Walbridge honorary officer paves the way, pursuing dream

By Katie Siebenaller

“Can’t” is not a word in Officer Doug Perez’s vocabulary. And it shows.
Perez was sworn in as an Honorary Police Officer for the Walbridge Police Department this past summer. Before that, he was named an Honorary Police Officer in Bradner in 2017. He is the first visually impaired/blind citizen to hold this position in both police departments.
Starting at a young age, Perez had a passion for law enforcement. It began with participation in Safety Town and an interest in listening to radios and police scanners. Today, Perez is a Ham radio operator and vice president of the Ham Radio Club.
“I’ve got nine radios — and how do I know which one is which? You probably want to know,” Perez says, matter-of-fact. “I have them in separate rooms. One for every purpose: one I can get Walbridge on, state patrols, Toledo Police, Perrysburg Township, Lake Township — you name it, I can probably get it.”
Perez graduated from the Wood County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy in 2012 — the Academy’s first visually impaired student. Through the Citizens Police Academy, Perez met his mentor and role model, Chief Deputy Eric Reynolds of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. Perez worked alongside Deputy Reynolds at events like the county fair.
Perez’s support system doesn’t end there. “My whole family has supported me, but my mom is the main one who has supported me with law enforcement,” Perez credits. Despite her motherly cautions, Betty Perez has always encouraged her son in his pursuit of a law enforcement career, as well as emboldening him to live out a normal life.
As an honorary officer, Perez is authorized to participate in ride alongs and represent the department at community events. Perez was sworn in by his new partner, Sgt. Jeremy Salaz, whom he first met nine years prior.
“When I first met Doug — because I was dating his cousin, who is now my wife — I was at his mom’s house and he was asking me some questions because I was in law enforcement part-time,” Sgt. Salaz explains, “Then he said he had a key to a [police] cruiser that was given to him by Deputy Reynolds. He’s telling me about it, and his mom says, ‘Why don’t you find it Doug? Show it to him.’ So he slides over this big five gallon bucket — and it’s about half, maybe three quarters full [of keys] — and he starts digging in there…about 20 minutes into our conversation he pulls out this key to that cruiser, and I was like ‘wow.’”
Since displaying his collection of keys — one of Perez’s hobbies outside of law enforcement — Perez and Sgt. Salaz have formed a bond as friends, family and partners.
“[Sgt. Salaz], he’s not afraid. He was never afraid from day one to talk to me, to communicate with me,” Perez states.
Sgt. Salaz picks up Perez every other weekend to do ride alongs together.
In the front passenger seat of Sgt. Salaz’s police cruiser, Perez offers assistance, support, and acts as backup. Sgt. Salaz is able to turn up the volume on his dash cam so Perez is able to hear what’s going on from inside the cruiser during stops. “If I should need to get on the radio and call for backup, then I can,” Perez explains. In addition to using the radio, Perez also has the ability to use the in-car PA (public address) system.
“I love it,” Perez admits, “and probably wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
And Perez’s favorite part of ride alongs? Traffic stops.
“When we do a traffic stop, it’s — I can’t explain to you about the adrenaline rush that you get with a traffic stop,” Perez says.
“There is a sense of an adrenaline rush because, for one, you’re stopping someone from moving freely on the roadway. So you’re stopping them, and the unknown of who you’re stopping,” Sgt. Salaz adds. “There’s a danger to it.”
Traffic stops encompass a number of traffic violations — such as speeding, running red lights, driving erratically and/or driving with lights out, to name a few. The most common being speeding.
In addition to policing the streets, Perez and Sgt. Salaz have represented the Walbridge Police Department at the dedication of the new Allen Street Sunshine Home and Spooktacular, interacting with the public and supplying information about their profession, should a question crop up.
Perez learned a number of police radio codes simply from listening and paying attention to the context each one was given in. Many of them he can rattle off at the drop of a hat. For example, “Code 4 is an accident with injury. Code 20 is a domestic.”
“Then there are signals too,” Sgt. Salaz adds.
“[Signal] 33 means you sign on. [Signal] 37 means you sign off. Simple as that,” Perez fills in. “What else? Signal seven, that’s a plate number.”
Codes, signals and department policies need to be learned by all new officers — as well as the department members’ unit numbers. Perez recently received his Walbridge Police Department unit number.
“Each of us has our own unit number,” Perez explains. “On the radio, you can’t use our names, so they use our numbers.”
“As you can see,” Sgt. Salaz points out, “he’s very knowledgeable.”
“There’s a lot people can learn from [Perez],” Sgt. Salaz states, “because he’s very respectful. He doesn’t judge people. He treats everyone the same way, just how he wants to be treated: fairly.”
“It’s unfortunate that he’s blind — that he’s visually impaired — because he’d be one of the best officers,” Sgt. Salaz continues, wholeheartedly, “But he brings a positive attitude, which makes a positive atmosphere here. He’s a bright young man. He’s honest. He’s everything you look for in a police officer.”
Perez has never let his disability detract him from his dreams. He encourages others to do the same.
“Don’t give up just because you have a disability,” Perez rallies. “Don’t say you can’t do something. Try to do it. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Law enforcement isn’t for everybody. Maybe what you do isn’t for everyone. But there’s something that you can do. And you have to find that something.”
For listening to radios and scanners, Perez recommends broadcastify.com and radioreference.com, both of which also have mobile apps available.
The Village of Walbridge Police Department, a 24-hour department, is located at 705 N. Main St., Walbridge. The Walbridge Police Department has a K9 unit, and offers services such as house-checks for residents on vacation and a prescription pill drop-off. For more information, visit walbridgeohio.org/police, @villageofwalbridgeohio on Facebook or call the office at 419-666-1830. For emergencies, dial 911. For non-emergencies call 419-666-1447.


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