Sgt. Dave Crivelli is ending his 21-year career at La Habra PD in one piece and that’s more than enough for him.
The decorated La Habra veteran leaves with a reputation as a community-oriented officer who tried to make a difference in the little town he loves. His work was praised at a June 22 retirement ceremony by Police Chief Jerry Price who also pointed out Crivelli’s “real knack for catching DUIs.” Altogether, accomplishments that made La Habra a little safer place to live.
“You’ve got to be somebody who loves people,” Crivelli says. “There are a lot more good people who need you than bad guys. People need leadership. I took that part really seriously.”
Growing up around police officers, his interest in joining the ranks began when he was a teen; eventually becoming an officer in 1989 and joining the La Habra PD in 1997. After spending a few years in the Gang Suppression Unit, Crivelli returned to the patrol division and later became a certified Drug Recognition Expert, an instructor for both the English and Spanish language Citizens’ Academies, and the agency’s resident sign language interpreter.
But he’s also won three Life Saving medals, two Distinguished Service awards and a Medal of Courage for rescuing a person from a burning apartment building. His three Osornio awards — named in honor of the La Habra officer killed by a drunk driver — hint at his aforementioned ability at catching those driving under the influence.
When you bring it up, Crivelli quickly downplays the citations, attributing them simply to being “part of the job” and he goes right back to his point about it being more about helping good people than catching bad ones.
He’s more at ease talking about recently bumping into a woman he hadn’t seen in 20 years, whose daughter he had convinced to stay in school and focused. The woman thanked him that her daughter is now a successful adult.
“That makes a difference. That’s rewarding for me,” he says. “You look back and if you’ve made a positive change then that’s the impact you want on people’s lives.”
And in a small town Crivelli describes as “Mayberry” (kids, ask your parents), it’s critical how an officer treats people on a case.
“If you were a jerk to one family, really, you’ve got seven or eight families that will remember you,” he says. Crivelli’s approach got him dinner invitations from families instead. But what was important to him in cases like homicides was that his work “gave those families closure.”
Crivelli says family was essential; not only in how he saw his job, but in how he sees himself. He’s grateful to his wife and kids for always supporting him and everything he did along the way.
“The job can harden you,” he says, “but you go home and you see them, your wife and children, and it keeps things in perspective.”
A little more than 18 months ago, Crivelli physically took down a heavily drugged suspect who was smashing car windows in a neighborhood. The incident spared the neighborhood from potentially much greater harm, but left Crivelli with a couple of herniated discs and nerve damage in his right arm.
Eventually, he was forced to accept that returning to duty would be impossible. It was a very hard pill to swallow, but it was his mother-in-law who reminded him that being a police officer was not the only thing that defined him. He’s a husband and a father with lots left to give and a guy who’s well earned a break.
And when he thought of old partners and friends he’s lost in the past few years, retiring didn’t seem the end of everything.
“The reality is you have to be thankful for what you have,” he says. “I gotta be thankful I’m walking out on my own two feet. I have nothing to be sad about.”
And during the 21 years, he got to do all the different jobs at La Habra PD he wanted, with patrol sergeant being his favorite.
“That’s where it’s at,” he says. And praising the chemistry of the detail, Crivelli says, “The guys didn’t work for me, they worked with me.”
And he credits the colleagues who served alongside him for his success and says it’s because of them he was able to go home every night to his family.
Advice he offers to young officers now is “to be an old gumshoe” in their work. “You really need to know what’s going on” in a community, so that you won’t “have to keep coming back for the same problem.” And you can’t fake it, because “people know if you’re genuine.”
He offers further lessons based on more recent experience: “Take care of yourselves and each other and pursue your passions.”
He says he’s now “focused on getting 100 percent healthy.” And as a die-hard Dodgers fan, he intends to go to more games. He also jokes about his next career, which may be necessary with so many family get-togethers held at his house. “Maybe I’ll become the next ‘Top Chef.’”