Bauer, 37, was named Officer of the Year by the Tracy Police Department, an award he said surprised him.
“You never expect to get an award like that,” he said.
Bauer was the lead investigator in the killing of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu a year ago and also investigated the shooting at Amore’s Restaurant in October.
During the 15-day investigation into the disappearance and death of the girl — whose body was found a year ago Tuesday — Bauer said he worked about 260 hours, which is the equivalent of about 1½ months of work for him. Bauer said the case was emotionally and mentally draining, especially because it was divided into two parts: trying to find Sandra’s body, then looking for who killed her.
He said the case was the most difficult investigation he has ever worked.
“If you have kids, you’re usually more affected by it,” said the father of three boys.
Bauer said he originally wanted to be a firefighter, but he changed his mind after doing some “fast-paced” and “exciting” ride-alongs with his cousin, a police officer in Sacramento.
Almost 13 years after he graduated from the police academy in Sacramento, Bauer said, he loves his line of work.
“I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” he said.
Bauer worked in Sacramento, where he grew up, and Sunnyvale before he was hired by the Tracy Police Department in December 2001.
He worked in the patrol and narcotics unit before joining the investigative team in 2008.
“This job is different than sitting at a desk,” he said. “You’re only limited if you limit yourself.”
A Tracy resident since 2000, Bauer has a different perspective of the community than many of his neighbors. He said he is more attentive around the neighborhood, but he feels safe in his hometown.
Off-duty, Bauer spends time with his wife, Amber, and three sons. He has coached several youth soccer teams in Tracy, a sport his 7-year-old loves to play.
Between work and family life, Bauer also finds ways to give back to the town. About five years ago, he helped start Shop with a Cop, a joint charity with the police department, Walmart and Tracy Unified School District, in which police officers accompany local boys and girls on a holiday shopping trip.
He also raises money for the Special Olympics through fundraisers such as Tip A Cop, a day where local police officers serve food at a local restaurant and donate the proceeds. Tracy police officers have served food at places including Applebee’s, Chili’s and Texas Roadhouse.
Bauer said he enjoys helping out in the community and hopes to teach criminal justice at a local college some time in the future.
• In the Spotlight is a weekly profile in Our Town. To nominate someone or to comment on this story, contact Our Town Editor Jaclyn Hirsch at 830-4269. Meet Timothy Bauer
• Age: 37
• How long in Tracy: 10 years
• Education: California State University, Long Beach, bachelor’s degree in occupational studies and master’s in emergency services administration
• Occupation: Detective, Tracy Police Department
• Family: Wife, Amber; children, Noah, 7, and Micah and Mason, 2