La Habra Police Department opens its doors to the community at annual Open House

By Lou Ponsi

Being a lifelong La Habra resident, Marlene Wilson figured it was about time to see exactly what goes on at her local police department.

So Wilson, 37, along with her husband and two children, joined hundreds of other community members at the La Habra Police Department’s annual open house.

La Habra Police Officer Victor Montano leads a tour through the hallways of police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

In addition to meeting the men and women who keep them safe every day, attendees got to discover the many ways in which the police department accomplishes that task.

The open house featured tours of the department, including the Watch Commander’s office, the Detective Bureau, and even the jail.

Attendees got to sit on La Habra Police Department motorcycles, handle some of the same tools used by the North County SWAT team, and look at weapons confiscated by the gang unit.

A kid walks by with a balloon as people take a tour of La Habra Police Department’s jail cells during the department’s open house.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

A pair of La Habra police K9s awed the crowd with their ability to subdue suspects and sniff out even the most well-hidden narcotics.

“I think it’s awesome that we get to experience getting on the bike, getting to see different demonstrations and checking out different aspects of police work that we wouldn’t know about if we didn’t go to events like this,” Wilson said.

La Habra Police Motor Sgt. Jim Tigner, left, navigates the course with Motor Officer James Geer behind him during a motorcycle demonstration for those attending La Habra Police Department’s open house.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Kids got their faces painted and experienced the feeling of being fingerprinted, while adults got a primer on the department’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and learned about volunteer opportunities.

“We love this because we can bring the community in and they can see what we do,” said Captain Dean Capelletti, who has been a part of La Habra Police Department’s open houses for years. “I really like to see the children get excited. We want the children to know that we are here to help them, but hopefully we are also inspiring the kids to be public servants.”

People line up for a guided tour of the La Habra Police Department during the annual open house as La Habra Motor Officer Sumner Bohee, right, talks to kids.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“I see a lot of familiar faces here,” he said. “That means that we’ve got a lot of people in the community who like to come out and be part of these events.”

While the open house was essentially a family friendly, light-hearted event, Sergeant Jim Tigner of the motor unit took time to present some sobering statistics:

In 2017, the La Habra Police Department responded to 893 traffic collisions. Of those, there were 348 injuries. The La Habra Police Department also responded to 47 DUI crashes and 233 DUI arrests, as well as issued 4,323 citations and 14,680 parking citations.

La Habra Police Officer Rob Sims directs K9 Bobby during an open house demonstration on the dog’s drug location abilities.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Nine-year-old Nahuel Diaz visited the open house with his father and said the entire event was “100 percent.”

Nahuel particularly liked the vibrating “vroom, vroom” sounds of the motorcycles’ engines.

“I did like how they allowed you to try the new things,” he said. “Like, they allowed you to try the (bullet proof) vest. Everything is great that I saw.”

Bobby, a La Habra Police Department K9, demonstrates his ability to locate drugs with his nose.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

La Habra Police Officer Travis Nelson holds onto his K9, Rita, a German Shepherd from the Czech Republic, before giving her the command to attack a decoy (pretend bad guy) during an open house demonstration.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Placentia Police Detective Ricki Menely acts as a decoy as La Habra Police Department K9 Rita moves in for the attack during a demonstration for La Habra Police Department’s open house. Menely was on hand to help with the demonstration.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

La Habra Police Detective Ricardo Rodriguez, left, shows Manny Uytingco and his two sons, Kile, 4, and Kirsey, 8, an M60 machine gun that was confiscated by La Habra police and put on display during the department’s open house.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The public takes a tour of La Habra Police Department’s jail cells during the open house.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

La Habra Police Officer Victor Montano, right, gives a tour of police headquarters to parents and kids during the department’s open house.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

La Habra Community Service Officers Aide Rudy Medina, left, and Mario Velasquez grill hamburgers for guests attending the La Habra Police Department open house.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge