The Lodi Police Department held its annual awards ceremony last week. Department employees, volunteers and members of the community were recognized for their contributions this past year or over the course of their careers.
But there are many more people out there who rarely, if ever, receive thanks for what they do for our department and our city.
I know this seems a bit self-serving, but I'd like to start by thanking the crime reporters, photographers and editors of the Lodi News-Sentinel staff. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: He's just doing that to keep his name in the paper. But seriously, the people at the Sentinel have always done their job with integrity and understanding. They balance the public's right to know with the interests of the department. Their coverage has been fair, even when they've been critical of us. We've enjoyed our working relationship with reporters Chelsea Carter (in the old days), Ross Farrow, Layla Bohm, Jordan Guinn and Katie Nelson over the years. We'd also like to thank photographers Jerry Tyson, Dan Evans, and Jennifer Howell for using discretion and for staying out of the way, most of the time. And to Kyla Cathey for editing this column and wedging it into Monday's edition at the last minute. Another group I'd like to recognize is our police department chaplains. They are the local pastors who volunteer their time to assist our officers with the emotional aftermath of a violent crime or death. The officers get to leave the scene eventually, but the chaplains stay behind to comfort the parents, relatives or friends of the victim. Sometimes the task is gut-wrenching, especially when a child has passed away. The chaplains also take time to help our employees when the stress of the job and life becomes too much. We thank Phil Orosco, Barbara Taylor, Larry Beck, Bill Cummins, Tim Nielsen and Julia Leeth for their efforts.
A special thanks goes out to the family of Chief Ray Samuels, our interim chief who passed away recently. Ray's wide breadth of knowledge, organizational skills, sense of humor and endless stories got our department through a tough time last year. We will always be grateful for what he did for us.
The word "courage" is used way too much by the media today. Some guy throws a pass under pressure in a big game and he's "courageous." A person belts out a song with high notes in front of three judges and they are "courageous." Well, some of the people who truly show courage in our city and who deserve our thanks are the folks who step forward to say they witnessed a violent crime. I'm talking about the people who see a gang-related shooting then wait patiently for the officers to get their name and their statement. They know there might be consequences but they still stick around. They accept the subpoena, rearrange their schedules so they can make it to court, sit patiently on the witness stand as defense attorneys question them at length, and endure the glares of gang members in the audience. Although retaliation rarely occurs in our city, these people still deserve a pat on the back. They are on the frontlines of gang violence but they stand tall in an effort to make their neighborhoods safer and their childrens' futures brighter.
Finally there are the wives, husbands, and children of our officers. We thank them for putting up with us missing birthday parties and holidays or dealing patiently with our bad moods brought on by stress and a lack of sleep. They answer the phone for us in the middle of the night, nod at the right point as we vent about our day at work, and give us a hug when something bad happens. They are the ones who worry when we don't come home on time, subconsciously counting the minutes until the phone rings and we tell them everything is alright. We rarely give them thanks, let alone public recognition. But we want them to know we appreciate what they've done for us.
Thank you Annette, Anthony, and Talia.
The people I mentioned here didn't receive a medal or a certificate last week. They didn't get their name or picture in the paper or get to wear a ribbon on their uniform. But their contributions to the department and the city were important and we just want to take a minute to recognize them and give them our thanks.