• Ask a Cop

    Got a question? Send it to Lt. Bob Dunn, public information officer. We'll publish answers to the most interesting ones.
  • Need Help?

    For non-emergencies, call (714) 765-1900.
    911 for emergencies
  • RSS Anaheim News

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS OC Crime News

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Retiring Anaheim sergeant worked drugs, gangs and supervised police leaders

Sgt. Michael Bustamante

Sgt. Michael Bustamante

Retiring Anaheim Sgt. Michael Bustamante took time Thursday to reflect on a more than three-decade career in law enforcement.

“I honestly don’t know what to do with myself,” said Bustamante, who turned in his badge later that day.  “The clock is ticking, but time seems to be standing still.”

Bustamante began his career as a cadet in 1980 after growing up in Pico Rivera. He saw a flier for the position while studying Criminal Science at Fullerton Community College.  Fullerton Ofc. Tommy De La Rosa pushed him in that direction, and served as a mentor early in Bustamante’s career.

“It was funny.  We bumped into each other a few years after I graduated the academy and were both like, ‘I know you from somewhere,’” he said.

The two worked together frequently as undercover investigators and became friends until De La Rosa’s untimely death in June, 1990 when he was ambushed by drug dealers while working a case.

“Oh it definitely had an impact on me both in terms of career and personally,” said Bustamante.  “He was about 10 years older than me and was a type of mentor.  After that, I made the decision not to grow as close to my fellow officers.  I couldn’t go through that pain again.”

Bustamante joined the narcotics unit and eventually made his way up to the major narcotics team and dealt with the illegal import and sale of drugs during the late 80’s – seizing countless kilos of cocaine worth millions of dollars.

He later transferred to the gang unit in an era he describes as “the height on sensationalism of gangs.  Every street had some new gang, each bringing a different challenge,” he said.

Bustamante worked seven years as an investigator between the narcotics and gang units and credits much of his development into the cop he became to that time.

From there, he returned to patrol as a field training officer, and relished the leadership and responsibility. Bustamante supervised then Ofc. Raul Quezada – now interim police chief –in the squad he managed and personally trained now Lt. Tim Schmidt, APD’s new public information officer.

Last year he was involved in a shooting that involved a suspect with an eight-inch knife. The District Attorney recently ruled the shooting was justified.

“It took all the experience from every job I had at the department to cope with everything that came from that unfortunate situation,” he said.

Bustamante has also raised three children: his oldest daughter just graduated from the OCSD police academy, his son is a Marine tanker, and his youngest daughter is in her second year of a full scholarship to play soccer at UC Riverside.

“When I see the great things they’re doing and their bright futures ahead, this crazy ride I’ve been on is worthwhile a hundred times over.  They are by far my greatest accomplishment.”

Police help homeless couple reunite with family in Tennessee

The couple pose for a photo before taking a bus to meet relatives

The couple pose for a photo before taking a bus to meet relatives

Before mental illness and drugs took over, the woman living in a tent at Modjeska Park worked as a UPS manager and her boyfriend appraised real estate.

Rebecca Smith, 43, and Timothy Robinson, 42, told police they had been drug free for the past few months. All they needed now, said Anaheim Police Officer Mathew Beck, was transportation to Tennessee where relatives waited to help.

Thanks in part to the city’s focus on serving the homeless and its charitable partners, the couple have a roof over their heads today, family support and hope for a brighter future.

“They were super thankful,” Beck said in late October. “I called them this morning, and his mother got on the phone and thanked me for getting them home.”

The police department recognizes the importance of finding effective new methods to help homeless people get assistance.

As part of a city-wide strategy lead by the Community Services Department, the police department recently partnered with Orange Health Care Agency to create a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT).  The purpose of PERT is to be a field-based assistance provider to people with mental health issues. The PERT Team consists of a full-time mental health clinician, Mari Tafoya, and officers Beck and Jacques Laffoon.

They respond to calls involving the mentally ill and proactively contact the homeless to provide services.

When the need is care at a mental or heath care facility the PERT Team provides transportation, facility processing and arranges follow-up care.

Sometimes, all somebody needs is a ride home.  That was the case on Oct. 26 for Smith and Robinson.

After meeting the couple, Beck and Laffoon called Coast-to-Coast, a non-profit foundation based in Fullerton.  Its CEO and founder, Marie Avena, responded with two bus tickets to Tennessee.  Beck and Laffoon helped pack the couple’s belongings and drove them to the bus station.

An 11-year APD veteran, Beck – who was already unofficially considered APD’s “homeless liaison officer”  —  volunteered for the new role.  “It’s rewarding, especially after experiences like this,” he said. “That’s why we’re here – to help.”

And there is plenty of help needed.

In July 2013, the Orange County Homeless Count & Survey Report concluded that 22 percent of the county’s unsheltered homeless were mentally ill and 45 percent were chronic substance abusers.