The Anaheim Police Department is looking for a few good men and women.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the police department’s $126 million budget, which includes funding for 10 new police officers and two dispatchers.
The challenge: finding people who meet the department’s high standards.
Capt. Mark Cyprien said the department recently filled an auditorium with 1,600 candidates. Only three qualified for a job offer.
“We never want to lower our standards,” Police Chief Raul Quezada said Friday during his monthly Police Chief’s Advisory Board meeting.
One place the department wants to find more police officers: the community.
“We want to hire more people who grew up here,” said Deputy Chief Julian Harvey. “That’s part of what’s behind our effort with Jr. Cadets and Explorers. We want to guide them regarding what those life decisions are that will prevent them from being hired.”
Quezada said his agency is partnering with the fire department to create a “Public Safety Career Pipeline” that will partner with Anaheim schools to provide technical instruction in policing, firefighting, forensics and more.
“In some neighborhoods, students do not have access to after school help with homework or computers,” Quezada said. “We intend to partner with the Anaheim City School District to provide personal homework assistance and computers through a Mobile Homework Workshop program.”
Investment in youth and overall community engagement are among the department’s priorities, he said.
Its Gang Reduction Intervention Program has grown to serve more than 2,600 from about 900 five years ago; its Jr. Cadet program graduated a record 414 students last month – up from 60 students a decade ago. Quezada announced the formation of a Jr. Explorer program that will target junior high school students.
“Investment in our youth, that’s where it begins,” he said. “Once the kid crosses the line, it’s a lot harder to get them back. But if we catch them before… we’ll have a much brighter future.”
The police department will add two officers to its Community Policing Team, an officer to the traffic team and plans to expand the number of officers in schools and neighborhoods to deter gang membership.
Last year the police department responded to more than 185,000 calls for service. Despite the number of calls and reduced staff, overall crime is down. So are complaints from the community, which dropped to 28 from 49 five years ago. The number of cases solved, or “cleared,” are up.
“The police department looks forward to continuing our efforts to form a stronger relationship with the community we serve; and to focus our efforts on the citywide strategic goals for engaged neighborhoods; a safe and secure city; a thriving economic climate; and responsive, efficient and well-managed city government,” Quezada said.
One is an Anaheim High School junior, and the other is a sophomore in college.
They’ve donated hundreds of hours to the community, earned awards inside and outside the classroom and have distinguished themselves among the Anaheim Police Department’s 100 Explorers.
On Thursday, Explorer Sgt. Matthew Bevins and Explorer Cpl. Pillar Hernandez added “Gold Award winners” to their lists of accomplishments. Law enforcement leaders from around Orange County honored the pair – and top Explorers from other police agencies – at a dinner at the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy in Tustin.
The Explorer program allows young men and women, ages 14 to 21, to learn skills and character traits required to be a police officer. Many become police officers.
This year’s group includes 15 graduating high school seniors; each plans to attend college next year.
“Explorer Sgt. Bevins and Explorer Cpl. Hernandez are invaluable assets to Anaheim Police Explorer Post 249 and deserve this recognition. They are outstanding representatives of the dozens of young men and women who volunteer and support the Anaheim Police Department,” said Officer Jacob Gallacher, who oversees the program with Officer Leslie Vargas. As teen-agers, both were Explorers.
In nominating Hernandez for the award, Vargas wrote, “She is a positive role in her community and she is determined to reach her goal to become a police officer.”
A sophomore at Westwood College who carries a 3.5 GPA, Hernandez volunteered nearly 300 hours during her two years in the program.
In one competition, Hernandez led a team that cooked homeless people meals and gave them clothing.
“She is a hard worker and is well respected in the post,” Vargas wrote.
At Katella High School, she was a JROTC squad leader, participated in student government and was captain of the soccer team.
She also mentors children of domestic violence and junior high girls .
“Explorer Hernandez not only volunteers her time in the Explorer Post, but finds time to continue to help her community while taking six college courses,” Vargas wrote. She also carries a part-time job as a hostess at Bubba Gumps’ restaurant.
Bevins is also a strong student, carrying a 3.5 GPA, and earning membership into the National Honor Society.
In 2013 he volunteered 235 community service hours, and led APD’s competition team to three awards at the Los Angeles Sheriff Competition in April.
He mentors elementary school-age children who participate in the police department’s Jr. Cadet program and recently received two presidential volunteer service awards from President Obama.
“Explorer Bevins excels as an Anaheim Police Explorer,” Vargas wrote. “He is dependable and a hard worker.”
More than 1,900 proud parents, siblings, family members and friends crowded into the Anaheim Convention Center Friday night to pay tribute to the largest graduating class of Junior Cadets in the history of this unique Anaheim Police Department program.
For the past 10 years, the Anaheim Police Department has sponsored a Junior Cadet instruction series in conjunction with its Cops 4 Kids program. There were only 60 students in that program first program 10 years ago. On Friday, the program saw its biggest class ever with 414 kids graduating.
“It starts with you today,” Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada told the young graduates, then addressed the audience. “These kids are our future.”
The Anaheim Police Department Cops 4 Kids Junior Cadet Program is the only program of its kind in the state. This program is the result of a partnership with schools in the Anaheim City, Magnolia, and Centralia Schools Districts. This year, the Anaheim Fire and Rescue also partnered for the first time.
Children from age 9-12 can join the Junior Cadets voluntarily or be referred to the program by teachers and administrators, who believe the youth would benefit from the “Respect Given, Respect Earned” program motto.
“After I joined, I started fixing my behavior,” he said. “It taught me integrity. I’ve been a more determined person in life.”
Brian likes the physical activities of the junior cadets, especially the Drill Off.
“I got first place,” he said.
In addition to the Junior Cadets, Brian is active in the Boy Scouts and is an altar server at St. Boniface Catholic Church. Brian just graduated from Sycamore Middle School and will attend Anaheim High School and be part of the Anaheim Police Department Explorer program.
This year the program expanded from 14 weeks to 24 and it takes place at seven campuses in Anaheim, where each Junior Cadet gives up 90 minutes of their after-school time once a week.
A key component to the success of the program is the parent and teacher communication, said Officer Jake Gallacher, who administers the program along with Officer Leslie Vargas.
Within three to four weeks, we see a positive change in the students, Gallacher said
“It’s probably one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had,” Officer Gallacher said. “You’re a mentor to them. They look up to you.”
This year the cadets participated in community service projects for the first time, taking on 13 different projects. In total, they contributed 3,001 volunteer hours by cleaning riverbeds and beaches, picking up 100 pounds of trash at Huntington State Beach.
In a program called, “A Flag for Every Hero,” the cadets also spent a day at Riverside National Cemetery, placing flags on the headstones of those who served in the military.
Attending the program were several dignitaries including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and council members Lucille Kring and Gail Eastman.
Officer Amador Ununez, a founder of the Junior Cadet program, told the cadets that as someone who grew up in and still lives in Anaheim, he was especially proud of what they have accomplished.
“When I retire, I can honestly say that I’m leaving something great for my community.”