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Last call for Cervenka in Turlock
Lieutenant takes police chief position in Fort Bragg
Neil Cervenka
Lt. Neil Cervenka’s last shift with the Turlock Police Department will be on July 15. He’ll begin his new role as Fort Bragg’s Police Chief on July 25 (Photo courtesy of TPD).

If Neil Cervenka had a higher hemoglobin count as a young man, he never would have had a career in law enforcement.

He would not have racked up 22 years on the force — serving and protecting the people of Turlock.

And he certainly would not have recently been hired to serve as the new Chief of Police for Fort Bragg.

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. For Cervenka, that oh so slight deficiency made all the difference in the world.

“I joined the Air Force and was intending on being in a flight crew position,” Cervenka said. “But I failed my flight physical because my hemoglobin was too low. I had to pick another job and my uncle was in the Air Force Security Forces, so I said security forces. And then I started really liking it and I liked it even more when I got to Travis Air Force base and started doing more of a law enforcement function.”

After the Air Force, he went to the police academy in Napa and eventually a family move led him to Turlock and the Turlock Police Department.

“On my first day in Turlock, when I was swearing in, I remember they got some type of emergency call and half the officers that were there all went running out,” Cervenka recalled. “It was a memorable moment.”

Cervenka’s career at the Turlock Police Department has been one that has seen him rise through the ranks up to lieutenant and work in almost every assignment for sworn personnel, including as a gang officer, bike patrol, Honor Guard, a field training officer, traffic unit, the public information officer, internal affairs, and as a lieutenant he oversaw the Critical Response Team.

Cervenka said he will take the lessons he has learned from his own experiences and those from his colleagues over the years and impart them on a new generation of officers in Fort Bragg.

“My very first crew when I got sent out on my own — Brandon Bertram and Victor Barcellos — are still there. They took me under their wing when I was a brand-new cop and they were veteran officers already by then,” Cervenka said. “I am indebted to them, and their lessons and their patience and kindness.

Cervenka running
One way that Turlock Police Lt. Neil Cervenka has honored the memory of fallen officers was to don his complete uniform and run marathons and other events, like the 2019 Modesto Spirit of Giving 5K Run pictured here (Journal file photo).

“I also had three field training officers that greatly impacted me — James Silveira, who just retired; Steve Williams, who also just retired and Steve Webb. All three of them became administrators and were always great examples for everyone, not just myself.”

Honoring the officers who have fallen in the line of duty has been of the utmost importance for Cervenka. He has done this through his enthusiasm for running. One more than one occasion he has donned his complete uniform and run marathons, or sometimes even longer in the memory of those who have fallen.

Cervenka’s impact on Turlock has extended beyond his role with the Turlock Police Department. He is a past participant of Dancing with the Turlock Stars, which raised money for the Salvation Army, Jessica’s House and Community Hospice. He’s also been a key organizer for Santa’s Letter’s, a grassroots organization fulfilling the Christmas wishes of children and families on need.

But for Cervenka, what he was able to give to the community of Turlock, pales in comparison to what he received.

“I think my message to Turlock as a whole would be thank you,” Cervenka said. “Thank you for taking in my family 22 years ago, helping me raise my children and letting us be part of the community. I will miss you and I love many of you like family. Stay safe and come visit me in Fort Bragg.”

Cervenka’s last shift with the Turlock Police Department will be on July 15. He’ll begin his new role as Fort Bragg’s Police Chief on July 25. He’ll be overseeing a department of 16 sworn personnel.