The date was July 18, 1995 when a pair of Medley police officers, Chris Little and Jose Ayala, were sworn in together to serve on the force.
So it was only appropriate last week that when Medley Police Chief Jeanette Said-Jinete took to the podium at the monthly Medley Chamber of Commerce luncheon to hand out the annual Medley Police Officer of the Year Award, it would be two cops honored instead of one.
It evidently was “too close to call” when it came to naming just one individual for the 2012 award, so Little and Ayala were thus named Co-Officers of the Year. Both are sergeants, marking the first time officers of that rank have been recognized.
It was only appropriate on this day as the featured speaker for the luncheon was Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, who has spent the last 20 years battling crime in South Florida.
“It’s never easy making a selection because we have so many qualified candidates,” said Said-Jinete. “It’s the first time we are acknowledging some of the sergeants as we also wanted them to be appreciated as well, and Jose and Chris are a real credit to the Medley police force.
“I was also extremely honored that the Town of Medley Chamber of Commerce chose this venue to honor our department and especially proud and honored to have our Miami-Dade state attorney, Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, here to help make the presentations. Her strong leadership over the last two decades is evident in what she does for our community.”
In 2012, while working the midnight shift, Ayala — he actually began his career with the Medley department in 1993 as a communications officer before entering the academy two years later with Little — donated much of his extra time to be active in the community, especially when it came to helping teenagers.
His biggest contribution has been the five-year growth and evolution of the Beat the Heat program (which will return again on June 1, see note on page 2), designed to keep teens off the road, away from uncontrolled drag racing and in a more controlled environment.
Little is a Florida Crime Prevention Practitioner, certified by the Attorney General’s Office and, according to Said-Jinete, “has taken on numerous projects and responsibilities that sometimes go unsung by the Command Staff and almost always unnoticed by the rank and file.”
“It feels great and I’m very honored to receive this award,” said Little. “I’ve had a lot of support throughout my career from my family and command staff and just happy that they have given me the opportunity to perform my duties and accomplish what I have. I’m also honored to win this award with Jose since he has worked hard as well and that fact that we both actually started as police officers on the same exact day is really something.”
Ayala also was involved with Break Through Miami, a tuition-free academic enrichment program that provides motivated middle-school students from underserved communities with the tools they need to achieve their most ambitious goals in life.
“To me, it’s not about individual accomplishments but makes a statement to how the command staff feels about first-line supervisors in an organization because that is a critical position,” said Ayala, who organized a career day for the Break Through Miami students at the Medley police headquarters last July. “They say that with great power comes great responsibility, and by the same token if you want us to be responsible you have to give us that power.
“Patrol is the strongest part of an organization and as a first-line supervisor, that should be the key position because that’s what guides patrol. So I recognize this award as something recognizing the first-line supervisor, not so much of an individual accomplishment..”
Ayala then talked about his early days with Little.
“We went to the same academy together and he (Little) was actually independent and didn’t have an agency to sponsor him,” said Ayala. “When the Chief back then had a couple of applications on his desk and asked who would be better, I said, this guy, without a doubt. He’s definitely good for the organization. Not any credit to me, but I just thought it was a great choice by the department.”
Moving is never easy and when Said-Jinete and her department were faced with the huge task of having to move their headquarters from their long-time 74th Street location to the third floor of Medley’s municipal building, Said-Jinete credited the two sergeants with being instrumental in helping through that process.
“They both worked hard together on numerous projects and during our move they stepped up to the plate and went well above and beyond the things that are normally assigned duties for a sergeant,” said Said-Jinete. “It shows you not only what kind of members of law enforcement they are but reveals a lot about their character as well.”
Ayala and Little were not the only ones to take home plaques last week.
Also honored was Officer Pete Hurst, who was named Officer of the Bid, July through December 2012; and Elizabeth Chow, the department’s administrative assistant, as the 2012 Civilian Employee of the Year.
The 2012 Chief’s Award for an officer’s outstanding work and dedication to the community went to officers Jesse Salgado and Sergio Aldana.