all my expectations," Vince said. "A father couldn't ask for a better son."

Next week, Jeremy will start his first week as a patrol officer in training. He's excited to finally get the chance to interact with and help the community, he said.

Vince chose his career for similar reasons.

"I'm approaching 20 years, and no two days are same," Gallagher said. "I like making a difference in people's lives and being on the front lines in the battle for good and evil."

The job is often about human tragedy, but every once in a while there's triumph, Vince said.

One woman, whom Gallagher had arrested several times on drug possession charges, came into his office and slammed down a one-year sobriety chip.

"She told me she listened to me all those times I talked to her during her arrests," Vince recalled.

"There's no guarantees in this job," Vince continued, as he looked at his son. "This job, it's about helping people, but it's really about that mantra, To Protect and Serve."

It may sound corny because it's law enforcement's motto, Vince Gallagher said, but "we are people who run toward a dangerous situation when human nature says to run the other way."

And now a third generation will be in the running.

Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209)385-2407 or joppenheim@mercedsun-star.com.

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