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San Leandro Police Department Officer of the Year Ryan Gill sits in a patrol vehicle at the San Leandro Police Department in San Leandro, Calif., on Thursday, April 14, 2011. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

SAN LEANDRO -- When Ryan Gill joined the police department four years ago, he wasted no time taking on as much responsibility as he could.

Gill serves as a crisis negotiator, works in the crime suppression unit, specializes in gathering gang intelligence and also instructs new recruits as a field training officer.

That very busy schedule is fueled by his passion for being a police officer, a job that Gill said he wouldn't trade for any other.

"This is my second family, my second home, my second life," he said.

Lt. Jeff Tudor, the department spokesman, said, "Ryan has so much knowledge, he's like a Rolodex. He does an excellent job in gathering intelligence and using resources and he proactively educates himself on current case law."

All of which made him an easy choice for San Leandro Police Department's Officer of the Year.

"I was honored and flattered; you never expect to be recognized," Gill said about recently receiving the award.

Gill, 33, graduated from Alameda High School in 1996, and he's been serving the public ever since.

He worked four years as an emergency medical technician, then joined the Oakland Police Department in 2000, before joining San Leandro's force in 2007.

He credited his police partner, Officer Anthony Morgan, for doing a great job and for giving him a lot of support.

Morgan said that Gill serves as a mentor to younger officers.

"I've been with San Leandro police for over five years, and I haven't met anyone with Ryan's drive and passion for the job," he said. "You never catch him doing the minimum. He really strives to exhaust all options when he's working."

Gill is a married father of two children, and along with his job, that doesn't leave much time for his favorite hobby: surfing.

He learned how to surf while growing up on Alameda's beaches, and today it serves as his rest and relaxation.

Yet, Gill sees at least one similarity between surfing and police work.

"If you get distracted, then you can get really hurt," he said. "You have to have a high degree of concentration and make sure you're not putting others or yourself in harm's way."

After more than a decade on the beat, Gill said he avoids burnout by focusing on what he can accomplish each day to make the city safer, preferring to focus on the journey rather than the destination.

He also praised the residents of San Leandro for making it easier to do a tough job.

"A lot of us work hard to make a difference, and I think everyone here knows we're out here for a purpose," he said. "Sometimes it's a thankless job, but it's very flattering to be recognized."

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.