Sgt. James Kingsmill lights up when he talks fishing.
On the eve of his retirement – his last day is Feb. 2 – sitting in his office at Westminster Police Department tracing back through his extensive 29 years at the agency, he recalled his time as an auto theft detective, his work as a young patrol officer and also when he helped redesign and oversee the construction of the new Westminster Police building. But somehow, he’d always come back to fishing.
“My wife says if I don’t go fishing, I’m grumpy,” said Kingsmill of his longtime weekend fishing adventures.
It was his passion for fishing that brought him into law enforcement in the first place. His father, an avid fisherman, would take Kingsmill down to Oceanside Harbor for fishing when he was a child. Kingsmill watched in admiration as the local harbor police conducted rescues, fought boat fires and arrested criminals.
“I wanted to be a harbor patrolman,” he said.
At 18, he asked about how he could become a harbor patrolman and was told the best route was to get his associate’s degree and go through a police academy, which is what he did. While in the police academy, he was approached by WPD about joining their agency, which he did.
Memories from the force
Going over his long career, it’s difficult for Kingsmill to pick out specific moments from all the memories throughout the years. After all, he’s worked in patrol, detectives and SWAT as an officer, and has been a patrol sergeant, a detective sergeant and a special operations sergeant.
“My favorite time working here was when I was working auto theft as a detective,” he said. “Things were simple: arrest bad guys, put them in jail and no politics.”
In the mid-’90s, Kingsmill and his partner were very proactive at finding stolen cars and even vehicle thefts as they were occurring. Back then, the car thieves had a system of switching the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) on cars they stole.
But Kingsmill and his partner had their own system. When they found an abandoned car, they often were able to temporarily reconstitute the scratched-out VIN with the help of sulphuric acid and a 12-volt charge.
“We’d be able to reproduce the VIN numbers…catch them at their own game,” Kingsmill said. “It was fun.”
Then there was the time, in 2009, when Kingsmill helped redesign the inside of the then-new WPD building. Kingsmill took a look at the proposed drawings and realized it wasn’t designed with the most efficient means of a working police department in mind. Property & Evidence and Forensics, which should work next to each other, were designed to be on the opposite ends of the building, for example. He approached the captain in charge, who agreed and assigned him and another sergeant to assist with the redesign, which took them over a year.
“We basically gutted the building,” he said.
Back to fishing
Throughout his law enforcement career, Kingsmill never stopped fishing. In fact, it became a second career – and will become his primary career after retirement.
His weekend fishing jaunts with his dad eventually got him noticed by fishing professionals, leading to his entry into the world of fishing tournaments.
“Because of my hard work ethic at fishing locally … the pros would ask me to fish on their team,” he said.
In 2001, Kingsmill took a 10-month leave of absence from WPD to commission two boats for local entrepreneur and boat owner Anthony Hsieh.
Between 2001 and 2011, he fished with Captains Steve Lassley and Pete Groesbeck as a team participating in fishing tournaments, which gave them the potential to win considerable sums of money depending on the size of the tournament. In fact, in 2006, along with Lassley and Groesbeck, the team won the Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin Tournament and $3.9 million (Kingsmill’s share was $300,000).
Five years ago, Kingsmill started working for Greg Chase, captaining his boat part-time and participating in small tournaments. Once he’s retired, he plans to add another part-time boating job to create a new career plan.
And that will be in addition to another side business of his.
In 1993, Kingsmill learned about gyro-stabilized binoculars available here from a Russian military surplus. Using these high-powered binoculars out in the ocean to spot marlin fins allowed Kingsmill to see the fish up to a mile away – a major fishing asset.
“We bought all the Russian gyros available,” he said.
He had the binoculars for 10 years, at which point he needed to source new ones. Since the original Russian surplus was a limited supply, he needed a new source and eventually found a company – Fraser Optics in Pennsylvania – that made gyro-stabilized binoculars. He knew there was a market in the fishing world for these super-powered binoculars.
He made the company a deal: If he sold nine of their binoculars in a month, he’d get the 10th one free. He came through no problem. Since then he’s been representing the company’s binoculars, selling them all over the world to fishermen by simple word-of-mouth. He’s their No. 1 commercial salesman. Once he’s retired, he can spend more time selling the binoculars at the various tournaments worldwide.
“It’s a game-changer for fishing,” he said.
Kingsmill has many irons in the fire in time for retirement. He has some plans, but wants to see his youngest daughter through high school and then figure the rest out as he goes along.
“There are so many things I can do,” he said. “Take care of the family and then I’ll find out what I like the most.”
It’s a good position to be in. And Kingsmill is well aware of the benefit fishing has provided him throughout his career – as a balancing out to the darker side of police work.
“I can’t emphasize enough how many of my police colleagues have said … over and over and over again, ‘I am so envious that you have something you’re passionate about … beyond this work,’” he said. “By being able to do what I like and make money while I’m doing it – it’s a win-win.”