When you meet Anaheim Police Reserve Officer Steve Sheflin, it’s easy to imagine him a lifelong member of law enforcement, perhaps joining straight out of high school.
Surprisingly enough, this is a second career for Sheflin – he originally was a graphic artist. Even more surprisingly, Sheflin graduated from the police academy at age 51. He’s now 71.
“We do everything a regular cop does – from the mundane to the terrifying,” says Sheflin, referring to APD’s Reserve Unit.
As a Level 1 Reserve, Sheflin went through the same 10-month police academy as non-Reserve officers. The only difference between what he does and what non-Reserve officers do is the hours: Reserves can work up to halftime and they choose when they work. Sheflin is one of five members of the APD Reserves – three of them are full patrol officers (including Sheflin) and two are dedicated to working city council meetings only.
Though he had similar training, Sheflin stresses the great service full-time officers provide to the public.
“The real heroes are the full-time men and women slugging it out on the streets every day,” he says. “We Reserves are merely bit players and have it much easier than the full-time officers.”
On a typical day, Sheflin comes into the station, picks up his car and a computer, checks out his body-worn camera and starts taking calls. The calls range the entire spectrum – from a murder victim he found one day to domestic violence cases. On this particular day, Sheflin went out on a call about a transient asleep at a bank. When he checked records on the man, he discovered a warrant, so Sheflin made an arrest.
“If you can name an interesting call, we’ve had ’em and if you can name a mundane call, we’ve had ’em,” says Sheflin.
And that includes pursuits and arresting uncooperative suspects, if necessary. He holds his own – though he prefers calming suspects verbally rather than having to restrain them.
“I know police [officers]don’t want to get into fights and I know they don’t want to shoot,” he says.
Though he sometimes has to chase and wrestle, he spends a lot more time driving and writing up reports.
Sheflin got into law enforcement when he was laid off of work as a graphic artist in his 40s. After 1 1/2 years without a job, he saw an ad regarding working in the then-Orange County Marshal’s Department, which merged into the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 2000. He was hired in 1994 at the age of 49.
“I figured out right away I liked law enforcement,” he says.
He worked as a Marshal and then as a Sheriff’s special officer when the departments merged for a total of 17 years. He was hired by the Anaheim Police Department in 1998 in the Reserve Unit and is now in his 17th year as a Reserve officer.
“When you retire, you gotta have something to do,” he says.
His job was of particular benefit through some very difficult times when his wife passed away in 2009. It helped give him some motivation to get up in the morning.
“This makes me alive,” Sheflin says.
Though he knows the day will come when he can’t do it anymore, that day is not here yet.
So Sheflin will continue coming in to the APD for 10-hour days three days a week for as long as he is able. And judging from his quick wit, wry sense of humor and youthful appearance (you’d never guess he’s 71), that’s not anywhere in the near future.
“I’m gonna do this until I can’t,” Sheflin says. “So far, I’ve held my own.”