Captain at Garden Grove PD flies off into the sunset, capping 31-year career at the agency


If Ben Stauffer is reading this, he may be fresh from a flight in one of his two private planes.

Or maybe he’s getting around to reading this after poring over reams of legal briefs.

One thing is certain: Stauffer isn’t reading this from his office at the Garden Grove PD, where he started as a dispatcher in 1985.

A fixture at the agency for 31 years, Stauffer — whose nickname, “Big Brain,” goes perfectly with his 6-foot-6-inch frame — retired as a captain on Dec. 30.

Now he can concentrate on his other passions beside police work: flying (he’s a longtime licensed commercial pilot) and law (he got his law degree from Whittier Law School in 2007).

“It’s so cliché, but I’m going to miss the people here,” said Stauffer, 50, during an interview in his office a couple of weeks before his last day.

Retiring Garden Grove PD Capt. Ben Stauffer.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I certainly am not going to miss this desk and all the stuff I have going on.”

Indeed, Stauffer left with a few projects nearly complete or still in the works.

One of his babies, a joint effort with the GGPD’s IT expert, is a self-service kiosk in the lobby of the agency — a project that will greatly enhance customer service.

Stauffer, a computer geek who had a computer engineering scholarship at UC Irvine before he decided on a career in law enforcement, proudly pointed out the features of the kiosk, expected to debut any day now.

Visitors to the GGPD lobby — most of them there to report a crime — will take a number and be able to sit instead of stand in line.

GGPD front-desk personnel will know why they are there and how long they’ve been waiting.

If visitors need to go to City Hall or another city department, the state-of-the-art kiosk will direct them.

“It gets the process out there,” Stauffer said. “Right now, we don’t have one.”

Another of Stauffer’s babies is sitting in the secured parking lot of the GGPD.

It’s a jet-black MRAP, for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, a U.S. military term for vehicles designed specifically to withstand improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Stauffer oversaw the acquisition of the MRAP in June 2014 for the GGPD to use in hostage situations or, say, for officer-down calls. It’s the agency’s first armored vehicle, and was obtained through the Federal Excess Property Program

The GGPD only had to pay $1,200 to have the unused MRAP shipped from Texas.

Its cost, if the agency had to purchase it outright?

A whopping $743,000.

Not a bad deal.

Retiring Garden Grove PD Capt. Ben Stauffer.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I think that tank (the MRAP) will be my legacy,” Stauffer said with a smile.

He accomplished much more at the Garden Grove PD, which he joined in 1985 as a part-time police dispatcher. Stauffer became a sworn GGPD officer in July 1987.

In May 2000, Stauffer was a founding member of the GGPD’s then-new Mounted Enforcement Unit.

He served as an investigator assigned to the task force looking into the 1993 murder of Officer Howard Dallies Jr., and was the agency’s public information officer from 2014-15.

As a GGPD officer, Stauffer put his piloting skills to use when, in the mid-1990s, he manned the county’s surveillance airplane for the Regional Narcotics Suppression Program — an assignment he called his favorite.

“Anytime a pilot can be paid to fly,” Stauffer said, “that’s a good thing.”

Stauffer, a self-described workaholic, says he doesn’t plan to return to full-time work but won’t be surprised if he does.

He is considering representing pilots and/or law enforcement personnel needing legal help, or landing a paying piloting job.

In addition to his two airplanes — a Piper Arrow and a Piper Archer that he rents out — Stauffer, who grew up in Westminster, and his wife, Abbe, a retired Irvine PD officer, have two horses.

So he has lots of things to occupy himself with.

“It’s a little hard to walk away,” Stauffer says of retirement. “I’m certain over time I will feel a bit of a hole.”

He added: “The Garden Grove PD afforded me an opportunity at a very good time, and I’ve had a good career here. I like this place. I do feel this is a little bit like leaving family, so there’s going to be a void, but it’s all about progress. There are a lot of people here coming through the ranks who are going to do a good job going forward.”