Former San Diego police chief and county sheriff dies

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Bill Kolender, the former San Diego police chief and county sheriff, died Tuesday, according to officials with both agencies.

According to a press release from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Kolender died surrounded by family after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Kolender had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since retiring as the county’s head law enforcement official in 2009. He had served in that post since 1994, and was SDPD chief from 1975-78. 

When Bill was elected the 28th Sheriff of San Diego County in 1994, he was already a legend in law enforcement.

His life’s calling began with the San Diego Police Department in 1956, as a patrol officer and his professional career spanned more than 50 years.

In 1975, at the age of 40, he was appointed Chief of the San Diego Police Department, and served with distinction in that office for 13 years. He is widely recognized as the author of community-oriented policing and forged strong relations with leaders in San Diego’s minority communities. 

After his retirement from the San Diego Police Department, he was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson to serve as Director of the California Youth Authority, where he championed rehabilitation programs for the state’s youngest serious offenders. Bill was one of the first to realize incarceration is not the complete answer to rehabilitation. Educational programs, and re-entry initiatives were another of his innovations.

When Bill was sworn into the office of Sheriff in 1995, he took control of a department that had been through a hard-fought election. Working alongside Undersheriff Jack Drown, Sheriff Kolender took on the challenge of bringing together the department and turning it into a professional team with a common purpose and shared mission. Under his leadership, public confidence in this department was enhanced. He was re-elected as Sheriff in 1998, 2002, and 2006.

"Recognized wherever he went in San Diego, Sheriff Kolender seemed, in many respects, larger than life. Yet, what we will remember most about him will be his personal touch. When a deputy was injured, he could be counted on to be standing at the hospital bed. During his days as Chief, and then Sheriff, he was called upon to deliver news a family never wants to hear – that their loved one was killed in the line of duty," according to the release. 

A memorial service is in the planning stage and details will be forthcoming. Flags at all Sheriff’s Department facilities will be lowered to half staff to salute this hero and friend.

Categories: KUSI