Athletes, “This is going to pass, and we are going to get back to normal. We all look forward to the day when we can get together. After a day of spending time with the you all, officers come back with smiles on their faces and more relaxed than before,” Salvaggio explains.
How did you learn about Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) events?
“I have a nephew with autism. My brother invited me to come to one of my nephew’s bowling competitions … about 20 years ago,” Salvaggio said. Every department that Salvaggio has worked for since then has been a part of Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) events. Salvaggio mentioned, ‘’It makes me smile that they kept it going, even after me.”
LETR has events like Polar Plunges, Firetruck Pulls, Tip A Cops, and more going on year-round. Which LETR events have your department been involved in the past?
“All of them! We have a team at every one of those events. We host boot drives where we collect money on the street too. It’s sad that we haven’t had many of those events this year. We’re planning a city-wide drive because the need is still out there. We have to find unique ways to help during the pandemic,’’ Salvaggio said.
Since Salvaggio serves on the board of the Chief’s Association he is able to network with an abundance of different businesses and companies. He enjoys telling them about the work his department has done with LETR and SOTX.
What’s your favorite LETR memory?
“Last year at the Breakfast with Champions I was the keynote speaker. Looking out in the audience and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, and last year’s summer games at Morgan’s Wonderland. If I had to pick, those are my favorites,’” Salvaggio recollected. Morgan’s Wonderland is a theme park built to support inclusion and diversity for people of all abilities. Salvaggio calls it, “an amazing place for everyone to get together and have fun.”
Since Salvaggio had many positive examples of law enforcement growing up and attended a high school for students who wanted to become police officers, it is no surprise that he works in law enforcement. Salvaggio spent his first 29 years of service with the San Antonio. He has worked in patrol, SWAT, narcotics, as a detective, and in community relations. It is unusual for an officer to have experience in SWAT and community engagement. Salvaggio’s diverse police background gave him the experience and knowledge to serve in his current role, Chief of Police with the Leon Valley Police Department. Chief Salvaggio is an advocate for accountability and analysis; he promotes these characteristics within his department by providing strategic mechanisms for success and mentoring. With the support of his wife of 32 years, Salvaggio has made a career of his law enforcement work in the San Antonio area.
Has your life in uniform affected your life and perspective out of uniform? If so, how?
There was one moment that stuck out to Chief Salvaggio. He recalled talking to “ a little old lady, who was a prisoner in her own home because of the things going on outside. People would gather on her porch and sell drugs. She feared calling the police and retaliation,” Salvaggio said. The fear of police and concern for safety deeply troubled Salvaggio. He assured the woman that he would do his best to protect her. “You get a different perspective when you deal with Special Olympics too,” Salvaggio digressed. Returning to his story he said, “She’s the sweetest old lady I’ve dealt with. She now knows that if she calls we are coming and there to help her.” The relationship with this elderly woman changed his perspective on communities and citizens involved in distressed areas.
It’s no secret that public outcry about police brutality has become more common. Specifically, how have protests changed the way your department engages with the community?
“For us, nothing has changed. Our department has always been big on working with the community. We are part of the community, we are not at odds. I get articles out of the media and we analyze situations within our department. We banned chokeholds (referenced in the news articles) about 20 years ago. It’s sad that some agencies have not progressed. When our department asked for advice on some of these situations it is flattering on one hand but sad on another,” Salvaggio said solemnly.