According to his family, Sgt. Gilbert Polanco wanted to become a correctional officer ever since he was a young boy. It was while he was on a ferry ride with other children that they passed California’s longest serving prison – San Quentin. A correctional officer waved to the boat as it passed, sparking young Polanco’s interest in the job.
After 34 years working at San Quentin, Sgt. Polanco lost his battle with COVID-19 on Aug. 9, 2020. He is survived by his wife, son, and daughter. He worked most of his career at San Quentin after his graduation from the Basic Correctional Officer Academy in 1987. He also worked a stint at the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad from 1989 to 1990. He promoted to sergeant in 2001.
Throughout his career, Polanco was involved in outside activities and organizations, including the National Latino Peace Officers Association (NLPOA) Marin County Chapter. He served as a board member.
“Our warrior and Vice President, Gilbert Polanco, lost his fight to COVID,” the organization posted to its social media page. “Our chapter is incredibly saddened by the news, but grateful for the time we got to spend with him. Polanco’s guidance, leadership and spirit will live on, in our communities and in our hearts. He was a man of great character and integrity.”
CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz expressed sympathy for the family’s loss.
“Sgt. Polanco is an example of the best of CDCR and his passing deeply saddens us all. His dedication to public service will not be forgotten,” said Secretary Diaz. “On behalf of a grateful department we extend our prayers of comfort and condolences to the Polanco family during these difficult times.”
Warden (A) Ron Broomfield said San Quentin staff are mourning the loss.
“Our hearts are broken (at) the news of the passing of our beloved Sergeant, colleague, and friend. Sgt. Gilbert Polanco demonstrated unwavering commitment and bravery as a Peace Officer working the frontline every day during this devastating pandemic. His memory is carried on in the hearts of all the men and women who continue to battle this deadly virus at San Quentin,” Warden Broomfield said. “We mourn together with his family and pray for their peace and comfort in the midst of their immeasurable loss.”
Read Governor Gavin Newsom’s statement on Sgt. Polanco’s passing.
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor