Over the span of Captain Valdez’s 30 year career, he has held several positions. He explained that each job poses unique challenges and adversity, but one of the hardest aspects of his job is the tragic loss of fellow officers in the force – “It never gets easier,” he says. However, being the Captain of the Sheriff’s Station has proved to be the toughest job in his career due to the sheer amount of time and dedication that is required of his duties away from his family. While his family understands that these sacrifices come with the job, Captain Valdez ultimately believes his role is to truly serve the community anyway he can.
It’s no surprise that being a deputy can certainly take its toll, especially during a critical time in the United States where law enforcement is under intense scrutiny from the public. Despite the negative press, the feedback Captain Valdez has received tells a different story. At the end of each day, Captain Valdez believes the appreciation and gratitude that the Pico Rivera community has expressed with him and his deputies is what makes this job so rewarding. “It’s my favorite thing about this job and it makes everything we do for the community worth it.” He says, “I receive compliments from residents about the helpfulness of our deputies who say thank you for what you’re doing” and “there’s nothing I love more than the support we receive from the residents of this City.”
As many young adults aspire to join the force, the Captain gives advice for those interested in a career in law enforcement. It’s very simple. He said, “to make good choices.” He explained that sometimes the choices we make as young adults can often hinder us from seeking a career in law enforcement. Captain Valdez has seen it first hand many times from instances where an applicant is rejected and they want to know why. While Captain Valdez says that the Sheriff’s Department values honesty, a good moral compass is also essential. Although he reassures everyone that in time, just about anyone can apply to work at the Sheriff’s Station.
While some people may have mixed feelings about their own safety when dealing with law enforcement, Captain Valdez offered some vital tips on what every driver should do when they are pulled over. “The first thing is, don’t make any sudden movements. Second, place your hands on the steering wheel, and wait until prompted by the officer to reach for your wallet.” Many times, people are dissatisfied or unhappy with their traffic violation, but Captain Valdez urges everyone, that when you get pulled over, it is not the time to contest the ticket violation. He recommends that the best thing you can do is drive straight to the station and express your concern with the watch commander. However, he wants to emphasize that signing a ticket does not admit guilt. All it means is they’re signing a citation that promises the individual will appear in court; the other option is that the deputy has to take the person into custody. In court, everyone will have a commissioner that will hear both sides and will ultimately resolve the citation.
In a situation where a bystander has witnessed a crime, Captain Valdez advises to remember all the details of the scene. Anything you remember can be important, from time of occurrence, people involved, and most importantly, specific details of the suspect, including height, color, age, gender, tattoos, and facial hair. He also recommends observing from a safe distance as to not get involved. Your help can be just what officers need to track a criminal and convict them in court.
While deputies work day and night to keep our neighborhoods and City safe, it is also important to recognize the hard work school and park deputies do as well. Captain Valdez says that park deputies help patrol playgrounds, trails, and facilities that make residents and young kids feel at ease while out in the community.
In an effort to promote more community outreach to residents, every year in October on a Saturday, the Pico Rivera Sheriff’s Department, along with the City’s Parks & Recreation Department, hosts the annual Haunted Jail, a law enforcement open house. Another outreach program is the Citizen’s Academy, which is an eight week program geared for residents of the community, every weekend on Saturday with guest speakers throughout the department, locally, and globally. It gives residents a better understanding about what we do as their law enforcement agency and what services are available to them as residents of their community.
According to Captain Valdez, the sheriff’s station also has the Personal Reflection In Development Ethics, (P.R.I.D.E. Program) which is offered two or three times a year to help identify at-risk youth. This partnership between the sheriff's deputies, the parents, and the kids is about promoting good choices in the lives of children. “It’s just to show them life. We take them to a funeral home and stage a mock funeral service, and we also make them dress up in the inmate outfits and put them in a cell, but we also show them how good choices can positively impact their lives.”
