When officer Bill Baseman found out that he had been chosen as the Petaluma Police Officer of the Year, the 18-year-veteran of the force said he wasn't surprised.

"I thought it was the 'Susan Lucci' effect," he said jokingly, referring to the actress' long tenure in television without winning an award. "I figured that if I hung in there long enough, they'd have to give it to me."

According to Lt. Dan Fish, Baseman's long-term experience with the Petaluma Police Department is part of what made him Officer of the Year.

"Because of his tenure, he understands that the job is so much more than just giving out tickets or arresting people," said Fish. "He gets that it's about serving the community and being an example and role model to everyone, including his fellow officers."

Baseman has performed many assignments in the department since he started in 1995. From being a training officer to working as a hostage negotiator, Baseman has always tried to do more. Most recently, he worked with his fellow patrol officers to start a collaborative mental health community group.

Baseman was aware of a mental health program already set up in Marin County that involved multiple law enforcement agencies meeting on a monthly basis with community agencies to address issues relating to mental illness. Baseman and several other officers attended several Marin County meetings and set forth to establish a similar system in Petaluma.

"We began reaching out to members of the community like the Petaluma Health Center, COTS (the Committee on the Shelterless), and we recently got a representative from Kaiser Permanente who will begin attending as well," said Baseman. "But what makes it special is that it's not a Petaluma Police Department group. We meet here, but it's a community group and I'm really proud of that."

Lt. Tim Lyons added that Baseman's work has made it possible for some Petaluma residents who are suffering from serious mental disorders to receive proper assistance.

Baseman, who grew up in Santa Rosa, followed in his father's law enforcement footsteps. Like many other officers, he wanted to be one from the time he was young. "It's something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid," said Baseman. "And now, I'm just so proud of where our department is going. This is the place to be right now."

And when he's not working, this married father of three is busy pursuing his other dream — playing the guitar in a local band. Baseman and his band, which occasionally features vocals by fellow Petaluma Police Officer Mike Page, play shows on the weekend in the west county. "It's a lot of fun, but I'm not thinking of a career change," he joked.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at janelle.wetzstein@arguscourier.com)