Juneau Police Department honors retiring officers

    Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at 2:26 PM

    By Jordan Lewis/Jasz Garrett

    Officer Don Ward with 7 years of service (left) and Officer Jim Esbenshade with 14 years of service (right) both retired from JPD on Tuesday. (Photo credit Jordan Lewis/KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - On May 30, Officer Don Ward with 7 years of service, and Officer Jim Esbenshade with 14 years of service both retired from JPD.

    Deputy Chief David Campbell spoke.

    "These are bittersweet events," he said. "They're bittersweet because, on one hand, we're very happy to see our brothers here retire and start the next chapter of their lives. But also a little bit of bitterness that we don't have the daily interaction we are used to having with our friends."

    Mayor Beth Weldon, City Manager Rorie Watt and Deputy City Manager Robert Barr, Assemblyman Wade Bryson, Alaska State Troopers, and the FBI attended. Other retired JPD officers paid their respects.

    Off. Esbenshade took on special assignments such as being a field training officer, a crisis negotiator, and a dedicated "walking beat" assignment.

    He first came to Juneau after leaving his job as a pastor in Yakutat and was hired as a police officer in 2009.

    "He was known for his easy-going demeanor and old-man strength. He quickly earned the nickname 'Silver Fox', which he retains to this day," Lt. Jeremy Weske said. "Jim has been a part of the crisis negotiation team since 2013 and reached a level of Negotiator 2. He was a field training officer as well which is one of the most important jobs at JPD. In 2016, Jim was awarded a life-saving medal for performing CPR on a woman who was unconscious and non-breathing. His actions directly resulted in saving that woman's life."

    Off. Esbenshade plans to travel with his spouse and enjoy time with his children and grandchildren. He also enjoys commercial fishing.

    "I've always been impressed with Jim's professionalism, his demeanor, his easy-going way of speaking to people," Deputy Chief Campbell said.

    "I'm going to miss the people that I work with. I love working with these guys. I came from construction at one point, and I didn't really feel like they had my back on many occasions," Off. Esbenshade said. "Here at the police department, they do, and they've proved it on many occasions."

    Off. Ward has been in law enforcement since 1992 holding positions such as patrol, investigator, special response, and SWAT team member.

    The day before the retirement ceremony was Memorial Day. Deputy Chief Campbell commented on this note.

    "I was thinking a lot about the military, and how there is a lot of similitaries between the military and law enforcement," he shared. "The mentality translates into law enforcement. Whereas the military is designed to protect us nationally, the police protect us domestically. There is a really big distinction there."

    Off. Ward and his wife of 38 years plan to move back to Tennessee to be closer to their family. He is a fourth-generation soldier, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the Tennessee Army National Guard.

    Lt. Weske shared more insight into Off. Ward's career.

    "Throughout his law enforcement career in Tennessee, Don attended numerous specialized police schools at the University of North Alabama, Columbia State Community College, and Middle Tennessee State University to name a few," he said. "He was a member of the Sheriff's Special Response Team and was the sniper team leader for eight years. After being named a 2015 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Don retired from Giles County December 31st, 2015 as a criminal investigator with over 20 years of service in order to join the Juneau Police Department in January of 2016."

    Off. Ward has worked in JPD's patrol unit since his hiring and earned his advanced certificate from the Alaska Police Standards Council in November of 2017.

    He joined the SWAT team in 2018 and was "instrumental" in training JPD's sniper team.

    In 2020, Off. Ward received a life-saving medal after he and another officer stopped a man from committing suicide on the Juneau-Douglas bridge.

    In 2021, Off. Ward, along with his teammate placed second internationally in a 16-team Sniper Competition.

    He became an assistant coach with the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School air rifle team, which he did on duty.

    "One memory about Don came up. Every month we have a supervisor's meeting...there's one meeting that comes to mind, it was a couple of years ago, and it was the first meeting after Thanksgiving. Normally, when we have these meetings, no one wants to sit right next to me. Don came and sat right next to me," Deputy Chief Campbell said. "In the Thanksgiving tradition, I said let's say what we're thankful for. Without any notion of what was happening, I turned it over to Don. He spoke eloquently of what it was like to be a police officer in Juneau. He talked about what it was like to be a police officer down south, and the support we have here."

    Off. Ward recalled taking a cruise to Alaska for their 30th wedding anniversary and the area drawing them in.

    "After we came up here, it stuck with us and we went home and thought about it. This area, it brought us in here. We decided, because I could, because it was the right time in our life, I would retire, and we'd go all in for Juneau," he said. "We said four years. Juneau brought us here, but it was the people who kept us. It's been my pleasure and honor to serve with you, thank you."

    Above: Off. Ward (left) poses for a photo with Deputy Chief Campbell (right). Below: Off. Esbenshade does the same. (Photo credit Jordan Lewis/KINY)

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