Pasadena Police Officer celebrates retirement at iconic Rose Bowl

By Lou Ponsi

The retirement party for Pasadena Police Sgt. Greg Afsharian was far from typical.

For starters, the festivities didn’t take place in a restaurant or banquet hall.

The Jan.3 celebration of Afsharian’s 30 year career with Pasadena PD was held in the locker room of the Rose Bowl.

A nod to his role leading the Department’s Counterterrorism Unit and securing the iconic venue during football games and all high profile events the last several years.

Then there was diverse collection of law enforcement agencies who sent representatives to thank Afsharian for his partnership and participation on high-stakes assignments both locally and around the world.

Distinguished guests from the Pasadena Police Department, the FBI, Homeland Security and family and friends attend the retirement celebration for Sgt. Greg Afsharian. Photo by James Carbone.

Representatives from the FBI, DEA, ATF, US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Los Angeles Police Department and the LA County Sheriff’s Department were among the 300 people on hand.

Also in attendance were current and former personnel, police chiefs along with community leaders outside of law enforcement who have worked with Afsharian throughout his career.

“It’s like a small Armenian wedding,” said Afsharian, taking a good-natured jibe at his Armenian heritage. “I’m just honored. I got to work with a lot of federal, state and local outside agencies … a lot of big cases.”

Retired Sgt. Greg Afsharian reeives a football with signatures from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a retirement gift, Afsharian’s favorite football team. Photo by James Carbone.

In the weeks and months leading up to Dec. 30, his final day on the job, Afsharian did what he’s been doing since 2002: insuring that every precaution and every security measure is in place to protect the tens of thousands of visitors who pour into Pasadena every New Year’s Day for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game.

Then suddenly, it was Jan.1 and Afsharian woke up officially retired.

“It was weird,” he said. “I got up the next morning just before 6 am when I’m supposed to start. I thought, I’m supposed to be somewhere and then realized, no, I’m retired now.”
Afsharian said he spent much of his first New Year’s Day as a private citizen glancing at his watch, knowing where his former partners were and what they were doing at any given time throughout the day.”

Afsharian passed up an invitation to attend this year’s New Year’s Day festivities but said he may go in the future.

He watched part of the Rose Bowl game, but then decided to do a little shopping at the Bass Pro Shop with his wife Debbie, preparing for what he is calling “the next chapter.”
Afsharian will soon move to Wyoming where he’ll engage in two of his favorite activities, fishing and hunting.

Retired Pasadena Police Lieutenant Tracey Ibarra and retired Sgt. Greg Afsharian share a moment. Photo by James Carbone.

“There is going to be a lot I’m going to miss and a lot I’m not going to miss,” Afsharian said. “I had to turn in my badge and equipment yesterday. That was difficult.”
Afsharian was born and raised in Pasadena, and grew up wanting to serve his own community.

For roughly the first half of his career, Afsharian worked a series of high-level cases in the department’s Special Investigations Unit.

“Some of the things Greg worked were incredibly dangerous assignments,” said former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian said. “He did it courageously and he did it effectively.”
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Afsharian was selected to run the department’s first ever counterterrorism unit, where he spent the remainder of his career.
He worked cases that took him around the country and the world.

“There is no place Greg wouldn’t go to catch you,” Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said. “If you are part of organized crime, and you were someone that mattered, Greg went to go get you. Greg knew he would catch you and he motivated the people around him to do that. We are fortunate to have people like that in law enforcement.”

Virtually every speaker at Afsharian’s retirement ceremony praised his dedication and willingness to partner with outside agencies in order to keep Pasadena safe.

He worked protection details that involved guarding U.S. Presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and also international dignitaries such as the Dalai Lama.

At Thursday’s retirement party, UCLA Associate Athletic Director Mike Dowling presented Afsharian with a Bruins’ football helmet, a tradition usually reserved for outgoing players.
UCLA plays its home football games at the Rose Bowl.

“You have been a critical part of our operation and the success of our program,” Dowling said.

Retired Sgt. Greg Afsharian is presented with a US Flag and a letter of recognition from Pasadena Police Chief John Perez. Photo by James Carbone.

The FBI presented Afsharian with a commendation from bureau Chief Christopher A. Wray that read, in part: “The FBI and American people have been beneficiaries of your processualism and dedication to duty.”
Afsharian’s most meaningful retirement gift wasn’t in the form of plaque or trophy or piece of paper.

It came in the form of words delivered by his son, Greg Jr. who followed his dad into law enforcement.

“You have always been my hero,” said Greg Jr., an LA County Sherriff’s deputy. “And you’ll always be my hero. I love you and am extremely proud of your accomplishments.”

 

Retired Sgt. Greg Afsharian poses for a picture with the Satin Dolls. Photo by James Carbone.

 

Retired Sgt. Greg Afsharian shakes hands with the Mayor of Pasadena Terry Tornek during the retirement celebration for Sgt. Greg Afsharian. Photo by JAmes Carbone.