ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Exactly 39 years to the day he put on his first official officer’s uniform with the Loxley Police Department, Rex Bishop, now a lieutenant who has served the last 17 years as chief investigator with the Robertsdale Police Department, is retiring.
“It’s been a very rewarding job,” Bishop said, “helping take criminals off the street, particularly when those criminals hurt children. I’ve worked a lot of cases over the years involving children and when I can be involved in getting children out of harm’s way, that has been the most rewarding.”
Bishop and his wife Michelle have four children of their own who are all now grown, Leah Richardson, Jeremy Smith, Derek Smith and Whitney Mullins, along with six grandchildren, and he said spending time with family will be one of his top priorities in retirement.
“Spending time with family will always be very important to me,” he said. “We’ve always been very close.”
Born in Pensacola, the youngest of four siblings, Bishop, now 57, moved at a young age with his parents, brother Watson Bishop, and sisters, Alice Hilton and Katheryne Gossett, to Perdido where his father owned a tractor repair business.
He graduated from Baldwin County High School in 1981 and worked for several years in the construction business before he got an opportunity through the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department to attend the Southwest Alabama Police Academy (now known as the APOSTC Law Enforcement Academy) in Stapleton, graduating in 1989.
“We always had horses. I grew up around horses and my father was a member of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Posse,” Bishop said. “When I got older I joined the Sheriff’s Posse and they gave me the opportunity to attend the academy.”
Through the Sheriff’s Department, Bishop did security work at the old L.A. Raceway, which was located on County Road 56 where he got to know officers with the Loxley Police Department.
On Feb. 1, 1992, he joined the department under Chief Condie Langham and later served under Chief Ed Vaughn. In May of 1999, he came to work for Chief Alan Lassitter as a patrol officer with the Robertsdale Police Department.
He was later promoted to corporal in the patrol division, then switched to investigations when he was promoted to sergeant in 2003 and finally was promoted to lieutenant under Chief Brad Kendrick.
“I consider the success I’ve had as being tied to people who work under me and Rex is one of the main people who have helped me in my success,” Kendrick said. “When he came to work for the department here, we had already worked together on patrol cases and I consider Rex’s style to be the same as mine, you treat people the way you want to be treated and the rest will take care of itself.”
Kendrick said he thought of Bishop as an old school police officer who, at the same time, always thought outside the box and was always able to adapt to change.
“Law enforcement is always changing, and you have to be able to change with it,” Kendrick said. “I’ve always thought of Rex as someone who was able to do that.”
In 2011, while continuing to serve with the Robertsdale Police Department, Bishop became a member of the Baldwin County Major Crimes Unit, working to solve cases countywide. He would rise through the ranks to become deputy commander of the organization before resigning his position when he decided to retire last year.
“I’ve been involved with a number of high-profile cases through that organization and it was a very rewarding experience,” he said.
Among the cases he worked involved a teacher at Central Baldwin Middle School who was convicted of sexual abuse involving four former students. Another case involved the owner of a local radio station charged with sexual abuse involving a young family member.
Bishop also received certification as a traffic homicide investigator and has worked several cases in that area, he said. He also served as administrator over technology for the department.
“I’ve always liked working with technology,” he said, “and have always worked to make sure this department has the best technology available to us.”
In 2017, he attended the National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, a 10-week course through the Federal Bureau of Investigations where he received leadership and physical training, culminating in the completion of a six-mile run where each participant receives a yellow brick, which Bishop has proudly displayed in his office, along with other memorabilia from the experience.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “It was a unique opportunity to work and share ideas with members of law enforcement from around the world.”
While his last day of work will be Friday, Jan. 29, his last official day as a city employee will be Monday, Feb. 1, exactly 39 years from his first day on the job in Loxley.
While he says he will enjoy his retirement and plans to travel and spend time with family among other things, he will miss the work, primarily the people.
“I think I will miss it,” he said. “I will definitely miss the people. I have worked with some of the best people around and we have some of the best people in law enforcement in this county. I will definitely miss working with them.”
Kendrick said with Bishop’s retirement, Robertsdale will have four slots to fill within the department. Cpt. Ted Stone will be promoted to lieutenant to fill the chief investigator’s position, Kendrick said. There is also a corporal’s position in the patrol division that will be filled from within, then two new officers will be hired from outside the department.
“I was really hoping that Rex would stay on and we could retire together,” Kendrick said. “I wish I could take his knowledge and expertise and bottle it for all of my other officers, but I know that if I need to call him about something, he will continue to give me his honest opinion and we will move on and continue do the best we can to serve the citizens of Robertsdale.”
While concerns over the Coronavirus will limit what they can do, the city will host a small ceremony to honor Bishop on his retirement.