BEVERLY HILLS — During his first few weeks on the job in Beverly Hills, Sgt. John Milliron was advised by a fellow patrolman that, as the new guy, he’d need to show his fellow officers what he was made of.
“He said, ‘We’ll know what you got when you prove yourself,’” Milliron recalled.
Later that same day, after Milliron had chased down, tackled, wrestled with and cuffed a fleeing suspect, the same officer looked at him.
“He said, ‘You got it. You can back me up anytime.’”
That was 24 years ago.
In September, the Beverly Hills Public Safety Department said goodbye to Milliron, who retired after years of services as a public safety officer. A Troy native, Milliron has also worked in the roles of firefighter, lieutenant and assistant chief at the Troy Fire Department since 1986; he will retire from that position in April.
Beverly Hills Capt. Chris Yanosy worked with Milliron for 20 of those years and said he has always thought of Milliron as the face of the Beverly Hills Public Safety Department.
“I go to a lot of meetings and I make my way around the county, and everywhere I go, everyone knows John,” he said.
“He’s a great guy, and he’s always willing to help. He has a lot of knowledge on the fire side of things, so that really helped out with our training.”
During his time in Beverly Hills, Milliron also served as a school liaison officer for Groves High School and its associated middle and elementary schools — what he describes as “a wonderful position.”
“The kids build a confidence in you ... both kids who are troubled and those who aren’t. They come down and talk to you, share their problems, ask you for advice,” he said.
“One student gave me a sobriety coin he received from Alcoholics Anonymous. Another asked me to be his sponsor and come to his sobriety celebration.”
Another student who was entering the Marine Corps came by with his mother to thank Milliron for being such a positive influence in his life and wanted to say goodbye before he left for boot camp.
Milliron said he won’t miss the difficulties of the job — things such as spending holidays away from his family and missing out on his children’s activities — nor the unpleasant side of police work, like witnessing trauma and fatalities, especially those involving children, and witnessing any officer get injured on the job.
“The old saying goes, ‘You don’t so much miss the establishment, but you definitely miss the guys,’ and I do miss the guys. I used to adjust my time to eat lunch with them every day, and finally, they started asking me why I couldn’t eat alone,” he joked.
“When I was younger and single, I was on midnights all the time, for eight years. I enjoyed it, and I was there by choice,” he recalled.
“Once you have a family, you find out much more about responsibility. It’s tough when you can’t be there for things and gets tougher as they get older.”
Milliron and his wife have three daughters, ages 12, 14 and 16. Now an officer with the 45-A District Court in Berkley, he is looking forward to spending more weekends and holidays with his family.
“My wife works at the court in Troy, so we get to speak the same language, now,” he said.
Beverly Hills Lt. Jon Schultz said Milliron is an example of an officer who was not only driven to do the job well, but one who consistently delivered.
“We used to run into the difference; people want to be the best at what they do, but that’s not necessarily the case. John did both,” he said.
“Occasionally, we do have to delve into the firefighting aspect, and to have someone with that extensive fire experience to lean on was fantastic. I personally think that was one of the biggest contributions that he brought to a mostly law enforcement-oriented department.”
After 24 years of working with Milliron in the day-to-day grind, fighting fires and sharing shift work, Lt. Eric Ottney lauded him as “a quintessential firefighter and a cop’s cop — a good investigator, very compassionate and with strong family values.”
“He’s street savvy, he’s experienced and he leads from the front. He’s the guy who is always there when you need him,” Ottney said.
“During his last days on the job, we were fighting fires together, and I outrank him, but I asked him to run the fire scene because he knows so much more than I do. He’s just one of those guys who is well-versed in aspects of our job — police, fire and medical. It’s an awful lot, and nobody can know it all, but John knows most of it.”
Milliron said he enjoyed the support of the Beverly Hills community and said he hopes the village concentrates on maintaining enough officers to operate an efficient and effective Public Safety Department.
“I think there needs to be a look into the manpower situation and the staffing. Our residents are treated top-notch. We’re not going out and putting tapes in VCRs for people, but anytime a call comes in, we go out and evaluate. If someone can’t get into their house or their garage door is stuck, nine times out of 10, we can assist,” he said.
“We’d like to keep that level of service up, and it involves manpower. When it is an emergency, a fire or a high-risk police situation, you need the manpower.”
And after decades on both sides of the public safety sector, Milliron said he would still recommend law enforcement or firefighting as a career.
“Both are great fields, and there’s a lot of camaraderie. They’re both like second families. But you need to be ready to work and to respond at odd hours and sacrifice some family time ... and to always keep safety No. 1,” he said.
“That’s the first step to getting home at night.”
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