'Police Hero' Finalist: Veteran, officer, councilman...and radio DJ
By Guy Lopes
Manuel Lopes served in the Navy during WWII, then later became a Police Officer with the Sacramento Police Department from about 1950-1961. (After serving as a police officer, he also worked for the Marshall's Office while he attended law school. Following his graduation, he served and retired as a Deputy County Council for Sacramento County). Growing up it seemed to me that everyone in the downtown Sacramento area knew and genuinely liked "Manny".
Manny once had a local weekly radio show on KFBK called, I believe, “Car 22” where he related to the community and gained support for the Department. He was later assigned to the traffic department and rode motorcycles for a time.
There are several funny stories around Manny’s family nickname. Since his Father was also a Manuel Lopes, Manny was often known simply as “Junior” by the family. On a particular fight call that Manny responded to one night, he had to play the big tough cop to restore order.
All was working well until a voice from the crowd was heard shouting “Junior, Junior!” at the big tough cop. When the crowd realized that this tough guy with a badge was Junior, the fight ended and many laughs were heard. Manny later admitted that his Cousin’s familiar yell probably did more to break up the fight than anything he did himself.
In the early 1950s, the Sacramento Police Department decided to develop their own police academy. Manny (by then a Sergeant, I believe) served as the Commander of that very first SPD Academy, which was held in the Rose Garden at McKinley Park (one of the original academy buildings still stands among the beautiful flowers there now).
He even designed the SPD Academy logo, which was still being used in its near-original form until mid-2013. I’ve often thought about this park both before and since I attended the SPD Academy myself in 1989, roughly 36 years since Manny helped to start the program.
As far back as I can remember, I recall hearing stories from Manny’s police days. Some were funny, a few were scary, but the majority of the stories were fond recollections of his colleagues on the department and their daily interactions, as well as of the lasting friendships that were built. This camaraderie intrigued me immensely and helped to cement in my mind what it meant to be a law enforcement officer.
Manny Lopes was my Dad and hero. He passed in 2011, but lives on in my memories.
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