WPD welcomes new officers, promotes veteran

(Gloria Conard-Lucero pins a new Watsonville Police badge on the uniform of her son, Andre Burke, Friday during a promotional and badge-pinning ceremony in Watsonville. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Five new officers joined the Watsonville Police Department and one officer was promoted Friday during a badge-pinning ceremony.

Adrian Alvarez, Andre Burke, Alex Magaña, Robert Strong and Fernando Tellez received their badges during the ceremony that filled the Watsonville City Council Chambers. Master Officer Burt Iles was also promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Three of the new officers are recent graduates of the police academy, while two have transferred from other departments.

Police Chief David Honda said becoming an officer begins with months of interviews as well as psychological testing and fitness training. Once complete, the candidates are hired and must go through six months of the police academy and another four to six months of in-field training.

For the tens of thousands of people across the nation who apply to be an officer, only five percent are hired, and only two percent make it through training, he said.

“It’s a very long and difficult journey for our candidates,” Honda said. "Just getting to this point is quite an accomplishment.”

Magaña, an eight-year veteran of the Marina Police Department, was born and raised in Watsonville. He said he wanted to come back to his hometown to serve the community he grew up in, and praised the leadership of the Watsonville Police Department.

"This is a great department," he said. “I’m so blessed for the opportunity. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Burke, who previously worked as an emergency medical technician in Alameda County, graduated from the police academy in October.

“Today, I feel a great deal of excitement — this is a true blessing,” he said. “I am very honored to represent this community. I’ve always had this idea of becoming a police officer in the back of my head.”         

Tellez, who was born in Guerrero, Mexico and moved to Watsonville in 1996, attended local schools, eventually earning his associate's degree in criminal justice. He served as a deputy with the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office before joining the Watsonville Police Department.

“This is the city where I was raised,” he said. “It’s time for me to give back to the community that gave me a lot of support.”

Strong graduated from the police academy in December, and before becoming an officer, he served as a police cadet and police services specialist.

Alvarez, a Watsonville native, graduated from Sacramento State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He worked as a security guard at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk prior to joining Watsonville Police.

A 22-year veteran of the Watsonville Police Department, Iles has supervised the department’s traffic division and currently serves as an emergency vehicle operator instructor, among other roles.


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