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New lieutenant, three new sergeants sworn into Ceres Police Department
Ethan Venn, 10, concentrated hard to pin on the new sergeants badge on his father, Darren Venn during Monday evenings swearing-in ceremony staged at the Ceres Community Center. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

In a restructuring of the organization, Ceres Police Department added three new sergeants, added a new lieutenant position and swore in four new officers during a ceremony held Monday.

James Yandell was promoted to lieutenant while Darren Venn, Jason Coley and Keith Griebel all became sergeants within the department.

A large crowd filled the large assembly room of the Ceres Community Center to witness the promotions and the swearing in new officers Justin Canatsy, George Woodward, Carl Carlson and Jesus Salinas.

"We're going through a lot of change, we've had a lot of change in the past year," said Chief Brent Smith. He noted a key goal is to modernize the department's technology, including license plate readers, body cameras and a computer aided dispatch system.

Smith is also restructuring the department to add two new lieutenants.

"We're no longer a small department - we've got 50,000 people here in the city so we're adding a couple of new lieutenants," said Smith, "so we're setting up our department, I think, for a very bright future."

Born in Burbank, James Yandell was raised in Turlock but graduated from Tokay High School in Lodi. He graduated from Modesto Junior College with a degree in fire science. Yandell then earned a criminal justice degree and started with Manteca Police in 1998. He came to Ceres in 2001 as a firefighter before joining police reserves in 2003. In 2005 Yandell became a sworn Ceres officer and has since been a detective assigned to the Gang Task Force, firearms instructor, assistant SWAT team leader and was promoted to sergeant in 2010.

Yandell and his wife Patty just celebrated 20 years of marriage this month and have two children, Trent, 15, and Sierra, 12.

Sgt. Jason Coley grew up in Porterville and hails from a long line of police officer. His father served as Tulare County sheriff and Fowler police chief and his great-grandfather was a constable in the Tulare County community of Strathmore. In 1998 Coley was hired by then Chief Pete Peterson. Coley has served as a patrol officer, motorcycle patrolman, field training officer, detective and hostage negotiation team member as well as the department's historian. Coley has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice management.

He and wife Amy have two sons, Race and Brogan.

San Diego born and raised Sgt. Darren Venn served in the U.S. Army before coming to Ceres in 1998. He became a sworn officer in Ceres in June 2000. His grandfather was a San Diego County sheriff's deputy.

He has been married 20 years to wife Jane, his high school sweetheart. They have a son Ethan, 10.

The newly promoted Sergeant Keith Griebel is a product of Ceres and 1995 graduate of Ceres High School. He started as a police explorer and was hired as a reserve Ceres dispatcher in 1997. Griebel graduated from the Police Academy in 1998 and was hired by CPD that year. Over the years he has served as a patrolman, field training officer, range master, detective, SWAT team member and member of the Street Crimes Unit. He and wife Casey have three children, Reese, 20, Alisa, 17, and Kaylie, 9.

Smith then introduced the new hires.

Justin Canatsy was raised in Ceres and is a 2010 Ceres High School graduate. He graduated the Delta Police Academy in 2014 and he earned an associate degree from MJC. Canatsy served nine months as a Stockton police officer. In May he became engaged to Jenna Larson with a marriage set for September 2016. This parents, Chris and Cary Canatsy, were in attendance during the ceremony.

George Woodward grew up in Tracy, working as a heavy equipment operator for several years while he studied at Delta College in Stockton. As a Marine Corps he was attached to a security force in Japan. From Camp Pendleton he was deployed with the 1st Battalion 4th Marine Division during the Gulf War. After graduating from the Ray Simon Criminal Justice Center in Ceres, George worked 22 years with the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department. He and wife Monica married in September and recently moved to Manteca from Sonora.

Born in Elk Grove, Carl Carlson graduated from Pleasant Grove High School and Sierra College with an associate degree in criminal justice administration. San Joaquin Delta College's Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) was his next stop. Ceres is hiring him in his first police officer position. Carlson is married to wife Holly and they have a 19-month-old son, Cody.

Born in Modesto and raised in Salida, Jesus Salinas graduated from Davis High School in Modesto. He earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Kaplan College before going to San Joaquin Delta College where he attended the Police Academy. Salinas served eight months with the Stockton Police Department and has been working for Ceres Police for the past month.

He has a girlfriend in Socorro Yepez.

Smith said more officers are being hired with an additional opening that needs to be filled. Smith is hoping to add Miguel Villalobos and Kevin Sakasagawa to the force this week.

Smith introduced new dispatcher Derrick Faria, Oyre Echols, and reserve dispatcher Alicia Davis.

Mark Whitehead, a new Ceres police chaplain, led the ceremony in prayer asking God to be with them. "Today those who are being sworn in, those who already serve, are taking on the task to protect and to serve and as they do we would ask that you send angel to serve and protect them," prayed Whitehead.