Carlos Lopez joined the St. Helena Police Department this month for much the same reason he joined the U.S. Army after 9/11 – because he wanted to serve.
“I wanted to do something that mattered, something that made a difference,” Lopez said of his five-year stint in the Army, which included a tour in Afghanistan.
Born in the Mexican state of Michoacan, Lopez immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 11. He grew up in Napa and attended Napa High School.
Lopez didn’t want to make the military his career, but he enjoyed his time as a military policeman and felt a passion for law enforcement. He graduated from the Napa Valley College Police Academy in December 2017 and served on the Napa Police Department before getting a job in St. Helena.
He was officially sworn in on Aug. 15 and took the oath of office again at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where his wife Maria pinned his badge on his chest. During his first week on the job he said he was grateful to St. Helena for “giving me an opportunity to realize my dream of being a police officer.”
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Lopez said he’s looking forward to working for a small department where he can get to know people, become part of the community, and experience every aspect of law enforcement. Since the St. Helena Police Department is so small, officers are responsible for patrol, traffic enforcement, investigations, community outreach and other duties that in a larger department would be handled by specialists.
Lopez is fluent in Spanish and he hopes to build bridges with the Hispanic community.
Whether it’s a loose dog or a traffic accident, “I’m here to help,” Lopez said.
Expect to see him on the graveyard shift with his field training officer, Fil Bianco.