RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. -

The first woman in the history of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to oversee all county patrol operations is retiring, Sheriff Stan Sniff announced Wednesday.

Colleen Walker is a Coachella Valley native who grew up in Indio. She's been with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department for over 35 years. She began as a dispatcher at the Indio Sheriff's Station in 1979, according to a release from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Undersheriff Walker served as the department's Chief of Staff and second-in-command for the last four years, according to Sheriff Sniff. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department is the second largest sheriff's department in California, with over 4,000 employees serving over 7,300 square miles.

"Colleen has performed meritoriously for the last four years as our undersheriff. She has devoted her life to dedicated and selfless service to our communities, and has set the example in leadership, work ethic, integrity, technical skills and depth of experience, while giving back to our communities," Sheriff Stan Sniff said.

Undersheriff Walker is only the second woman to reach the rank of undersheriff since the department was created in 1893. Undersheriff Valerie Hill was the first, serving from 2007 until her retirement in 2010.

Sheriff Sniff said, "Colleen has served Riverside County exceptionally well as our undersheriff, a powerful role model for women in our criminal justice system, and she has served our law enforcement community as one of the very highest-ranking law enforcement leaders within one of the largest agencies in California."

Walker was in charge of overseeing all county patrol operations when she served as the sole Assistant Sheriff following the retirement of several executive staff members in 2009. Sniff said she was instrumental in guiding the department through the severe budget crisis at that time.

She received the following awards while serving as undersheriff:

  • Honored by the Young Women Christian Association at the Women Achievement Awards Luncheon on September 16, 2010.
  • Honored by the Soroptimist International of Riverside by receiving the Ruby Award on April 13, 2010. The Ruby Award honors women who, through their professional or personal efforts, made extraordinary differences in the lives of women or girls.

Walker was raised in Indio. Her father, Don Manton, moved the family to the Coachella Valley when he began his career as an officer with the Indio Police Department.

Undersheriff Walker graduated from Indio High School and College of the Desert.