Staff

Claire O'LearyClaire O’Leary – Executive Director
Claire was promoted to Executive Director at STAR/PAL in 2017. Having joined the organization in 2012 as the Program Partnership and Resource Coordinator, her passion for the community and public safety led to her growth within the ranks. Claire was promoted to Director of Communications and Special Events in 2013, followed by a period as Interim Executive Director in 2015 prior to her promotion to full-time Executive Director.

Raised in San Diego, Claire comes from a background in athletics having played lacrosse at Santa Clara University, and working for the San Diego State Athletic Department in Marketing and Development from 2010-2012. She has worked in public safety as a Lifeguard I for the City of Del Mar since May of 2006 and is a certified EMT. Claire can be contacted at coleary@starpal.org or 619-531-2559.

Portia Dawson

Portia Dawson – Director of
Program Partnerships
A native of Ohio and mother of two adult daughters, Portia began her days at STAR/PAL as a mentor for the Mentoring Youth for Tomorrow (MYT) program, during which time she was named STAR/PAL’s “Volunteer of the Year.” Portia holds an A.A.S. in Mental Health Technology and recently graduated from Ashford University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Criminal Justice. Portia has worked previously with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation – Juvenile Parole Office, the San Diego Center for Children, and community based mental health treatment in Ohio. She attended leadership development training in 2012 as STAR/PAL’s Emerging Leader, courtesy of the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Builder Award received by STAR/PAL in 2011, and was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from Community Housing Works for her assistance in the Face Life Community Service Program. Portia can be reached at pdawson@starpal.org or (619) 515-2706.

CourtneyCourtney Photo 2 Dalcour – Special Events Manager
Courtney joined STAR/PAL in November 2015 and is a San Diego native. She grew up playing competitive sports and decided to move to Eugene, Oregon to attend the University of Oregon to obtain a degree in Sports Marketing. Go Ducks! Upon graduating college, Courtney interned with the San Diego Chargers and then worked with Lincoln Military Housing providing free events for local military families. Courtney is married to a naval sailor stationed in San Diego and enjoys traveling, playing softball, watching sports, being with family and going to plays. Courtney can be reached at cdalcour@starpal.org or (619) 533-5720.

Ellen Heigert – Office Manager
Ellen can be reached at efheigert@pd.sandiego.gov or (619) 531-2718.

Evan Ziegler – STAR/PAL Lieutenant, City of San Diego Police Department
San Diego Police Lieutenant Evan Ziegler has been with the department since 1988.  Prior to entering the police academy, Lt. Ziegler was a member of the department’s Police Explorer/Cadet program for 3 years.  Lt. Ziegler has worked many assignments including patrol, new technologies, juvenile services, investigations, neighborhood resource team and since 2015, he served as the Lieutenant of the Juvenile Administration Unit.  Lt. Ziegler can be reached at eziegler@pd.sandiego.gov or (619) 531-2747.

Ben McCurryBen Photo 2 –
STAR/PAL Sergeant, City of San Diego Police Department
San Diego Police Sergeant Ben McCurry has been with the department since 2000 and has worked at numerous divisions in the city.  Sgt. McCurry worked as the Juvenile Services Sergeant in Mid City Division prior to being assigned to STAR/PAL.  He served in the US Army as a Military Police Officer for five years and has also worked as a corrections officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  He is a member of the National Latino Police Officers Association and has been dedicated to helping the communities of San Diego and our youth.  Sgt. McCurry can be reached at bmccurry@pd.sandiego.gov or (619) 515-2701.

carlosamezcuaCarlos Amezcua –
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Diego Police Department
San Diego Police Officer Carlos Amezcua has been with the department since 1996 and joined STAR/PAL in February of 2009. Prior to joining the police department, Officer Amezcua worked two years for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department as a Correctional Deputy. Since joining the police department, he has been assigned to the Crime Suppression Team and the Juvenile Services Team. Officer Amezcua was also a D.A.R.E. instructor, teaching the Elementary School Safety Program in Spanish. In 2005, the National Latino Police Officer’s Association recognized Office Amezcua and named him the “Latino Police Officer of the Year.” That same year, STAR/PAL named him “Volunteer of the Year.” Officer Amezcua can be reached at camezcua@pd.sandiego.gov or (619) 531-1501.

