It was the Fall of 1990.
Armando Corpuz, 21 at the time, was just starting a volunteer position as a Police Reserve Officer for the Milpitas Police Department.
Young and not yet fully aware of what he was getting himself into, Corpuz started doing ride-alongs with Field Training Officers (FTO).
“And what I realized was there was a lot to learn, and a lot of responsibility,” he said.
Flash forward to the following year:
Corpuz was hired as a full-time officer in April of 1991. He would now be going out solo, without an FTO there for guidance. He remembers his first day pulling out of the garage on his own — there was excitement coursing through him, yes, but he also felt the weight of the responsibility that he was undertaking. He had no idea what was in store for him, what the journey would hold.
Now, three decades later, as Milpitas Police Chief, Corpuz is looking back on his service to the community with feelings of deep gratitude for all his experiences and all the people he has met and worked with along the way.
These are the memories he will take with him after he officially retires on December 30 of this year.
Over the years, Corpuz has served as Police Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain. After serving as Captain for 9 years, Corpuz officially moved up to the role of Police Chief in January of 2018. When he became Chief, his intention was to always ensure that the culture of the department was healthy and strong.
“You can’t be great in your service if you’re not a healthy organization. My focus was always on building and maintaining a healthy organization,” said Corpuz. “When you do that, you get to stay focused on your services without the distraction of dysfunction or any issue that may be looming in the organization.”
Indeed, in a 2019 survey, the Milpitas Police Department received an 85% satisfaction rating from residents.
With his characteristic humility, Corpuz mentioned that the high rating isn’t his achievement, but that it stems from all the hard work and dedication of the Police Department staff. “I really give a lot of credit to the men and women working in the police department, especially our front line staff — dispatchers, police officers, evidence technicians, community service officers; right down to our records clerks and our front desk clerk … “
During his interview with The Beat, the Chief kept emphasizing the importance that he and the Police Department staff place upon being part of the fabric of the Milpitas community. This priority is something that they take very seriously. The Milpitas Police Department has worked hard to make connections with the community by establishing relationships with local organizations and also hosting past events like Coffee with a Cop and Breakfast with a Cop. At the beginning of 2020, the department also hosted a first-ever meeting with places of worship. With representatives from Ark Baptist Church, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Cathedral Of Faith, Christian Worship Center – Bay Area, Christ Community Church, and Ismaili Jamatkhana in attendance, the January event generated a lot of positive feedback. Corpuz himself has also regularly made the effort to attend community events and meetings so as to stay integrated with Milpitas residents.
“The MUSD PTA meetings were one of my favorites,” said Corpuz. “I got to sit down with people who represented Milpitas and their families, and just have very positive interactions with them. What I always appreciated was that the environment was one where we could always be honest — and I was always grateful for that.”
In 2018, Corpuz taught two semesters of Introduction to the Administration of Justice to Milpitas High juniors and seniors at the San Jose City College Extension. While teaching students about all aspects of the criminal justice system, Corpuz also got a chance to listen to their concerns and feedback, which he found incredibly valuable.
In some ways, that experience was like coming full circle: As a child, Corpuz grew up in the Sunnyhills neighborhood of Milpitas, and attended Weller Elementary School, Thomas Russell Middle School, and Milpitas High School.
Now, as Police Chief, he works closely with the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD), and has appreciated all the ways in which Superintendent Cheryl Jordan has consistently stayed connected and kept open communication with him for the betterment of the community. In fact, Superintendent Jordan told The Beat that the Police Community Relations office, which has sent in police officers to form connections with students and educators, has been “literally life-saving in a couple of instances.”
“Armando is a leader who has built on the foundation set by others before him and elevated the possibility of what we can do together to support our MUSD community,” shared Superintendent Jordan. “I understand that Armando is ready for discovering a new road in his life journey, and while I am so very glad for him, I do feel we have only just begun and will miss his presence in our Culture of We.”
Henry Robinson works as an At-Risk specialist, serving as a liaison between the school district and police department. As his office is located in the actual Milpitas Police Department building, he has worked in close proximity to Corpuz for years, and describes him as a “very genuine person” and “someone who leads by example.”
“One thing I noticed is that he always modeled leadership in his department,” said Robinson. “And although his office was upstairs, he’d come down out of his office and interact with the rank and file. And I think that was very important for people to see that and to witness that.”
Mayor Rich Tran also expressed gratitude for Corpuz’s work as Chief. In a City press release, Tran stated, “I am very grateful for Armando’s leadership in our City. He has always been focused on transparency and open communication and genuinely cared for the community in which he was raised. He will leave big shoes to fill.”
Given the COVID-19 pandemic — and the recent summer retirements of Milpitas Police Department fixtures Assistant Police Chief Kevin Moscuzza, Captain Raj Maharaj, and Captain Henry Kwong — this year has seen a lot of changes. The Milpitas Police Department has been working mindfully to ensure that they’re consistently creating safe and healthy conditions to protect their team, while also continuing to provide the high level of service that the community has grown accustomed to.
Through the past year, Corpuz himself has toyed with the idea of retiring. He has three children in college and one in high school, and his wife currently teaches Kindergarten at the Lammersville Unified School District in Mountain House. He wanted to be more available to his family, and have more time to spend with them. But it never felt like the right moment to retire. Every time, something new seemed to pop up, and Corpuz kept putting it off.
“What I learned as I’m watching things change: it’s never going to be the right time,” said Corpuz.
Jared Hernandez, who is currently Assistant Police Chief, will be stepping in as Acting Police Chief upon Corpuz’s departure. In 1991, Hernandez started out as a young Police Explorer, and remembers going on ride-alongs with Corpuz in the mid-nineties.
Said Hernandez, “Armando has been an outstanding leader for the Police Department and the city as a whole. His legacy here is always going to be his commitment to developing meaningful relationships with all members of the community. It’s something he was good at — and something I’d like to continue for the department after his retirement.”
When asked what he’ll do during retirement, Corpuz said that he would soon go looking for another job…
“I’m just never going to be idle,” said Corpuz. “It’s just not who I am. I have kids in college and I want to be there and help them more. Maybe going into another profession will help me do that…”
And what will he miss the most about his job?
“The people. The work is rewarding but it’s the outcome of the work and the people that benefit from it that’s the most rewarding,” said Corpuz.
Corpuz was sure to thank all of the people who have worked with him to support the community each day: all members of the Police Department, the Milpitas City Councilmembers, and the City’s Executive Team.
“I leave with a lot of gratitude,” said Corpuz. “I feel like I was blessed.”
This article has been updated.