It’s what they both wanted, fulfilling a dream of one day becoming police officers.
Landing jobs in South Pasadena to launch their careers in law enforcement is an added bonus.
No strangers to the city, Issac Gutierrez, a resident of Boyle Heights, and Catalina Valdez, who resides in La Crescenta, were sworn in Monday as new Police Chief Joe Ortiz welcomed two more officers to the local department, increasing the total to 31, five less than where he’d like to have it.
“My dad always pushed me toward law enforcement,” explained Gutierrez, who as a teen became an explorer for the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department. He later joined the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, and at the age of 18 his father sent in an application for his son to become a police cadet at the South Pasadena Police Department. Gutierrez was hired in December 2014 by SPPD, worked four and a half years as a cadet before heading off to the Los Angeles Police Academy last December for officer training.
Gutierrez and Valdez are fresh graduates, leaving the Academy with high marks on May 16.
“In my mind, it’s others seeing me as mature,” said the youthful looking 23-year-old Gutierrez, when asked what challenges he’ll be facing as he starts his career in South Pasadena. “I feel like it will be an obstacle, showing them that I can handle it, that I am able,” he said, noting he’s looking forward to it.
For Valdez, she served as a dispatcher for the local department a little over 10 years before joining Gutierrez at the Academy last winter to become an officer.
“It was pretty intense,” she said about her time at the Academy. “It was really hard at the beginning until we got into a routine, which made it a little easier.”
Valdez and Gutierrez went to the Academy as South Pasadena recruits, making it an easy transition once they were hired since they already knew their way around the station as personnel on duty.
It’s no easy task going through the Academy, and now that she has, Valdez is just happy to be back side-by side with those she’s known so well over the year. “It’s especially gratifying,” she added, “because you know how hard it was. I consider all of my co-workers as great friends.”
While there have been women in the South Pasadena police force over the years, Valdez is the only one currently in the department, suggesting it shouldn’t be a big deal.
“I can do my best just like the men,” she said. “I guess I haven’t thought too much about that.”
Valdez said “not knowing what’s going to happen out there,” meaning the street, will be her biggest challenge. “Anything can happen.”
For much of her life, she wanted to become a police officer, explaining, “I just thought I was getting a little older, and I always wanted it. That’s why I worked harder to get here.”
He career path will follow a couple of family members. A cousin of Valdez is a detention officer with the Huntington Police Department and the woman’s husband is a deputy with the L.A. County Sherriff’s Department.
South Pasadena is a relatively safe community but Valdez maintains “anything can happen and I just have to be prepared,” she said, noting that Gutierrez and her went out on a few calls their first day on the job. “Nothing super exciting, but it has been pretty cool,” said Valdez.
Ortiz, new himself as the city’s police chief, thinks it’s pretty cool that he’s got a pair of dedicated, hardworking and intelligent officers canvassing South Pasadena streets.
“”They’re top notch, top of the class,” he said of the department’s newest officers. “I here from management and supervision that both employees are motivated and are looking forward to giving back to the community. What’s really unique is we we’re able to recruit them (within our department). They understand how the department works. They understand the geography. It’s a win-win for both of us. We’re going to invest in them and they’re going to invest in us.”