Eureka's longest-serving police officer retires after 56 years
EUREKA- The City of Eureka is saying goodbye and happy retirement to one of its longest-serving police officers, Murl Harpham. For more than half a century, Harpham spent his years working for the Eureka Police Department. Before the 56-year Eureka police vet joined the force, he was a reporter for the local newspaper,
"I was a reporter for the Humboldt times, I had the police beat," said Harpham.
He came to the North Coast on a football scholarship at Humboldt State while working for the school’s newspaper. In the early 1950’s he landed a job as a cub reporter for the local newspaper and worked the cop beat until one day the police chief asked him if he would be interested in becoming an officer,
"So he said to me, would you be interested and I said, I might be. I got exposed to it and I thought that I would rather be doing it than writing about it,” he said.
Since the day he joined the department in 1957, he never looked back. He spent more than half of his life patrolling the streets of Eureka, something he says has changed drastically over the decades,
"The biggest change was the methamphetamine problem. When meth came along the attitudes changed because the people under meth they become very paranoid and very aggressive."
Harpham was with the department for six decades. In 1968 he became a sergeant, ten years later was promoted to captain, and during his era was interim police chief four times, until taking the helm of chief in 2012. Harpham said the one thing that kept him motivated and got him up for work every day were the people.
He worked on some of Eureka's highest profile cases during his reign, including that of Richard Stobaugh, the so-called "ski mask rapist" from 1986. Harpham was the commander of investigations at that time and was said to be instrumental in solving that case,
"It was before DNA, he had a very unusual blood type, and that is how we were able to zero in on him,” he said.
When not zeroed in on work, he was focused on raising his family, his wife of fifty years and his five children, two of whom followed in their father's footsteps,
"Two of them are police officers and I never guided them in that direction, they picked their own paths."
Now that they are older with families of their own, Harpham said he is trying to pave a new path, one that leads to retirement happiness and a new way of living,
"I still wake up at the same time every morning, but every once in a while the thought hits me that I’m not getting a paycheck anymore.”