Quote: from the Manteca Bulletin
September 6th, 2006
‘Fuller Brushman’ to the cops
Manteca reserve officer’s business big hit with cops
RIPON — Manteca Police reserve Sgt. Steve Walker rolls to calls for service up and down the valley.
Walker, who oversees security every year for the Manteca Pumpkin Fair, responds to request for assistance from police agencies not on a patrol unit but in a Snap-On Tools style van equipped with just about everything a police officer or firefighter needs to do their jobs.
Emergency Gear Direct is a new concept in customer service for cops and firemen based in Ripon and is centrally located to where some 400 regional police officers reside.
It’s comprised of a police/fire equipment showroom, a drive-in work area for police cars and a mobile van. They van contains a display of equipment and supplies that travels to the many police and fire departments.
It’slike a candy store for the emergency guys and gals who often don’t have the time to go shopping between shifts.
Located on Goodwin Drive near Highway 99 just easterly of the new Taco Bell restaurant, it is the brainchild of Steve Walker — in his 30s — who saw the need to make emergency products available just about 24/7 for police and fire personnel from Turlock to Elk Grove.
The location was just perfect in Ripon, he said, after looking at other sites in the valley. He added that the foundation for his building was all that was there when he first drove up to the site.
Walker says it’s probably a good thing he is not married because of his 12 hour days. He said he has no idea how he would juggle his time with a family.
Walker is a fine addition to the Ripon business community. I haven’t talked to one police officer who has had anything but glowing remarks when his name is mentioned.
Ripon Police Chief Richard Bull and Manteca’s public affairs officer Rex Osborn both complimented Walker in his operation where he offers mobile showroom service to officers at their shift change.
“He’s 100 percent reliable,” Osborn said. “If he says he going to be there — he’s there. Steve’s very dedicated to law enforcement.”
Osborn said he thought Walker would go into law enforcement full time noting that he may have found something better.
Steve has the welcome mat out for officers during the nighttime hours for those who need to use his wireless internet hookup. He has a W1-F1 line he offers for the benefit of the officers on the road — they don’t have to waste valuable time in traveling back to their headquarters.
Ripon Police have one undercover unit on the street that was purchased through Emergency Gear Direct reportedly at a substantial savings to them.
Steve and his personnel are just a smile and a handshake away when you walk through the front door of their immaculate display room.
Walker told me he first planned to limit his project to only offering equipment from his SWAT Team-type van with its emergency lights and gold star badge logo.
But, with an approved Small Business Administration (SBA) loan , one thing evolved into another — including an equipment showroom at his facility and a shop — where he and his employees install emergency equipment on police cars.
Now he is in the process of offering franchises for his curbside service program. The new emergency gear firm has published a 12 page booklet outlining its operation that can be found on the front counter.
You might say that Steve is “pro cop” and can see their needs first hand. He serves as a sergeant in the Manteca Police Department’s reserve force and is the organizer of the security program for the annual Pumpkin Fair in that community.
His love for law enforcement actually began when he entered the cadet program with Manteca Police Department as a high school student. He later served as a fare enforcement conductor for the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) train — that was an almost five year stint.
Steve chuckled when he remembered how the ACE commuters became one big family for him. On his birthday another train conductor walked through all of the cars ahead of him telling the riders they should sing “Happy Birthday” to Steve when he came through — you can bet every car did just that, he said. Walker said he enjoyed his time at ACE because of the people. “I liked working with the people on the train — it was the best — like when we had potlucks.”
Seeing the hands come out of the train with $20 bills at a 30-second platform stop to buy a pizza was always something to see. Don’t know how they coordinated their timing, he said.
“I had to learn this business quietly on my own,” he said of the public safety equipment trade.
He first managed a police uniform store in Escalon — L.C. Action Police Supply — and later went to a larger store in San Jose. The Escalon store was owned by Mike Keener who is now a detective with the Manteca Police Department. Steve began that job when he was a police cadet.
Now he is offering training on the job to a Ripon cadet veteran Ghailan Chahouati, 21, and Manteca Police Explorer Daniel Skrimager.
“I had been working on this idea for two years while I was still working for ACE,” he said of his Ripon venture.
He noted that his program is somewhat similar to Snap-On Tools where the salesman goes to the different repair shops to sell their product.
“I just show up and let the dispatcher know that we are there,” he said.
“The truck is the main selling point for us —- it is a mobile version of our showroom,” he said. The Manteca Police Explorer drives it two days a week for him.
Walker said he has offered his vehicle as a backup unit to departments several times when he was at an emergency scene. One was in Turlock where it was used to block traffic when officers found a pipe bomb and another at a rollover in Manteca for traffic control.
He said all of the departments have been very supportive. In one instance he was sitting in his van outside the Ceres Police Department. There was a “knock-knock” at the door and it was the chief and a city councilman who were curious.
It was 1 a.m. and the chief called available units on his radio — “come in here and look at this.”
Walker stressed his “roadside service” too. If a department is out of some necessary equipment or product like road flares — for instance — we will deliver them to the scene immediately, he said.
His products include Point Blank Body Armor, handcuffs, finger print and drug test kits, badges, reference books, pepper spray, leather, fire bags for turnout gear and assault training weapons.
While his assault weapons look like the real thing they actually shoot plastic pellets. They are just as accurate as the real thing he said and cost much less to maintain and operate.
The Ripon facility also stocks stop light changers and the familiar overhead red and blue light bars along with civilian model taser guns. Cost $899. The law enforcement tasers are sold directly from the manufacturer due to the volume ordered.
They also handle Original Swat Boots that actually come from a distribution center in Salida.
Remember Walker can get you a new police car, too, boasting a better price to your police department. “We just delivered a new special investigations unit,” he said. Once they have the car they will install the siren and emergency lights.
His firm recently delivered six vehicles to the Sharpe Army Depot (DLA) and outfitted them with emergency equipment — after decommissioning six.
He said he believes the Dodge Charger is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next couple of years challenging the Ford Crown Victoria now in use by many departments. “You’ll probably see them in 2008 — they’re not on the state bid list yet.” He said many of the East Coast departments are using them now.
Uniforms are coming into stock in the future, he said.
By GLENN KAHL
Correspondent for the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin