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Rigorous process to become Anaheim officer

Kazakos, James 5

Sgt. James Kazakos

Hundreds apply. But only a select few make it through the rigorous hiring process that leads them to wear an Anaheim Police badge.

That’s because the police department’s standards are so high, said Sgt. James Kazakos, the man who ultimately decides who earns the coveted jobs.

Kazakos, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement – 22 of which have been at APD – is finishing his first year as the sergeant in charge of screening recruits for the department, his first administrative job.

“We take the selection of new police officers very seriously,” said Interim Police Chief Raul Quezada. “We have developed over the years a rigorous and comprehensive process to ensure we hire the best of the best.”

Why did Kazakos take the job so late in his career?

“I enjoy the challenge of something completely new,” he said. “I have the utmost pride in the department and this job allows me to make a lasting impact on it.”

Sgt. Kazakos is old school, priding himself on using a number two pencil and post-it notes to stay organized.  Integrity is among the first attributes he looks for in recruits.

“They have to be a good person, first and foremost.  If they don’t respect me in an interview – whether through manners, attentiveness, and even how they keep themselves – how can I expect them to respect someone not personally responsible for their career ambitions?” he asks.

He goes by a simple slogan: “Hire slow, fire fast” – thus ensuring a rigorous hiring process and elevated expectations for those that hope to make the cut.

For the first time in years, APD is adding police positions throughout the department.  Field and clerical positions alike are up to be filled throughout the department.

“It’s very exciting.” he said.

Approximately 200 entry level, academy graduates, and lateral applicants will apply to become an officer, of which only a handful will make the cut.  “Anyone you see out there in an APD uniform is truly elite,” he said.

Applicants must endure several steps to don the badge.  First, academy graduates and entry level aspirants attend a mandatory orientation where APD gives specific, automatic qualifiers and allow candidates excuse themselves respectfully.

A month later, those remaining take a written exam – something other police department don’t require.  That same day, those who pass the written exam are then tested by a 1.5 mile run, 100-yard obstacle course, 400-yard sprint, and a 31-foot dummy drag – all done one after the other. Both tests have 60 percent pass rates.

Later in the week, those who make it through to this point take an oral exam with a sergeant, an officer, and a qualified member of the community.  Only half pass.

Whoever is left is required to fill out a 27-page application, personally reviewed by Kazakos and edited with his number-two pencil.  A pre-screening interview is held between the applicant, Kazakos, and a representative from an outside company, which conducts background checks.

Anyone left is then submitted to a background check and polygraph tests.  Those who pass the polygraph have their applications reviewed by the chain of command and receive a conditional offer of employment.

Should they accept that offer, psychological and medical tests are given, followed then by a one-on-one interview with the chief that is graded on a pass-or-fail scale.

That entire process only ensures those remaining a paid-for spot in the academy and Field Trainee Officer program – a grueling six-month course.  None who made it through each of those steps have failed in the academy, however.

There are, at this point, several officers in the field that have made it through Kazakos’ program.  “When I see them walking around the office, patrolling, or anywhere else, I can’t help but feel a sense of deep pride in what we’re doing.”

Here are the steps APD officers must pass:

  • Orientation
  • Written exam
  • Physical agility exam
  • Oral test
  • 27-page application
  • Pre-screening interview
  • Post-application screening
  • Background check
  • Chain of command approval
  • Conditional offer of employment
  • Psychological test
  • Medical test
  • Chief’s interview
  • Academy
  • FTO program

New lieutenant says recent promotions ‘represent change’ for police department

Sharon Pietrok was all smiles at a recent promotion ceremony for Anaheim PD employees.

Pietrok is among those who are changing the face of Anaheim PD’s leadership. In the past six months, the department has promoted two new captains and six new lieutenants.

The lieutenant receives her new badge from chief John Welter

The fact that she is among three women in that group isn’t the story, she says.

“The focus shouldn’t have been on the fact that three women were promoted to leadership positions, but that the department promoted two dispatchers, two sergeants, three lieutenants and a captain in one day,” she says.

