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Neighborhood Police Officer (NPO) Mitch Gatson is retiring this month after 34 years on the Dallas Police Department, and fellow officers flooded Highland Oaks Church of Christ Friday to wish him well.

“The biggest thing about Mitch is his love for the community,” praised Deputy Chief Bill Griffith. “He gets along with everybody. He can go into a community and have them love him and hug on him when he’s done. It’s his personality, and it’s a part of who he is. I’ve known him almost 30 years, and he’s been like that the entire time. It’s why he’s been so successful here at northeast – his dedication and love for the community. And his faith.”

Assistant Chief Avery Moore agreed.

“Mitch is successful because of his benevolence for his peers and the community. He gives love, and people love him back.”

Gatson said he knows it’s a tough time to wear a badge in America. The key, he said, is showing respect to every individual during every encounter.

“I was raised to treat everyone the same, whether it’s the janitor, the homeless person, the CEO or the chief of police,” said Gatson. “You treat everyone the same and keep an open mind. You accept everybody’s culture, whether you agree with their lifestyle or what they do, and you learn to talk with them and accept them for who they are.”

Gatson’s philosophy won him many fans – on the force and in the communities he has served.

“I’m speechless. I’ve got a lot of law enforcement but also a lot of HOA people here. Current chiefs, retired chiefs, classmates, public service officers, civilians – I’m really humbled. I was raised that you do your job and don’t expect anything in return.”

Gatson plans to take it easy for about a week, then head out to the family farm. Retirement, he said, will provide more time to do things for and with his family.

“I’ve been working since I followed my daddy around as a little boy. I’ll be a reserve officer and keep my certifications up to teach, and some other agencies have asked me to do some work for them, but I’m not the type of individual that wants to sit down. That would probably shorten my lifespan, watching the cars go by. It’s been a great run, and I’m grateful.”