Mike Johnson and Jon Thomas are this year’s recipients at CLEF’s Cops & Robbers Ball to be held April 30

Published in the April 13-26, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo courtesy MHPD Officer Jeff Brandon Morgan Hill Police officer Santiago Fierro with Basco, the new MHPD K-9 officer.

Photo courtesy MHPD Officer Jeff Brandon
Morgan Hill Police officer Santiago Fierro with Basco, the new MHPD K-9 officer.

Morgan Hill is a safer community thanks to the efforts of the Community Law Enforcement Foundation, a nonprofit organization of local volunteers who assist the city’s police department by raising funds for special projects and equipment. CLEF will hold its fifth annual Cops & Robbers Ball April 30 to raise money for projects that enhance public safety.

Among the “guest stars” is the appearance of Basco, the K-9 officer who recently replaced the previous dog Sony, said Sharron Daniel, the event chair.

“We’ve also invited police department and fire department personnel to join us during the reception part of evening, the first hour and a half, to just talk to guests during the cocktail portion of the event,” she said.

This year’s annual CLEF Public Safety Award will go to two men who have been strong supporters of the nonprofit organization over the years. Mike Johnson owns the ACE Hardware store in Morgan Hill and Jon Thomas was the owner of the former Friendly Fred’s hot dogs shop.

“This year’s award is a little different because past years it’s been given for service toward public safety,” Daniel said. “This year is in honor of support of CLEF and the police department. Mike Johnson has always supported and donated to CLEF. And then the same with Jon. He would always support our public safety days when we would hold open houses at the police department headquarters.”

CLEF has provided support to the MHPD to purchase equipment that would not necessarily be a part of the city budget, Daniel said.

In 2008, funds raised by CLEF purchased the first dog for Morgan Hill’s K-9 unit. Members of the nonprofit organization soon started discussing how they would fund a replacement dog — the working life of a police K-9 is typically about five to seven years. The overall cost of a K-9 program can be more than $75,000 for the life of the dog. Many other police departments were struggling financially and having to cut their K-9 programs, so CLEF wanted to make sure Morgan Hill would never be placed in that same situation. That’s when the idea for CLEF’s annual fund-raising Cops & Robbers Ball gala event was born.

CLEF has had many other opportunities to partner with MHPD, and one of Daniel’s favorites is the child identification kits given out at local public events. CLEF provides parents with a complete kit that contains their child’s fingerprints and DNA.

Another noteworthy project was CLEF’s purchase of first-responder kits for all of the MHPD’s patrol cars. Officers now respond to all major medical calls and often arrive before the CalFire responders because they are already on patrol. In 2014, CLEF enhanced this program by purchasing automated external defibrillators with funds raised at the Cops & Robbers Ball.

“It’s not just about who dedicates their career or their volunteer hours. It takes everybody. It takes money, it takes time, it takes people who do it as a career to make Morgan Hill a safe place to live,” Daniel said.

A former president of CLEF, Daniel said she is personally active in the organization because citizen engagement makes a big difference in making Morgan Hill one of the safest cities in Santa Clara County.


“I wanted to be involved in a community where I felt my time would benefit the community and I always had friends in law enforcement and so it was kind of a natural place for me to head when I was looking to get involved in Morgan Hill.”

Among active supporters of the Cops & Robbers Ball in the past was former Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy who died last month. He helped with the first year in developing sponsorships for the gala’s fundraising, Daniel said.

“During his career as mayor, he was a big public safety supporter,” she said. “He always went to the ball. Anytime you have someone like a Dennis who supports an organization in town, it says a lot. Just because we are one of the few organizations that supports a city function, it is important that those in charge of the city support what we do.”

Tickets for the black tie optional event are $95 and can be purchased online by visiting CLEF’s website at www.morganhillclef.org.