Balderstone, 52, is retiring next week. He’s racked up more than 28 years at the agency and currently serves as head of the agency’s vice and narcotics unit.
“My main goal was to retire out of this agency as commander of this unit, and I’ve been given that chance,” he said.
His colleagues are giving him a fitting send-off. The agency named a drug sweep that netted 54 people this week Operation Balderstone in his honor. The multi-agency countywide operation, which included New Port Richey, Zephyrhills, and Dade City officers resulted in arrests related to a broad range of drug crimes, including sale and possession of cocaine, trafficking in controlled substances, sale and possession of methamphetamine and saes synthetic drugs.
Balderstone started at the Sheriff’s Office in 1985. His first post was in the Pasco Jail, but he yearned to be on the streets. He eventually assigned to road patrol and the narcotics unit. Since then, he’s served in several positions in in different units but he always returned to the narcotics unit.
At a press conference Sept. 6, Sheriff Chris Nocco praised Balderstone for the leadership role he’s taken in fighting the county’s prescription pill and synthetic drug, also known as Spice, problems.“There are people living in our community that are much better off” because of Balderstone, Nocco said.
Balderstone recalled how Pasco had changed singed since his days as a young detective.
“When I started out, crack-cocaine had just come onto the scene, and everyone thought that was the worst epidemic we’ve ever seen,” hew said.
But Balderstone would see worse. The next problem drug was methamphetamine. But after that came the prescription pill epidemic.
“That’s the worst battle we ever fought,” he said.
There are things Balderstone still has trouble talking about. In 2003, he was the responding deputy on the scene when Lt. Bo Harrison was shot in the head and killed by a sniper rifle while in his patrol car in Lacoochee. He remembers finding Harrison in the car.
Balderstone became head of the vice and narcotics unit in 2003. He recalled working in the fight against prescription pill abuse and Spice. He pointed out that shopkeepers had now stopped selling the products on store shelves and the sale of synthetic drugs had gone underground.
He gave a lot of credit to his deputies and talked about how their safety was always on his mind when he was giving assignments.
“I was always on pins and needles for the guys’ safety,” he said.Ken Gregory, a veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, will succeed Balderstone as lieutenant in charge of the narcotics unit.