Local man joins city police squad
He had other opportunities, but Ric Martinez had his heart set on one job.
On Thursday, a goal he set during his sophomore year at South Tahoe High School came to fruition. With his 4-year-old daughter and proud parents watching, Martinez, 28, became the newest member of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
His interest in law enforcement, Martinez said, was fostered by a former officer and family friend while he was still in high school.
“He would take me on ride-alongs. It’s amazing how much you don’t really know about a town when you live there,” Martinez said. “He took me to places I never knew were up here. I started to know I wanted to be a police officer then.”
Martinez and his family moved to South Lake Tahoe from Southern California while he was in the third grade. After receiving his education at the police academy in Santa Rosa about 2 1/2 years ago, Martinez returned to his hometown.
“It’s my family, the place,” Martinez said about his desire to live at South Shore. “I grew up here and I wanted to raise my daughter here.”
Jobs in the police department are not easy to come by. Turnover is low. Martinez was hired to fill a slot left open by Richard Hughes’ retirement. Cmdr. Bart Owens said Hughes was the oldest officer, at 62, to retire from the department.
“We don’t have many openings and we don’t hire until we have a vacancy,” Owens said. “It’s been about a year and a half since our last hire. We’ve hired a number of officers who are locals, like Martinez, and they’ve all worked out really well. He’s wanted this job for a while, but Martinez also did all the right stuff to reach that goal.”
The right stuff included volunteering with the department as a reserve. Chief Brad Bennett stressed the fact that reserves are just that – volunteers – and receive no pay for their time and effort.
“It was tough,” Martinez admitted. “I worked about 50 hours a month with the department as a reserve and full-time at another job to make ends meet. But it was all worth it,” he smiled.
Kathy Martinez, Ric’s mother, was also all smiles Thursday as she watched her son take his oath.
“I’ve always been proud of him,” she said. “I’m glad he held out. He had some other opportunities, but he held out for South Lake Tahoe.”
Owens said after two days of paperwork Martinez will start a minimum four-month stint with a training officer, beginning with the graveyard shift this weekend.
“It’s my community,” Martinez said about his new beat. “I’m glad I’m getting the opportunity to help make it a safer place.”
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