Burbank police

Burbank Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse and Officer John Kaefer. (Courtesy of the Burbank Police Deptartment / December 21, 2012)

Growing up, John Kaefer always admired police officers.

“I had friends who became police officers, I wanted to be a part of that,” he said.

Kaefer eventually became the first in his family to pursue a law enforcement career. Now, after six years with the Burbank Police Department, he’s been named the 2012 Police Officer of the Year.

After about four years as a patrol officer, Kaefer was moved to the gang-enforcement detail, and on Thursday he was promoted to detective.

He liked “the investigative side of it,” he said. “That’s very gratifying to start at the beginning of a case and take it to the very end.”

As part of the gang-enforcement team, he largely responded to reports of graffiti in Burbank.

Kaefer was involved in the arrest of an independent contractor suspected of planting more than 100 graffiti tags citywide and then billing the city to remove them.

Upon noticing suspicious graffiti, Kaefer spearheaded the surveillance efforts on — and ultimately arrested — the man on suspicion of vandalism, burglary and forgery.

Supervisors praised Kaefer for his strong work ethic and his “heart to serve.”

“What I tell folks is that if I were to have more than one son, is that I would want a son like John,” said Burbank Police Capt. Mike Albanese.

The Southern California native lives with his wife and two kids.

Three other police department employees were recognized for their years of service this year.

Tania Cooper — a native of New Zealand and former legal assistant for DreamWorks and Disney — came to the department in 2005 as a records clerk. She now supervises the records department.

“She’s a tremendous help to us,” said Burbank Police Capt. Tom Angel in recognizing her as Civilian of the Year.

Range Master Dwayne Wolfer, who’s worked more than 27,500 hours in his nearly three decades with the department, was recognized as Reserve Officer of the Year.

As an adviser to Burbank’s SWAT team, he developed a comprehensive shooting program and training system, said Burbank Police Capt. Denis Cremins.

Wolfer is also a practicing dentist.

The department recognized Kaye Norris as Volunteer of the Year.

A former teacher who, according to Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse never missed a day of work in her 35 years in the classroom, Norris has been volunteering at the department’s front desk for five years.

---

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.