Sgt. Maj. Gregory Walters has worked so long for the Prince George’s County Police Department, he could have retired twice. And he doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon.
“This is my passion,” said Walters, who has been on the force for 45 years. “Every day is gravy. I’ll leave when I can no longer do the functions of the job.”
Walters, 66, of Bowie is the longest-serving police officer in county police history, according to officials. His colleagues admire his work and dedication, but also joke that he is a little crazy for continuing a job he could retire from with 85 percent retirement pay.
Police officers are eligible for retirement at 20 years; their retirement pay maxes at 30 years, officials said.
“He has worked here for 45 years, so something is wrong with him,” police department Lt. Arlene Brooks said with a laugh.
Brooks is Walters’ supervisor in the police department’s information technology department. She said that even though he is older than other officers, he has more energy than anyone in the office.
Motivated by his father’s work as a Maryland state trooper, Walters started his career with the county police department on Jan. 13, 1969. He started out as a patrol officer and worked beats in Hyattsville and at the Bowie station.
“I saw what he was doing [as a state trooper],” Walters said of his father. “It looked like a good job, an honorable job.”
Walters worked patrol for 28 years. Typically, longer tenured officers retire at about 25 or 30 years, he said. Instead, Walters became a fleet manager in 1998, handling the department’s vehicles.
In 2009, Walters also started working in the police information technology department, ensuring that the phones, laptops and email of officers were in good shape. Since February 2013, Walters said, he has worked strictly in IT.
“All of a sudden, it became 30, then 40, then 45 years,” Walters said. “[The police department] means everything. I wanted to be a policeman, and I got to be one.”
During his 45 years, Walters said, the department has expanded its technology, which helps police target crime-ridden areas by using data, he said. Officers also have laptops and cellphones, which makes for better communication, he said.
When Walters was a patrol officer, there were no portable radios or cellphones, he said.
When officers got a call, the moment they stepped out of the car, they were alone, he said. If they needed to call someone, they had to return to their vehicle to use the radio to reach dispatch.
“All these changes over time have brought about better safety for our officers,” he said.
Police Chief Mark Magaw, who has served 30 years in the department, said he respects the time and effort Walter has put into his work. He said being a police officer is tough, with long hours and challenging work, and to have Walters make it 45 years is a “tremendous accomplishment.”
“He is a great asset to this department and his community,” Magaw said. “He loves his community.”
Walters said he isn’t sure when he plans to retire, but will keep working until he no longer can do the job.
He plays basketball and tennis to keep his mind and body sharp. With a 4 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. work schedule, four adult children and six grandchildren from his two oldest children, Walters joked that he has plenty to keep him busy until he decides to retire.
“I told the younger ones not to procreate right now,” he said with a laugh.