For all those interested in wanting to help out in their community and volunteer with the Sheriff’s Department, the Captain gladly welcomes everyone to apply and ensures that all volunteers will receive onsite training, along with the skills and ability to give back to the City. It’s a great tool for crime prevention, in addition to volunteering at the station they will also go out on patrol. All you have to do is come into the station and fill out an application and be on your way to joining the Pico Rivera Sheriff family. For more information, please contact the Sheriff’s Department at (562) 949-2421 or visit 6631 Passons Blvd, Pico Rivera, CA 90660.
What is your role at the Pico Rivera Sheriff's Department and how does the K9 Team assist you
I’ve been on the Department for 29 years and I have been a canine handler since 2010. The K9 Unit assist patrols in the car, while I am assigned to operate in the Safe Streets Bureau, the Department’s Gang Unit. We assist other agencies including Baldwin Park, LAPD, Long Beach, Torrance PD, and others because they know we have K9 Units.
What breed of dogs do you recruit as K9s?
One of my dogs is named, Riley and she is a Belgian Shepard from Holland. She is my gun detection dog. I got her at 18 months old and I have had her for a year.
The other dog is named Roxy and I got her at 18 months and we bonded right away. She is a Belgian Malinois and she is seven years old. She does narcotics detection, which consists of opium, cocaine, cocaine based, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine.
What type of training do the dogs undergo to prepare for service as K9s?
It’s five weeks of training and we put them on odor detection and once the odor is imprinted, they never forget it. After that, it’s constant training, time and time again. The Department issues actual guns that we fire and use for training and sometimes I will use the car wash bay or the mechanics bay to hide firearms as practice exercises. Sometimes the dogs have distractions. In their case, they use balls as a distraction. As a handler, you need time and patience to get them off of the distraction.
It’s important to note that these dogs only do detection work, therefore they are not bite dogs so they do not do apprehension work.
What is one of your favorite parts about working with K9s
When the dogs see me dressed up in my uniform and hear the truck start, because they get very excited knowing we are going to work. I always try to be very animated with the dogs because if I act like a “Deputy” and give out orders, the dogs shut down.
In what ways has the K9 Unit helped the Sheriff’s Department detect and prevent crime?
Year-to-date, Riley has located eight guns. Riley is vital, in that she can expedite a search and show the Deputies where to search in a house or an open area.
A significant find for her was a buried firearm because we have never trained her on buried firearms, but she can smell it. It was enough for her to show interest and we dug a little and there was a buried gun.
Her alert is putting her nose where the item is and not moving, which is called a focused alert. If the gun has been fired recently, that means the odor is strong, it’s permeating. The guns I use haven’t been fired in 40 days. The less odor on the gun, the tougher it is for her to locate it. I want to get her down to a minimal amount of odor, same for the narcotics dog.
We start with pounds and kilos for training and reduce it to just a pound or a gram. So we start off with large amounts of odors and gradually reduce to a minimal amount.
Does Roxy have any significant or important finds in her career?
We were invited down to the US-Mexican Border at the San Isidro Crossing. She alerted on a van and in the gas tank was 60 lbs. of marijuana. This was in a gas tank full of gas, wrapped in plastic and she alerted on the marijuana. That was very impressive. She alerted the odor with the distraction of cars and people.
We have been deployed for a couple of hundred searches year to date, including vehicles, homes, and open area searches.
She also alerts on money. Currently, we are up to over a million dollars on detection. Roxy has to problem-solve during the searches. I must give her room to work to find narcotics. Training should be positive and fun for the dog. If they were to be harmed it would be considered animal cruelty and that’s a felony, therefore they are assigned a shield.
What types of guidelines are used to evaluate the dogs for approval of use in the field?
We do a yearly certification. For court purposes we train with each dog four hours per week. The court requires us to maintain certification. If we weren’t doing our training with these dogs, it would imminently show at the yearly certification, therefore we train daily. It's fun for the dogs and the drive is what they live for.
What will Riley and Roxy do at the end of their K9 career?
When I retire, I can keep them, but Riley has a few more years left in her. It’s important to maintain their overall health, which consists of a good diet, no table scraps, and lots of water and love.