County law enforcement honors Reserve Officers, trainer Elliott
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: December 13, 2013
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Law enforcement leaders throughout Ventura County turned out in force to honor their agency’s Reserve Officers of the Year at the celebration hosted by the Santa Paula Police Department.
The December 4 dinner -- held at the Community Center -- was catered by the Santa Paula Fire Department BBQ Team.
The evening featured a special salute given to Oxnard Senior Officer (Ret.) Don Elliott, a 30-plus year veteran instructor at the Ventura County Police & Sheriff’s Reserve Academy.
Mayor Rick Cook, Councilmen Martin Hernandez and Jim Tovias, Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams, Port Hueneme Police Chief Bob Gager, Simi Valley Police Chief Mitch McCann, Santa Paula Police Chief Steve McLean and District Attorney Greg Totten were among those at the sold-out dinner introduced by SPPD Reserve Lt. Brad Tallent.
Santa Paula Police Explorers conducted the Flag Ceremony and Officer Walter Harper offered the invocation, noting that the event was “To honor those who give selflessly to others.... “
Lorraine MacDonald sang The National Anthem.
Cook, a retired SPPD Sgt., offered a welcome and told reserve officers, “I’m proud of you and your families that support you.”
Noting that MacDonald had been delayed in traffic while coming to Santa Paula Totten joked, “Lorraine, I’m really glad you made it.... I was afraid Brad would ask me to sing!”
Totten noted that the life of those in law enforcement is challenging with today’s officers under public scrutiny like never before.
“When people are in need you are their best friend, but when you arrest a person,” often the deputy or officer becomes an enemy, “and you feel their wrath.”
Wearing a badge and carrying a gun is a constant reminder of the danger faced and routine to law enforcement.
The growing number of agency reserves Totten said is “indispensable crime fighters critical to frontline officers.
“I know some of you don uniforms after a full day of work,” without desire to serve beyond reserve ranks, “while for others it’s the first step to becoming an officer.”
But either way Totten said reserves “patrol when others are home with their families. I want to convey our gratitude,” for reserves’ dedication to justice and their communities.
“It’s not just a job, it’s an opportunity, and noble calling and you represent the best in the human spirit.”
Totten noted his own experience with Don Elliott, 30 years ago when the former was trying his first case centered on a forgery charge before a jury and the latter was Oxnard PD’s, “Go-to detective...and he looked the part, rough and tough. He was the very first witness I ever called in a criminal case.”
After some failed attempts to introduce evidence crucial to the case Totten said Elliott, “With a twinkle in his eye turned to the judge,” and opened the way for Totten’s case to proceed towards conviction.
Elliott has served more than 40 years with the Oxnard PD and training reserves, the latter “his passion.”
“When I think of Don, when I think of these officers,” Totten said it reminds him of a remark made by then New York Police Commission President Theodore Roosevelt.
“It’s not the critic that counts,” but rather credit should always be given to the “man in the arena” who strives valiantly.
And, quoted Totten, “If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Oxnard Chief Jeri Williams and Asst. Chief Jason Benites presented the recognition to Elliott.
Benites noted Elliott, “Is a man who has been a part of every person in the room,” through training and mentoring generations of reserves, as well as “contributing greatly to every law enforcement agency,” through his devotion and “tenacity” to the program.
Elliott is still an “official volunteer” who joined the OPD in 1969, has trained more than 3,000 reserves since 1982 and “Been the glue that held the program together.”
“Thank you for being a mentor, advisor, confidant and friend,” wrote Bryan MacDonald, the retired OPD assistant chief and now an Oxnard Councilman.
Chief Williams presented a plaque to Elliott, noting, “The success of the nationally recognized reserve officer program is attributable,” to his efforts and devotion.
Elliott also received recognitions from Tallent and the Ventura County Board of Supervisors presented by Councilman Hernandez.
“I’m so humbled to have this honor, it’s unbelievable” said Elliott, flanked by his wife Karen and daughter Cynthia.
“I’m not the one that did all this,” but rather those he trained, said Elliott, “The epitome of what a Reserve Officer should be.”
Reserve Officers honored by their agencies were: Ventura County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy Kevin Merchant, presented by Captain Cory Rubright;
Simi Valley Police Reserve Officer Rob DiNonno presented by Chief Mitch McCann; Oxnard Police Reserve Officer Randy White presented by Chief Jeri Williams; Port Hueneme Police Reserve Officer Henry Montelongo presented by Chief Bob Gager; and SPPD Reserve Sgt. Mike Levy presented by Chief Steve McLean.
Tallent thanked his “real accomplished team of volunteers,” and his committee, Sr. Reserve Officer Susan Green, Sr. Reserve Officer Dave Curran and his wife, Melanie Curran and SPPD Cadet and volunteer Martha Brown.