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.”
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