CONCORD, CA — Officer Nooria Achakzai embodies a new social awareness that those wearing the badge need to have to effectively serve all members of the community.
After six years with the Concord Police Department, Achakzai is the Kiwanis Club of Concord’s Police Officer of the Year for 2020.
She expressed shock and surprise at being selected.
“This is the last thought I ever had,” she said. “I am very honored.”
The 30-year-old Concord native attended Ygnacio Valley High and competed on the varsity basketball and softball teams until her junior year in 2008 before moving to Arizona.
She got her first taste for a career in law enforcement by attending the Citizen’s Police Academy with the Tempe Police Department.
Her family moved back to California at the end of 2009, and she started at Cal State East Bay. Achakzai obtained a bachelor’s in criminal justice administration with a minor in psychology.
A dedicated professional
Dedication and hard work define two of her goals as a representative of the Concord Police Department.
“Really focusing on doing the little bit more than the average patrol office does,” Achakzai said about what she brings to job.
“Going above and beyond at the patrol level (and) focusing on investigations that a normal patrol officer would not do,” she added.
So too is professionalism, a characteristic tested as officers found themselves on the frontlines of the pandemic along with protests and riots being front and center.
While the past year shifted society’s perspectives on policing, Achakzai made it clear “maintaining professionalism has always been my No. 1 goal.”
Cracking down on firearms
As the pandemic persisted, Achakzai’s superiors lauded her tenacious spirit to continue identifying crime trends and performing enforcement efforts at a high level. Sgt. Jason Passama nominated her for the Kiwanis’ award, now in its 14th year.
Achakzai’s particular focus on the major public safety concern – criminal activity involving felons who illegally possess firearms – specifically garnered the attention of department leadership.
“During these enforcement efforts, she initiated traffic stops for various violations which ultimately resulted in the recovery of six illegal firearms,” Passama wrote. “In an attempt to ascertain further criminal activity and illegal possession of firearms, Achakzai authored search warrants in two of these cases – a rare occurrence at the patrol level. In addition to recovering several illegal firearms, she made numerous arrests of felons in possession of drugs for sale and felons in possession of stolen identification used for identity theft crimes.
“She is a great example to her fellow officers of why it is important to be proactive in locating and stopping dangerous criminal behavior before it becomes a public safety issue,” he added.
Focusing on mental health
During her interactions with the public while on the Concord force, Achakzai has gained greater awareness of inquiries for mental health services. “I didn’t expect to answer those questions,” she said.
Hardly one to back away from a need in the community, Achakzai stepped up to do the crisis intervention training available to police officers and now is trained as a crisis investigation officer with the department.
She sees the resources that are available as critical for putting those who are in need on better paths, and for when families are crying out to be brought back together.
“Mental health issues have increased a lot. There are a lot of people who have loved ones who need help, and they are at a loss looking for resources,” she said. “They are looking to law enforcement for resources.”
Councilmember Carlyn Obringer further showered praise during the July 30 luncheon to honor the officer, noting her personal pride as a woman and the important work Achakzai is doing to “build bridges’’ with minority voices in Concord and specifically the Islamic community.
“(Achakzai) is the embodiment of what I expect the Concord Police Department to be,” noted Police Chief Mark Bustillos.
Away from the job, Achakzai enjoys traveling and has visited Thailand, Germany and France. She hopes to resume venturing out to other countries once the pandemic is over.
Besides sports, hiking and biking are among her other pursuits. Along the way, she developed a knack for photography and videography and honed her talents on her own.
“I loved capturing memorable events through photography/videography,” Achakzai said.