After 30 years of service, retiring Sarasota officer offers perspective on police relations

Retired Sarasota Police Department Sgt. Eric Bolden received a heartfelt 'thank you' from officers, co-workers and friends Tuesday upon his retirement.

Bolden served 30 years with the department. He became a role model and dedicated his life to kids and the community.

"You've been a role model and a mentor to so many," said Chief Bernadette DiPino. "You'll never know all the lives you impacted, but you impacted a lot, keep doing what you’re doing and I wish you all the best."

From a young age, Bolden had his sights set on the uniform.

"I was that kid that always wanted to be a cop. I was the kid that always went up to cops and asked them what does this do, what does that do," he said.

Bolden has seen the good and bad along the way. Watching the country divide over law enforcement has been the hardest.

"I feel sad about it, but I know there can be changes. There does need to be changes. All the stuff with defunding the police departments, that’s a little crazy and a little radical," he said.

Bolden has seen it from both sides.

"All of the rioting and the looting, I don’t agree with it at all, but I understand the frustrations of some. I understand the pain over the course of my career as an African American and a law enforcement officer, I’ve experienced it myself. So I understand," said Bolden.

Bolden knows there's a lot that needs to be done to bring communities together. He believes it starts with the moment the badge is pinned on.

"I always have believed in the quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that, 'every man can be great because every man can serve.' I did this job for 30 years because that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to serve the public," said Bolden.