Santa Ana police celebrate personnel excellence with award ceremony


The Santa Ana Police Department celebrated its finest personnel Wednesday in a special ceremony at Eddie West Field.

A total of 96 employees and one citizen were honored at the department’s 33rd Employee Recognition and Awards Ceremony, which combined the 2019 and 2020 awards due to last year’s cancelation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Phillip Palmer, the weekday midday anchor at ABC7, served as emcee.

Chief of Police David Valentin thanked the entire department and their families for their valiant efforts in recent years. He noted there has been significant sacrifice in the law enforcement community. In California in 2020, 17 officers and deputies were killed in the line of duty.

“Prior to last year, no police chief, no police department, no community has ever come together to address a global pandemic, civil unrest, economic downturn, increase in violent crime — all occurring at the same time,” Valentin said. “I am proud of the response by the men and women of our department. Everyone in our city benefits from your servant leadership.”

The Santa Ana Police Department 2019/2020 employee recognition awards ceremony was held in Santa Ana on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
Photo by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge

Pastor Tommy Cota of Hope Alive Church provided the invocation and benediction, with Cpl. Judith Valdez singing the national anthem.

The following people were given awards:

  • A 2019 Chief’s Award went to the Training Division: Cpl. Daniel Baek, Cpl. Armando Aparicio, Cmdr. Mat Sorenson, Sgt. Garry Couso, Cpl. Joseph Hamlin, Senior Office Assistant Danielle Tellez, Cpl. Darren Zroka and Cpl. Saul Esquivel.

The group was credited with helping hire new officers and updating police curriculum, including arrest and control techniques, LGBTQ awareness training, tactical communication and de-escalation tactics. They also helped facilitate a new force options simulator, which provides a realistic environment for officers to improve their decision-making capabilities. Esquivel was noted for his work in the internal affairs division, handling civil complaints, public records requests and court hearings. His work also included handling the police body cameras and releasing some of the footage under state laws.

Photo by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge

  • A 2019 Chief’s Award went to the Background and Human Resources units: Investigator Scott Mayfield, Investigator Stephen Buchanan, Investigator Alnira Romero, Senior Office Assistant Nicholas Dodd, Investigator Alma Macchiaroli, Cmdr. Mat Sorenson, Investigator Sarah Park, Sgt. Matthew Wharton, Senior Human Resources Analyst Lourdes Ferrer, Investigator Gabriel Esparza, Human Resources Specialist Natalie Blackketter, Investigator Michael Bowen, Investigator Matthew Clear, Cpl. Pedro Duran, Officer Jorge Arroyo and Senior Clerical Aide Elizabeth Patino.

The units were recognized for hiring 50 new officers, considered a near-impossible task but one that was achieved with professionalism and dedication. The job included an aggressive hiring outreach campaign in which thousands inquired, 590 applied and 50 were chosen.

  • A 2019 Chief’s Award went to Cmdr. Sandra Gatt, Cmdr. Sergio Enriquez and Sgt. Jim Rose. They were credited with diligence, compassion and professionalism in their police suicide prevention efforts.
  • A 2020 Chief’s Award went to the Parking Control Unit: Senior Parking Control Officer Yolanda Bautista, as well as parking control officers Tony Villa, Rachel Amezquita, Monica Leal, Pete Aguilar, Chris Guerrera, Eugene Chow, Luis Morales and Jessica Marquez. Part-time parking control officers Eros Leal and Lashawn Oliver were also recognized, as were Sgt. Richard Shin and Cpl. Danny Cabrillo of STEARRD (Strategic Traffic Enforcement Against Racing and Reckless Driving).
  • A 2020 Chief’s Award recognized the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team: Cmdr. Michael Claborn, EOC Coordinator Steve Rhyner, Sgt. Roland Andrade, Buyer Karla Lopez, Evidence and Supply Supervisor Tuc Bui, Public Works Safety Coordinator Bryan Lopez and Cpl. Alan Gonzalez.

Photo by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge

The team has kept the EOC operating for more than 10 months, which is its longest operating period in department history. Their efforts also included compiling data, acquiring personal protective equipment, organizing food drives, mutual aid requests, and responding to more than 100 protests and demonstrations.

Police Investigative Specialist Kerry Torres was recognized for her work on a children’s safety task force, where she undertook 300 investigations and closed 180 of them.

Lastly, Detective Sonny Lim was noted for his work in acquiring personal safety equipment when it was in dire need and short supply. His partnership with a local Buddhist temple helped procure 12,000 latex gloves, 500 hand-sewn face masks and even led others to donate as well.

