Often, the title Sonoma County Peace Officer of the Year is awarded to someone who cracks one tough case, apprehends a particularly bad criminal, or makes a single harrowing rescue.
But this year, Petaluma police Officer Brian Miller is being honored for his overall record. His supervisors say that record is one of respect for the public; uncanny insight into gangs, drug users and other criminals; calm leadership under stress; and incredible productivity.
"When it comes down to it, Brian is the officer he is because he is passionate about what he does: getting bad guys off the street," said Lt. Danny Fish. "He's just a well-rounded officer, an example of what we in leadership positions would strive for in mentoring and coaching new officers."
Miller, who joined the Petaluma force 8 1/2 years ago, became one of four detectives in the city's investigation unit this January. Last year, he filled many roles in the department, working as a corporal in the patrol division, a gang enforcement officer and drugs expert, and a hostage negotiator.
He tracked gang members and narcotics offenders by combining his extensive knowledge of the law with an "uncanny ability to recognize suspicious activity," Fish said. Through his work in that field, he also helped solve several property crimes, Fish said.
"He's so active, so involved and knows so many of our bad guys that he can sometimes use information gathered off the street to put two and two together," Fish said.
But for Miller, it's not just about making arrests.
"With narcotics, a lot of pretty decent people get messed up with some poor choices," Miller said. "It's nice to run into them a few years down the road once they've got sobriety. It's awkward when they thank you for arresting them, but that was the most impactful moment for them. It got them on the upward path in life."
He said the most gratifying cases are the ones that have a direct impact on a community: the bust at a drug house or the gang sweep that causes the whole neighborhood to relax a little.
This is the 66th year that an officer of the year has been honored by the Exchange Club of Santa Rosa. Police chiefs from around the county selected Miller from a pool of applicants.