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The Barbara Ponze Story
The first female officer to join the National Latino Peace Officers Association and serve as a Chapter President. Barbara was born in the small town of Madera CA. She was one of eight children who were reared by their mother as they grew up in East San Jose and Milpitas. Barbara, went through San Jose area schools and graduated from Samuel Ayer High School in Milpitas in 1961. She studied law enforcement at San Jose State University and other area colleges, joining the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department on January 10, 1966.
Barbara’s first assignment was in the jail where most Deputies start their law enforcement careers. While working in the jail, on the grave yard shift, she met Vicente Calderon who was a California Highway Patrol Officer working in the San Jose area. When Vicente arrested drunk drivers he would bring them to the jail and always talk to Barbara about NLPOA.
“It was their baby” said Barbara, Vicente and John Parraz spent all of their time trying to get the Association going. Vicente started the Santa Clara Chapter in San Jose California and was always trying to get me to join”. Later, after I joined the chapter, Richard Reyes, Louis Cobarrubias and myself traveled around the state getting other chapters started.
Barbara’s career changed, after a civil suit forced the County to allow females to transfer out the jail and into patrol. Of course, Barbara was the first female Deputy to work the streets of Santa Clara County.
In 1975 the first association newspaper was started by Vicente Calderon, Barbara Ponze and Rosa Maria Hernandez. The newspaper was called the El Puente.
In 1987 Barbara was elected president of the Santa Clara County Chapter. Barbara, now a detective, was the first female in the organization to head an N.L.P.O.A. Chapter. Barbara went on to prove herself by serving on the Tactical Team, at the police academy, and in then the courts. While serving in the courts she was tasked with the enormous responsibility of developing a “risk assessment protocol”, for moving prisoners safely through the court system. Again Barbara was the first. She became the first “Risk Management Officer” for the Department.
Barbara retired in 1996 but didn’t stop there. She went on to Mills College where she earned a degree in Anthropology and Sociology. Barbara was then hired by the Federal Job Core where she served as a Senior Staff Official. Barbara is retired now living in Madera with her daughter Louisa and two adopted daughters Mia and Hillary. Barbara is a long-standing member of the N.L.P.O.A. and has made many contributions toward the success of the organization. Through her hard work and active participation, she has earned the respect of all N. L. P. O. A. members.
Santa Clara Chapter:
The Santa Clara County Chapter was started by Vicente Calderon when he worked in San Jose CA. The chapter had approximately 30 members, 22 of them were from the San Jose Police Department. The Chapter officers were: Richard Reyes, President; Lou Cobarrubias, Vice President; Carlos Paredes, Recording Secretary; and Ray Mendiola, Corresponding Secretary. Ray Mendiola, exhorted the membership into getting more involved by attending more meetings. He felt that discussions had to continue on important and relevant issues affecting Latino Peace Officers.
At that time, The San Jose Police Department had 445 officers of which only 34 (7.6%) had Spanish Surnames. The main issue at hand was a Civil Rights investigation conducted as the result of the allegation that the City of San Jose was in violation of Office of Revenue Sharing hiring requirements, and that the Police Department discriminated against Mexican-Americans because of their national origin. Yet, the Mexican-American population of San Jose was approximately twenty-two percent (22%). Soon after these statistics were published, eight (8) Spanish-Surname officers were eliminated from the Field Officers Training Program. This meant that the percentage of Hispanics in the San Jose Police Department dropped to (1.8%). This issue was of great importance to the San Jose LPOA Chapter and had important implications which could affect other Police Departments, not only in California, but any city where Revenue Sharing monies were expended. One individual who stands out for his courage and dedication was Joe Lopez. He filed a class action suit through the courts against the County of Santa Clara and was successful in generating a consent decree from the court. His courage and suffering because of his ideals is a story in its own right.