Mauricio Valdovinos: LAPD's Rising Star
A boy grows up surrounded by gangs, attends an after-school program that changes his life, enrolls in the police academy, is elected president of his class, and becomes an award-winning Los Angeles police officer. Hollywood fairy tale? Hardly.
Officer Mauricio Valdovinos is the boy—now a man —and he’s one of the LAPD’s rising stars, a formidable officer who has been proving himself in every division to which he’s been assigned, from resolving domestic disputes to cracking traffic investigations. When Valdovinos was honored for receiving an LA’s BEST Alumnus Award last year, and we learned his story, we realized just how remarkable that story was.
Born in Mexico, Valdovinos grew up in the San Fernando Valley with six sisters in a neighborhood run by the Langdon Street gang. As he describes it, his block was so dangerous that children couldn’t go outside and play. Valdovinos slept on the floor beneath windows covered with cinder blocks, shielding him from stray bullets. He was taunted and sometimes beaten on his way to school.
But his parents never gave up on the lives of their children. They enrolled Valdovinos in LA’s BEST after-school enrichment program, which he attended from first through fifth grades. For three hours every day, he got help with his homework and his English (his parents spoke only Spanish at home). But more importantly, he felt safe. He found mentors who dramatically affected his life, particularly his principal, Mr. Balderama, and the school policeman, Officer Dan, who inspired him to grow up and help others just like he was helped. Indeed, he returned as a teacher’s aide after high school and saw he could be a role model for youngsters as others had been for him. As an adult, he even taught his new little brother to read. One of the greatest moments at the LA’s BEST Alumnus Awards ceremony last year was when Valdovinos called up his younger brother to read from The Little Prince.
Valdovinos says he knew he wanted to become a cop from the age of eight, when he watched a foot pursuit that ended in an arrest near his home. He decided then and there that he wanted to do what those officers did and knew that to make it happen, he’d have to keep his nose clean. With his eyes on the prize, he stayed away from alcohol and drugs.
After graduating college, Valdovinos still wanted to be a police officer. He entered the Los Angeles Police Academy and was voted president of his recruit class. As a police officer, Valdovinos spent his
probationary year in the problem areas of the Newton division. He saw he could really help people, particularly with childabuse and domestic-violence situations. He saw officers make a difference and realized that in community-based policing, he could be strong for people who had trouble being strong for themselves. He especially understood the challenges immigrants face and watched many faces turn from worry to relief as he solved a problem.
Now assigned to the Valley Traffic Division, Valdovinos is responsible for overseeing collision investigations from beginning to end. But this officer truly goes above and beyond the call of duty. In the hopes of preventing tragedies before they occur, he speaks at schools and to parents about drunk-driving issues.
Valdovinos is an example of how one can rise above circumstances, achieve success, and give back to the community. He knows that in this land of opportunity, if you have clear goals and are willing to make a committed effort, anything is possible.
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.