As a retired police officer, it is no surprise that when it comes to our passengers and our coach operators, safety is always top of mind for Field Supervisor Oscar Nunez. Over the last few months, Oscar has skillfully gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of our drivers and our riders in those less-than-ideal situations that may arise at a moment’s notice. This month, the Omnitrans Board of Directors publicly recognized Oscar for his commendable work and named him Employee of the Quarter for April 1-June 30, 2019.
“The most important aspect of my job is making sure that our passengers and drivers are safe, so the award was a pleasant surprise,” says Oscar. “The drivers must be safe and feel safe to better serve our riders and perform at their best. Likewise, the community members who rely on Omnitrans for transportation should always feel safe boarding our buses.”
Oscar’s passion for public safety is second nature, which is not unexpected from a US Army veteran who served local police and sheriff’s departments for 24 years before making the transition into transit. He reveals that the change in interactions with people is the most fulfilling part of the job.
“As a police officer, you usually deal with people at their worst times, or when they are calling out for help,” he explains. “So, when a passenger talks to you about something going on in their life, and you can help get them through things, that feels great. Our job is to help our riders get somewhere but being able to connect on a human level is the most fulfilling thing.”
But on rare occasions, this sense of familiarity can take an interesting turn. One day, while in his office at the San Bernardino Transit Center, Oscar caught a glimpse of breaking news on the break room TV. Police were on the lookout for a murder suspect in San Bernardino, and Oscar recognized the individual in question.
“I knew that kid,” says Oscar, who remained vigilant throughout his daily routine. “Shortly after that, I spotted him in the patio, and I called 9-1-1. He was apprehended by police. Although I knew the kid and had many interactions with him, he was a dangerous individual and I could not turn a blind eye to the story. If he had done something wrong, then he needed to pay for the consequences of his actions.”
A few weeks later, Oscar responded to a hazardous material spill onboard an sbX coach. He assisted with evacuation of the coach and surrounding area, ensuring that everyone stood downwind to avoid the chemical fumes. Once the fire department took over and passengers were safely transported to another coach, Oscar cautiously followed the coach to make sure the driver reached the bus yard without complications.
Oscar’s take-charge attitude came into play yet again later, when a coach operator called for assistance with an individual on her bus that was acting unlawfully but had gotten off before he could be apprehended. Oscar noted the details provided to police during the incident report about this encounter.
Later that day, the operator noticed the suspect heading toward the Route 14 bus stop and notified dispatch. Oscar and fellow Field Supervisor Linda C. responded to the scene. Oscar discreetly drove alongside the Route 14 bus and made positive identification of the individual, relaying the information to dispatch and Rialto PD.
Oscar was proactive and quickly concocted a well-thought out plan that would not alarm other passengers but lead to the safe capture of this individual. He phoned in the bus driver and asked them to pull over as if the coach was experiencing mechanical issues. This allowed time for police to arrive and apprehend the suspect. The plan was flawlessly executed, and a dangerous individual was taken into custody and away from our passengers.
“That was a team effort driven by Coach Operator Tanisha S. that Linda and I responded to,” said Oscar. “I have to share the credit with them on a job well done.”
Coming from the law enforcement world prepared Oscar for dealing with irate customers and bus accidents, but he is grateful for the way in which this position has challenged him. For example, he had previously dealt with transit riders as a contracted officer for MTA subway stations in Los Angeles, but at Omnitrans, it is about providing a positive customer experience for our riders.
Although he retired from law enforcement, Oscar is still a part-time officer at a small town a couple of hours away. He drives out there on his days off from Omnitrans, which is a testament to his life-long passion for serving the public and protecting their safety. He looks forward to growing with Omnitrans and continuing to enhance our safety and security.
“That’s the wonderful thing about this job. In a lot of ways, it’s like doing police work, only without a gun, and you are not taking anyone to jail,” he laughs.