  • A 2020 Lifesaving Medal went to Sgt. Mike Gonzalez, Cpl. Gerardo Verdugo, Officer Jacob Wiggs, Officer John Choi and citizen Tony Moreen. They responded to a 2020 shooting at a high-rise apartment that involved moving victims using a mail cart wagon so the officers could get the victims outside and out of range of the active-shooter situation. Moreen was also noted for his essential aid to the first-responder officers, helping get them inside the complex and guiding them to where they needed to go.
  • A 2019 Lifesaving Medal went to Officer Manuel Delgadillo, Chaplain Rupert Vega and Officer Nicholas Provencio. Delgadillo and Vega helped a suicidal daughter by talking to her and eventually breaking down a door to get to her, where she required CPR until paramedics arrived. Provencio responded to a 2019 shooting where he found a gunshot victim who couldn’t breathe. Provencio’s lifesaving techniques at the scene helped the victim make a full recovery.

Photo by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge

  • A 2020 Lifesaving Medal was awarded to Sgt. Adrian Silva, Cpl. Nicole Quijas and Officer Blake Duarte. The three helped prevent the suicide of a man who was on the edge of jumping off a bridge. Duarte, a crisis negotiation team member, was noted for his 45-minute talk with the man.
  • A Medal of Valor was given to Sgt. Sergio Gutierrez. The award is given to an employee who displays “conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of police service.” Gutierrez was lauded for an incident in 2013, when he was a detective in the gang suppression unit. That year, he made contact with a suspected narcotics dealer who refused to comply with orders. Gutierrez eventually Tasered the dealer, who still managed to retrieve a handgun from his waistband. Gutierrez and the suspect grappled for control of the weapon, which got pointed at Gutierrez, who responded by shooting the suspect in self-defense.
  • A Department-Wide Commendation was given to Cpl. Elizabeth Granados and Officer Nelson Menendez. Granados was credited with connecting with two private organizations that produce and distribute critical life-saving medical equipment for the private sector and the public safety community. She worked closely with representatives from the organizations to acquire patrol trauma response kits, mass casualty backpacks, emergency medical kits and casualty evacuation litters. The equipment coincided with the department’s tactical emergency casualty care training framework, which instantly improves officers’ ability to respond to incidents and save lives.

Photo by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge

Menendez was noted for his response at a shooting incident in a high-rise, where he helped evacuate victims and locate suspects.

  • Manager of the Year: retired Cmdr. Jeffrey Smith (2019), Corrections Manager Jaime Manriquez (2020)
  • Professional Staff Supervisor of the Year: Gabriela Laufer, lead police service officer (2019); Mark Waldo, forensics services supervisor (2020)

Photo by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge

The following personnel received Employees of the Year awards:

Management Analyst Leobardo Martinez, professional staff employee of the year (2019)

Emergency Operations Coordinator Steve Rhyner, professional staff employee of the year (2020)
Lead Police Services Dispatcher Helen Hernandez, dispatcher of the year (2019)
Police Services Dispatcher Jazmine Epperson, dispatcher of the year (2020)
Senior Police Records Specialist Daisy Guzman, records specialist of the year (2019)
Senior Police Records Specialist Gudelia Lovo, records specialist of the year (2020)
Senior Police Chaplain Robert Barnett, chaplain of the year (2019)
Police Chaplain Rupert Vega, chaplain of the year (2020)
Sgt. Steven Gonzales, explorer of the year (2019)
Sgt. Jessie Mejia, explorer of the year (2020)
Stuart Fuller, volunteer of the year (2019)
Johanna Scillieri, volunteer of the year (2020)
Jose Cruz, correctional supervisor of the year (2019)
Pedro Jiron, correctional supervisor of the year (2020)
William Santa Ana, senior correctional supervisor of the year (2019)
Edgar Perez, senior correctional supervisor of the year (2020)
John Crippen, correctional officer of the year (2019)
Josue Alvarez, correctional officer of the year (2020)
Lourdes Rosario, lead records specialist, correctional records specialist of the year (2019)
Hui Jung Lim, correctional records specialist, correctional records specialist of the year (2020)
Detective Sgt. Melecio Sarabia, sergeant of the year (2019)
Sgt. Matt Wharton, sergeant of the year (2020)
Cpl. Pedro Duran, corporal of the year (2019)
Cpl. Rick Velasquez, corporal of the year (2020)
Sgt. Joseph Hamlin, field training officer of the year (2019)
Cpl. Caprice Kirkpatrick, field training officer of the year (2020)
Cpl. Greg Beaumarchais, detective of the year (2019)
Detective David Prewett, detective of the year (2020)
Alan Berg, traffic officer of the year (2019)
Ed Mendoza, traffic officer of the year (2020)
Mike Enomoto, reserve officer of the year (2019)
Dennis Hoffer, reserve officer of the year (2020)

The Uniformed Officer of the Year award for 2019 went to Officer Nicholas Provencio and for 2020 to Steven Guerrero. The award is considered one of the department’s highest. They were credited with being the brave people who run in the direction of danger, not away, and reaffirm public trust and confidence in the dedication of the entire department.

All photos by Mark Rightmire/Behind the Badge