La Habra police K-9 officer named Officer of the Year

By Jaimee Lynn Fletcher

At 2 a.m. on a recent Tuesday, Cpl. Nick Baclit arrested a probationer for marijuana sales and an outstanding warrant.

Just after 3 a.m., Baclit had his second arrest of the morning after he stopped a woman on the street and found she was in possession of stolen property. She was arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property, identity theft and check fraud.

Eight hours later, after his graveyard shift ended, Baclit was shaking hands with veterans from La Habra’s American Legion Post.

These are just how his days as a La Habra police officer go.

Blending effective policing with community outreach is why on Tuesday, Feb. 17, Baclit was awarded with the 2014 American Legion Officer of the Year Award.

La Habra Police Corporal Nick Baclit, center, receives the Officer of the Year award from American Legion Post 267 Second Vice Commander Sandy Schneeberger, left, and Police Chief Jerry Price during a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in La Habra. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Police Corporal Nick Baclit, center, receives the Officer of the Year award from American Legion Post 267 Second Vice Commander Sandy Schneeberger, left, and Police Chief Jerry Price during a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in La Habra.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Nick is an experienced officer with great work ethic,” Police Chief Jerry Price said. “He is one of our most active officers.

“Among the corporals in the department, he has the largest quantity of felony and misdemeanor arrests.”

Baclit, who joined La Habra in 2005, responded to 906 calls in 2014. He made 35 felony arrests and 26 misdemeanor arrests with his K-9 partner, Prinz.

Baclit and Prinz have sniffed out dozens of suspects, drugs and weapons in their five years as a team.

Baclit recalls several cases where his K-9 partner helped make big arrests including the time a suspect tried to dodge into the campus at Cal State Fullerton after a car pursuit, but Prinz stopped him.

Or when a suspect tried to hide in a wooded area after leading police on a chase, but Prinz found him.

The stories of their great cases are too many to count, but those who know Baclit said he was logging significant arrests and having a community impact years before he partnered with Prinz.

Before becoming a K-9 handler, Baclit worked gangs and narcotics — an area of expertise his colleagues still tap into, Price said.

“He knows who the gang members are, the problem houses and who is on probation,” he said. “Having that kind of knowledge helps us be very effective in lowering the crime rate.”

Now, Price said, he passes that knowledge on.

“He often works shifts with newer officers and spends a great deal of time mentoring them,” he said. “Many officers, including newer detectives, look to him for guidance.”

When not on the streets policing, Baclit spends time in the community to foster relationships with residents.

He visits schools and business networking meetings and is a board member for the La Habra Police Canine Foundation.

Baclit’s family said they were not surprised, but very proud, to learn he was being honored for his police work.

“Some people, I think, were just called to this profession and I really think this is his calling,” his wife, Marlena, said.

Added his father Carl Baclit: “He’s a people person. This is a job that you have to deal with people and understand people. He just treats people the way he would want to be treated.”

Baclit has a more humble outlook on receiving the honor, saying his contributions to keeping La Habra safe are the result of an effective law enforcement team.

“The people I work with, my supervisors, have allowed me the freedom to do solid police work,” he said. “And my four-legged, furry friend makes me look good and takes no credit.”

The 2014 La Habra Officer of the Year, Corporal Nick Baclit, center, with his father Carl Baclit and his wife of 9 years Marlena Baclit. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The 2014 La Habra Officer of the Year, Corporal Nick Baclit, center, with his father Carl Baclit and his wife of 9 years Marlena Baclit.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

 

La Habra Police Corporal Nick Baclit, left, accepts the Officer of the Year award from Police Chief Jerry Price during a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in La Habra. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Police Corporal Nick Baclit, left, accepts the Officer of the Year award from Police Chief Jerry Price during a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in La Habra.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Corporal Nick Baclit smiles for his wife after receiving La Habra’s Officer of the Year award. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Corporal Nick Baclit smiles for his wife after receiving La Habra’s Officer of the Year award.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cpt. Paul Schifando of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Serving the City of La Habra, right, receives the 2014 Firefighter of the Year award from Assistant Fire Chief Chris Jackson, left, and American Legion Post 267 Second Vice Commander Sandy Schneeberger during a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in La Habra. Schifando has been serving as a firefighter for 27 years.  I’ve dedicated my life to this job.  "Ever since I was  little boy, I wanted to be a firefighter," Shifando said. "I’m living my dream. I love going to work every single day and I love taking care of people . It’s a rewarding job."  Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cpt. Paul Schifando of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Serving the City of La Habra, right, receives the 2014 Firefighter of the Year award from Assistant Fire Chief Chris Jackson, left, and American Legion Post 267 Second Vice Commander Sandy Schneeberger during a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in La Habra.
Schifando has been serving as a firefighter for 27 years.
“I’ve dedicated my life to this job. Ever since I was little boy, I wanted to be a firefighter,” Shifando said. “I’m living my dream. I love going to work every single day and I love taking care of people . It’s a rewarding job.”
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC