FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Police Lt. Jim Perez has wanted to be a police officer for as long as he can remember.
As a 12-year-old, he used to pass a police cruiser on his way to school, often stopping to say hello to the officer inside.
He became a police cadet through the Bridgeport Police Athletic League, learning the ropes at an early age.
“It kind of rounded me out,” Perez said in a recent interview. “It’s really just about helping people.”
He must be doing something right because the 25-year Fairfield police force veteran was selected the 2016 Employee of the Year for the Town of Fairfield. First Selectman Michael Tetreau bestowed the honor at a brief ceremony at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting in Independence Hall.
Perez joined Doug Fried, a member of the Pequot Library Board of Trustees, who was named Fairfielder of the Year for his 25 years of volunteering at the popular Pequot Library Book Sale.
The winners’ names have been added to a plaque listing the names of all previous winners that hangs in Independence Hall.
Perez received nominations from Betty Gabriel from the Conservation Department, Josephine Keogh from the Town Plan and Zoning Department and Laura Pulie from the Engineering Department.
“I was very surprised at the nominations — and that I was in the running,” Perez said.
Perez has dedicated the last 25 years to helping the public in various roles, such as public affairs officer, commander of the Special Services Division, FBI and DEA task force member; 14-year S.W.A.T. team member and a D.A.R.E. program instructor.
He is a consultant and trainer for The National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C., and has trained staff at Columbia University and law enforcement officers from Northern Ireland, Australia, Nicaragua and throughout the United States.
Perez teaches identity theft and scam awareness to community groups. He has appeared on NBC's “Dateline” regarding scams that target senior citizens and has been featured in The New York Times for workplace violence prevention.
Locally, the town tapped Perez to focus on school safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook School tragedy in Newtown. He has trained all school employees — and most other town employees — on workplace violence and school security.
He wrote comprehensive individual threat assessment reports on each of the town’s 27 schools. He also created a numbering system for all school entrances, an attempt to help first responders locate and help victims in the event of an emergency.
“Hopefully, lives will be saved because of it,” he said.
The Board of Selectmen has honored an Employee of the Year for the past 13 years, highlighting those who go above and beyond the call to make Fairfield a special community, Tetreau said.
“Whether (Perez) is providing safety recommendations for our schools or educating our senior community about common scams, Lt. Perez always maintains a highly professional, very approachable and friendly demeanor that in addition to all of Fairfield’s finest helps make our community appreciate our law enforcement officers even more,” Tetreau said.
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