Officer Tiffanie Delaney jumped at the chance to help crack down on those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the Santa Maria Police Department launched a special assignment.
The DUI car enforcement followed a July 2018 crash that killed four people at the scene of Blosser and Stowell roads. Killed were two women and a 13-year-old girl visiting for a family reunion plus a DUI driver from the second car.
Delaney was among officers who responded to the scene of that crash, helping spur her decision to apply for the assignment focused on DUI drivers.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of doing DUIs to begin with. It’s a lot of work. However, you very quickly realize the importance of it and the impact that it has on the community,” Delaney said. “I kind of fell in love with doing that.”
Her success at finding intoxicated drivers earned Delaney the Officer of the Year Award at the department’s annual luncheon at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge last week. She also had been named an employee of the quarter in 2019.
Despite her relatively short three-year tenure, Delaney has shown an “exceptional commitment” to the department through her professionalism and work ethic, Chief Phil Hansen said.
“Her performance was under the microscope in this new statistic-driven position. She excelled beyond our expectations making approximately 230 arrests last year,” Hansen said.
In taking dozens of DUI drivers off the streets in 2019, “she probably saved somebody’s life,” Hansen added.
“That’s some pretty remarkable work in and of itself,” Hansen said. “The officer represents our department in a positive professional manner without exception or expectation of personal reward. “
Delaney learned of her award while returning from a vacation to New York with her parents and her husband, Atascadero Police Department K-9 handler Chris Hall.
Upon landing, she switched her cellphone off airplane mode only to receive a flood of text messages congratulating her.
“It was awesome,” the 29-year-old Delaney said.
She grew up in the western Fresno County city of Coalinga, where her dad worked for the oil industry and didn’t envision a law enforcement career for his only child.
The 2009 graduate of Coalinga High School tried out her second career choice, working on an ambulance, and earned a nursing degree intending to pursue that career.
Yet, the career she really wanted kept calling.
She graduated from Allan Hancock College’s law enforcement academy and has worked for the past three years for the Santa Maria department.
“It’s by far the most intriguing to me,” she said, adding she did ride-alongs with a couple of different departments, including Santa Maria’s, while considering the career.
“I did it and just fell in love with it,” she said, recalling the “super busy” pace. “I was like, man, this is fun.”
She also has found an extended family, noting her colleagues’ strong support as her mom dealt with breast cancer treatments.
“This department just came at me with open arms…,” Delaney said. “To them family is most important and this has become my second family hands down.”
Delaney has since moved from the special assignment into a slot as a field training officer, but she hasn’t abandoned DUI enforcement in teaching newer officers.
“I make it a point to make sure that my trainees are competent before they go on to the next phase,” she said, adding both of her trainees have had plenty of experience with DUI arrests.
In her role, she works alongside a new officer for six-week stints sharing knowledge and more.
“It’s so much fun,” she said, adding the best part isn’t necessarily teaching them how to handle different types of calls. “It’s showing them how enthusiastic I am about the job and how much I love it and pushing that onto to them.
“Because when they get on their own I want them to be just as excited about the career and just as much of a go-getter as I am,” Delaney said.
At the awards luncheon, the police chief noted Delaney’s infectious love of her career.
“It’s reassuring to know that her enthusiasm is being passed on to newly assigned officers,” Hansen said.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.