Manuel Martinez Jr
Class of 1973
By Joshua Melvin
San Mateo County Times
Posted: 11/23/2009 07:32:04 PM PST
Updated: 11/24/2009 07:03:25 AM PST
DALY CITY â€” The road Manny Martinez took to become Daly City's new police chief began with a citation for improper equipment.
At the time he was 16 years old, living in Fresno, and driving a beat up Ford Mustang which emitted enough smoke to get him pulled over. But the officer who stopped Martinez didn't just write him a ticket, he also told the young man about the department's explorer program, which introduces youths to a career in the police force. He signed up not long after.
So started a career that lead 54-year-old Martinez to spend 27 years on the police force in San Jose, earning a decoration for valor after being shot at by a crazed suspect in 1984, a law degree and, finally, his swearing in Monday as Daly City's police chief.
But the simplicity of that beginning works well to explain the career of man that was described as a "cop's cop" by those who know him.
Martinez, a married father of three, said that after he graduated in 1973 from Roosevelt High School in Fresno he had already made up his mind to be a policeman. At that time, officers had to be at least 21 years old.
Because he didn't have any plans to go to college, he joined the military and got a recruiter's promise that he could become a member of the military police. That didn't happen, and he spent the next seven years in the infantry, though he was never sent to Vietnam.
After being discharged in March 1980, he began working and going to school in Roseburg, Ore., where he met a retired San Jose police sergeant who told him that his old department was hiring. Martinez headed south and became a sworn San Jose police officer in October 1982. He stayed with the department until his retirement in October.
He had been on the job just a few years when he and his partner, Joe Tamrit, went to the now defunct Redline Hotel on a call of someone using a stolen credit card. Before that fateful night in 1984 was over, Tamrit was shot and Martinez was trapped in a bathroom as the gunman reloaded.
When Martinez and Tamrit arrived at the hotel, they talked to the clean-cut guy who the manager said had been using the credit card to buy food and drinks for other patrons at the hotel bar. The guy explained that he had lost the card, canceled it and then found it. But while looking through the man's wallet, Martinez saw a receipt for a handgun and started to get suspicious.
"We said, OK, no problem," Martinez said. "Do you mind if we go upstairs and have a look in your room?"
Just as the three were walking up to the door of the man's room, the man rushed inside, grabbed an Uzi submachine gun, and began firing at the officers. They pulled out their guns and started firing back. Seconds later, Martinez realized his partner, who was behind him, had been hit in the stomach and shoulder. The gunman and Tamrit then began shooting at each other, and Martinez got caught in the crossfire. He barricaded himself in the bathroom and called for help. All the while, the gunman was telling him to drop his gun and come out. In the end, police sliced through the wall of a neighboring hotel room and Martinez escaped. Tamrit recovered, and the gunman went to jail.
Martinez said it was never really clear why the man had started shooting.
San Jose Deputy Police Chief Donald Anders said Martinez was a hero that day, adding that the officer earned the department's medal of valor for his conduct.
"Manny didn't spend a lot of time in the office," he said Monday before Martinez's swearing in. "He immersed himself in the heart of being a police officer."
Martinez insists that police work is not all about action. In fact, he has law and management diplomas. He plans to use both at his new job. He said the community policing program that Daly City has in place is good and he wants to see it grow.
Martinez is also interested in figuring out a way for San Francisco and Daly City police to be able to communicate directly over the radio. At present, there is no common channel the two agencies can use to talk, he said.
But before he gets to those projects, he has to get to know the officers in the department.
"I need to get their trust and loyalty first," he said
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