“That represents change in an organization,” she said.

Pietrok, a Canyon High School graduate who also holds a master’s degree from Long Beach State, has enjoyed a 20-year career at Anaheim PD.

Working child abuse investigations has been her favorite and most challenging assignment.

“Child victims cannot always articulate to you what happened,” she says. “You know someone — usually a parent, family member or trusted person — has harmed a child, but you cannot always gather the necessary evidence to bring these perpetrators to justice. It’s not for the lack of trying. Sometimes perpetrators get away with some pretty horrific crimes.”

Pietrok sees the Anaheim PD’s biggest strength as its willingness to work with the community to improve quality-of-life issues, as well as holding members of the community accountable for what they’ve done to help out a situation or an issue.

She believes the department can improve in the area of being consistent with the message it delivers to the public.

In five years, Pietrok would like to be assigned to the Anaheim Family Justice Center – a job she feels would be “very rewarding.”

As for the department itself, she would like to see the department back up to strength, 400 officers, as well as with a comparable support staff.

“We will be engaging the community and the other city departments on deeper levels,” Pietrok says. “We are already headed in that direction, thanks to Chief Welter. After working three years in the Community Policing Team, it’s very apparent that the relationship-building has paid off citywide.”


Pietrok is a recent recipient of the Randall W. Gaston Community Service Award for her work in effecting change in the West Anaheim neighborhoods, with the help of Officer Mark McMullin and Crime Prevention Specialist Susie Schmidt.  “You don’t achieve great results without working with great people,” she says.

She was recognized by the DeMolay youth organization and nominated by the Anaheim PD command staff.

In her spare time, Pietrok is an avid practitioner of personal defense.

“It empowers others just to know they can have a plan or options,” she says. “Knowledge is king, so discussing possible situations and scenarios before they may occur helps others to think of what options will be available to them.”

Pietrok says that in her new role, she hopes to “remind others of our own abilities and responsibilities as individuals to make change happen both in our personal and professional lives.”

As for women in the police force, she believes it’s important for them to take an active leadership role in police management or any other organization.

“We’re all individuals regardless of gender or ethnicity, and we all have something unique to offer due to our varied life experiences and upbringings,” Pietrok says.

“And the more we organizationally see our own differences, the better it allows us to serve our diverse community. Every voice counts.”

Especially the voice of her father, who in some ways she has modeled her career after.

“I’d like to think I operate like him — what you see is what you get,” Pietrok says. “He never settled for mediocrity and he always spoke his mind.”

‘Having Fun Is Important in This Difficult Profession,’ New Lieutenant Says

At a recent promotion ceremony, Police Chief John Welter jokingly kneeled to pose for a photo as he presented Kelly Jung her new badge.

She may be Anaheim Police Department’s shortest new lieutenant, but her contributions to the department – as the chief noted – have been huge.

For her part, Jung takes the playful ribbing about her height in stride.

“We banter back and forth and make jokes about different things, and it’s all in fun,” says Jung. “Even though they have made jokes about me being short, they’ve never made me feel small.”

In her 22 years with the department, Jung has won the Veteran of Foreign Wars Officer of the Year award, recognition for her work in personnel and special tactics and was last year’s Officer of the Year in the Chief’s Division.

“I was able to reach my goal, and I consider myself extremely fortunate,” she says of becoming an Anaheim police officer. “Now, as an active member of the management team, I can help ensure the success of our organization and plan for our even greater success in the future.”

An Anaheim native, Jung has worked a number of details: patrol, tourist-oriented policing, burglary, vice and criminal intelligence.

Her favorite assignment has been working Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) enforcement and being in the Personnel Detail, where she hired department personnel.

 “Working in the personnel detail was perhaps most challenging, because of the challenge of maintaining department staffing levels and trying to find qualified candidates that meet the high standard of professionalism at Anaheim PD,” Jung says.

