Ride-Along With Officer Salcido

by journojames on January 12, 2012

Originally published Sept. 7, 2010

Patrol Officer John Salcido has dreams of one day becoming a motorcycle officer, but tonight, his focus is strictly on his job: serving the people of South Pasadena and getting home safely to his 15-month-old daughter.

Officer Salcido, Photo by JournoJames

It’s close to 8 PM on a warm September Saturday night and Officer Salcido’s stereo in his police vehicle is tuned to Amp Radio. Katy Perry can be faintly heard in the background while short bursts from the dispatch operator fill the car from time to time with calls. He’s just pulled over and issued a ticket to a man for using his cell phone while driving. It’s amazing Salcido was able to see such a subtle action from across the street, three lanes away as he was driving the opposite way, but he thinks nothing of it. He’s had to do this several times today but the danger is treating it like a routine.

“The number one dangerous thing an officer can do on a daily basis is traffic stopping,” says Salcido while grabbing a pinch of tobacco chew. “You really don’t know who you’re pulling over. You don’t know if they’re on parole, or if they have weapons, or if they’re going to run on you. On top of that, you have to worry about traffic going by. The danger is constant and everywhere.”

He always keeps this in mind when patrolling his beat, the streets of South Pasadena, no matter how routine things seem to get. His typical day starts at 12 noon and ends at midnight, working three to four days a week. His duties can be described as “community policing” and it includes traffic patrol, on-call assignments, emergencies, and writing reports.

South Pasadena has only had one policeman die in the line of duty. Officer Ray Rogers died in a motorcycle accident in 1944.

“Every officer out working has one basic rule and it’s something my training officer always talked about,” Salcido says. “The first thing he said was, ‘rule number one always is that you work safely and you go home safely to your family.’” He takes a moment to think about that before heading back out into traffic.

Later in the night, well after 10 pm, Officer Salcido is driving down Monterey Road. The stereo now plays Eminem. It’s dark and he wishes there were more streetlights. His eyes skillfully scan the area, making sure everything looks as it should. He suddenly spots a figure. “I know that guy. Let’s see what he’s up to,” says Salcido. He drives up to him and has a brief conversation before letting him go. “I arrested that kid not too long ago for burglary,” Salcido explains. “He’s 18. I just like to check up on him and make sure he’s not getting into more trouble.”

S. Pasadena Police Station, Photo by JournoJames

It can be clearly heard in his voice that Officer Salcido loves his job despite the inherent danger. He says that he can’t see himself doing anything else. Law enforcement is in the blood for the 24-year-old San Bernardino native. The tall, big policeman played football at Illinois State as an offensive guard while studying criminal justice. He immediately entered the police academy after graduation to follow in the footsteps of his father, who still works for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 unit. He briefly mentions other members of his family, including his daughter but doesn’t give details. He’s a protective family man.

He’s only been a police officer for three years, all with SPPD, but already has a number of memorable experiences. “The job can be tough. It’s always hard when children are involved in an accident or there’s a death of some kind.” Salcido, however, would rather talk about the good days his job offers. “The best days are when I can help people,” says Salcido. “Saving a life or helping a family is always rewarding. We helped this little kid, not too long ago, who had his bike stolen. He got the bike from school as a reward for his grades and someone stole it. It was gift, it was irreplaceable, and his family was really upset. But, after a three-day search we found it and put two people in custody. The kid was so happy. Those are great days.”

Officer Salcido keeps the thank you card from the little boy in his office mailbox. He reads it to himself after tonight’s shift, puts it back in his slot and heads home safe to his family for another night.

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