MARTINEZ, Calif. – Shelley Tolliver says she loves her job with Martinez Police Department, although the police assistant’s work doesn’t always make other people happy.
Among her tasks is handing out tickets when motorists have failed to keep parking meters fed. She also oversees towing of vehicles. Sometimes motorists are leaving court, “and they’re already upset.” The last thing they want to see is a ticket, she said.
But Tolliver, who has been named the Martinez Police Department Civilian Employee of the Year, also sees people as they are leaving the courthouse after an experience so emotional they are crying. Often she is the only person available to whom they can talk.
And so she listens.
“I meet a lot of people,” she said, explaining that part of her job is interacting with residents and visitors. “I talk to them on a personal basis.” She’s had many of those conversations, hearing about other people’s children or their dogs and helping them wipe away their tears.
In fact, she said, she’s had so many positive encounters with people “they take away the negatives.”
Tolliver started her career in the law enforcement field with Richmond Police Department, where she worked 11 years as a community service officer. Her assignments there included parking enforcement and handling abandoned vehicles as well as writing reports and working in the jail.
But she was among those who lost jobs in a series of layoffs. Her notice came in 2003. While she wanted to continue her career with a police department, Tolliver is practical. She became head of security at the Contra Costa Times, working at the newspaper’s Walnut Creek and Concord offices.
From there, she became a contracted armed guard at the federal buildings in Richmond and Oakland.
Meanwhile, she applied to Martinez Police Department and was hired in 2013.
“I thought it was a great opportunity,” Tolliver said. She said she had looked forward to working in the smaller department. “I thought it would be interesting.”
Just as she did in Richmond, in addition to handling both parking enforcement and vehicle towing, she’s also assigned to traffic control, and will assist officers, such as when they need a large amount of evidence secured and delivered.
She’s philosophical about the reaction some people have when they see her writing them a ticket. “I understand that. But it’s about responsibility – it’s about people being responsible and my responsibility to do my job.”
She said the downtown area is a concentrated space, but it’s also a destination site for people from all over Contra Costa County who must do business either in the City of Martinez or the County. “A lot of people come into the downtown area,” she said.
Tolliver said she appreciates the support she gets from other members of Martinez Police Department, especially officers. “The officers are great,” she said, singling out Dirk Miller, the department’s officer of the year. Miller won’t wait until he’s called to help her. “He’ll show up. He’s the greatest,” she said. “I honor him as officer of the year.”
She also praised the department’s command staff, who also help make her job easier.
Police Chief Manjit Sappal surprised her when he called her into his office to tell her of the honor, because Tolliver rarely is at the department’s headquarters. “I still don’t know why I got this. I am humbled,” she said.
Tolliver loves her job.
“This is exactly what I want to do. I don’t see doing anything else. It’s not appreciated, but I love what I do and it makes a difference if you love what you do,” she said. “I am happy in what I do, and not many can say that.”