She’s proud of the Anaheim PD’s strong record of building very strong and close relationships with community members, businesses, other city departments and leaders.

“We’ve built a high level of trust and respect with members in the community and have been able to work together to improve the quality of life and ensure the safety of residents and visitors,” Jung says. “That does not come easy.”

Neither does putting up with a lot of short jokes – well, not really.

“Having fun is very important in this difficult profession,” Jung says.

‘Mr. Anaheim’ Promoted to Lieutenant 

Tim Schmidt found himself standing in the No. 3 lane of the 91 Freeway at 9 in the morning, a CNN camera jammed in his face.

The Anaheim PD veteran recalls that moment in June 2008 as one of the most challenging of his career. He was working as the PIO following an officer-involved shooting that turned into a gun battle on the freeway, forcing it to be closed for hours and resulting in the death of the suspect.

Schmidt, wearing a necktie and crisp white shirt, handled the questions with skill and professionalism – qualities that help explain his recent promotion to lieutenant.

Schmidt couldn’t be happier serving a city he loves and working for a police department he views as one of the most innovative around.

“What we are doing, under the current budget restrictions and the reduction of 35 officer positions, is truly amazing,” Schmidt says. “Our Community Policing Problem Solving efforts, coupled with our Crime Analysis Unit, have had tremendous success with reducing calls for service, reducing gang crimes, and the overall crime rate.”

Schmidt not only grew up in Anaheim, he still lives here. He jokingly calls himself “Mr. Anaheim.”

He attended Albert Schweitzer Elementary, Dale Junior High and Magnolia High schools. After working for the Anaheim YMCA, the city’s Parks and Recreation department and the Anaheim Hilton, he decided to become a police officer – and hasn’t looked back.

Schmidt said the best part of filling in as a PIO was working with Sgt. Rick Martinez, the longtime regular police spokesman.

“His honesty, integrity and experience made the job rewarding and fun to come to work every day,” Schmidt said. “The worst part was dealing with the violence and tragic accidents that happen all too often.”

One of Schmidt’s most enjoyable experiences was manning the dugout of the San Francisco Giants during the historic Game Six of the 2002 World Series at Angels Stadium, when Scott Spiezio put the Angels ahead in the bottom of the eighth inning with a dramatic home run, leading the Angels to victory.

“I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life,” Schmidt said.

The newly christened lieutenant also received a Distinguished Service Award for his pursuit of armed suspects involved in a robbery. Shots were fired, no one was hit or hurt, but the suspect and two others eventually were caught and arrested. He also received the Randall Gaston award for playing a key role in reducing calls for service and gang crimes in the Dakota neighborhood.

Schmidt is looking for many more productive years ahead at Anaheim PD.

“We will be the standard that all Southern California law enforcement agencies strive to achieve,” he predicted.

‘Close to Home’ Killing Emotional for New Sergeant

It was one of the most disturbing killings so far this decade.

Sgt. Rodriguez addresses the department at last week's promotion ceremony

An 84-year-old woman was raped, tortured and then killed by an alleged burglar she had never met.

“This case hit close to home,” says Anaheim Police Sgt. James A. Rodriguez, who was promoted last week after a successful run working homicide cases. “Bessie Whyman and her late husband lived down the street from where I grew up. It was an honor to have been a part of that case and to help put her killer behind bars.”

Rodriguez, a Katella High School graduate, says the Whymans were big supporters of his alma mater.

“I was there when Bessie was laid to rest, along with her family, friends and congregation,” he says. “I got to know her through friends and family and she was truly a great human being who never harmed anyone. It was a tragedy what happened to her, but I was happy to do what I could for her and her family.”

Her alleged killer, Anthony Darnell Wade, could face the death penalty if convicted.

“We do not get thanked very often in this line of work,” he said. “But when you solve a murder, the family of the victims are always appreciative and its nice to know we provided some closure for them.”

Rodriguez, 30, says always knew he wanted to be a police officer. He was a police explorer during high school.

