Experience counts

SAN BENITO — Police Chief Martin Morales loves this city. That’s why he has stayed here so long to protect and serve it.

In an effort to make himself more known to the community, Morales, a man with more than 30 years of experience under his belt, met with the community to discuss his department.

Yesterday, The San Benito Chamber of Commerce hosted Coffee with the Chief, in what they hope is the first of many more to come.

Morales, Captain Mario Parea and Captain Michael Cortez sat in on the session designed to bring together the community who may have had questions about police matters.

It’s all about connecting public officials with the public community, said Chamber President Lionel Betancourt.

“The Chamber’s role in this town is to create transparency among all of us,” Betancourt said. “This is something we can build on.”

Morales, who became chief in 2011 has been with the department for about 28 years.

During the morning coffee session, he provided guests a short run down of his department and the main functions.

The police department currently employs 43 officers, along with eight civilian staff members.

“We have different divisions within the department that handle different things,” Morales said. “Each person has their duties.”

There currently are five detectives who handle investigations throughout the city. There is a trained SWAT Team, negotiator team and one canine officer who currently is in training.

For the last year, the department has utilized the use of body cameras. Morales said the body cameras alleviated tension between members of the community and officers.

“Complaints against officers have gone down,” Morales said.

According to the policy, body cameras must be turned on when interacting with the public and initiating traffic stops.

This, Morales said, deters the public from making false accusations toward police officers and also helps in obtaining first-hand accounts of situations.

“It keeps everyone in check,” Morales said.

One of the common misconceptions Morales said he deals with on a daily basis is the community not being able to put his face to his name.

He’s there, he’s the chief of police and he wants the community to know it.

“People need to know who I am,” he said. “That way I can serve the community the best way possible.”

For the future, the chamber plans to have more coffee breakfasts with community leaders.

A goal according to Betancourt is to have a meeting where people can sit down with newly-hired City Manager Manuel De La Rosa and Superintendent Dr. Adrian Vega.

The dates for those meetings will be announced at a later date.