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Heroes Recognized at 21st Annual Peace Officer & Public Safety Awards

The Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 21st annual Peace Officer & Public Safety Awards luncheon on November 14th honoring 64 local heroes including  four outstanding individuals representing the City of Indio.

Police Officer James Koyanagi, Police Officer of the Year

Traffic Officer James Koyanagi began his career with the Indio Police Department in May 2002. For over 15 years, Officer Koyanagi has consistently provided exceptional service in his various roles and assignments in the Field Services Division. He is currently a Motor/Traffic Officer and, in additional to his daily traffic duties, Officer Koyanagi is the department’s traffic collision expert. He has organized and facilitated the DUI traffic grant awarded to the department. Officer Koyanagi is a seasoned veteran officer, who avails himself and his expertise to the department and the community as a whole. He is highly respected by his coworkers and staff at the department. He has an outstanding reputation as a police officer and traffic officer, and uses his platform to teach other officers about traffic. Officer Koyanagi exudes the very principles sought in police officers and is an ambassador for the City of Indio Police Department, the City of Indio, and the police profession.

Senior Management Analyst Erika Martinez, Civilian Employee of the Year

Erika Martinez has been with the Indio Police Department since July 2008. Since that time, she has written 47 grants, 39 of which were awarded totaling $8.4 million dollars. She has built a solid reputation in her field of expertise and has lent her skills, knowledge and experience to a number of law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. In collaboration with the City of Indio and community partners, SMA Martinez recently applied for and was granted participation in the Community-Based Transitional Housing Program in the amount of $1,949,000. The department’s program is designed to enhance quality of life strategies and transitional housing services to the City of Indio. SMA Martinez also works with the Chief and executive staff to develop and manage the department’s annual budget, and she is an integral part of the Community Outreach Resource Program. SMA Martinez is a vital and valued member of the Indio Police Department staff who uses her skills, knowledge and expertise to benefit the City of Indio and the community it serves.

Fire Apparatus Engineer Doug Shank, Riverside County Fire/City of Indio Fire Services Firefighter of the Year (Posthumous)

Doug Shank grew up in the small town of Santa Margarita, California. After high school, Shank immediately began volunteering with the Santa Margarita Volunteer Fire Department.  In 2007, Shank attended the Alan Hancock Fire Academy and graduated as the class Valedictorian. After graduating the Fire Academy, Shank continued as a volunteer firefighter for Santa Margarita Fire Department and also worked as a Paid Call Firefighter for San Luis Obispo County Fire Department. Shank’s CAL FIRE career took him all over the state in various positons. In 2016, he accepted a promotion as a permanent Fire Apparatus Engineer at Station 86 in the City of Indio. Unfortunately, just two days after celebrating his third wedding anniversary with his wife, Elizabeth,  Shank unexpectedly passed away. He was a very passionate firefighter and loved serving others. The passing of Shank left a void in in the City of Indio Fire Department’s hearts and he will always be missed.

Firefighter Sara Thomas, Riverside County Fire/City of Indio Fire Services Firefighter of the Year (Posthumous)

Firefighter Sara Thomas passed away last year after a valiant battle with cancer. The word “family” is often used to describe the relationships between people in the fire service.  Thomas was referred to by her coworkers as their “rock” or the “mother bear.”  Thomas herself referred to the men with whom she worked as “my boys.” She had a quick wit and behind her smile was a serious and highly-skilled firefighter. Thomas  exemplified the fact that one does not need collar brass to be a leader on this job. Thomas and her firefighting partner, Mark Grasso, once responded to a structure fire, and after advancing into the house, Grasso noticed that there was significant fire beneath them. They began to exit  and asThomas made it out and she heard Grasso yelling.  Turning around, she saw Grasso hanging from the threshold over a basement fully engulfed in flames. Without hesitation, Thomas reached for Grasso and pulled him to safety. After that, Grasso referred to Thomas as his “angel.” Thomas was a mother, a sister, a daughter and wife.  Her family and her fire department family miss her very much.