After six years on special assignment with a California narcotics task force, Petaluma police officer Rick Cox is looking forward to returning to patrol.

"My ultimate goal is to become a patrol sergeant in Petaluma," said the 19-year veteran. "(Working on the task force) has been a great experience, but I'm looking forward to getting back to patrol and being in the city more."

Cox and his K9 police dog, Jeff, have spent the last six years targeting drug cartels in California. Their investigations have taken them all over the state and into some of the most serious narcotic cases in California. Because of his dedication, Cox has won many awards — including the prestigious Elks 2014 Enrique Camarena Award on Feb. 6.

"It's a big honor," said Cox Friday, after the awards ceremony. "I wish I would have known I was getting it so I could have prepared a better speech — thanked my fellow officers more. But I was so surprised. It's quite an achievement and I'm very excited."

The Elks Enrique Camarena award is a countywide honor given annually to an officer who has made a significant contribution to drug prevention and awareness. Enrique Camarena, a Mexican-American undercover federal drug enforcement agent, was kidnapped and tortured to death while on assignment in Mexico in 1985. He was abducted on Feb. 7, 1985 and his body was found almost a month later. Cox is the first Petaluma police officer to win the Elks Lodge drug enforcement award.

Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons said Cox is an exceptional officer who has worked tirelessly to curb drug use and trafficking in California.

"Much of Detective Cox's good work goes unnoticed because of the confidential cases he works on," said Lyons. "Many time he has had to sacrifice time with his family or work many days with little time off because a case requires constant surveillance or detailed evidence gathering."

Cox grew up in Novato and was hired as a Petaluma police officer in 1998. He joined the Petaluma K9 unit in 2002. According to Lyons, Cox has assisted with investigations that have led to the seizure of more than $1 million in assets and hundreds of pounds of drugs.

"Many law enforcement officers call Detective Cox for assistance in narcotic investigations," he added.

In 2011, Cox was nominated for the Sonoma County Exchange Club Officer of the Year and in 2010 he received a commendation for assisting in the arrest of gang members who planned to commit armed robberies.

Cox is scheduled to return to patrol in Petaluma in July.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at