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Volunteer Police Officer Art Mayoff receives
Medal of Valor
from Benicia Chief of Police, James Trimble




Fairfield, California, August 12, 2005, Solano County Public Safety Openhouse and Display

....As I was returning to the mobile command vehicle I saw what looked like two 3 years olds playing on the edge of the Civic Center lake about twenty feet in front of me. I knew right then that one or both would surely tumble in because they were reaching down to the water surface to get their hands wet but the water was easily 18 inches down the side of this man made decorative lake and they couldn't reach it. Off to the right and beyond the crest of a small knoll I saw a female about 20 feet away talking on a cellphone with her back to the children. My options were either to holler for them to stop, but I was afraid I'd scare the kids and they'd surely fall in, or to step up my pace and try to get to them before anything happened. I got to about 10 feet away when one tumbled in. I then ran to grab her, getting down on my hands and knees, but she was just beyond my reach. I must have yelled when she went in because as I was reaching to get my radio off my belt to go in after her, the female that I had seen on the cellphone passed me at full speed jumping into the water feet first. The woman threw the baby onto her shoulder, treading water as she began to return to shore. At that point I was either on my haunches or belly (I don't recall) and she wasn't making much headway so I reached out as far as I could to get the baby from her when I felt a very solid and secure grip on the back of my service belt. At that split second I could tell that I had a professional behind me counter-balancing so I was able to extend myself even farther. It was a very comforting feeling. The woman then planted her feet onto the lake bed and someone else grabbed the baby off her shoulder and I grabbed her arms and helped her out of the lake. As I turned around there were about six or seven police officers behind me. I don't know which officer grabbed my belt but he sure knew how to do it properly by leveraging himself as I reached forward. He unknowingly taught me a lot in those few moments. I then ran to the Red Cross van and got a blanket (they didn't have any towels) and got them dried off.

A personal comment:
Funny how the mind makes emergency decisions.... I realized the next day thinking about my decision to take my Radio off my belt - it was waterproof and didn't need to come off (duh!). I never considered getting rid of my cellphone which I had just purchased two weeks earlier. It's not waterproof and I would have ruined it for sure.

Full Circle:
Almost sixty years ago, in the summer of 1946, at the age of two, I too tumbled into a lake with no adult watching. My six year old brother summoned help and I was rescued barely in the nick of time. Have I come full circle?

Was I predestined to be exactly where I was to see this preschooler tumble into the lake? I can't say. But I can say with certainty that my goal to "Give Back" to the community after I retired has been facilitated by being in the Benicia Police Department's Volunteer Program. It has added so much to my life.