When she was interviewing for her first job with the City of Tustin, Liliana Mendez chatted with the Tustin PD employee who fingerprinted her as part of the background process.
Mendez was 19 at the time, and ended up landing the position of office assistant with the City Clerk’s Office.
She recalls how Thao Nguyen, then a Records Lead at the TPD, encouraged her to come visit the PD sometime.
Mendez eventually did — and was hired by the TPD as a full-time Police Records Specialist in October 2011.
A little more than five years later, Mendez was promoted to supervisor of the Records Unit.
She replaced Nguyen, who as TPD’s Operations Support Services Manager now is Mendez’s boss.
Nguyen remembers her first interaction with Mendez.
“I recall meeting Liliana for the first time when I fingerprinted her as a new hire for the City Clerk’s Office,” Nguyen said. “After talking to her briefly, I thought she would be a great addition to the PD. I tried to recruit her and told her she needs to come work for the PD when the opportunity presents itself in the future.
“Liliana has an excellent work ethic and is incredibly dedicated to this agency. I know she is motivated to be the best civilian supervisor she can be. It has been a pleasure to see her grow and develop over the years.”
Looking back at that day in 2008 when she was fingerprinted, Mendez marvels at how everything has come full circle — and how she now works in a field she’s always been interested in.
“I was a big fan of ‘Law and Order: SVU,’” Mendez, 29, says.
She was always interested in the law enforcement profession, and the several years of working in the Records Unit has exposed her to all facets of police work.
“I get to interact pretty much with everyone in the department in one way or another, and with the public as well,” says Mendez, who says people are surprised when she tells them she’s been with the City of Tustin for 10 years.
“I started young,” she says with a laugh.
An only child, Mendez grew up in Whittier with her parents and grandmother.
Her father was a factory worker and her mother worked a variety of jobs while raising Mendez.
Her parents and grandmother always encouraged her to get an education.
So Mendez did, becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school (California High in Whittier) and college.
In 2011, after working to put herself through college, Mendez graduated from UC Irvine with a double major in psychology and criminology.
By then, Mendez had been working for the City Clerk’s Office in Tustin for three years — a job that had her regularly interacting with city leaders and officials from various departments.
“It was a great opportunity, because I got to work with all the city departments and learn the ins and outs of public agencies,” she says. “I had to mature very quickly.”
A co-worker told Mendez about the Tustin PD’s Citizens Academy, and Mendez went through it in 2009.
“It was great,” she says. “It was a chance to see all the different things you can do at the police department.”
Shortly after she graduated from UCI in 2011, Mendez saw a job posting for the Records Unit.
She applied, and the TPD hired her in October 2011.
Mendez was 23.
“It was a great foot in the door into a profession I was always interested in,” Mendez says.
Being bilingual, Mendez regularly was tapped to assist TPD officers or detectives with Spanish translation during interviews.
In the Records Unit, where accurate and detailed work is critical, Mendez performed such duties as processing arrest reports, inputting data into computers, filing, scanning, forwarding “court packages” to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, managing discovery requests from the DA’s office, and handling subpoenas for officers to appear in court.
For three years before she was promoted to Records Unit Supervisor in February 2017, Mendez was a Police Records Specialist assigned to General Investigations.
She now oversees 10 employees in the Records Unit who work around the clock to perform police-related records management duties.
“When I started here, I learned as much as I could,” Mendez says. “I was willing to learn as much as anyone wanted to teach me, and was always open to further develop my knowledge and skills beyond my day-to-day duties.”
Her job is a huge responsibility that the former high school basketball player and avid Lakers fan (commemorated by the purple wall in her office) loves to attack much like her idol, Kobe Bryant, would attack the rim on fast breaks.
Mendez said she’s embracing being a supervisor.
“It’s definitely a different facet to my career,” she says. “There’s been a lot of movement in our unit, and what I look forward to having the opportunity to mentor and develop my employees.”
“I’ve been blessed with good mentors in my career, and I enjoy being able to pass on what I’ve learned.”
Mendez says the TPD is a great place to work.
“We’re a great city and a great department,” she says.
For now it’s school and work for the 5-foot-9, former high school power forward. Mendez is working on a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Dominguez Hills.
As of now, she has no plan to pursue a doctorate after that, preferring instead to continue excelling in her official role as Custodian of Records for the TPD.
“I joined Tustin being determined to go above and beyond expectation, and always striving to do my best in whichever capacity,” she says. “I feel extremely fortunate with the many opportunities given by the agency, and look forward to all still yet to come.”