Retiring Juneau Police Department Officers Don Ward (left) and Jim Esbenshade (right) smile for a picture at their joint retirement ceremony on Tuesday afternoon at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Retiring Juneau Police Department Officers Don Ward (left) and Jim Esbenshade (right) smile for a picture at their joint retirement ceremony on Tuesday afternoon at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

‘It was the people who kept us’: Retiring JPD officers reminisce on years serving in Juneau.

Juneau Police Department Officers Don Ward and Jim Esbenshade retire after years of services.

When Juneau Police Department Officer Don Ward first moved to Juneau from Giles County, Tennessee, in 2016 after visiting the capital city on a cruise with his wife, the pair said they would only stay for four years.

Fast forwarding to seven years later, it appears he’s now finally keeping his word as on Tuesday afternoon a joint ceremony was held to honor Ward alongside Officer Jim Esbenshade who are both retiring from their positions with the department this month.

“Juneau brought us here — but it was the people who kept us,” Ward said to the dozens of residents and law enforcement officials who attended the event.

During the ceremony, JPD Deputy Chief David Campbell gave opening remarks and spoke about the pair, describing them as serving their roles as officers in a “guardian mentality” rather than the “warrior mentality” an officer can sometimes take on.

“I’ve always been very impressed with Officer Ward and Officer Esbenshade on the tact and compassion that they use when doing their job,” he said. “They have a tremendous command presence, but they modify it with a quiet professionalism and demeanor, and that just really speaks volumes about what it means to be a police officer, especially in Juneau.”

According to the department, before his time as a police officer in Juneau, Ward served in the U.S. Army and Tennessee Army National Guard before also taking on the roles of reserve deputy, uniformed patrol deputy and investigator with the Giles County Sheriff’s Department before he retired there in 2015.

After his retirement in Tennessee, Ward and his wife headed to Juneau in 2016 and joined JPD where throughout his time he served on the JPD patrol unit, earning his Advanced Certificate from the Alaska Police Standards Council.

During his year Ward also joined the JPD SWAT team, trained the JPD sniper team and received a Lifesaving Medal. During the ceremony, Ward thanked the department and residents for their support in welcoming him to the community. He said he and his wife plan to head back to Tennessee to be closer to their grandchildren.

“It’s been real and I appreciate everybody for being here,” he said. “It’s been my pleasure to come here to serve with you.”

Retiring Officer Esbenshade was also honored at the ceremony. He is stepping away from his role after nearly 15 years with JPD.

According to JPD, before his time as a police officer, Esbenshade was a pastor in Yakutat. He moved to Juneau in 2009 and — according to Lieutenant Jeremy Weske, who also spoke during the ceremony — Esbenshade was “immediately a fan favorite at JPD.”

“Jim has done a masterful job using his charm and easy-going demeanor to interact with people from all walks of life,” Weske said.

As an officer Esbenshade joined the JPD crisis negotiation team in 2013 and was a field training officer for six years. In 2016 he was awarded a Lifesaving Medal from JPD for his effort performing CPR on a woman who was unconscious and not breathing, which in turn saved her life.

After retirement, Esbenshade and his fiance plan to hit the road with an RV to travel around the states, and visit his daughters and grandchildren living in Virginia and Anchorage before coming back to Juneau to enjoy his retirement. He said he will miss the connections he made while with the department.

“I love working with these guys,” he said. “ I came from construction at one point and I didn’t really feel like they had my back on many occasions, but here at the police department they do and they proved it on many occasions, so I want to say thanks and I will miss you guys.”

Campbell thanked him for his service during his more than decade-long career.

“​​I’ve always been impressed with Jim’s professionalism, his demeanor his easy-going way of speaking to people — and he is a hell of a good negotiator,” he said.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

Retiring Juneau Police Department Officer Jim Esbenshade gives a short speech at his joint retirement ceremony on Tuesday afternoon at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Retiring Juneau Police Department Officer Jim Esbenshade gives a short speech at his joint retirement ceremony on Tuesday afternoon at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Retiring Juneau Police Department Officer Don Ward (left) and Deputy Chief David Campbell (right) smile for a picture at Ward’s joint retirement ceremony alongside Officer Jim Esbenshade on Tuesday afternoon at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Retiring Juneau Police Department Officer Don Ward (left) and Deputy Chief David Campbell (right) smile for a picture at Ward’s joint retirement ceremony alongside Officer Jim Esbenshade on Tuesday afternoon at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

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