Fernando Martinez was 6 years old when his parents decided to move their family from Mexico to California. The boy was fluent in Spanish, but his parents wanted him and his siblings to learn English and do well in school.
Years later, Martinez is still using both languages as he patrols the streets of Lodi in a police officer's uniform. The 12-year Lodi officer is now a corporal who trains new officers, is a SWAT team member and works to improve relations in the Hispanic community.
He was recognized Wednesday as officer of the year, an honor bestowed by other officers who nominate colleagues and then pass the names on to a committee of police employees. Several other employees were also recognized during a luncheon at the Police Department.
Martinez, who served in the U.S. Army and graduated from San Joaquin Delta College, had grown up hearing gunfire near his south Stockton home. He decided in high school that he wanted to become a police officer, and within two years of joining Lodi's force, he was working as a gang detective.
He said he was thankful to be recognized, then added with a smile that he was also thankful for his wife, who has put up with his job for 12 years.
Erika Urrea, who was been an unpaid cadet for three years, also speaks Spanish and finds herself translating for officers. She helped in a kidnapping case last year, then had to spend several unpaid days in court, Chief Jerry Adams said in honoring her as volunteer of the year.
Urrea holds a full-time job and attends college full-time but still volunteered 600 hours last year.
Another volunteer, Partner Stan Sogsti, was also honored for the hours he donates. Since 1999, he has logged 2,800 hours in tasks ranging from training fellow Partners to inspecting child safety seats and helping organize checkpoints for drunken driving.
Sogsti was one of three people selected to receive a meritorious service award.
Officer Robert Paine, a 19-year officer, was recognized for his extensive charity work, including countless Special Olympics fund-raisers and providing free Christmas trees to low-income families.
Paine, who has worked in detectives, patrol and on the SWAT team, has spent the past eight years patrolling downtown streets on bicycle. Longtime barber and elf-dubbed Sacramento Street Mayor Clay Sayler said Paine "cleaned up Sacramento Street single-handedly," Adams said.
Lodi Police Officer awards
Officer of the year: Cpl. Fernando
Employee of the year: Property Officer Teri King
Volunteer of the year: Cadet Erika Urrea
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Meritorious service: Officer Robert Paine
Meritorious service: Partner Stan Sogsti
Meritorious service: Sgt. Chris Jacobson
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Unit citation: Traffic division
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Silver star: Officer Sierra Brucia
Silver star: Detective Mike Kermgard
Sgt. Chris Jacobson, who joined the department in 1989, was also given a meritorious service award for his work in training police dogs. He's selected dogs, coordinated competitions and training sessions for area law enforcement canine handlers and often works with the dogs on his own time, Adams said.
Additionally, Jacobson is involved in recruiting officers and is a SWAT team leader.
The employee of the year award went to Teri King, who has been property officer since 1997, when she took on a two-person job and began overhauling the property system.
The traffic division was recognized with a unit citation for increasing traffic citations by 45 percent while reducing collisions by 12.8 percent.
"An increase of citations usually results in a decrease of collisions, and we've seen that happen," Adams said.
And at Wednesday night's City Council meeting, Officer Sierra Brucia and Detective Mike Kermgard received silver star awards for their roles in the shooting an armed parolee who allegedly pointed a gun at them. Only later did police learn that the gun was a replica that had been painted black to look real. The suspect is awaiting trial.
First published: Thursday, March 2, 2006