Santa Barbara County and the City of Lompoc recently lost one of their finest. Jonathan Edward Bailey, 63, of Lompoc, died at his wife’s side on April 8, 2016. He was a man who came from humble beginnings, living most of his childhood in Modesto, Reading, Salida, and Stockton. Jon worked as a farm laborer, service station attendant, and truck driver prior to joining the Lompoc Police Department in 1983.
Jon was a journeyman line-level police officer. He worked for more than 30 years as a Lompoc police officer and Santa Barbara County deputy sheriff, serving as a patrolman, SWAT team member, firearms instructor, field training officer, and Explorer Advisor. He also blended his work and his passion for animals by becoming both a K-9 handler and a mounted officer.
Jon and his family were a huge part of the Lompoc Police Department. At one point, the top of the agency roster looked like the name of an Irish law firm: Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, and Bailey. In addition to Jon, Sandi, his wonderful wife of 37 years, worked as a property officer; Jon’s brother, Joe, as a sergeant; Jon’s son, Jason, as a police officer; and his nephew, Joey, as an Explorer and later a jailer. When he wasn’t working, Jon enjoyed the cowboy way. He and Sandi shared a passion for horses. They lived on a 10-acre ranch and rode and trained horses whenever they could, and Jon often helped gather and brand cattle with his friends. Jon’s other son, Nick, followed in his father’s cowboy footsteps, while his daughter, Amber, brought some balance to the family with her free spirit and a wanderlust to experience distant places.
Jon was a true gentleman; he worked for two law enforcement agencies that I have been privileged to lead. He and Sandi were most generous in opening up their ranch for charitable events and celebrations. These gatherings were always attended by legions of friends or soon-to-become friends who would inevitably have a great time. His memorial service was packed with many of the things he loved in life — his family, his friends, his fellow cops in blue and tan-and-green, horses, dogs, American flags, country music — and afterward some excellent barbecue and adult beverages.
Jon loved life, always had a positive outlook, and relished helping others in need. He did his best work when no one was watching, and he was, in many ways, most unassuming — a man who was innately modest and humble. He believed in people, and he understood that while much of the time cops see people at their worst, that’s not always the definition of who they are. He once told a police chaplain who was on a ride-along that “Just because someone gets arrested doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.”
Jon enjoyed being a guardian. He was good at it, because he loved what he did. Like all cops, he and his family sacrificed in order for him to pursue his destiny of being a law enforcement officer. There were many evenings, weekends, and holidays that he wasn’t with his children or his grandchildren because he was patrolling the streets instead. But Jon had a calling, and I believe God put him on this earth for a purpose — to be a servant to others. Indeed, public service in the protection of others was Jon’s life purpose. He didn’t do what he did for fame or glory, nor most certainly for fortune. He did it because he was called to do it.
The list of his good works and contributions would be almost endless. Once when a deranged and barricaded man caught Jon’s partner off guard and threatened him with a raised butcher knife, it was Jon’s brandished .45 and resolute command to drop the weapon that saved the day and prevented a justifiable shooting. His down-to-earth demeanor and empathy for others in need prevented many suicides and brought hope to the hopeless. His smile and cheerful nature in issuing a warning for a traffic violation helped bring many racing hearts back to a normal beat.
Jon was a man of character, integrity, and courage. He showed that courage along with great dignity in how he fought back when he developed cancer. Indeed, the last time I saw him was just a few weeks before his death, and he was in uniform, on duty, working as a sheriff’s deputy at the security checkpoint at the Figueroa Street Courthouse. We had a brief but pleasing conversation in which he told me — again — how much he enjoyed being back in the saddle and working at the courts. As we parted company, my last glimpse of Jon was of him smiling — smiling that inimitable smile that all who knew him remember so well.
In this day and age when the law enforcement profession is disparaged by a miniscule number of bad cops disproportionately spotlighted in the news day after day, let us never forget that the overwhelming majority of those who protect and serve others across this nation are decent cops like Jon Bailey. They put their lives on the line for people they’ve often never even met, and they do so every minute of every day. Jon Bailey had a loving wife and family, the admiration of his peers, and — hopefully — the gratitude of those he protected and served so well. He was a fine peace officer, and memories of him will always be framed in fondness and respect. At the end of our days, there’s not much more that a man could ask for in this life.
Jon Bailey. Good man. Good cop. Happy trails, Jon. We miss you.
Bill Brown is Santa Barbara County Sheriff and previously served as Lompoc’s chief of police from 1995-2007.