James “Mitch” Waller worked at the Westminster Police Department for 27 years before he retired in 2012. On June 28th, Chief Waller was on a bike ride when he was tragically struck and killed by a passing motorist.
Born in Texas, Mitch did much of his growing up in Southern California. He originally aspired to be a doctor, so he earned degrees in biochemistry and cellular biology, along with a minor in economics from U.C. San Diego. However, after working a security job he became interested in law enforcement. Mitch attended the Criminal Justice Training Center at Goldenwest College in Huntington Beach, CA, to pursue his new dream of becoming a police officer.
Mitch started his law enforcement career with the Westminster Police Department in 1984. During his service, he worked nearly every possible specialized assignment. He quickly promoted through the ranks until he was appointed as the 10th Chief of Police for the department in 2010. In 2011, Mitch resigned his position to become the City Manager for the City of Westminster. During this time, he helped navigate the city and department out the worst recession period in U.S. history.
Mitch was an avid road cyclist. You could not tell from his appearance, but he was an animal on a bike. He often talked of the trips he took on his trusty road bike, riding miles upon miles from sun-up to sun-down. And yet, Mitch was never one to boast or brag; he only desired to share his riding passion with other enthusiasts. While serving at the Westminster Police Department, Mitch was a strong supporter of the annual Project 999 Memorial Ride, a 630-mile bike ride from Sacramento to Santa Ana to honor fallen officers in Orange County, CA.
Despite Mitch’s professional triumphs, his greatest success and favorite assignment was that of loving husband and father. Mitch and his wife, Sally, have been married for 19 years and they have two children (Chase, 17, and Kiana, 15). Both his son and daughter are exemplary students in the classroom and standout athletes on the field.
During the memorial service, Westminster Police Chief Kevin Baker read a very touching eulogy sharing Mitch’s life history with several hundred people who were in attendance. Some of Mitch’s family members and closest friends got up to share personal stories about Mitch. People laughed. People cried. People remembered a great man with a humble spirit and servant’s heart. Chaplain Robert Benoun offered words of encouragement and challenged those in attendance to continue fighting the good fight and carry on our good work to honor the memory of a man who once touched our lives.
Rest in peace now Chief Waller. We will take it from here.