Thank You Peace Officers
On Tuesday, May 13, thousands of peace officers stood together at the National Police Officers’ Memorial in Washington, D.C. for a candlelight vigil to honor officers lost in the line of duty in 2013. They honored one hundred and two officers, including eight from California.
Since President John F. Kennedy first designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962, law enforcement officers from around the world have converged on Washington, D.C. to participate in a week of events to honor officers we have lost.
Here in Mendocino County we know all too well how devastating those losses can be. Since the beginning of this year–that’s only four months, six California officers have been lost in the line of duty, including the tragic loss of Mendocino County Deputy Rickey Del Fiorentino.
Our heartbreaking loss of Deputy Rickey Del Fiorentino reminds us all of how dangerous and challenging an officer’s job really is. Many have said that simply donning a peace officer’s uniform is an act of courage.
On Monday, May 12, the Fort Bragg City Council honored three courageous officers for their actions in helping to apprehend the gunman who shot Deputy Del Fiorentino: Fort Bragg Police Lieutenant John Naulty, Chief Scott Mayberry and MCSO Lieutenant Greg Stefani. Our communities are truly better off because of their heroic actions.
Next time you are near Sacramento, I encourage you to visit the California Peace Officers’ Memorial, located directly in front of the State Capital building. Our State Peace Officers’ Memorial is a powerful and humbling reminder of the officers – and their families – who have given us so very much of themselves.
Years ago, at the California Peace Officers’ Memorial dedication, then Governor George Deukmejian said, “We pledge our best efforts to stand behind the men and women who stand behind the badge. The job of a peace officer is perhaps the most difficult and challenging one of all in our society. We are very thankful to those who are willing to risk injury and even death in order to provide greater protection and safety for all of us.”
Today, in the United States more than 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others. They serve with valor and distinction – and with great success. Crime statistics show that violent and property crime rates are down, thanks in large measure to the dedicated service of the men and women of law enforcement.
But as we know, that protection comes at a high price. Each year, approximately 60,000 assaults on law enforcement officers result in nearly 16,000 injuries. And devastatingly, during the last decade an average of 160 officers have died in the line of duty.
Along with the physical dangers, officers also face many other challenges. Day in and day out, they see the worst elements of our communities: crime, abuse and neglect. This can wear on officers. After risking their lives and/or their well being, they often have to deal with people questioning their actions and criticizing their choices. They deal with everything from lawsuits to constant complaining and criticism, so you can imagine how difficult it has become to find people willing and able to serve as peace officers. Here in Mendocino County, we constantly struggle to find qualified applicants.
First, in recruiting new officers, we must compete for applicants with areas like Sonoma County that offer significantly better salaries and benefits.
Then, we must find applicants who can pass a series of legally-mandated screening requirements. Those interested must pass a complex English proficiency test and an oral board examination.
The State of California also requires applicants to pass a background screening that includes previous drug use, criminal history, character references, domestic violence history, financial management, vehicle operations and past tickets, and employment history – just to name the highlights.
The applicant must also pass extensive psychological and physical examinations.
In addition to with these strict screening requirements, applicants must complete a difficult six-month police academy and three-month field training before becoming a peace officer.
In 2012, we reviewed our department’s recruitment success. We found that less than 10 percent of those who apply meet the screening requirements to become officers.
During 2012, 106 people applied to become police officers for the City of Ukiah. None of them had previous law enforcement experience. Of those, 53 (half of the applicants) could not pass the State of California English proficiency test. Of the remaining 53 who interviewed for the position, 25 failed the interview (usually because they did not prepare or study for their oral examination).
Of the remaining 28 applicants who successfully completed the oral and written exams, 17 failed to meet the State of California background requirements. Of the remaining 11 applicants, some took jobs in other communities. The department eventually hired six officers from the original pool of 106 applicants.
Our community is not alone in its search for qualified people willing to become peace officers. In fact, this week alone, well over 100 California cities and counties are searching and competing for people to become officers, people willing and able to serve our communities.
If you’re interested in a police officer career with the Ukiah Police Department, you can learn more at www.ukiahpolice.com/about-us/careers/ .
Here in Mendocino County, we are truly lucky to live in such a wonderful community – and to have so many dedicated law enforcement professionals, professionals who are willing to put themselves at risk, who dedicate their entire careers to making our community safe.
For all they do, please find time this National Peace Officer week to thank a peace officer for their service.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.