Nick Obligacion recalled answering a newspaper ad in 1988 for a deputy sheriff position in Monterey County as he was stepping down last week as Manteca’s police chief.
He was working as a manager of an auto body shop and thought the job of a law enforcement officer was something that he could handle.
There were some 350 applicants for the position. Obligacion remembers being urged on by his wife Sallie who told him, “You can do anything you want to do.”
His passion at the time was providing for his young daughter Ann Marie. His wife Sallie was working as a dental assistant in Salinas. Of the three years he served as a deputy, two and a half were spent in the county jail. He remembers going on a couple ride-alongs with street deputies. He was not allowed to wear his uniform because he was not actually on duty.
“I got the itch and realized my calling was on the street and in 1991 I went out on patrol in a field training officer program in Salinas, sent over to King City covering from Park Field to San Antonio Lake,” Obligacion said.
There was very little activity on his beat where he covered 350 miles during one shift. One night his only call was reporting a kid who threw a rock and broke a tractor window.
A friend who served with the Marina Department of Public Safety was a canine officer with one dog who was later hired by Lodi Police told him he should check out Manteca Police Department’s canine unit which he did on the first weekend of April of 1991.
Obligacion said he talked to one of Manteca’s canine officers all day long and then asked for his name – it was Willie Weatherford who was the city’s police chief at the time. After realizing it was actually the chief who filled him in on their canine unit, he said he knew that was the department for him.
Eight months later on Dec. 20, 1991 he reported for his first day on the job in Manteca. He remembers his interview with Weatherford the last day of October that solidified his earlier meeting with the chief. Asking if his family was with him and wanting to know where they were was Weatherford’s first question. When he learned they were outside waiting in his car, The Chief said that was unacceptable and Obligacion was told to go get them and bring them into the department. Obligacion’s daughter Arial who was less than a month old sat on his lap during the entire interview.
In March of 1992 he adopted his first canine, a Belgian Malinois he named Berry and imported from Holland.
“Up until a couple of years ago Berry had the department’s most arrests,” Obligacion said.
As a patrol officer he worked swing and grave yard shifts for the next six years before going off the canine unit for an opening in traffic enforcement until April of 1993 when he went on the SWAT special enforcement team. He said he didn’t have any trouble with his back from riding motorcycles because of his good riding posture.
Obligacion was promoted to sergeant in July of 2007 and later assigned to traffic division as its sergeant until 2009 when he became an acting lieutenant. He was promoted to police chief in February of 2012.
His most memorable moment was being sworn in as chief in front of his wife Sallie and their two daughters Ann Marie and Arial.
“The title of police chief and the Police Chief’s Foundation has allowed me to do things to the community’s advantage,” he said.
During a SWAT operation, he was hit in the mouth by a thrown object causing him to think he had been shot. The impact knocked out three front teeth and damaged five and split his lip.
“My first thought was of the nine guys behind me and I rolled out of their way. They took me to St. Dominic’s Hospital emergency room where they fixed my mouth and never shaved off my mustache,” he said.
He remembered the first “Shop with a Cop” event at Walmart where children were given $100 each to spend on themselves at Christmas where a little girl walked back to him crying. She said she didn’t know how to spend $100, the chief recalled, leaving him speechless.
“It crushed me,” he said. “She got what she wanted, not what she had to have,” he said after he helped her choose items from the store’s shelves. “We can impact our youth for a better tomorrow.”
“My heart is here and my loyalty is here,” Obligacion said of Manteca and the police department he led for five years.
During his tenure work has started on a new evidence building at a cost of $1.2 million. During his five years as chief he has always been under budget.
A troop of Girl Scouts left an indelible memory on his heart when they presented him with a bouquet of suckers – lollipops – with a card that read: “This is for all the dumb-dumbs you have to deal with…..” Suckers have been commonly known as dumb-dumbs, he noted.
Obligacion has contracted to stay on for a few weeks acting as a consultant to guide the new chief in her new duties.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.