Officer Amber BanningAmber Banning-
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Diego Police Department

San Diego Police Officer Amber Banning has been with the department since 2001. Prior to joining the STAR/PAL team in November 2015, Officer Banning worked patrol in Mid City and Western Division. Officer Banning then became an officer on the Juvenile Services Team where she served schools and families in the Point Loma and Ocean beach communities. During her time on JST she took on the responsibility of becoming the liaison to The Center for Children where she worked to build trust and confidence between the patrol officers, staff and clients with special needs. Officer Banning was born and raised in San Diego. She graduated from Kearny High School where she excelled in Soccer and Swimming and also played Volleyball and Water Polo. She attended Mesa College and played for the Mesa Volleyball team before transferring to Miramar Community College where she received an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice. Officer Banning still enjoys playing soccer and spending time with her family. Officer Banning can be reached at abanning@pd.sandiego.gov. 

Ana Diaz-Pina – Senior Probation Officer, County of San Diego Probation Department
San Diego County Probation Officer Ana Diaz Pina has been with San Diego Probation Department since 2005. Prior to joining the STAR/PAL team in March of 2015, Officer Diaz- Pina worked with the Mandatory Supervision Division out of the Central Region. She has worked at East Mesa Juvenile Hall as a Correctional Officer, Hall of Justice in Investigations, and at the South Bay Probation Office in the High Risk and Post Release Community Supervision units. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership Management. Officer Diaz-Pina enjoys playing soccer and spending quality time with her family. Ana can be reached at ana.pina@sdcounty.ca.gov or (619) 531-2715.

Chris Johnson – Deputy Sheriff, County of San Diego Sheriff’s Department
San Diego Sheriff Deputy Chris Johnson began his career in 1988 and was in the first Corrections Academy within the department. Deputy Johnson has received numerous unit citations and commendations, which include his detective work on the Chelsea King case, and in 2011 he was named Deputy of the Year. Since his promotion to Juvenile Detective he has mentored and diverted hundreds of youth from the justice system. In 2012 he developed a diversion program for first-time juvenile traffic offenders. He also worked jointly with the Sheriff’s Juvenile Unit and Hall of Champions to create the Balboa Park two-day overnight camp for first-time offenders which successfully continues to serve hundreds of youth each year. In 2016, Detective Johnson retired and became a part-time Deputy assigned to the STAR/PAL Office.  Chris can be reached at christopher.johnson@sdsheriff.org or (619) 531-2719.

 

denise2Denise Mills –
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Diego Police Department

San Diego Police Officer Denise Mills has been with the department since 2000. Prior to joining the STAR/PAL team in 2010, Officer Mills served on Southeastern Patrol for over 10 years, worked with Vice and Juvenile Services, and was an Acting Detective within the department.  Officer Mills was awarded a Special Commendation for being a valuable member of the community from Council Member Marti Emerald, and has been named the department “Employee of the Month” a number of times.  Officer Mills is a San Diego native and has a great passion for helping better her community. Officer Mills can be reached at drmills@pd.sandiego.gov or (619) 533-5795.

tommiller

Tom Miller –
STAR/PAL Officer, City of San
Dieg
o Police Department – Reserve Officer
San Diego Police Officer Tom Miller has been with the department since 1986 and was named the STAR/PAL “Volunteer of the Year” before joining the team in 2007. Prior to STAR/PAL, Officer Miller worked several assignments within the department including: Special Enforcement Division, TAC Bikes, D.A.R.E., and Juvenile Services, and he has been awarded several Commanding Officer Citations for his work within the department.  Officer Miller also served as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 8 years before joining the police department, and played international basketball during his time with them.  He is currently working on completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice at San Diego State University. in 2017, Officer Miller retired and became a reserve officer assigned to STAR/PAL. Tom can be reached at tmiller@pd.sandiego.gov.