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Police department shows its holiday spirit

One of the beneficiaries from Anaheim's Family Justice Center's "Adopt A Family" poses with Santa (Sgt. Mike Brucks).

One of the beneficiaries from Anaheim’s Family Justice Center’s “Adopt A Family” poses with Santa (Sgt. Mike Brucks).

For the last few weeks, Anaheim Police Department collaborated with local businesses and volunteers to hold “Adopt A Family,” “Shop with a Cop,” and Toy Drives, delivering hundreds of gifts and Holiday meals.

“The Holidays are a time for giving and offer great opportunities to connect with our residents,” said newly appointed Chief of Police Raul Quezada.  “With the phenomenal support we get, we can make some very special things happen.”

Anaheim’s Family Justice Center adopted 42 families – at approximately $300 per family – and delivered gifts December 20, with Sgt. Mike Brucks appearing as Santa for the fourth consecutive year.  This was the fifth annual event.

Cops 4 Kids stuffed the jailbus – adorned with a red nose and antlers – with the hundreds of gifts they’d spent almost a week wrapping.  Families came to pick up their gifts from the bus-turned reindeer.  Those who couldn’t make the trip had their gifts hand-delivered by cops in patrol cars.

This came after Cops 4 Kids’ “Shop with A Cop” event, where police officers were paired with in-need students for an hour shopping in an otherwise empty department store.

Ofc. Pat Bradley and the rest of the Traffic Bureau adopted the Pech family, whose hasn’t regained mobility since being struck by a car October 11.

“I’m glad we were able to put something like this together for the family,” said Bradley.  “The Holidays can be extremely tough for families that are dealing with trauma so we’re trying to do anything we can for that family.”

The campaigns were held in addition to the daily goings on in the department.  Interim Police Chief Quezada was named permanent Chief seven months after initially assuming that role.

“This time of year is a great opportunity for us to show ourselves in a different light,” said Quezada.  “It’s important to show that we are people, too, beneath our uniforms and these events go a long way in sending that message.”

Quezada named permanent police chief

Police Chief Raul Quezada

Police Chief Raul Quezada

Anaheim’s City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to permanently name Raul Quezada its Chief of Police.  The election comes seven months after Quezada was tabbed as Interim Police Chief, following John Welter’s retirement.

“It’s always been a goal, ever since I began the academy about 20 years ago at Rio Hondo,” said Quezada.  “I couldn’t be more excited to head such a great organization and serve such an amazing and diverse city.”

Quezada grew up one of five children in Pico Rivera and first imagined himself a cop with “Chips,” the popular television show, as inspiration.  He paid his own way through the first half of the police academy and was eventually hired by Los Angeles Police Department.

Three years later, he joined APD.  After 17 years with the department, Quezada is the first Latino Police Chief in the history of Anaheim.

“It’s definitely a source of pride in that I can be a role model to Latinos and other minorities out there,” he said.  “But more than anything, I think of my father and the sacrifices he made in coming here, working to provide for us, and now I get to represent that hard work.  That’s probably the most satisfying aspect of this position; doing this for my dad.”

Quezada was named Interim Police Chief in May amid significant civic unrest and views earning the city’s trust as his number one priority.  In response, he has since overseen several changes in policy.

One of product is the “Chief’s Neighborhood Advisory Council,” a monthly meeting to converse about the goings on in various parts of the city.  Thursday night, a representative from the council asked, “What kind of response have you gotten to forming our group?”

Quezada responded, “We’ve learned that we can’t expect the city to blindly trust what we’re doing without communication.  And honestly, I prefer the open communication because it helps provide a face to the community we’ve been entrusted to protect.”

While progress has been made, Quezada insists there is much to be done achieve his goals as Chief.  He is confident that, with the help of his command staff and the policemen and women that support him, continued growth is realistic to expect.

After the meeting, one of the representatives who happened to be dressed as Santa Claus approached Quezada.  “So I guess the last thing is, what do you want for Christmas?”  He asked.

“I already got it,” answered Chief Quezada.

‘Shop with a Cop’ pairs students and officers for holiday shopping

Cops and kids wait in line before Target opens their doors.

Cops and kids wait in line before Target opens their doors.

An empty department store, complimentary $100 gift card, and a police officer to help with your shopping sound this time of year, how great does that sound?  For 55 in-need students, that dream scenario was a reality.

“It’s always great to come out and show a different side to these kids and their families,” said Interim Police Chief Raul Quezada.  “We get incredible support from our city – and this event looks to be a huge success.  We hope to hold more in Christmases to come.”

Early Monday morning, Anaheim Police Department’s Cops 4 Kids (C4K) partnered with Target Corporation to host its first annual “Shop with a Cop,” pooling $5,500 in donations from various businesses to allow each kid a $100 gift certificate to the store.

Students who were selected had no shortage of gift ideas.

Manuel Nolasco, 11 of Ponderosa Elementary, had the typical toys and clothes he’d enjoy this Christmas but also bought a pack of socks for his grandmother, exemplifying what the event was about.

Last week, Jacob Palacios told Ofc. Jake Gallacher – who helped organize the event – that all he wanted was “a pair of shoes and some clothes to to stay warm.”  Gallacher decided to pair him with Chief Quezada.

Quezada brought Jacob outside where his parents waited.  He met the Palacios family, and Jacob told Quezada he wanted to be a cop someday.  “We’d love to have you,” the chief said.

“We’re really excited and grateful for everything the police department has done for us,” said Jacob’s father.  “We’d be really proud if Jacob became an officer.  But he better work really hard for it.”

“Unfortunately, opportunities like this won’t come along often for these kids,” said Gallacher.  “We’re incredibly proud that we can bring some extra joy to them and their families today and in years to come.”

