Senior Officer Amador Nuñez, a 20- year veteran of Anaheim Police Department and lifelong Anaheim resident, looks back on a career in law enforcement centered on community service and a legacy he never thought possible.
“If you would’ve told me when I started almost 30 years ago (he was hired at APD after eight years at LAPD) that I’d have the career I’ve been blessed with, I would’ve thought you were crazy,” he said. “When I retire I’ll do so knowing I gave back to the city that made me who I am today. It’s pretty surreal.”
Nuñez estimates more that more than half his career has been spent focusing on youth programs. He spent time as a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer and in the Safe Schools program, but he is most proud of the Anaheim Police Activities League; (APAL, now Cops 4 Kids) which he established with Diana Canales in 2004.
Nuñez and Canales developed lesson plans around physical fitness, training students for the President’s Fitness Test and incorporated Military Drill to teach discipline. The most powerful lesson he wanted to get across, however, was accountability with those students.
He has made his share of arrests, too. On April 9, 2009, Nuñez was patrolling the south section of Anaheim and recalls a slow night. As he made his way towards Angel Stadium, he responded to a serious collision on Lemon and Orangethorpe and responded immediately; finding a grizzly accident but no driver responsible. Among the victims of the crash: late Angels starting pitcher Nick Adenhart.
After driving around the area of the collision Nuñez put himself in the suspect’s shoes and figured the best place to find him would be on the freeway. He tore off to the 91 freeway and, moments later, saw a man matching the description of the suspect responsible for the crash.
He stopped to get out of his car and yelled after the man – Andrew Gallo, 22 at the time – walking along the freeway. Gallo took off and Nuñez gave chase; finally catching him about a half-mile down the road.
“The thing I remember most about that night was seeing the girl (Courtney Stewart, 20) lying there; so beautiful. All I could think about were my daughters. When I saw her lying there, I thought, ‘I gotta get this guy,’” said Nuñez. “That was probably the biggest arrest of my career.”
The daughters he immediately thought of that night three years ago are responsible for a 21-year coaching career culminating with his current job at Loara High School as the girls varsity head coach – a job he’s held for the last nine years. When coaching, he shares the same lessons from his days in DARE, Safe Schools, and APAL.
“To me, the most important job as a coach is to mentor these young women. It’s also a great opportunity for kids to see a police officer and know that we are more than just our uniform. I’d much rather have them call me coach than Officer Nuñez,” he said.
Nuñez remembers hoping for a class of 25 and had 60 students show up his first year running APAL. That year’s graduating class had more than 125 students. Last June, Cops 4 Kids had a graduating class of more than 300 students. The continued success of those programs has been a source of extreme pride, he says.
“Catching bad guys is great and obviously a huge part of the job, but I originally got into law enforcement to help people,” said Nuñez. “I wanted to focus on community service kind of things, especially working with kids. When I retire, I’m happy to say I’ll be able to keep making that impact.”
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