Oxnard Public Affairs Officer Named Employee of the Quarter

By Dan Pinedo

July 14, 2015

Oxnard Police Department’s Community Affairs Officer Miguel Lopez was selected as employee of the second quarter and recognize at the Oxnard City Council meeting of July 7, 2015 in the presence of his family and community members who loudly applauded and cheered. In recognition for his work, Mayor Tim Flynn presented Miguel a crystal plaque and a check for $250.00.

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L-R- Councilman Bert Perello, Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez, Miguel Lopez, Mayor Tim Flynn, Police Chief Jeri Williams, Council Members Bryan MacDonald and Doris Padilla. Photo: Dan Pinedo, CitizensJournal.us.

“Your work on behalf of the city is commendable, its not an easy job and we look forward to future endeavors.” Said Mayor Flynn.

“It’s always a blessing to have employees who can really connect with the community, who can reach out and touch people even when they are not having the best of times, Miguel has been able to do that,” said Police Chief Williams.

“I’ve been with the city two and a half years, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows, it’s far from it…it’s been challenging at time but I am here sharing this award with all the people here and all the people who could not be here.” Said Miguel. He reiterated his comments in Spanish.

Miguel Lopez grew up in the Rosepark and in the south neighborhoods of Oxnard. After graduating from Hueneme High School he attended UCSB where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 2004. He was elected by his peers as student body President and served as the official UCSB student representative for local, state and federal matters, which helped exercise and develop his organization and managerial skills. In 2005, Lopez moved to Los Angeles to pursue his graduate studies at UCLA where he worked on his Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change, but opportunities he could not let pass, has put that effort on hold.

He served as a teaching assistant in the Graduate School of Education as well as the Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies. His research focused on educational access and equity, individual and interpersonal processes, and organizational behavior. His work at UCLA was centered on diversity, campus climate, and the experience of underrepresented students and faculty of color at American colleges and universities. Lopez served as President of the Graduate School of Education Student Association, vice chair of the Student Fee Advisory Committee, member of the Education Executive Committee, the Executive Committee of the UC Council on Student Fees, and elected External Vice President of the Graduate Students Association representing over 11,500 graduate and professional students at UCLA.

Miguel has a long history of advocacy and leadership. He worked to raise awareness on educational access, equity, affordability, persistence on degree completion with university leadership, local and state elected representatives, and on Capitol Hill. While at UCLA he was recognized for his efforts and received several awards including the UCLA Academic Senate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Honorable Mention Award; Graduate Student and Undergraduate of the Year, respectively, from his fraternity Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity, Inc; University Campus and Community Service Award; Dean of Students Distinguished Achievement Award; and, Award for Research and Creative Studies.

Although his background is not in law enforcement, ironically, “it has enhanced my perspective and helped me be more effective. I have made a concerted effort to develop programs and initiatives to inform, educate, and empower people in our community to be partners in public safety.”

Miguel’s background and experience is actually in advocacy, education, policy and research as well as outreach and public engagement. His postgraduate worked was at UCLA, UCSB, and more recently, Washington, DC. While in DC, Miguel participated in a leadership development program with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Last year he was accepted to the Emerging Leaders Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

When Miguel took the job with the Oxnard Police Department as Community Affairs Officer in 2013, police-community relations were fractured after a number of local high-profile uses of deadly force incidents. “I was not on the job when those incidents happened, but I was aware of them while I was in DC.” The job had been vacant for eleven months prior to Miguel’s arrival. The department’s Community Affairs Office did not have a dedicated person to manage this work during some of the most difficult times in the department’s history and the City of Oxnard.

After a challenging year, the city was experiencing a spike in major and property crimes. Chief Williams gathered her command staff to think of innovative ways to address the challenges. “We developed a comprehensive year-long crime prevention initiative, Operation Safer and Stronger,” Said Miguel. This initiative’s message, launched by Oxnard Police at the start of the year, aimed to further inform, engage, and empower our larger community on trends, crime prevention, and as public safety partners citywide, became a symbol of public education.

Other law agencies in the State of California now know OPD for its Safer and Stronger seminars series. The Attorney General’s Office Community Engagement Taskforce used it as a model earlier this year. “This was a great accomplishment as well as our Spanish speaking Citizen’s Academy which was also used as a model by the U.S. Department of Justice.” https://www.oxnardpd.org/

Building on these recognized programs and initiatives, Miguel has helped launch the Oxnard Neighbors United Project, (ONUP). Recognizing the importance of enhanced community engagement in police work, it aims at improving public safety by taking every opportunity to meet with, and work with, the community to address evolving challenges. “As the Chief has said, a strong community needs a strong police department, and a strong police department needs the support of our community,” said Miguel.

Miguel wants to continue his work in Oxnard to help improve the quality of life by supporting public safety and education. “I believe they go hand-in-hand.  I want to improve the opportunities and lives for the youth and their families in our community.”

Miguel would like for Oxnard residents to visit the Oxnard Police Facebook page and follow the departments Newsfeed and sign up for Nextdoor. “Attend community events, bring your family. It may be a of couple minutes, an hour or so, we can all do something to create a safer and stronger city.”

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Employee of the Quarter Miguel Lopez, extended family and Police Chief Jeri Williams. Photo: Dan Pinedo, CitizensJournal.us

Miguel greatly credits his parents and family for his success, especially his mother who was a recipient of the in 1999. “Watching them, I developed my work-ethic, and my family drives my work.” He is thankful for all the community leaders, community organizations, partners and stakeholders who are supporting Oxnard Police Department’s work. He appreciates the men and women at Oxnard Police, Explorers, City Corps and Oxnard PAL who always pull through.

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Dan Pinedo is a  Citizen Journalist residing in Oxnard

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