Monday was one of several charitable events APD has planned.  Sunday, C4K will hand out 50 Christmas turkey meals from noon until 3:00 p.m. and, on Tuesday, the department’s jail bus will be transformed into a giant reindeer for the first-ever C4K stuff-a-bus event.  The bus will go to various schools and businesses to gather gifts until the Adopt-A-Family, held December 23.

Anaheim cop’s career exceeds expectations

Ofc. Amador Nunez coaches from his seat on the Loara bench during a 5-0 win at Magnolia High School

Ofc. Amador Nunez coaches from his seat on the Loara bench during a 5-0 win at Magnolia High School

Senior Officer Amador Nuñez, a 20- year veteran of Anaheim Police Department and lifelong Anaheim resident, looks back on a career in law enforcement centered on community service and a legacy he never thought possible.

“If you would’ve told me when I started almost 30 years ago (he was hired at APD after eight years at LAPD) that I’d have the career I’ve been blessed with, I would’ve thought you were crazy,” he said.  “When I retire I’ll do so knowing I gave back to the city that made me who I am today.  It’s pretty surreal.”

Nuñez estimates more that more than half his career has been spent focusing on youth programs.  He spent time as a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer and in the Safe Schools program, but he is most proud of the Anaheim Police Activities League; (APAL, now Cops 4 Kids) which he established with Diana Canales in 2004.

Nuñez and Canales developed lesson plans around physical fitness, training students for the President’s Fitness Test and incorporated Military Drill to teach discipline.  The most powerful lesson he wanted to get across, however, was accountability with those students.

He has made his share of arrests, too.  On April 9, 2009, Nuñez was patrolling the south section of Anaheim and recalls a slow night.  As he made his way towards Angel Stadium, he responded to a serious collision on Lemon and Orangethorpe and responded immediately; finding a grizzly accident but no driver responsible.  Among the victims of the crash: late Angels starting pitcher Nick Adenhart.

After driving around the area of the collision Nuñez put himself in the suspect’s shoes and figured the best place to find him would be on the freeway.  He tore off to the 91 freeway and, moments later, saw a man matching the description of the suspect responsible for the crash.

He stopped to get out of his car and yelled after the man – Andrew Gallo, 22 at the time – walking along the freeway.  Gallo took off and Nuñez gave chase; finally catching him about a half-mile down the road.

“The thing I remember most about that night was seeing the girl (Courtney Stewart, 20) lying there; so beautiful.  All I could think about were my daughters.  When I saw her lying there, I thought, ‘I gotta get this guy,’” said Nuñez.  “That was probably the biggest arrest of my career.”

The daughters he immediately thought of that night three years ago are responsible for a 21-year coaching career culminating with his current job at Loara High School as the girls varsity head coach – a job he’s held for the last nine years.  When coaching, he shares the same lessons from his days in DARE, Safe Schools, and APAL.

“To me, the most important job as a coach is to mentor these young women.  It’s also a great opportunity for kids to see a police officer and know that we are more than just our uniform.  I’d much rather have them call me coach than Officer Nuñez,” he said.

Nuñez remembers hoping for a class of 25 and had 60 students show up his first year running APAL.  That year’s graduating class had more than 125 students.  Last June, Cops 4 Kids had a graduating class of more than 300 students.  The continued success of those programs has been a source of extreme pride, he says.

“Catching bad guys is great and obviously a huge part of the job, but I originally got into law enforcement to help people,” said Nuñez.  “I wanted to focus on community service kind of things, especially working with kids.  When I retire, I’m happy to say I’ll be able to keep making that impact.”

Anaheim police department’s traffic bureau adopts a family for Christmas

Jennifer Pech receives a Thanksgiving meal from Ofc. Pat Bradley

Jennifer Pech receives a Thanksgiving meal from Ofc. Pat Bradley

Eight-year-old Paul Pech has not spoken or regained mobility in his arms and legs since being struck by a car while playing Hide-And-Go-Seek outside his home October 11.  APD has been raising money over the last month and a half to help his family find a home and celebrate Christmas this year.

“In this job, we see one accident, and move on to the next one pretty quickly,” said Ofc. Pat Bradley.  “This time, though, with this kind of accident, I couldn’t just walk away.  I needed to do more. My kids are right around that age so I could only imagine what the family is going through.”

Bradley, a 14-year veteran of APD, responded to the hit-and-run, and, after the investigation at the scene was finished, went to the hospital to see how the victim was doing and help the family deal with the tragedy.

Bradley arrived to find young Pech in critical condition and stayed with Paul’s mother – Jennifer – for two hours as the doctors worked to save his life.

The Pech family moved out of the neighborhood because the trauma of reliving that day became too much to bear but had nowhere to go.  The family of four has spent the last month and a half at a friend’s house while they find a new home.

A post from APD’s facebook page on November 27 about Bradley – working with Cope 4 Kids’ Georgina Meza – putting together a Thanksgiving meal for the Pechs received more than 1,000 “likes,” along with numerous overwhelmingly positive comments, and was frequently shared among followers.

As more officials from the department heard about the story, the decision was made to do more for the victim’s family.  Since Thanksgiving, Bradley and the rest of the Traffic Bureau have been taking donations from within the department for the family and hope to deliver the gifts before the week of Christmas.

“I just can’t imagine what that family is going through, especially around this time of year,” said traffic Sgt. Kasey Geary.  “We’re trying to do everything in our power to give them at least some relief during such a tough time.”

APD would like to expand their efforts in helping the Pech family during the holidays.  They are accepting gift cards, toys, and food for the family from now until they deliver everything to the Pech home.  If you are interested in participating, contact Geary via email at kgeary@anaheim.net.