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Solano diagnosed with 'aggressive' cancer, will take immediate leave of absence

Modified: Tuesday, Aug 13th, 2013

Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano is shown engaging with children on National Night Out Aug. 6. Solano was recently diagnosed with a rare form of aggressive cancer. (File photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano has been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of blood cancer and will take a leave of absence of up to six months as he undergoes treatment, Solano said Tuesday.

“So the battle has begun, and I am ready to take this challenge head-on in order to beat it, and I will,” Solano said in a letter to the Watsonville Police Department.

Solano declined to comment on the type of cancer, but said he received encouraging results from medical tests on Tuesday.

“I feel good, I feel great,” Solano said during a brief phone interview. “But my doctor said you don’t fool around — you have to go after this aggressively.”

Doctors found the cancer during a minor surgery recently, a type that required immediate and aggressive form of treatment.

“I want to focus on my strength and on what lies ahead and on keeping the department running as seamlessly as possible,” Solano said. “I know the department is in good hands now."

“I feel the support from the community,” he said. “I feel the love and prayers."

City Manager Carlos Palacios is expected to announce Solano’s replacement Wednesday morning.

“This has come as a shock to the Watsonville community and to this department,” Palacios said. “Our foremost desire is to support Chief Solano and his family.”

Replacing Solano will be further confused as city leaders mull a tax measure that would fund the Watsonville Fire and Police departments, a measure in which Solano was slated to take a leadership role, Palacios said.

“People are really rallying around Chief Solano,” Palacios said. “He is very loved in this city, and that’s very important as he goes through this — he is going to beat it.”

Solano has been involved in law enforcement since he was a Watsonville Police cadet in high school. He graduated from Watsonville High School in 1982, and took criminal justice courses at Cabrillo College and Gavilan College.

He started at the Santa Cruz Police Department, where he worked for three years and was officer of the year in 1985.

He joined the Watsonville Police Department in 1987. In addition to his position as Deputy Chief, he has also served as a field training officer, a narcotics agent, a Sergeant and a Lieutenant. He became chief in 2010 after Terry Medina retired.

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