After bullets had pierced each leg, confining him to a wheelchair for months, Albert Ramirez was certain his career with the Barstow Police Department was over. On Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to name Ramirez, a 21-year veteran of the force, the new Police Chief -- the first person of Hispanic origin to hold that title in Barstow's history.
"I'm very excited. I'm honored to wear the badge and patches of the department," Ramirez said on Tuesday. "I live here, my kids go to school here, my wife works here. When I leave the office, I stay in the city here. I intermingle with the hard-working people of Barstow."
In December 2000, Ramirez was a watch commander responding to a call of shots fired, man down, when a man ambushed him, sending bullets through both legs. The man, John Lathan Salsbury, was later found guilty of murdering his neighbor and sentenced to two life terms in prison, though ruled unfit to stand trial for the shots fired on Ramirez and two other police officers.
For Ramirez, he found his "dream as a kid" in jeopardy when the percentage of disability was deemed too high for the city to keep him on, so he reluctantly sought and found work elsewhere. That's when he found out from the city he could come back if he reduced his percentage of disability.
He stood in front of a judge in San Bernardino and convinced the judge to reduce his disability to a lower percentage and by September 2001, he had fought his way back into the Barstow Police Department.
"Money wasn't an object for me at the time, and it never was," he said. "What was, was working law enforcement in the community I grew up in which is the city of Barstow."
He moved to Barstow in 1969 when his father, a marine, got stationed at the marine base. At 17 years old, he signed up for the Army as part of a delayed entry program and became a ranger for seven years.
In January 1991, he joined the Barstow Police.
Now, after spending five months as the interim chief following former chief Dianne Burns' retirement, Ramirez looks forward to implementing "solid and concrete goals."
The first is to build the foundation in his management and supervisory staff so they can help lead the department in a positive manner. In doing that, he said, it will ensure the department offers the highest level of service to the city.
He also identified the need to enhance training in all areas, and to create mentorships within the department to develop staff, to further their careers and put them in positions to lead the people below them.
Lastly, he wants to promote a partnership between his officers and the community to help solve Barstow's crime issues.
"We're all here together do one thing, and that's to provide the highest level of service to the public, and to have that quality of life be good for our children," Ramirez said. "And I think we have to be in partnership with the community and citizens to do that."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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