Article Launched: 3/31/2006 12:00 AM
Oroville Police Department announces 'Officer of the Year'
BY PAULA M. FELIPE/Public Safety Reporter
Oroville Mercury Register
Sergeant Bill LaGrone is Oroville Police Department's Officer-of-the-Year. He has been a law enforcement officer for almost nine years, and has served the Oroville community since 2002.
The Exchange Club of Oroville sponsors the award, and officers are selected by a committee, which includes department personnel, who provide recommendations to the Chief of Police.
LaGrone was born in Fontana in Southern California and came to Oroville when he was six years old. He attended Helen Wilcox, Palermo, and Las Plumas High School where he graduated with the Class of 1987. He had thoughts of becoming a police officer when he was a child, and decided to pursue studies at the police academy after high school. LaGrone worked for his father's heating and air conditioning business while spending nights at the police academy at Yuba College.
He graduated from the academy, and worked for the Gridley-Biggs Police Department. Among major cases in the beginning of his career, LaGrone participated in an asset seizure in a heroin case along with Officer Jason Taylor. This was the first asset seizure by a patrol officer in several years.
LaGrone worked for the Gridley-Biggs Police Department from 1996 until 2002. "Every day is a lesson," LaGrone said. "Every situation is different and you learn to adapt to each one."
When asked how he responds to people who view police as those who make arrests and put people in jail, he replied, "I've never put anyone in jail. I collect the facts and records of the case and the District Attorney's Office reviews the case and decides the charge," he said. "People's own behavior and actions can send them to jail."
LaGrone credits the teachers in his life, especially his father and the chiefs of the Gridley-Biggs and Oroville Police departments, for helping him and supporting his career.
"I've learned to listen and learned from Chief Jack Storne when I was at the Gridley-Biggs Police Department. Chief Storne taught me to take time to analyze the problem instead of just reacting to it," he said. LaGrone also thanked Lt. Brian Cook for encouraging him.
LaGrone came to the Oroville Police Department, which has a much greater call volume than Gridley-Biggs. "I learned more about looking for problems in the community to address," he said. "I wanted to come to work for Oroville because Chief Mitch Brown was making positive changes in the department. Chief Brown enhanced the reputation of the department. He was providing the leadership it needed, and that's the place I wanted to be. Chief Brown is the best chief and most honest man I've ever worked with," he said.
LaGrone worked as a Field Training Officer and as a radar and lidar instructor, which includes how to estimate speeds and distances. In 2004, LaGrone was an Alcohol Beverage Control Officer. "We worked to deter minors' use of alcohol and adult supply of alcohol to minors," he said.
LaGrone found himself a lead investigator in an alcohol-related homicide that dealt with a lot of evidence, multiple agencies, including the District Attorney's Investigators and California Highway Patrol, who reconstructed the accident scene.
"I enjoy the challenges every day," he said. "When you're dealing with people's problems and thinking of different ways to help solve those problems, it's a challenge. There is no book to teach you how to handle every situation. Chief Brown encourages us to think things through and provides us with enough freedom to be successful."
In 2005, LaGrone was promoted to Sergeant, and he expressed his appreciation for receiving the department's title of 'Officer of the Year.'
"I'm very honored. It's not just my award. It reflects on everyone around me who has supported and enabled me to do my job. This award is more theirs than mine. I cannot say enough about my team. They really do the best they can to serve the community."
LaGrone also thanks Lt. Frank Belser for teaching him how to deal with people, strategies, and learning concepts. "He is a role model to me. I've learned from his thoroughness, tenacity, and people skills," he said.
"We are here to help people," LaGrone said. "Sometimes it may not be the help people want. People sometimes get upset when we are honest with them and tell them what they don't want to hear. We are not being mean. We are doing our job."
LaGrone credits OPD's programs, such as Safe from the Start, the domestic violence response team, and Community Revitalization Economic Development with helping making a difference. "Down the road, we'll see the positive results of these programs," he said. "I feel people are basically doing the best they can and some are struggling with addictions or other problems. I have compassion for people."
He expressed thanks to his father. "My father has had the biggest impact on my life. He taught me to tell people the truth. It might be painful at the time, but helps in dealing with issues and problems."
LaGrone also thanks his family. "My family has supported me throughout my career. Sometimes we have to work night shifts, holidays, or weekends, and my family is very supportive."
"I'm very happy to be here. I love my job and enjoy working with the Oroville Police Department. I love this town and the people," he said.