As a marine, Paul Madriz believed in the motto” leave the place better than you found it.”
As a Recruit Training Officer at Bakersfield Police Department, Detective Madriz realized early on that if he wanted to leave the police academy better than he found it, he would need to find a way for veterans to become police officers — and get paid for it.
“I went through the process to get the Veterans Affairs (VA) to recognize our police academy as education,” he said. “It was frustrating because veterans were going through the academy, and it wasn’t recognized as college. So, I tried to find a way to change that.”
Since 2017, Madriz was able to get Bakersfield Police Department’s Police Academy recognized by the VA, this allowed for veterans transitioning out of the military to use their GI Bill and to get paid about $10,000 to $15,000 through On the Job Training (OTJ) throughout the course.
It was a win for Madriz, but also for Bakersfield Police Department’s Military Liaison Unit, comprised of veterans who became police officers who want to help ease the transition for others following a similar path.
“Some people see coming in as military as a hindrance or inconvenience, so we try to negate that feeling and make it a smooth transition,” Madriz said. “We try to do what we can for them. We want our veterans to know if you get out and come here, we will help you get your benefits.”
According to Madriz, Bakersfield Police Department is made up of 25 percent veterans and they continue to see that number grow every year. The current police academy includes 20 percent of recruits who are veterans. Along with the OTJ training program, the Military Liaison Unit also helps officers who are still in the reserve with paid leave when deployed, as well as helping family members who stay back at home.
They are active in providing breakfast and lunch for veterans and being a place of resource for those who served in the military.
Veterans and law enforcement share the same training and lifestyle, including fitness, early morning schedules, the desire to help and protect civilians as well as the appreciation of the camaraderie that comes from working in law enforcement.
Ruben Guerrero, who joined Bakersfield Police Department two years ago, made the transition into law enforcement, while he was still in the Marines. He was referred to the department by someone in his infantry who had heard about the department’s push for veteran officers. He joined the academy at 27 and now at 30 he is a patrol officer in the gang unit.
“Law enforcement was something I knew I wanted to do. You can relate it to the military, there’s rank, camaraderie, tactical thinking and helping people who can’t help themselves,” Officer Guerrero said. “I would say if there’s a void you want to fill when you leave the military and what that sense of belonging … there’s that camaraderie at Bakersfield Police Department.”
To learn more about joining Bakersfield Police Department, visit: https://joinbpd.us/