Eric Emmanuele was a little boy who loved playing "cops" as a kid and emulating the officers he saw on TV. He loved being a Boy Scout Explorer at the Milpitas Police Department.
Today he’s a leader in that same department.
Officer Eric Emmanuele was named the 2015 City of Milpitas Local Hero by California State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) during a ceremony late last month.
"I felt great, and a little overwhelmed," said Emmanuele, on receiving the honor.
The 25-plus year police veteran is no stranger to accolades and achievement. Officer Emmanuele was previously named both Milpitas Police Officer of the Year and Community Policing Officer of the Year. In 1993 he earned the Milpitas Police Department’s Life Saving Award after he rescued four people from a burning apartment building.
Yet he says his greatest reward has come from people whom he’s helped directly.
"The most meaningful was a gentleman who came back to me after I arrested him for driving under the influence and thanked me for changing and saving his life," Emmanuele said.
"He became a pastor and counselor for alcohol and drug abuse."
That story gives him a source of pride even when the role of law enforcement can at times be shrouded with negativity. Officer Emmanuele says keeping communication lines open with the community has been tough following unfavorable media headlines of cops across the US.
"There has been a lot of press and stories have shown law enforcement in a fairly negative view and that’s something that I would not tolerate and do not believe in," Emmanuele said. "It’s difficult to reach out the same way that one story can and communicate to people that that’s not the way we work here."
Working in the city where he was raised since age three makes doing his job even more meaningful. He graduated from Milpitas High School in 1985, and now serves as president of both the Milpitas Rotary Club and the Milpitas Police Officer’s Association.
"I believe I have that opportunity to make that difference with people that I know versus being in an area with people I don’t know and meet people only one time," Emmanuele said.
"I have the ability to go back to continue touching bases, make those contacts, and legitimately help people out with problems they have."