When Steve Faircloth graduated Bridge City High School in 1969, he knew he wanted to be police chief someday.

The reason, he says, wasn’t complicated. “I felt a calling to spend a life of service,” he says. 

“And what better place to do it than the place you grew up.”

Faircloth, 57, retiring after 28 years with the department and 12 as chief, will be honored with a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Bridge City City Hall on Rachel Street.

“I’ve seen the town go from a newly-incorporated city and the first growth of government we had,” he says, “and the police department from a portable building to what’s now the water department building, and then the current building.” Dealing with illness and family losses the last few years, he wants some time to rest.

“I can say I was an honest policeman with honest employees,” he says. “During my tenure as chief, no lawsuit was filed against the city or the police department. If you can go 12 years without getting sued, it’s got to be some kind of record. I think I’m leaving with the city in very good shape.

“During [Hurricanes] Rita and Humberto, I remember going down to the police station with a pillow, because you know you’re not going to be leaving for a while.”

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the department earned an interesting local status of sorts when Chief John Tarver sent Faircloth to the 18-week FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. Tarver was already a graduate.

“For a time, we were the only law agency in Southeast Texas where the chief and his No. 2 man were both Academy graduates,” Faircloth says. “Attending the Academy was a wonderful experience. I met a lot of policemen from all over the country.”

Faircloth first discussed a law enforcement job in 1973 with Orange County Sheriff Buck Patillo.

“I remember it so well because that was the last time we had a real snow here,” he says. “I drove through the snow to be interviewed by the sheriff’s department. Buck kept trying to discourage me by saying, ‘You really don’t want to do this.’ But I was persistent, and they eventually hired me because they realized I was just going to keep coming back.” He spent some time serving under Chief Wilson Roberts in Bridge City, hired with Burns Bobbit as his partner. “That was a time when the government was putting a lot of money into private and public jobs,” he says. “We were hired with some grant money.” After briefly serving with Chief Butch Reynolds in Vidor, he got into a home-building business with his father-in-law, however, rising interest rates couldn’t keep the company going.

Back with the Bridge City police in 1980, he became the only investigator in the department, which only had eight people then.

“I remember solving two cases that originally appeared unsolvable,” he says. “There was a robbery at the old Billup’s station, and a guy robbed and raped the clerk then kidnapped her. I had her go into Beaumont and look at some mugshots they had down there, and she probably looked through about 1,000 of them. Then just like that, she pointed her finger to one of them and said, ‘That’s the guy.’ He was successfully prosecuted and I didn’t think I’d see him again until one day when I registered him as a sex offender.” Another convenience store robbery Faircloth worked saw a clerk robbed and kidnapped in her own car. The assailant raped her under the GSU Bridge and tried to drown her. “Criminals make us look good because they can be very stupid,” Faircloth says. “He left a little black suitcase and inside was a bottle of aspirin from a pharmacy with a Mississippi address. It didn’t take long to locate him and he was eventually given three life sentences.”