LAPD Sgt. John O’Toole isn’t a fan of change. The 80-year-old policeman will soon mark his 54th year on active duty, putting him in the No. 1 spot on the department’s officer seniority list. And he has no plans for retirement, which suits his colleagues just fine. “I’m just amazed,” said Valley Traffic Division Capt. Ron Marbrey. “Here he is, he came on the job in 1953. I wouldn’t be born for four years. … Fifty-three years later, he still has the enthusiasm that our young guys do.” Throughout his career, O’Toole, who lives in Studio City, has shot it out with bad guys and helped secure the 1960 and 2000 Democratic conventions. He’s also seen countless department changes, including officers who now holster automatic weapons. “I still have a .38 (revolver),” the silver-haired veteran said. In 1943, when he was 16, the Los Angeles native dropped out of Dorsey High School. He and another under-age pal had doctored documents so they could join the service. A B24 Navy tail gunner fighting in the Pacific, O’Toole, like countless other veterans, had some difficulty adjusting to civilian life after World War II. After a four-year stint on the assembly line of the old Studebaker plant in Southeast Los Angeles, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department in May 1953 and never looked back. “The first day they said, `This is a quasi-military organization,”‘ O’Toole said. “I felt right at home.” In 1960, O’Toole was assigned to a team to protect then-Sen. John F. Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention. After a lead decoy car in Kennedy’s entourage stopped directly in front of the Biltmore Hotel, the future president, seated in a car in the rear, was inadvertently left a block from his destination. “The first car was supposed to pull all the way up to 6th Street,” O’Toole said. Kennedy “was clear down on 5th Street.” A large crowd of supporters mobbed Kennedy’s car and O’Toole and other officers rushed Kennedy into the hotel. “There was a lot of pushing and shoving to get him in the elevator,” O’Toole said. “He wasn’t too happy.” O’Toole was promoted to sergeant in 1964 and became a detective in 1972, continuing his work in accident investigations. He came to work in the Valley in 1974 and has never left. A detective with Valley Traffic, O’Toole starts work at 5 a.m. and ends a 10-hour shift four days a week by presenting evidence to city and state prosecutors for felony and misdemeanor charges in drunk-driving and other cases. When he started working as a police officer, he said, he made about $260 a month. Five years ago, the department started its Deferred Retirement Option Plan, in which retirement-age officers can choose to have their pensions accumulate in interest-earning accounts while they continue drawing their regular salaries. After five years, they must retire. O’Toole joined the program – for one day. “I turned down half a million dollars on that,” he said. “Oh, well, money’s not everything. “The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave,” he added, explaining his love for his job. “It’s like being married. Of course, I’ve been on the job longer than I’ve been with my wife.” Married at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in 1962, John and Rita O’Toole traveled the world together. Rita had immaculate taste, spoke several languages, including Italian, and had a knack for making things happen – like the couple’s wedding. Nearly four years ago, after Rita was stricken with a form of Alzheimer’s disease, O’Toole was forced to admit her to an Encino retirement home. He visits her nearly every day. If he gets close to his wife, he thinks she might still recognize him. Her grip is still strong, and that means something to him. His dedication to his job, it seems, is only surpassed by his dedication to Rita. “I met my wife the first week out of the Police Academy,” he said, explaining why he’ll continue his daily visits. “It seems my whole life revolved around her, and I know she’d do the exact same thing for me.” [email protected] (818) 713-3329160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!