Some stood out for making a high number of arrests.
Others were singled out for acts of bravery or for investigative skills.
And some, through a single act of compassion, took the concept of customer service to a higher level.
Whatever the reasons, the 10 members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who received Meritorious Service Awards at the 2017 Law Enforcement and Firefighters Annual Appreciation Dinner, were deserving of recognition.
The annual event, hosted by the Mission Viejo/Saddleback Valley Elks Lodge No. 2444 in Mission Viejo on Saturday, Feb. 11, showcased contributions of OCSD and Orange County Fire Authority personnel in the agencies’ South Orange County cities.
“South Orange County is one of the premier places to live in this country,” said David McLeod, the lodge’s exalted ruler. “I don’t think that would be possible without the men and women who are in this room tonight.”
In most cases, the honorees were elected by their peers and presented with their awards by their supervisors. Winners Dep. Joe Cislo and Dep. Jason Laza were unable to attend the event.
The OCSD honorees were:
Investigator Anton Pereyra, San Juan Capistrano
Lt. Scott Spalding, who serves as police chief in San Juan Capistrano, called Pereyra one of his best investigators.
Pereyra’s accolades include being named the 2012 Deputy of the Year by the San Juan Capistrano City Council and being praised by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for his skill and vigilance as an investigator.
He has also served on OCSD’s Directed Enforcement and Special Enforcement teams.
In 2016, Pereyra investigated a case in which three deputies were shot at by a suicidal man wielding an AR-15.
“Anton put together an ironclad case together for three charges of attempted murder,” Spalding said. “If any of my family or friends were the victim of a crime, I’d want him to be the investigating agent.”
Dep. Jason Laza, Aliso Viejo
An eight-year member of the OCSD, Laza has served the citizens of Aliso Viejo since 2014.
He has received stellar performance reviews and awards from OCSD, including a lifesaving award.
Over the years, Laza has arrested suspects in shootings, robberies, burglaries and home invasions.
“He handles everything with a calm demeanor,” Sgt. Ray Ulmer said of Laza. “Jason is not only an asset to the OCSD, but to the city of Aliso Viejo.”
Dep. Anthony Lopez, Laguna Hills
Roland Chacon, chief of police for Laguna Hills, called Lopez “one of the most humble, quiet gentlemen I could ever meet.”
Lopez works on the OCSD Special Enforcement Team, has worked bike patrol and trains new deputies.
“He’s relentless,” Chacon said. “He catches crooks daily.”
Dep. Jesse Demarest, San Clemente
Demarest’s selection as Deputy of the Year was an “easy pick this year,” said his lieutenant, Dave Moodie.
Demarest is a member of several law enforcement associations, including the Hostage Negotiation Association. He once talked a suicidal person off of a bridge, Moodie said.
“What stands out about Jesse is that he has a great attitude,” Moodie said. “He always says that, ‘No matter what you need me to do, I’m there for you.’”
Dep. Chris Eiben, Dana Point
Eiben is a nine-year veteran of OCSD, the last three years spent in Dana Point.
He has served two combat tours as a U.S. Marine and is currently a homeless liaison officer.
He has been a member of the Dive Team, Critical Response Team and leads the city in number of felony arrests.
Eiben is a recipient of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving award for making at least 25 DUI arrests in a year and leads the city in felony arrests.
Dep. Greg Allen, Lake Forest
As a motor officer, Allen issued 3,000 citations in 2016 and didn’t receive a single complaint from the public, Lt. Brad Valentine said.
When he issues a citation, Allen takes the time to explain the laws and educate drivers as to why they are being cited.
He also works with the city’s traffic engineers in pointing out areas that can be improved.
In 2016, Allen was involved in the apprehension of a bank robbery suspect who was speeding and topped 100 mph. The suspect was arrested and all the money was recovered.
“His work ethic is incomparable,” Valentine said. “He takes his job seriously to make it safe for everyone out there.”
Dep. Bryan Robins, Laguna Niguel
Robins has been with the OCSD since 2002.
He became a field training officer in 2011 and transferred to San Clemente as a motor officer in 2012.
Robins is extensively trained in accident reconstruction.
After a pedestrian was struck and killed in a crosswalk in 2016, Robins took the time to retrieve the man’s wedding ring and other belongings from the coroner in Santa Ana and personally give them to his widow.
Dep. James Gagen, Rancho Santa Margarita
Gagen started with the OCSD in 1993 and transferred to Rancho Santa Margarita in 2012.
Gagen serves as a field training officer and has trained virtually every trainee in the city, Lt. Luke Smith said.
“Doing the job and trying to train someone to do the job can be a very challenging task,” Smith said.
Dep. Joe Cislo, Mission Viejo
Cislo has been with OCSD for 10 years.
He has served on bike patrol, the Special Enforcement Team and is currently a field training officer.
Cislo also is a member of the OCSD SWAT team.
“He is seen as a leader by the city and his peers,” Lt. Ken Binning said. “He exemplifies what OCSD’s commitment to service above self represents.”
Dep. Thomas Stammer, South East Operations
Stammer served in the Marines for nine years and received an honorable discharge before joining the OCSD.
Stammer is a field training officer and has been a school resource officer since 2013.
He has received high marks from school officials and serves in the Gang Reduction and Intervention Program (GRIP) in South Orange County.
He was singled out by GRIP officials for exceptional service to the program, Capt. Sheryl Dubsky said.