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New sergeants installed as one leaves
Sgt. Greg Yotsuya retires after 30 years
Nieuwenhuis and Vierra
Dirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Vierra were sworn in as sergeants last week with Chief of Police Rick Collins administering the oath.

After spending 30 years with the Ceres Police Department, Greg Yotsuya has had enough of police work.

His retirement as sergeant came Friday, the day after Chief Rick Collins promoted Dirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Vierra to rank of sergeant. Yotsuya himself is being replaced by Sgt. Keith Griebel.

Yotsuya was hired at a time when the retirement age could occur as soon as he hit 50. But he desired retirement even more seeing a new slate of state laws being passed which he feels ties the hands of police, is unfair to require of officers and a waste of time.

“Law enforcement isn’t the same as when I started 30 years ago,” said Yotsuya.

Much needed changes, he believes, came along after the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles to hold officers more accountable for their actions. But he said the state is passing laws “that aren’t necessary that are overreach. It’s stuff I don’t agree with so it’s better for me to bow out and retire than try to buck the system.”

“The citizens of California have decriminalized crime. What used to be a felony, you know, you catch somebody with methamphetamine and take them to jail and they would do prison time. Nowadays we’re giving them a ticket and hoping they show up in court.

Yotsuya 2018
Now 50 years old, Greg Yotsuya decided that now is the time to retire as sergeant – especially since state lawmakers and the governor have approved a new slate of laws which he feels ties the hands of police. He said some of those laws are unfair to police and require officers to waste a lot of time with paperwork. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

“Just the theft. We’ve had laws now where criminals can go into Walmart and steal $945 worth of stuff and walk out the store and it’s a misdemeanor.”

He’s also baffled by called to defund police.

“You’re saying that you want law enforcement to be held accountable for their actions and to have better training but you’re going to take funding away that gives them the training that they need to deal with mental health issues, deal with the people that are in crisis. So defunding the police is defeating the purpose.”

He is particularly concerned about the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) that began in 2018 that require officers to list their perceptions of everyone they stop or search.

“Every car stop that I’ve made in my career, I would say 50 to 75 percent of the time I had no idea if it was a male or female, white, black, Hispanic. I didn’t know who I was stopping, who I was dealing with. I was stopping a car that was committing a motor vehicle violation.”

He said RIPA has added more paperwork time, causing a 10 to 15 minute traffic stop to take up 25 to 30 minutes of officers’ time. 

Despite his desire to get out police work, Yotsuya said he was feeling mixed emotions leaving a workplace he has known for 31 years.

“I came in over the weekend to clear out my locker, walked downstairs and I was right back to my first day walking down that same hallway, looking for who I thought was Sgt. Richter, it was Cpl. Richter so I screwed up the first day,” Yotsuya. “He was my first training officer.”

Yotsuya’s tenure was marked by a series of honors for exemplary service. In 2009 he was honored as “Officer of the Year” and in 2017 he was designated “Sergeant of the Year” by then Police Chief Brent Smith. Yotsuya was specifically singled out because of his work ethic and for conducting much of this work detail while on light duty with an injured hand while dealing with the sudden passing of his father. At the same time he remained committed to his patrol team and the ancillary assignment of supervising the Field Training Officer (FTO) program. He also helped to manage several major projects including the implementation of and training officers for use of new body-worn cameras.

The following year Yotsuya was honored along with Officers Brian Petersen, Jesus Salinas and Eric Souza and dispatchers Oyre Echols and Shawnna Yotsuya for their role in saving a teenager from an Oct. 20, 2017 suicide by knife attempt.

Yotsuya became interested in law enforcement as a scout when his scout master, who was a Hughson Police lieutenant, steered him into Police Explorer Scout program in Hughson. He majored in Criminal Justice at Modesto Junior College and joined the Ceres Police Department in 1990 as a reserve officer. Two years later he took on the additional role of a reserve dispatcher where he met his future wife, Shawnna, who was also a Ceres Police Department dispatcher. In 1994 Yotsuya was hired as a full-time police dispatcher while continuing to serve as a reserve officer. Those years as a reserve paid off when in 1996, Greg was finally hired as a full-time sworn officer.

Greg served on the Crisis Negotiation Team and was an assistant team leader. He also served as a Field Training Officer, a detective and a member of the Gang Intelligence Task Force. He has acted as watch commander and oversaw the entire department when command staff was away for team building workshops.

During his career Yotsuya enjoys his involvement with the annual “Beards for Kids” and “Shop with a Cop” program because it impacted the lives of many underprivileged families at Christmas time.

Nieuwenhuis has been a Ceres police officer since August 2008. He has served on the former Street Crimes Unit and SWAT team, and was a field training officer and explorer program adviser. Dirk has served as a school resource officer since August 2018.

Vierra was first hired by CPD as a reserve in 2012 and added as full-time in 2013. He also has served on the SWAT team, and has been a reserve field training officer, range master and detective. Vierra is the son of Ceres Police Department Sgt. Danny Vierra.