Like many boys, Gerardo and Fabio Serrato loved playing cops and robbers when they were in elementary school.
“But I won’t tell which one of us was the robber!” chuckled Gerardo.
And he has a good reason. Today, the 30-year old identical twins are sergeants for the California Highway Patrol working in the Modesto office.
“I wanted to go into law enforcement to be able to provide and serve the public, to make a difference. Specifically in the areas that we grew up in,” Fabio said. “Being brought up and raised in South Modesto and seeing all the issues that took place there, made me want to give back to my community.
“We see this as a calling.”
Gerardo agrees and explains how a photograph he took with a police officer in third grade prompted his curiosity. “I knew I wanted to be a cop. My mom still has that picture of me on top of the police motorcycle. When I was a kid I always though it was the coolest thing to be a police officer and as I grew older and knew what a police officer did, which is to serve the public, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
The oldest of four children to immigrant farm workers from Michoacán, México, the twins were born in French Camp — Gerardo is the oldest by one minute.
The sergeants were raised in South Modesto, a heavily-Latino neighborhood, which unfortunately has been inflicted by gangs and violence.
They both recall not being able to ride their bikes to the corner store.
“The neighborhood was worse when were growing up,” Gerardo said. “We were 13-years-old and we had to stay in front of our house. We could not go left and we could not go right because my mom would be out there calling us. Security was always an issue. She was making sure we would not be running into the wrong crowd.”
Fabio agreed, and added that because their father worked long hours out in the fields — which he still does today — their mother was responsible for keeping them in line.
“Because it was so tough, our mom was very strict with us. She did a great job raising us, making sure we had our values and morals,” Fabio said.
Gerardo added: “Had we not had those values at an early age from my mother, we would not be able to be in law enforcement.”
The 2003 Thomas Downey High School graduates went on to earn a Criminal Justice degree from California State University, Fresno and immediately enrolled in the CHP Academy in Sacramento. They graduated from the academy in 2006.
The twins always did everything together.
“It’s like always having a best friend. We are identical in any way, shape or form. We’ll speak to each other and we can finish each others sentence but at the same time, it was very competitive. We would always compete in school for the better grades,” Fabio said. “When we graduated from the academy, I had seniority on him by my badge number, because I would do more pushups!”
He laughs and adds: “It’s true!”
From always taking the same classes to working the same part-time job, in 2007 the twins would, for the first time, go separate ways.
Fabio went to Los Ángeles, Gerardo went to Oakland.
“That was hard, but we would keep in touch. We knew why we were doing it,” recalled Gerardo. “It was always in the back of our heads that as soon we were able to come back close to home and be able to work together, we would take that opportunity.”
That opportunity showed up the following year, when Fabio would go to Oakland and work alongside his brother.
In 2013, the twins passed their sergeant exam — yes, at the same time. Gerardo went on to work in Merced while Fabio remained in Oakland. It wasn’t until January 4th of this year that the twins started working in the Modesto CHP office.
They were home again.
“It feels awesome to be back in our community,” Fabio said.
As sergeants they are in charge of field supervision and administrative duties, so whenever they get a chance to go out on patrol, they take it.
“We get to work together every Wednesday, so that very first Wednesday together, we went back to were we grew up and we patrolled together,” Fabio said. “It’s important to establish and build a relationship with the community in that area. It feels good.”
Speaking Spanish to those residents has made a huge difference, they said.
“Many in the Hispanic community have a negative perception of law enforcement and to be able to connect with them at their level, in Spanish, and coming from the same type of background they come from it’s a very nice feeling,” Fabio said. “It puts a lot of people at ease and when we tell them that my parents were born in Michoacán, sometimes they are in awe.”
But the twins also like to joke around when people react to their identical appearance.
“People will be like, ‘are you brothers? you look alike,’ and we will say, ‘no, I just met him at work,’ ” chuckled Fabio.
Their colleagues also quip about telling them apart while they work the same shift on Wednesdays, they said.
“This morning I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and they said for me to keep wearing it and Fabio to wear a long-sleeve shirt that way they could tell us apart. They’ve joked about putting an initial on our foreheads!” Gerardo laughed. “My brother is a little taller and thinner so that is the first thing I tell them, ‘just look for the thinner, taller one, that is Fabio.’ ”
Good thing the twins have a great sense of humor... and a dose of healthy competition, too. Remember that Fabio took seniority over Gerardo because of the number of push ups he could do in the CHP Academy. Today, that role has reversed.
“When we took the sergeant exam, Gerardo beat me, so now he has seniority over me,” explains Fabio. “Now the joke between the captains is that when we take the lieutenant exam, I have to win back the seniority over him.”
We’ll just have to wait and see what that outcome is.
In the meantime, the sergeants want to reiterate the importance of showing the youth in South Modesto, and the rest of the community, what an education can also do for them.
“When they see us in their neighborhood, I think that in a way it motivates them because they realize that you can come to this country and be whatever you want to be — despite the fact that you grew up in that neighborhood. When we tell them our story, you can tell that it motivates them and they go talk to their kids; it’s inspiring for them,” Fabio said. “Mom would always say, ‘they can take everything away from you, but nobody can take your education away from you.’ She was extremely strict, but we owe this to my mom.”
Gerardo added: “Our parents wanted us to succeed, my mom would always tells us that she wanted us to get an education, education, education; she was constantly pushing it. We want the new generation to hit the books. Educate yourself. Knowledge is power, knowledge is wealth.”
The twins admit that working in law enforcement hast its risks but the rewards outweigh those dangers.
“Yes, it is a dangerous job, but the gratitude you feel when you help someone else, you can’t put a price on that,” Gerardo said.
“What he said and just what the department stands for. We truly love this profession, I love this department,” added Fabio. “Being able to be a part of this organization and be able to go out there and provide the highest level of safety, service and security to the people speaks volumes. That alone makes me happy to be able to be a part of this department.”
They both have had their share of difficult incidents but nothing that has deter their passion for what they do on a daily basis.
“I think it reemphasizes why we do this job, we want to come back the next day and put on our uniform, go out there and educate. I cannot see myself doing anything else,” Gerardo said.
Fabio added, “I truly, truly love this job.”
The Serrato twins bought homes close to one another, they both have children: Gerardo has two boys and Fabio has 1 boy and 2 girls; their first-born are juniors; and, their wives are also Thomas Downey High graduates.
When asked if they would allow their children to go into law enforcement, Gerardo jokingly responds: “We would be supportive yes. But it would have to be the California Highway Patrol!”
Their parents still live in the area. Their 21-year-old brother is considering a career in law enforcement, while the youngest of the four is an 11-year-old junior high student, who still has plenty of time to decide if he too wants to follow in his older brothers’ steps.
And as to who played the cop and who played the robber as children, we’ll just never know. But one thing they did clear up is how much truth there is to the notion that identical twins can feel each others pain.
“If something has happened to one of us or something is going on — without even talking to each other — we will know. We’ll have a feeling that something is wrong,” Fabio explained. “Not the physical part though. If someone punches you, the other will not feel it. No, none of that.”
Gerardo: “Love, love food, but enchiladas are my favorite Mexican dish.”
Fabio: “Everything, but I can eat ribs, all day long!”
Flour or corn tortillas
Gerardo: Vicente Fernández
Fabio: Vicente Fernández and Marco Antonio Solís
Favorite vacation spot
Gerardo: Dominican Republic
Fabio: Islas Mujeres, Cancún
Favorite Football team
Both: Dallas Cowboys
The CHP is currently hiring, for details visit: www.chp.ca.gov/chp-careers