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Miami-Dade Police Doral District Community Service Unit
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Doral Tribune - Local News - Community Newspapers On Line
MANNY GONZALEZManny Gonzalez takes the term community service quite literally.As an officer with the Miami-Dade Police Doral District Community Service Unit , he is often seen at area meetings , helping out with community projects , teaching crime-prevention techniques to home and business owners and participating in numerous activities around Doral.He has_been a member of the unit since 1994 and it appears to be a perfect fit for his idea of what police work is supposed to be.I wanted to become a police officer because it's a way of helping people out , Gonzalez said.I took a pay cut when I became an officer.That shows how much I wanted to do it..And he's been doing it for 24-and-a-half years..Before joining the police force , Gonzalez made his living selling formal wear.I made salary plus commission selling tuxedos , he said.Though steady , well-paying work , it didn't offer the kind of satisfaction or the challenge that he faces as a police officer.You don't know what's going to happen when you come in every morning , he said.And I like to get outside..Gonzalez enjoys sitting at an intersection watching for people to run stop signs.He likes to conduct security surveys for businesses and homes , and he loves to get_out and play with the kids.All the members of the Doral District Community Service Unit – made_up of five officers and a sergeant - get involved with a variety of activities in area schools.A favorite is the Elementary Field Day conducted each year.We take 240 kids from the elementary schools and we cook for them and barbecue , said Gonzalez.These younger kids like goofy games , where we spray each other with water.Parks and recreation gets involved with us too..The officers do similar programs with the middle schools , but the games take on a more competitive edge.Teams are selected by taking kids from all of the schools to ensure multi-ethnic , diverse teams , and the officers act_as referees , coaches and servers.About 240-300 kids take part in such activities as volleyball and basketball tournaments.The officers have been doing this in the district for more than 10 years , Gonzalez said , and there has never been a shortage of officers to volunteer.We're all kids , he said.I think it's a case of ‘what do I want to do when I grow_up' with us..Another favorite piece of Gonzalez' job is the satisfaction he gets when he helps somebody.It gives him the chance to show that he really cares.Especially with an elderly resident or a kid , he said.It's really rewarding to be able to make a difference..One of the things Gonzalez cherishes is the moment when someone he helped years before comes up_to him and asks if he remembers.That's really nice , he said.And , in_the_case_of a child , it's rewarding sometimes to see how they turn out..Gonzalez came to the United_States from Cuba when he was eight years old.He attended Epiphany Catholic School , Columbus High School and Barry College , where he earned a degree in liberal arts.He married his wife Chris 30 years ago when he was 18.They have a daughter , Jennifer , who also is a seven-year veteran police officer with Miami-Dade County.She surprised me , said Gonzalez.I didn't push her into it..Both will take the exam to become sergeant in June.Gonzalez doesn't plan to end his dedication to community service when he finally decides he's had enough of being a cop.I might go into teaching when I retire , he said.