Bill Wallis had experienced most everything a police officer can experience throughout his decades-long career with the Fullerton Police Department.
He tangled with a trio of combatant Marines his first day on patrol, walked a beat downtown, helped contain riots in Hillcrest Park and was a member of the FPD’s first SWAT team.
Wallis also was involved in a gun battle with a man who had already killed several people and was intent on making the officer his next victim – more on that later.
By 2004, Wallis had worn an FPD uniform for 30 years and figured it was time to retire.
He didn’t stay retired for long.
Wallis was on a mini-vacation that same year with his wife in Old Town San Diego when he watched a squad car whiz by, lights flashing and siren blaring.
Then it hit him.
“It was a realization that I don’t do that anymore,” said Wallis, now 62. “I teared up.” There is a part of my heart that is gone … my wife said you need to get back.”
So he did.
Wallis returned to the FPD in 2004 and spent 10 years as a part-time reserve officer before retiring – again – in 2014.
This time, he lasted 10 months.
“I thought 40 years was enough,” he said. “Well, it’s not.”
So he signed on to volunteer on the department’s peer support team, essentially being a sounding board for officers who need to talk about any personal issue.
Then he started volunteering one day a week in the department’s Family Crimes Unit. He is in charge of registering and monitoring the city’s sex registrants.
“The most important thing is to protect the kids,” Wallis said. “And doing the sex registry protects the kids.”
Growing up in La Mirada an only child, Wallis recalls being enamored with law enforcement at about 8 years old, when he would chat with L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who’d be parked on his street once or twice a week.
He would pop his head into the passenger side window of the patrol car and the deputy would open the glove box and hand him a notebook or piece of paper or anything emblazoned with the sheriff’s badge.
At 16, Wallis became an Explorer Scout with Brea PD.
At 21, he was among 2,000 would-be officers who tested for one of 25 open spots with the FPD.
Wallis was among those hired.
During his first week on patrol, Wallis was driving south along Harbor Boulevard when he spotted a man walking north trying to flag down the rookie officer.
The guy tells Wallis that his wife was being harassed by three Marines at the Fox Theater.
“I went up to talk to the three Marines and they didn’t want any part of this brand-new policeman, so the fight was on,” Wallis said. “They tore my badge (off), tore my brand new uniform.”
By the time backup arrived, the trio was in custody.
Fast forward to 1990.
It’s 3 a.m. and Wallis is speeding north on Placentia Avenue giving chase to a robbery suspect.
The suspect hits a dead end at Rolling Hills Road, gets out and starts shooting.
Wallis fires back, wounding the suspect with several shots.
Wallis received a medal of bravery for his actions.
“Something like that changes your perspective in life,” Wallis said. “He wanted me dead … You realize that you are not invincible. You look at family different. You look at your kids different.”
Wallis had stopped attending church at age 18 and the harrowing experience was motivation to start attending again. He and his wife are active in their church to this day.
With Wallis monitoring the city’s registered sex offenders, the detectives in the Family Crime Unit have more time to work cases, said Sgt. Tony Rios, who oversees Family Crimes.
“The average first-time registrant can take hours to process, and Bill takes care of that,” Rios said. “He takes a big burden off of our detectives. I think that since he’s been back, the guys see his true value.”
The feelings are mutual.
The FPD was and is home, Wallis said. It’s his therapy…the place he feels most comfortable.
And he’s not going anywhere.
“I guess (I’m staying) as long as they’ll have me,” he said.