For as long as he can remember, since he was a very young little boy at about the age of 6, Capt. Bret Bowen said he knew he wanted to be a police officer. And for the past 34 years, he got to live out that childhood dream as a deputy with the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” Capt. Bowen said, “and although some days have been challenging, it has never really felt like a job to me.”
After more than three decades of doing what he loves, Capt. Bowen will officially retire today (April 3) after he drives the Mobile Emergency Operations Center for the last time during the St. Bernard Irish Italian Islenos Parade.
“I will miss the camaraderie with the community and the people at the Sheriff’s Office the most,” Capt. Bowen said. “The family aspect is what I’ve loved the most over the years.”
Capt. Bowen’s work-family celebrated him on Friday by holding a crawfish boil in his honor, and Sheriff Pohlmann presented him with a special plaque thanking him for his dedicated service to the Sheriff’s Office and his community over the years.
“We have been blessed to have Capt. Bowen for so many years,” Sheriff Pohlmann said. “His knowledge and presence will be missed, but we wish him well in his well-earned retirement.”
Capt. Bowen began his career in 1988 as a volunteer deputy with the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Reserve Division. Just over a year later, he was hired as a full-time paid deputy in the Communications Division’s Radio Room as a dispatcher. He spent 10 years in the Radio Room and was promoted to sergeant.
In 1999, he joined the Equipment Division and was promoted to lieutenant not long after. In 2008, he rose to the rank of captain and eventually took over as head of the department in 2012. Capt. Bowen also was a member of the SWAT team from 2002 to 2021.
As head of the Equipment Division, Capt. Bowen has been responsible for the maintenance and repair of the department’s telephone and police radio systems for the 911 Communications Center and the entire department.
He also maintained and drove the Mobile Emergency Operations Center, a 40-foot specialty vehicle that is used for emergency response, festival security, and to lead local parades. In addition, he oversaw the use of other department equipment such as light plants, all-terrain vehicles, and the Skywatch.
Capt. Bowen said he will miss serving his hometown and seeing all of the lifelong friends he has made along the way.
“St. Bernard is my hometown so I’ve always had a vested interest in helping protect it and its people,” he said.
Although he will miss being on the job, Capt. Bowen is looking forward to having more time to spend with the true love of his life, his wife of 28 years, Sherrie Johnson Bowen, who also recently retired after 30 years as a teacher with the St. Bernard Parish Public School System.
“I’m looking forward to us being retired together and having free time to relax and do the things we enjoy,” he said.
Capt. Bowen’s successor as head of the Equipment Division is Capt. Michael Ingargiola who admits he has big shoes to fill.
“Enjoy every single stress-free day,” Capt. Ingargiola said to Capt. Bowen. “I will try my best to follow your lead. Congratulations on your retirement, my friend.”
Keep an eye out for Capt. Bowen at the front of today’s parade and be sure to give him a wave in appreciation of his many years of service to the people of St. Bernard Parish and congratulations on his retirement.