Elk Grove Police Chief Tim Albright was invited to speak at the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce’s Aug. 27 luncheon. He planned to address his department’s work in reducing crime and improving their outreach programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
However, Albright told the gathering at the Valley Hi Country Club that he was awake at 2 a.m. that morning. He heard the news that Galt Officer Harminder Grewal succumbed to his injuries that he suffered when a truck slammed head-on into his patrol car on Highway 99, south of Elk Grove, on Aug. 22. The officer was traveling to El Dorado County to assist communities impacted by the Caldor Fire.
“You’d have to forgive me, it’s a little cathartic at this point,” Albright told the audience.
He dedicated much of his speech to reflecting on the loss of Grewal before leading a moment of silence for him and his police partner, Officer Kapri Herrera who was severely injured from the highway collision.
Albright said that Grewal’s death brought back memories of when his friend, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert French died during a shootout in Sacramento four years ago. He recalled that the loss prompted him to write a reflection that he titled, “Imagine.” Albright wrote about how many people are unaware of the challenges that law enforcement officers face. Throughout his piece, he counted nearly 20 “co-workers” that he lost during his 30 years in law enforcement.
“Imagine going to work every day, and not knowing if today would be your last day on earth, because of your job,” he first wrote.
Albright then wondered if those in other occupations such as accountant, surgeon, attorney, and salesman have the same worry.
The police chief wrote about the scrutiny placed on law enforcement officers.
“Imagine having your every move being examined by in-car cameras, bodyworn cameras, traffic cameras, cell phone cameras, news cameras,” he wrote. “Imagine everybody is an expert but you.”
Albright also commented on the dangers that haunt his fellow sworn officers.
“Imagine people wanting to kill you for the uniform you wear, the oath you took for what you represent,” he said. “Imagine having to take up those ideas because it’s what you signed up for.”
Following that remark, the police chief also wrote about an officer performing CPR to save a child’s life and “hoping for a miracle.”
Albright concluded, “imagine these 100-pound weights coming down on your shoulders again and again…how much can you carry?”
He then said that he grieves for Grewal, his family, and the Galt Police Department.
“(Grewal) died doing what he signed up for, but that doesn’t make it okay,” he said.
During his speech, Albright noted that the Elk Grove police’s work in creating a diverse staff that reflects the Elk Grove community. He said that in the past year, 41% of new hires were women and 63% were minorities.
The police chief stressed the importance of having diverse backgrounds within the staff.
“We don’t need a bunch of robots who look the same, act the same, and have the same upbringing,” he said about having a homogenous staff.
Albright said that members of his staff aided Grewal’s family after the Galt officer was hospitalized. He noted that the family did not speak English, but Elk Grove Police Officer Sandeep Grewal spent six days communicating with them and the hospital staff. Two other Elk Grove officers are also working with the Galt police staff to address the cultural issues in regards to Harminder’s memorial service.
“Without the pipeline of diverse (police job) candidates, without the willingness and desire for us to reflect our community, we would have left that family wondering, not knowing what it would look like,” Albright said. “It brought me so much pride.”
Sandeep commented to the Citizen on his work with the fallen Galt police officer's family.
"Being that he and I share the same last name, are around the same age, hail from the same part of the world, and grew up in the same culture, his passing has touched me in a unique way." he said. "I was able to learn a lot about him from his friends, family, and partners. It is truly undeniable how much of an impact he made on the community he served and the people he served alongside."