WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2009 – The Santa Ana, Calif., police department will receive the Defense Department’s top employer-support award for providing exceptional financial and emotional support to its employees who deploy as National Guard or Reserve members.

The police department provides its deployed members with differential pay and continued family health benefits, among other accommodations that go beyond what the law requires.

For example, military liaisons stay in touch with deployed employees to let them know what’s happening back at the department and to see if they need anything, Cmdr. Bill Nimmo said.

The department recognizes its employees’ military service through newsletters, photographs and prominent display cases throughout the station. In addition, policies are in place to guide supervisors and servicemember employees during the reintegration process when citizen-soldiers return to their police jobs.

Nimmo said the relationship between the department and the military often starts well before a reservist or National Guard member is even on the payroll.

“It starts off in our recruiting process,” he said, explaining that department officials specifically look to hire military members. “We go to different bases and places where military people are going to be to recruit military people, because we like to have them for law enforcement,” he said.

Servicemembers often make ideal candidates for employment in law enforcement, he explained, because their military background instills a sense of discipline and the ability to work with others on a team, he said.

“In the military, you work as a team, and in the police department we work as a team,” he said. “We can’t get anything accomplished without each other.” Many police officers who have military experience also come to the job with vital training as supervisors or managers, he added.

Of course, the parallels between the natures of the two jobs don’t end there.

“A lot of [police officers with military experience] are used to coming under stressful situations,” he said. “So if you can perform in that environment, it also helps out here, because a lot of times our jobs — especially out in the field — can be stressful.”

But department officials also understand the military portion of the phrase “citizen-soldier,” and willingly accommodate employees with dual duties.

“Once they do get in the system, we want them to feel like they’re able to fulfill their Reserve or National Guard obligation, but at the same time to know that their job here is still safe,” he said.

The Santa Ana Police Department will receive the Freedom Award along with 14 other employers in a ceremony here next month. The Freedom Award, instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, recognizes exceptional support from the employer community.

“We were very proud to receive it,” Nimmo said. “We were happy that the efforts that we put forward were recognized by someone, and [that] they thought what we did was valuable and good.”

In supporting the department’s servicemember employees, Nimmo added, officials strive to remove one worry from what can sometimes be a lengthy list.

“We try to take the worry away from them about their job here – they have a job when they get back, and they’ll be eligible for promotion or opportunities,” he said. “We just try to keep this as one less worry for them.”

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