Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Lt. Bernie Escalante wanted to give back to his community. He found a passion for law enforcement and joined our department. Lt. Escalante oversees our Emergency Services Unit - Tactical Team as well as our field training program. He plays a large role in the development of new officers and is one of the foremost tactical experts in our agency. We sat down for a candid interview with him and learned some interesting things... read on.
When you're not out saving the city where do you like to eat or hang out?
Lt. Escalante: My favorite restaurant is the El Palomar. Mexican food is my favorite and they have the best. Plus Zach Friend likes to eat there, so I get the honor of eating lunch or dinner with him once in a while. I can’t tell you my secret spot because it’s a secret.
Word on the street is that you played some professional baseball. Are you a Giants or A's fan? 49ers or Raiders?
Lt. Escalante: I am a huge Giants and Niner fan. I was raised going to Niner games with my father. I can still remember being at “The Catch” with my dad. I was raised to root against any other team, especially the Raiders, A’s or any other Southern California Team. The Padres never seemed to matter. The Dodgers, Raiders and the old Los Angeles Rams are my least favorite.
As someone that played in competitive sports we can assume you like to work out. What music do you listen to while you workout?
Lt. Escalante: I listen to my iPod when I workout, but quite honestly I don’t really pay attention to the songs. The songs just help me get through the pain of my workouts. There is a mix of country, reggae, some old school, and hip hop.
What do you like about working here?
Lt. Escalante: I was born and raised in Santa Cruz. It is a pleasure to work for the city that I grew up in. It isn’t that much fun running into people I grew up with on the wrong side of the law, but it hasn’t happened that much. The City of Santa Cruz is small enough to see the positive effects of our police work in problem areas. The most enjoyable part is giving tourists directions to the Beach and Boardwalk. Just kidding!!!
You've worked a number of high-profile cases. Which is most memorable?
Lt. Escalante: My most memorable case was working a sexual assault on a 3 year-old girl. A subject broke into the families’ apartment and sexually assaulted the girl in her bedroom. A suspect was identified in the case based on a fingerprint left at the scene. The suspect avoided capture for almost 10 years. When I got assigned to Investigations as a Sergeant, I re-evaluated the case and after about 2 years of trying to find the suspect he was captured in the Northwest. The case was brought to trial and the suspect was found guilty. The suspect was sentenced to 40-plus years in prison. It was such a traumatic case for the family and the victim. It was also extremely difficult on the family and victim to go through a trial. But I can still remember the day when I called the family and told them that the suspect had been captured.
We know you're a local - so tell us about your background.
Lt. Escalante: I was born and raised in Santa Cruz. Went to Westlake Elementary, Mission Hill, and Santa Cruz High. I got a BA from San Francisco State. I played any sport I could while growing-up including: Basketball, Football, and Baseball. I don’t play much any more, but enjoy watching guys like Deputy Chief Steve Clark, Sergeant Mike Harms, Deputy Chief Rick Martinez and Zach Friend play slow pitch softball and try to re-live their glory days. It is hilarious, you should come watch some time with me.
OK - last question. Favorite vacation spots?
Lt. Escalante: My favorite vacation spots include anywhere with warm weather, a pool or beach and good food. Places like Hawaii, Mexico, Palm Springs (good golf), and Lake Tahoe.