Former park ranger now a La Habra police officer

By Elysse James

Officer Mark Milward is returning to his roots.

His job with the California Department of Parks and Recreation took him away from the city where he grew up, but these days he dons a La Habra Police Department uniform and patrols the streets he knows well.

The La Habra native started his career as a lifeguard at Huntington City Beach, and then attended the police academy through the state parks department. His older brother, Nick, works for the California Department of Parks and Recreation as well.

Milward’s park ranger jobs took him to Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County and then to Folsom Lake, north of Sacramento.

“It was a good experience, being 300 miles away from home,” Milward said. “You’re on your own… it’s one of those things where you’re out and you just handle it.”

Officer Mark Milward recently joined the team at the La Habra Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

After several years, he became interested in becoming a police officer for a local agency.

“I was doing more and more law enforcement,” Milward said. “I was involved in a few cases in which it took more steps than the typical patrol officer for state parks and so I decided to start looking into becoming a detective.”

Police work is a big change from patrolling Folsom Lake.

“You’re just out in the wilderness talking to people,” Milward said. “It’s a huge lake, a lot of recreation.”

There, he said, his most dynamic case was an attempted kidnapping and child molestation. Milward stretched his law enforcement muscles by getting search warrants, contacting the district attorney’s office, calling witnesses, and taking statements.

“My sergeant told me that nobody’s ever done this before with my department,” he said. “It took a long time. We made sure we checked every box. It was a good experience and it kind of lit the fire for me for working here and pursuing becoming a detective.”

Since joining the La Habra Police Department, Milward said his mindset has changed.

“There’s much more of a community and teamwork,” he said. “It’s been a good work experience… here, you’re dealing with more serious crimes.”

Milward is looking forward to applying for the detective bureau at the La Habra Police Department once his stint in patrol ends. He’s excited about the chance to work in special assignments and he’s enjoying the dynamic aspects of the job.

“The other night we had a foot chase,” he recalls. “That was funny because it was all of a sudden. We cleared a call and then we’re coming out of a neighborhood and saw somebody tagging a wall.”

Officer Mark Milward talks about working at the La Habra Police Department after having worked for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“We followed them around the building and then next thing you know we’re in a foot chase,” he said. “We were able to stop them. It used to be (with the state parks) that a foot chase would be the biggest thing of the month. Now it’s not that big of a deal.”

In another recent incident, responding to a call of shots fired, Milward discovered a man who’d been shot in the leg. Milward had to convince him to see a doctor.

The calls for service and the quick pace of the work have been gratifying for Milward.

“It’ll be absolutely calm and then you’ll have some kind of crazy call and it seems like everyone’s on their feet, ready to go,” Milward said. “This is a lot of fun.”

Milward closed by saying, “La Habra is a department that has several opportunities for officers to work, more than just patrol. Having the variety of assignments available and the family atmosphere that comes with a small department, I just knew I would like being at La Habra. And I do.”