“It has been a blast serving the community where I was raised,” he said.

He points to the city’s effort to curb gangs as an example of Anaheim’s progressive approach to law enforcement.

“For a long time, police departments around the country would try and solve the gang problem with a lot of arrests and only through suppression methods,” he says. “In Anaheim, we do not only approach the gang problem through suppression, but also through intervention and diversion. We have a collaborative effort with (other agencies) to accomplish our goals of combating gang violence.”

Up next for Rodriguez is training the next generation of police officers.

“I was lucky to have a few great supervisors over the years who did the same for me, and I am forever grateful,” he says.

First Female Captain Starts New Role Today

Belinda Brewer, Anaheim PD’s first-ever female captain, embarks on her new role in charge of the Operations Support Division today.

Capt. Brewer chats with retiring Lt. Chris Sayers at last week's retirement/promotion ceremony

No mention was made of the historical significance of her promotion at least week’s promotion and retirement ceremony – “perhaps a positive sign of a move toward gender equity,” says the Orange County Register in a story published today.

“I realize it is a historically significant moment; I just don’t want to make a big deal of it,” Brewer told the newspaper. “I’d rather people look at the quality of the job I’ve done and recognize that it is the reason that I have advanced.”

To read the rest of the Register story, click here.

Two Anaheim PD All-Stars Retire; First Female Captain Appointed

Two days after the city of Anaheim hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, the Anaheim Police Department bid farewell to two all-stars of its own.

Capt. Chuck O'Connor and Lt. Chris Sayers

Thursday afternoon was filled with laughter and a few watery eyes as the department honored the service of retiring Capt. Chuck O’Connor and Lt. Chris Sayers. More than 150 people jammed the training auditorium and dozens more watched the retirement and promotion ceremony from closed-circuit television outside.

They cheered as captain bars were pinned on a woman for the first time in department history.

And Police Chief John Welter presented new badges to seven other promoted employees, including APD’s third- and fourth-ever female lieutenants. He also acknowledged Officer Eric Grosotti for earning his commercial helicopter pilot’s license.

Capt. Belinda Brewer's niece pins her captain's bars

O’Connor, a homeland security expert who spent years on the SWAT team, is the third captain to retire in the past seven months.

Lt. Brian McElhaney described him as a mentor to many and “the heart of the police department.” Later, Welter and his command staff presented him with his service revolver, which now includes an inscription.

“My career was a lot of fun,” O’Connor said. “I really appreciate the way everybody treated me for 30 years. It’s been great. I’m going to miss you.”

Sayers plans to work for Disney in retirement; he even wore a pin – a violation of dress code, Welter said – on his uniform. “It’s been an absolute pleasure,” he said. “And for all of you asking for a job or for me to get you in free, don’t count on it.”

Officer and helicopter pilot Eric Grisotti's wife pins on his wings

Welter said the department is blessed “to have a great pool of people to promote from.” He turned to the newly minted lieutenants and captain. “Great things are expected of you,” he said.

Replacing O’Connor as operations division captain is Belinda Brewer. Nobody mentioned her distinction as the first female captain.

When asked why afterward, Welter said it’s “an indication of how far the law enforcement community has come. Her promotion was no different than any other promotion. It was based on individual merit. She does great work.”

In her remarks, Brewer discussed how the police department’s collaborative approach to public safety serves as an outstanding model for other agencies. It was on display during last week’s all-star festivities, she said.

“I will strive to continue to build a collaborative environment in our community,” she said. “I look forward to an exciting and challenging future.”

Promoted to lieutenant are Tim Schmidt, Kelly Jung and Sharon Pietrok. Promoted to sergeant are James Rodriguez and Mike Alpine, whose father is a retired APD sergeant.

Also promoted were new communications supervisor Steven Goodwyn and senior police dispatcher Michelle Siemer.

The newly appointed captain and promoted lieutenants enjoy a video featuring new Lt. Kelly Jung superimposed on a breakdancer's body