More than 200 people filled the Veterans Memorial Building Wednesday night in Merced to celebrate 11 law enforcement officials who were named officers of the year in their respective departments.
Each Merced County law enforcement agency presented their own winner to an enthusiastic crowd during the annual ceremony. The largest ovation of the evening went to the Merced Police Department Officer of the Year, Detective Raquel Rios. About 40 people came to support Rios specifically, some from as far away as San Luis Obispo.
“Everything I’ve been able to do since coming here has been more meaningful, had more purpose because I’m in a department that is really my home,” Rios said. “I wouldn’t have been blessed to have this opportunity without the support of so many of my friends and family.”
Officers, deputies, investigators, prosecutors and correctional officers and their friends and families were treated to a tri-tip meal prepared by American Legion Post 83.
Officer Jose Torres was named Officer of the Year for the Atwater Police Department. Lt. Samuel Joseph praised Torres’ work on the department’s graffiti unit and called him “the kind of officer everybody wants to be.”
Livingston Police Sgt. John Ramirez received the Officer of the Year honor from Livingston Police Department, and was praised by Chief Ruben Chavez for his “leadership role” in helping curb gang violence in Livingston.
California Highway Patrol officers Mathew Butler and Brandon Tucker were selected to represent the Merced-area and Los Banos-area offices, respectively. They were applauded for their hard work, dedication and skillful police work.
Raul Degadillo was named Investigator of the Year for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. Chief Investigator Pat Lunney called Degadillo “a shining example of all that is good in law enforcement.”
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min was named Prosecutor of the Year. District Attorney Larry D. Morse II spoke highly of Min’s skills as a prosecutor and his hard work. Morse noted that last year Min won convictions in three consecutive homicide trials.
William Bass was named Correctional Officer of the Year and Dustin Witt was awarded Deputy of the Year at the Merced County Sheriff’s Department. Both were praised for their dedication, diligence and talent by Capt. Paul Sullivan.
Officer Kevin Warkentin received the award for UC Merced Police Department. Chief Rita Spaur called Warkentin “a role model” for officers and students alike.
Officer Jesus Parras was named the Los Banos Police Department’s Officer of the Year. The department did not attend Wednesday’s ceremony.