DOWNEY - As a young man, Capt. Rick Esteves found a hero in his uncle Rick Harper."He was a LAPD motor officer," said Esteves. "I would see him on his bike and think, 'I want to do that one day.'" Since joining the Downey Police Department in 1984, Esteves has served in several positions including one as a motor officer, but Dec. 1 will mark a new beginning for Esteves when he steps into the role of police chief. "I've worked my entire career to get to this point and I feel very fortunate," Esteves said. "This department has a lot of more than capable people - I'm blessed and I know it." After Police Chief Roy Campos announced his retirement in August, all three police captains were placed into consideration for the position, but in September, City Manager Gerald Caton appointed Esteves and the decision was confirmed by the City Council. "Capt. Garza was just recently promoted to captain and Capt. McCulloch is getting ready to leave soon," said Esteves, 47. "Just like in sports, it's all about timing." Growing up in Artesia, Esteves remembers getting a taste of Downey as a result of his mother's work in the dietary department at Downey Community Hospital, which is now Downey Regional Medical Center. As a graduate of Garr High School, Esteves recalls playing baseball against both Warren and Downey High School and making friends in Downey. When dreams of playing professional baseball seemed out-of-reach for Esteves, he soon turned to his second passion and pursued a career in law enforcement. "Downey was close to home so I applied here," said Esteves. "I got the position and signed on. The rest is history." Through the course of his 25 years of service in the city of Downey, Esteves has served as a field training officer, a sergeant of field operations, and a lieutenant overseeing internal investigations and field operations. In 2005, when then Chief of Police John Finch left, Esteves was promoted by Campos to captain of Administration. Since 2006, Esteves has served as captain of Field Operations. Once Esteves takes over, he will become the city's ninth police chief since the department was established more than 50 years ago. "I say often that I've got big shoes to fill and it's true," Esteves said. "Roy has been a mentor, counselor, and my training officer - the department is running at the most optimal levels I've ever seen it. My job is to take it to the next level." Although leadership is changing, Esteves wants to assure residents that the police department will continue to provide the best quality of service possible. "We will never lower our standards for this community," said Esteves. "We will never rest on our laurels - It's about getting better and continuing the highest quality of service." In order to better protect Downey residents in the future, Esteves believes that the department must stay educated about new trends in technology. "The reality is that a large amount of crime today is coming through the computer," Esteves said. "Computer crimes can affect residents in a financial and physical way. We need to keep up with these trends to make sure the quality of life remains high." Esteves, who lives in Chino Hills, hopes his officers will continue to be aggressive, preventing street robberies, removing lawbreakers from city streets, while treating people the way they would want their families to be treated. "We want to make sure that Downey is one of the finest places to work and live," Esteves said. "I will never feel comfortable. It's about taking all the work of my predecessors and using that knowledge to go forward." Even though his promotion allots him a new office, Esteves promises not to isolate himself inside of it. "I want to remain visible and assessable to the department and residents - It would be a complete failure to just close the door and put my feet up," said Esteves. "Leadership is a privilege, not a right - I'm not going to take it for granted."
********** Published: October 9, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 25