Santa Ana College alumnus David Valentin was honored by the Community College League of California at the League’s 2008 Annual Convention & Partners Conference Nov. 20-22 in Anaheim.
Last year, Valentin was the only alumnus of an Orange County community college who received one of the League’s five Distinguished Alumni Awards, which honor individuals who are “accomplished professionals and contributing citizens of their communities.”
Valentin, who serves as Commander of the Human Resources Division in the Santa Ana Police Dept., joined in 1990 after obtaining an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Santa Ana College. In 1992 he received an Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from SAC.
In June, Valentin was inducted into the SAC Alumni Hall of Fame in recognition of his “documented distinction and achievement through professional and/or personal efforts since leaving Santa Ana College.”
Throughout his 18-year career with the Santa Ana Police Dept., Valentin has strived not only to live up to the highest ideals of law enforcement, but also to give back to the city, the individuals and the learning institutions that he believes provided him with boundless opportunities.
You are a “hometown” boy, born and raised in Santa Ana. What was that like?
I was raised in a single-parent home in the central area of the city. It was a challenging environment, but I came into contact with many people and programs that guided me on a better path than I might have chosen without their influence.
My mother and grandmother were also a great influence on my development, instilling a strong work ethic and drive to succeed.
When did you decide on a career in law enforcement?
I was probably in 10th grade when I decided I wanted to go into law enforcement. I worked at the local Sears Outlet in Santa Ana, and my manager was a retired O.C. Sheriff’s lieutenant. He took time to talk with me about this career option. My woodshop instructor in high school also talked about careers in military service and law enforcement, and the discipline, integrity and service to the community law enforcement involves.
I was not successful the first time I applied for a Police Explorer position with the Santa Ana Police Dept. but my failure just motivated me even more. I became more serious about education. I was considering going into the military to get some experience that would help me in my application for a career in law enforcement when I spoke to a counselor at Santa Ana College who convinced me that taking classes at the college also would help me, whether I decided to enlist or re-apply for a position in law enforcement.
Tell us about your experience at Santa Ana College.
The instructors at Santa Ana College really wanted students to succeed in their academic work and in their professional development. They took a personal interest in me that made a huge difference. They supported my efforts in obtaining my AA degree in Liberal Studies in 1990. And then I was accepted by the Santa Ana Police Dept.
And what was Basic Academy like?
At that time, it was a rigorous paramilitary structure. Then and now, it emphasizes the core values and skills required in law enforcement. It also teaches you that persons in law enforcement are primarily problem solvers who need knowledge and skills in many areas to do their jobs well. My experience at the Academy convinced me that I wanted more formal education, so I returned to Santa Ana College and received my AA degree in Criminal Justice in 1992.
As Commander of the Human Resources Division, I oversee recruitment and hiring. Today, we have candidates coming to us who have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and we are delighted because education professionalizes the police service industry and makes officers better prepared to work with a very diverse population and a variety of societal challenges.
What do you think about the new Modular Basic Academy that is being offered by Santa Ana College in partnership with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department?
The concept is to create an education model that is more consistent with our current lifestyle and also will give us an opportunity to cast a wider net into a candidate pool. Today, potential candidates are impacted by a variety of factors. Most people have full-time jobs; it can be difficult for the mature candidate we want to attract to simply quit work to attend a full-time, six month Basic Academy. We hope that this new modular academy will help us attract the caliber of candidates we need. However, assessment and analysis of this strategy will be important.
What is your most memorable experience in law enforcement?
I was a school resource officer—that is, an officer assigned to a school ─ when a student talked to me about a time when I had arrested one of his parents. Years later this student remembered the incident and thanked me for the manner in which I treated his parent. The student was in tears while he was talking about the incident. It’s one of those times when you realize how important it is to use good judgment in how you carry out your duties.
What kinds of persons should consider careers in law enforcement?
As the Human Resources Commander for the SAPD, I look for a person who is a “people person”; that is, someone who embraces consensus-building, and one who wants to contribute to the overall wellness of the community.
How has your education at Santa Ana College help you in your career? How would you advise others about pursuing a degree?
As I mentioned earlier, the faculty and staff were totally dedicated to helping me succeed. I got a broader perspective on a variety of social issues.
Today, education is more important than ever, because it exposes you to other people’s changing perspectives in an environment impacted by exponential technological growth.
Police officers are human beings who are entrusted with significant influence in the community. That means understanding other perspectives is critical.
I am always impressed with the energy at Santa Ana College, which is still growing! That’s a reflection of leadership on the campus. There is real drive to help students succeed.
What advice can you give others who might want to consider a career in law enforcement?
Take a broad perspective. A degree in business, finance, public administration, communications or computer science can contribute to your career in law enforcement and also lead to other opportunities outside law enforcement.
As an officer, you are a professional problem solver, and everything you learn in every area of study can be helpful in understanding problems from different perspectives. Then, you can help people find constructive solutions.
For more information about starting your career in law enforcement, contact the Criminal Justice Academies Office at (714) 566-9200 or visit the Criminal Justice Academy Web page.