Brothers, on the job and off, win accolades at Tustin Police Department

By Elysse James

Officers Michael and Charlie Carter of the Tustin Police Department might have grown up together, but in personality and policing styles, they’re polar opposites.

Their close friendship and distinct approaches make them a perfect complement while protecting the citizens of Tustin.

Michael, 31, is a field training officer, while Charlie, 34, works patrol. Not only do they work together, they live about a 5-minute drive from one another.

Michael joined the Tustin Police Department in 2013 after 9 years in the Marine Corps. A go-getter, his first day with Tustin came just a week after discharging from the military.

“Within the Marine Corps, I realized my true passion was to do service for others,” Michael said. He was attracted to Tustin by the small-town community feel and the city’s connection to the Marine Corps.

Tustin Police Officer Charles Carter, left, talks about following in his younger brother’s (Officer Michael Carter) footsteps by joining the Tustin Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“Everyone here is doing something to help people that we don’t even know,” said Michael, who is also a SWAT team member and firearms instructor. “We’re here to truly make a difference, whether we change the life of one person or a thousand.”

Several years later, Charlie followed in his brother’s footsteps after sponsoring himself through the academy.

“He kind of motivated me,” Charlie said. “I always wanted to help people. I just wanted to do something more in life.”

Both men have been assets to the department. The brothers received the Tustin Chamber of Commerce Officer of the Month award in consecutive months earlier this year – the last two awards given by the late Sergeant Del Pickney.

Charlie received the award in January to commend a month in which he had multiple arrests, including one that started as a car stop and ended with a warrant arrest and recovered a loaded firearm and drugs from the vehicle.

Two weeks later, Michael learned he would receive the Officer of the Month award as well.

“It was surreal,” Michael said. “Not only was it a good feeling for myself, I think it also showed the PD that you’ve hired two great officers here and then we’re continuing to just show you that we were the right choice and we’re going to continue to do the best things for this department.”

Tustin Police Officer Michael Carter, left, with his older brother, Tustin Police Officer Charles Carter, who recently joined the department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Michael’s award honored his work helping veterans, and for a training program he created with the OC Goodwill Tierney Center to help Tustin officers learn how to handle military veterans in crisis and give them a better understanding for interacting with people who have PTSD.

“The main thing is he would do it on his off time to help whoever needed help, especially the veterans,” Charlie said.

While helping veterans is a focus for Michael, Charlie is passionate about working with the Hispanic community and with children. He volunteers with the department’s Run with a Cop program, the Turkey Bowl, and a parent dialect for Spanish-speakers.

“It changes the kid’s perspective,” Charlie said. “Anything community wise where we’re involved with kids and parents, I’m always willing to help out.”

Though the Carter brothers aren’t partners on the squad, they go on occasional calls together when their shifts overlap. There are benefits to working alongside someone you’ve known your whole life – when on calls, the brothers say they can anticipate how one another will react.

“There are times when my brother and me are on calls, and without saying something we already know,” Michael said. “You get that sense, like, I already know where my brother wants to take this… Me and my brother are always on the same page.”

“It’s the greatest job in the world,” Charlie said.