Santa Clara Police Officer Rene-John “RJ” Otico has a very personal perspective on street crime. Growing up in a rough Vallejo neighborhood, he was robbed while he was just a middle-schooler. His brother also was a robbery victim and had a gun pulled on him.
The suspects were never caught.
The firsthand experience of violent crime–and the frustration and anger crime victims feel when justice never happens–made Otico determine at an early age that he was going to do something with his life that would protect others from being crime victims. The best way to start on his path, he realized, was with a good education and hard work, and he worked hard to keep his grades high.
When he was in high school, Otico’s determination caught the attention of a School Resource Officer–law enforcement officers who work on school sites to provide security and prevent crime. The officer invited him to join Vallejo PD’s Explorer program. Otico became an Explorer and subsequently enrolled in the Cadet Program.
As a cadet, Otico got to see police work first-hand. On ride-alongs he saw successful police searches for criminal suspects, and criminals brought to justice. The experience showed him that the criminal justice system works, and cemented his desire to be a police officer.
Impressed with the young man’s character and dedication, the Vallejo PD offered to sponsor Otico’s Police Academy tuition, on the condition that he first graduate from college with a Bachelor’s Degree.
Otico earned his BS from California State University, Sacramento. But the year he started at the Police Academy, Vallejo filed for bankruptcy. The city was able to support his Academy enrollment, but wouldn’t be able to hire Otico after he graduated.
Fortunately for Santa Clara, one of Otico’s professors was a retired SCPD officer, and he encouraged Otico to apply to Santa Clara.
“When I went on a ride-along, I was very impressed,” said Otico. “I was drawn by the department’s professionalism, the state-of the-art equipment and methods, and the diversity of the force.”
Otico joined SCPD in 2008, and spent three years in patrol before becoming a motorcycle officer. Mirroring his own path into police work, he is now an advisor for SCPD’s Explorer Police program. Otico also participates in a county-wide summer Explorer program.
When not on duty, Otico enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Recent trips to Dubai and Bora Bora were particularly interesting to him. In addition, he has participated in the Men’s Physique Body Building program and won first place in 2014.
But Otico’s family tops his favorites list. He and his wife have a 9-month old baby daughter who is the apple of his eye. The Oticos also have an American Staffordshire Terrier, which Otico has taught to follow commands in German–just like an official K-9.
For information on jobs available with SCPD visit www.IamSCPD.org