Of the Keizertimes

It was a bad year for the bad guys.

Rick Bojorquez, a local resident who coaches baseball for Keizer Little League, is also a narcotics detective for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. It’s a position that’s keeps him busy.

For example, over the past year or so, Bojorquez:

• Served as lead investigator on “Operation VACA.” The investigation resulted in the dismantling of a methamphetamine distribution ring operating in Polk and Marion counties.

The case resulted in the execution of four search warrants that led to the arrest of four ring members.

Seizures included a 2007 Dodge Ram pickup, a 1998 Honda Accord, a 40-inch LCD flat screen television, $4,480 in cash, 11.3 grams of cocaine and 52.6 grams of methamphetamine;

• Served as lead investigator in response to reports of a reported methamphetamine lab operating in Independence;

• Assisted his fellow officers by writing and serving a search warrant on a residence in Rickreall that identified an indoor marijuana growing operation.

Confiscated from the site were two duffle bags filled with ammunition, duct tape, scanners, night vision goggles and bolt cutters; and,

• Conducted training for newly-assigned agents to the Polk Interagency Narcotics Team (or POINT).

Bojorquez’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by his peers. He was awarded the 2010 Oregon Narcotic Enforcement Association (ONEA) Officer of the Year at a conference held last month in Redmond.

“The award took me totally by surprise,” said Bojorquez. “It was a total shock to me. Basically, they had to punch me in the shoulder at the conference and say, ‘hey, that’s you.’ I didn’t expect anything like that.”

The detective didn’t have to give a speech. But he knows what he would have said if asked.

“My speech, if they would have made me talk to everyone there, would have been to thank the group, thanking first and foremost my POINT team members that I work with on a daily basis, and then all the other agencies that assisted us in the investigations,” said Bojorquez.

Others in the department say the honor is richly deserved.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments and contributions Detective Bojorquez has brought to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Bob Wolfe. “Detective Bojorquez does very well in our narcotics division because he has been on the streets for years. He knows a lot of individuals he has worked with over the years so he is very resourceful in establishing contacts and information.”

Today marks 20 years since Bojorquez first joined the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. He began his career has a corrections officer, moved up to deputy and was promoted to detective some four years ago.

“I really believe I found my niche with drug enforcement,” said Bojorquez. “Just the way I was raised. I grew up around some drug culture stuff. I just had an inkling of what it was all about before I was actually a drug detective.”

Looking back, his career path is a surprise.

“I never even thought about law enforcement as a youth, maybe when we played cops and robbers as a kid,” he said. “If you knew me between the ages of 17 and 21, the things that I did. I tell some people now days that if I went back to Palm Springs and saw some old friends, they wouldn’t believe I was a police officer.”

But he is an officer. In fact, he is the office’s senior member

“In today’s law enforcement field, having experienced officers is exceptionally valuable to our operations,” said Wolfe. “Detective Bojorquez provides natural leadership to our younger officers and his experience lends itself to this because he uses a lot of common sense in how he approaches things. He has been on the street long enough to know what works and what does not.”

Bojoriquez’s time off is devoted to family and baseball. He grew up in southern California and is a lifelong Dodgers and Angels fan. He began coaching when he was 17.

“For me, it’s a stress reliever,” Bojorquez said of coaching. “My dad loved baseball, so it just kind of grew on me.”

He remembers his father sitting in the living room, listening simultaneously to broadcasts of both teams on different radios.

Jeremy Wentworth has coached with and against him. Wentworth described Bojorquez as thoroughly prepared, knowledgeable about the game, and respected by others.

“When he talks, his kids listen,” said Wentworth. “It’s great to play his teams because you know they’ll play hard and be fundamentally sound.”