For Homegrown Officer, Job Really Is Community Policing

Kenric Wu
Kenric Wu

Cpl. Kenric Wu is his formal name and title, but “Ken” works just fine for him.
Having grown up and gone through school here, the 14-year veteran of the San Marino Police Department is used to being addressed by the shortened name, he said. A lot of the people he sees in town have known him since he was a kid.
“I see people all the time who really know me,” he said. “Being a part of the community gives me an insight as to how people here act. Me going to all the schools, I know a lot of the older teachers here as well. You grow up here, you have the affinity and bond with the people here.”
Wu was 11 when he and his mother moved to San Marino from Roseville, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. He graduated from San Marino High School in 1992, then earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UC Riverside. He also found a job as a supervisor at the former San Marino Public Library.
“The old school one,” he noted, distinguishing that institution from the current Crowell Public Library.
Hoping to make use of G.I. Bill funding for further schooling, Wu enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1997. He ended up going to school while in the military — he was commissioned as a lieutenant in 2002 after attending officer school.
“Later, as I got into it, I felt that it was very interesting to me and I wanted to do more for my country, so I stayed longer than I’d planned,” Wu said. “I probably wouldn’t have seen as much of the world if it wasn’t for the Army. It kind of got me out of my San Marino bubble, too.”
Wu was made an intelligence officer,
a position that involved taking infor-mation related to his assignment and making sense out of it for his superior officers.
“I did all of that ‘Secret Squirrel’ stuff,” he quipped, referring to the TV cartoon show that parodied the spy genre. “You have to sign a nondisclosure agreement when you leave, but I don’t remember any of that stuff anymore. I don’t have a security clearance anymore. It’s probably good that I’ve forgotten a lot of these things.”
One highlight of his Army days, Wu fondly recalled, occurred when, as a reservist, he was called upon in 2005 to spend 18 months in Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission in the months leading up to that territory’s 2008 secession from Serbia. The region, populated largely by Albanian Muslims, has experienced several periods of violence in the ethnic wars that stemmed from the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1992. A provisional government was forming, largely peacefully, while Wu was in Kosovo, although the nation still retains only limited international recognition.
Being in Kosovo reminded Wu, in a way, of being back in Minnesota.
“Except there’s a lot less people there,” he said. “It was very cold. Kosovo is a land of many seasons.”
After he returned, Wu said, his commanding officer at the time — a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — opened the door to law enforcement and brought Wu along for a patrol shift in La Puente. They promptly responded to a gang fight involving around 20 people.
It didn’t dissuade him.
“Being in the military, being a manager [at the library] wasn’t my thing,” Wu admitted. “I applied here at SMPD and I was accepted. I only applied at San Marino and I was very lucky to get here as my first choice.”
He said he didn’t recall his very first call as a San Marino cop, but he remembered his first bad call. It was a head-on collision at San Gabriel Boulevard and Devonport Road.
“I’d never seen someone hurt like that prior to this,” he said. “Even in the Army, you don’t have people smashed in cars
like that.”
Wu was promoted to corporal last year, an advancement that adds training duties to his day. He has trained 13
officers since then, a process that involves taking recent graduates of police academies and easing them into the way SMPD does business.
Sometimes it involves having to part ways with recruits who aren’t up to the task.
“You want everyone to succeed, but some people just can’t do it,” he said. “Your heart has to be in the right place. A career in law enforcement is very difficult, even in San Marino.”
Wu was implicitly acknowledging that the city has largely avoided a violent crime issue, with residents mainly concerned about home burglaries and identity theft. Still, incidents happen. Prior to the interview, Wu was speaking with a local resident about an altercation involving his child. Wu could relate to it — his two children are in San Marino schools.
In summarizing the discussion, Wu said a lot of the job is working with victims of crimes — even nonviolent ones — and “bringing them back to normality.”
“San Marino is generally pretty
safe when compared to other communities, but we’re not immune,” he said. “I have a vested interest in the community. What goes on here affects my kids, too.”
The community has taken note of one of its own, too. Wu involves himself as an SMPD representative for a plethora of local events and meetings. He was recognized last year as the law enforcement officer of the year at the annual Police and Fire Appreciation Luncheon hosted by the San Marino Chamber of Commerce. Police Chief John Incontro said Wu remains his “point person” on the town’s Neighborhood Watch programs.
“In part, that comes from his lifelong relationship with people in town,” he said. “Having grown up here and gone to school here adds an extra dimension to the community policing we do here in town. His personality is something that is a plus here. He understands the importance of service and is always doing his best. He makes himself available to just about anything we need in the department.
“Luckily, he decided not to stay at the library,” Incontro joked.
Reflecting on his career, Wu said he feels fortunate to have been able to do what he wanted to with his life, through the good and the bad.
“You will have bad days, especially in this job,” he observed. “For me, being
a community-oriented person, that’s what drives me. When we see people
are happy with what we do, that makes up for a lot of it.
“That’s the best part of it,” Wu added. “Being able to work where you want to work and to have people enjoy your work.”

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