Tuesday, August 14 , 2018, 4:42 am | Overcast 67º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Maria Police Honor Top Officer, SWAT Team and Others

Detective Jesus Caro, a 6-year member of law enforcement, was recognized as the officer of the year

Detective Jesus Caro, Santa Maria Police Department officer of the year, accepts congratulations from retired sergeant Chris Nartatez, who is serving as interim police chief at Allan Hancock College. Click to view larger
Detective Jesus Caro, Santa Maria Police Department officer of the year, accepts congratulations from retired sergeant Chris Nartatez, who is serving as interim police chief at Allan Hancock College. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A dedicated detective deemed a model officer, a top criminalist and an elite unit were among those recognized during the Santa Maria Police Department annual awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Chief Phil Hansen presided over the event held at the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel and sponsored by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, with law enforcement members and local residents making up the audience.

Near the end of the event, the chief announced Detective Jesus Caro, a six-year member of law enforcement, as recipient of the Officer of the Year Award.

Caro’s handling of a “complex and demanding caseload” that spans assorted serious crimes has led to several prison sentences for defendants, Hansen said. 

The Pioneer Valley High School graduate and former Police Explorer also provides his Spanish-speaking skills to help colleagues with interviews, leading the chief to call Caro’s work “exceptional.”

“Not only is he professional and hardworking, he is also kind and considerate,” Hansen said. “He genuinely cares about the victims he works with. His efforts reflect his desire to bring about justice and healing for the victims and their families.”

A rare honor, the Distinguished Service Award, went to Timothy Sutcliffe, senior criminalistics technician, to recognize his outstanding achievement for the agency while working the crime lab.

A deputy with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for 20 years, he joined the Police Department in 2009, immediately implementing improved procedures for advanced crime scene forensics processing.

“The lab now has a reputation and level of quality control that is of the highest caliber,” Hansen said. 

TIm Sutcliffe, senior criminalistics technician, received the Distinguished Service Award, during the Santa Maria Police Department awards ceremony on Tuesday morning. Click to view larger
TIm Sutcliffe, senior criminalistics technician, received the Distinguished Service Award, during the Santa Maria Police Department awards ceremony on Tuesday morning. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Sutcliffe also trains patrol officers regarding forensics, fingerprinting and photography.

“Tim has high expectations, high aspirations, and it’s not an exaggeration to say he’s revolutionized the Santa Maria Police Department’s Crime Lab,” Hansen said. “Not only has he changed our technical approach to crime scene investigation, he has instilled a sense of purpose, motivation and passion in the technicians he supervises.”

The agency’s Special Weapons and Tactics or SWAT members received the Distinguished Team Award from Hansen, who is passionate about the elite unit he rebuilt.

“Their mission is to save lives,” Hansen said, adding that a SWAT Team aims to prevent violence and seek peaceful resolution during critical incidents.

“They have done a heck of a job representing this department,” he said, noting members serve a variety of roles in the agency in addition to their SWAT duties.

In 2017, team members provided tactical training for other officers during briefings and in field settings.

“They served a number of high-risk warrants, and resolved barricaded-suspect situations in the most professional manner while displaying great restraint,” Hansen said, noting one incident during which a mentally unstable suspect fired a rifle while inside the residence.

When the man appeared at the front door holding the rifle, SWAT members persuaded him to drop the weapon and safely took him into custody.

“This incident exemplifies the level of restraint and commitment to life saving this team displayed on a daily basis,” Hansen said. 

Others recognized Tuesday morning include: 

» Office Assistant Kristina Aguilar as Support Employee of the Year for working behind  the scenes to provide necessary tools for officers and staff to perform their tasks in an efficient and productive manner. 

» Michael Balcorta as Dispatcher of the Year. He serves as the community liaison and created an interactive dispatching simulator for display at career days.

» Officer Daniel Bridges, now with the Roseville Police Department, with the Lifesaving Award for helping save a woman who overdosed on an opioid. 

» Officer Cole Whitney with the Mark Riddering Award for narcotics-related enforcement.

The agency also recognized its employees of the quarter from 2017 and spotlighted several members with certificates of recognition. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Members of the Santa Maria Police Department were recognized for their stellar work Tuesday during a ceremony held at the held at the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel. Click to view larger
Members of the Santa Maria Police Department were recognized for their stellar work Tuesday during a ceremony held at the held at the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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