They’re used to it. The surprised smile. The how-in-the-world widening of the eyes. The exclamations of “another Arriaga?!”
To Phillip, Sunday, Lynda and Norma Arriaga, it’s not a big deal that three siblings and a wife/sister-in-law all work for the same police department. As big brother Philip says, “Everyone at Beverly Hills PD is like family.”
But they do appreciate that not everybody at Beverly Hills Police Department is actual family-family. So, they are gracious when they get questions from the community or new recruits.
“My sister just started working at BHPD, too. Her last name is Simmons, but I told her, ‘You’re not going to escape this ‘Arriaga’ thing. Just be prepared,” said Norma, a communications dispatcher who began working at BHPD while she was still dating Sunday.
Norma and Sunday met while they and Phillip all worked for the California Highway Patrol. A state funding crisis drove Norma to look for work with smaller, better funded agencies. She was immediately hired by Beverly Hills PD in October of 2005 and told her then-boyfriend and his brother about the community support, the great co-workers and the beautiful city.
Phillip didn’t need much convincing. Soon after Norma started at BHPD, Phillip and Sunday survived a harrowing accident on the 405. They had stopped to investigate a car parked on the shoulder by the Skirball Boulevard offramp, when a car came hurtling toward them at 80 mph.
Philip spent three months recovering from a concussion and Sunday fractured several bones. The brothers took notice of more CHP accidents, including on-the-job deaths.
“I said, ‘We have to find somewhere else to work,’” Phillip said. “We came over here, and we really liked the work, the people, the city. The support you get from the residents is amazing.”
And the feeling of family – the kind you choose, not just the kind you’re born into – was immediately evident. New hires start off on probation; the day Sunday got off his, he proposed to Norma.
“Some guys from here showed up to the wedding in patrol cars with lights and sirens,” Norma said. “They gave us an escort from the church for a few blocks.”
Today, Phillip is on Special Projects. Sunday is motorcycle officer. Little sister Lynda had no intention of joining BHPD or any police department, but at Philip, Sunday and Norma’s urging, she applied and has found that she loves her work as a traffic control officer.
“After college, I applied to other places, but with my brothers and Norma telling me how great the city was, it influenced my decision,” she said. “It’s a great job with good leadership training. The motor and traffic team is like a family. So, not only do I have my brothers, but I have a lot of support from my team.”
A Family Business – Part 1
The Arriaga siblings grew up working together in their parents’ restaurant, Los Compadres, in Inglewood. The children of Mexican immigrants they learned the value of hard work early on, spending after-school hours helping their parents. Lynda remembers earning $40 a week at the restaurant, learning to save and developing an appreciation of business.
Inglewood police officers frequented the restaurant, talking with the Arriaga kids and fueling Phillip’s lifelong dream to pursue a career in law enforcement. But it was Sunday that actually beat his older brother to the punch, announcing to the family that he was applying to become a CHP officer in his early 20s.
“That sparked Phil to apply, too,” Sunday said. “But when he started to test, he got ahead of me and got hired first.”
Phillip graduated from CHP Academy on a Friday, and Sunday started the following Monday. And just like that, both Arriaga boys left the restaurant behind them to begin careers in law enforcement.
“My dad didn’t initially like the idea, but he understood the benefits of being a police officer,” Sunday said.
Lynda agreed: “My dad is very proud of us. He takes advantage of every opportunity to talk about it.”
A Family Business – Part 2
Los Compadres no longer exists, a casualty of redevelopment in Inglewood. The Arriaga’s parents are now retired, and the brothers have families of their own. When the family gathers for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, Phillip, Sunday, Norma and Lynda are careful not to talk shop.
“We don’t really talk about work,” Lynda said. “We talk about what’s going on in our personal lives, with the kids.”
One kid, in particular, comes up in conversation: Phillip’s teenage daughter. Interested in law enforcement since she was little, just like her dad, the teen uses police defensive moves on her father when they roughhouse, peppers her conversations with police lingo and codes and is always keen to visit her aunts at the station.
“She likes that it’s fun, but I don’t know if she’ll do it when she grows up,” Phillip said.
Lynda is more convinced that she’s seen this spark before: “Oh,” she said, “I think she’s the next ‘Arriaga.’”