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The cold reality of policing Mammoth’s streets hit Officer Jack Loera right off the bat.
Almost as soon as Loera, 52, arrived from the Banning Police Department this past week, members of the MLPD were busy trying on new winter gear.
Gloves, insulated jacket, snow pants, and boots, were about as familiar to Loera as an encounter with a bear, which is to say, not very.
“I always wanted to live and work in an area like this,” he said. “But it’s more than just living here. It’s working as a police officer. I love my job.”
This is coming from a 17-year veteran police officer who has worked the gamut, from the streets to detective work, and it has come fraught with danger.
Just before leaving Banning for Mammoth, he said, he was assigned to a homicide, which in turn was linked to two other homicides.
It is not as if Mammoth were a mere rumor, though. In Beaumont, where he worked before his stint as an officer in Banning, Loera said he fell in with Chris Ramos, who Mammothites would remember as a member of the MLPD force.
It was as if Mammoth had a cheering section.
“He used to brag about Mammoth all the time,” Loera said.
For the MLPD and Chief Dan Watson, having Loera come aboard cannot be overstated.
He is a veteran cop and therefore does not have to go through the Academy. Moreover, he is bilingual, also a plus-factor in a town that has a sizeable Spanish-speaking population.
The MLPD suffered severe cutbacks in staffing as a result of the MLLA lawsuit settlement.
At one time there were 23 MLPD officers. During the 2012/13 fiscal year, the Police Department went from 17 sworn staff to 10, a 41% reduction.
Last spring, the Town Council authorized carrying over savings from the police budget to allow for the funding of an officer for at least 19 months. Officer Loera was selected to fill that position.
“With the addition of Officer Loera,” Watson said, “the Police Department has grown by 10%. This is a good step in the direction of rebuilding the Police Department to an appropriate level.”