LOS ANGELES (CBS) — For nearly two decades, the LAPD has honored the legacy of one of its own at each Police Academy graduation.
It was 20 years ago, this year, that Tina Kerbrat, then 34, — an officer in the North Hollywood division — became the first female officer in Los Angeles to be killed in the line of duty.
On the KCAL9 News at 8 P.M. Sunday, reporter Suraya Fadel introduced us to Erin Sandwick, the latest recipient of the award.
The award goes to the recruit officer who deemed “most inspirational,” according to the department.
Fadel reports that since 1995, now retired LAPD Sergeant Rich Laguna has talked to each class about Kerbrat’s legacy, her death and the dangers of putting on the uniform.
During his talk, he shares photos of Kerbrat. He reads from her journal … recounting her first day on the job and how excited she was. He sometimes even takes them to her grave site.
He was her drill instructor and she was in his first-ever class in 1990.
He remembers most that she stood out almost immediately. He told Fadel that Kerbrat was a proud wife, mother, daughter and sister. “She was working hard to get through the Academy. Doing her best to manage her family.”
Kerbrat’s loss, clearly, still strikes an emotional chord with those who knew her best, friends, family, colleagues.
She was one of six kids, the eldest girl. Kerbrat was married to a Los Angeles firefighter. The couple had two young children.
LAPD Detective Mary Lopez, then the vice president of the recruit class and a close friend, remembers Kerbrat’s determination to make it. Kerbrat was the oldest recruit. “She wanted to be a police officer and serve the city. This was very important to her.”
To her surprise, this past Mother’s Day, recruit officer Erin Sandwick was told she would be this year’s Kerbrat Award recipient.
Sandwick, 27, has fulfilled a lifelong dream to graduate from the Academy. The Southland native is the youngest of three sisters and the first police officer in her family.
Her father is a retired LA City Fire Captain. Coincidentally, her dad grew up with Kerbrat’s husband. He says he will never forget her funeral. He attended it when his daughter was just a little girl of seven.
“For Erin to be mentioned in the same breath as Tina,” her father says sweetly, “is an incredible honor.”