Watsonville Police Department formally welcomed five new officers at a promotional badge pinning and awards ceremony Wednesday.
Close to 150 people packed the City Council Chambers for the two-hour event that drew top brass from Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties, the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s office and the City of Watsonville.
Edgar Rivera, Andres Gutierrez, Antonio Mendoza, Armando Uribe and Ulises Gonzalez were brought up before the crowd and had their badges pinned to their uniforms by family members to waves of applause.
Additionally, Gustavo Zamora, who has been an officer with WPD for the past six years, was promoted to sergeant while Sgt. Donny Thul was promoted to captain.
“Your service and your sacrifice does not go unnoticed,” WPD Chief Jorge Zamora said. “Now that you’ve made it, what are you going to do next? We have to treat the badge as a symbol of responsibility.”
Mendoza, who was previously with Capitola Police for 15 years, said he liked the “growth” he saw in Watsonville.
“It’s a great change,” Mendoza said. “I worked my way up over the years from a cadet at age 15 all the way up to become a senior officer and field training officer. I love this community.”
Rivera, a Watsonville native, said, “I’ve always had a passionate drive to help people but also a curiosity about the legal system. Enforcing laws has always been a big attraction for me.”
He was previously a corrections officer at Santa Cruz County Jail.
Uribe said he is switching over from working at Salinas Valley State Prison. Gonzalez said he came on board at WPD as a police cadet at age 14 and worked his way up, while Gutierrez brings four years of police experience with Santa Cruz Police.
City Manager Rene Mendez told the crowd that “we should not only honor our officers, but also their families; they wouldn’t do what they do without your backing.”
An awards presentation was next on the program. Five life-saving medals were handed out. One was for the rescue of a 3-week-old child. Other awards included an arrest in a Watsonville homicide and “Excellence In Prosecution” to Assistant District Attorney Michael McKinney.
Marvin Luna took home a community service award while 15 others earned a Medal of Merit.