The parallels between the qualities of a law enforcement officer and veteran are many: commitment to service, an inherent sense of responsibility and a deep respect for discipline and chain of command.
These are some of the reasons why the Tustin Police Department, along with other employers in Orange County, this weekend will look to recruit those who have served their country at the 5th annual Orange County Stand Down and Veterans Resources Expo.
While much of the event is targeted to give displaced or homeless veterans access to the resources they need, new this year is a job expo featuring companies and agencies committed to hiring veterans.
“I think law enforcement is an easy transition,” said Tustin Lt. Bob Wright. “We find that they already have a sense of service and commitment, and they bring that with them when they come to the police occupation.”
In many cases, veterans have been exposed to high-stress situations or tasked with responsibilities that lay the foundation for being a good officer, Wright said.
“We need people who can multitask, who can work well as individuals and as a team,” he said. “Veterans are generally experienced in dealing with difficult situations, which we find here in law enforcement, and can problem solve.”
Even with a military background, prospective employees will have to undergo exhaustive background checks, psychological evaluations and training.
“Just because someone is a veteran does not always mean they are going to be the right fit, but they do have specific qualities that tend to be geared toward law enforcement,” Wright said. “We’re just looking for someone who is interested and committed to a career as a police officer.”
Nearly 20 percent of the Tustin police force has a military background and that’s, in part, because of how much these careers compliment each other.
“The work ethic really translates; it’s about respect and integrity,” said Officer Mike Carter, who served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps. “A lot of the leadership traits I picked up in the Marine Corps transitioned to law enforcement.”
After serving three combat tours — two in Fallujah and surrounding areas for Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in and around Saudi Arabia and Jordan for Operation New Dawn — the physical and mental demands of the academy and subsequent training weren’t intimidating, Carter said.
“Everything you learn in the military is relevant here,” he said.
Community Impact Officer Melissa Trahan, who served four years as a medical technician in the US Air Force, agreed military service is an ideal precursor to law enforcement.
“Nothing was a shock, nothing was difficult,” she said of training to become an officer. “I had my challenges at times, but it was something I knew I could do because I did it in the military.”
Making the nearly seamless transition also fulfills a calling to serve, which is what prompted Trahan and Carter to enlist in the first place.
“Being in the military, I was there because I wanted to serve my country, and going in to police work, I am here because I want to serve my community,” Trahan said. “I think most military veterans understand how it is to want to take care of people.”
Added Carter: “I believe 100 percent in what I do. It’s a career that gives you a sense of doing something greater than yourself. You get to see first-hand that what you’re doing is making a difference.”
Orange County Stand Down and Veterans Resource Expo
When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. The expo, which includes the job fair, is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.
Where: South hangar at the former Marine Corps Air Station, 2525 E. Warner Ave.
What: Orange County Stand Down includes more than 100 nonprofits offering resources to displaced and homeless veterans, along with those in transition. The job fair will feature employers that are committed to hiring veterans.
Cost: Free for veterans