Captain Gary Wedge is retiring next week after a 29-year career. If they have a retirement party for Captain Wedge there will be testimonials, proclamations, plaques, congratulatory letters, and other boring speeches. When I gave retirement talks during Bill Winters’s reign as chief, I concentrated on things the honoree did that embarrassed him and made the audience laugh. But, that’s just me. It’s called a “roast” and is done in fun. I only roasted those I liked.
If Wedge ever won a safe driving award he should return it. Here’s why: In the mid-80s Gary was a patrolman. I was working homicide. One afternoon some guy stabbed his wife. Patrol units responded and my partner and I came from the station to the scene, an apartment complex in the 200 block of Quintard.
When we turned into the driveway we noticed about 30 feet of the wooden fence separating the apartment complex from the one next door had been reduced to scattered kindling. Then we saw a patrol car with a bent fender. We laughed, knowing some cop was going to write a report and appear before an accident review board and be the subject of mandatory ridicule from his peers. The driver of said patrol car was Gary Wedge.
Of course, Gary has an excuse. He told me the patrol vehicles we drove then, Plymouth Volares, would often stall when suddenly accelerated. As Wedge pulled into the driveway he punched it to get to the rear of the complex. He claims the engine stalled, thus disabling the power steering. That’s when he turned the fence into bonfire material. Some believed him.
Gary also showed versatility. Years later I was his patrol sergeant and at the end of the afternoon shift we had an overlap with the graveyard shift that had just cleared roll call. At the time, Chula Vista was beset with street hookers. Between “E” Street and Naples there could be as many as six on both sides of the street.
Each night I would have two volunteers from our shift put on everyday clothes and try to arrest some hookers. When it was Wedge’s turn, he demonstrated uncanny imagination. Wedge drove and owned a ratty Datsun pickup truck. He had several paint cans in the back of the truck I could see his pants and shirt bore paint stains and he had splashed paint on his arms and face.
He hit Broadway and bagged his first hooker in a matter of minutes. A few more followed. The girls were furious, thinking he was a painter in need of companionship. They felt betrayed. Poor babies.
My last impression of Gary Wedge was when we managed opposing teams at Parkview Little League in the early 90s. I told the parents to let me know if their child was going to miss a game. One Saturday late in the season a mother called and asked if her son could attend a birthday party instead of playing. I checked my roster and believed we had enough players. I thanked her.
Two other parents weren’t so considerate. They just didn’t show up. My team was in the running for first place. Wedge’s team was well out of the running. His team won that game by forfeit because I couldn’t field a team.
Gary offered to approach the Board and reschedule the game. I refused, saying his team won fair and square. We didn’t field enough players and deserved to lose. Nonetheless, I remembered what a nice gesture of sportsmanship Gary offered.
As a detective I could tell by reading Gary’s reports that he had a promising future. I told the other detectives to be good to Wedge because, if we stayed around long enough, we’d be working for him.
Basinski is a former Chula Vista police officer.