The last thing Det. James Pewsey will let you think is that he’s Anaheim PD’s actual Detective of the Year. At least, not all by himself.
He insists the award is really for the entire Family Protection team he works with and their devotion to helping the victims who need them. It’s a deeply satisfying job, Pewsey says, because it often provides justice by empowering victims.
However, Pewsey squirms when you mention winning the award at APD’s annual awards ceremony in May.
“I felt extremely uncomfortable being up there,” he says. “I know every person [in the detail]works just as hard as I do.”
Pewsey, who joined the police department in 2009, always looked up to his uncle, who was also a police officer and a man the family could always rely on, especially in tough times. He made up his mind in high school to follow in his uncle’s footsteps because of what it meant to “deal with people at their most vulnerable.”
His passion for the job stems from both the people he works with — “Nobody is ever too busy to help their partner. It’s like a sports team,” he says — and the people he works for.
“I like the full circle of helping families,” he says. “You see these victims at the worst they’ve ever been in their lives. If they have to testify in court they find out they have the power. When they’re done, they feel at the highest. They feel strong and ready to take on the world.
“It’s actually empowerment for them,” he says. “They’re not the victims anymore. It’s nice for me to see it, because they seem so powerless when I first see them.”
The emotional difficulty of the crimes they deal with can present real challenges for the team. “The hardest part is not being able to help somebody right then and there,” he says. Infants are another.
“They can’t talk and you still have to prove the suspect or suspects did this beyond a reasonable doubt,” he says. Pewsey says elder abuse and the assault of young children is also very difficult.
Unfortunately, “we’re pretty swamped,” he says. The detective is currently at work on 29 open cases, but he readily credits the work of the other five officers in Family Protection and seven in Sexual Assault for whatever success might be implied by the award.
“Honestly, it says more about our team than me individually,” he says. “I truly felt they were much more deserving, because we work as a team.”
Pewsey proudly says his biggest reward is in how his job helps people. And that’s plenty for him.
“The family is just devastated,” he says. “You get to help them dig out of the hole and you feel like you’re with them every step of the way. It’s extremely difficult but it’s also extremely rewarding.”