EL CENTRO – Colleagues, friends and family members gave a moving tribute to retiring Imperial County Chief of Probation Officer Benny Benavidez during the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning. The boardroom was standing room only as key department personnel and family filled the area to pay homage to Benavidez. It was a strong testament to a man who ran the department for a mere two years.
However, Mr. Martinez, a member of the Task Force said Benavidez arrived at a crucial time in the probation office as he described the situation as a â€œdepartment of disarray.â€
Supervisor Michael Kelley (District 3) agreed with the assessment. â€œYou came at the right time. We are grateful for your leadership over the past two years.â€
Jack Terrazas, supervisor of District 2, noted, â€œYour low-key style really helped with the problems the department had. â€œ
Martinez told the room that he traveled regularly to conferences in different counties and states, and that Chief Benavidez has brought the department to cutting edge status.
â€œWe are so far ahead of other counties and states, like Chief likes to say, we are â€˜cutting edgeâ€™ now. He made sure we stayed steadfast in our commitment to public safety,â€ Martinez said.
He continued, â€œHeâ€™s a really good, humble man, a family man, a man of faith. I hope the next chief brings the same qualities, the same class that Chief Benavidez brought to this department.â€œ
When Benavidez finally spoke, there were few dry eyes in the room.
â€œIn all honesty, I donâ€™t think probation officials deserve this recognition, because we donâ€™t get into this profession for the recognition. Itâ€™s a thankless profession. We do the service because we want to, because we get our own satisfaction out of it making a difference,â€ Benavidez said. â€œWe do get thanks from time to time. It feels good. We get parents who thank us, some of our defendants who tell us thanks, and we get victims thanking us. â€œ
â€œWe have been tasked to do things differently, lately,â€ Benavidez explained. â€œWe no longer rely on incarceration to deal with offenders. It is other sanctions, counseling, making changes in their lives. We have been tasked with reducing recidivism. A San Diego State report found that we have been very successful with our new roles.â€
Benavidez took time to thank all the different departments that played a significant role in helping turn the department into a highly functioning force for good in the Valley. He ended by saying, â€œAnd lastly, I need to thank the Lord for giving me the gift, and to thank my family for their support.â€