They call him “The Swede.”
No, it’s not because Garden Grove PD Officer Michael Gerdin is a closet ABBA fanatic (although he cops to liking some of their songs).
Or because he’s addicted to a certain breakfast pastry (oh, wait, those are Danishes).
It’s because Gerdin, 29, who became a GGPD cop a year ago, was born and grew up in the Scandinavian country in Northern Europe (he spent his first 18 years there) and is fluent in Swedish.
Du är anhållen! (You’re under arrest!)
Kliv ut ur bilen. (Step out of your car)
Upp med händerna där jag kan se dem! (Put your hands up where I can see them!)
Gerdin doesn’t actually speak Swedish on his patrol shift, although one time on a call he made small talk with an older Swedish woman who was shocked to learn a Garden Grove cop could converse with her in her native tongue (she had reported someone who had parked in her driveway).
“There aren’t too many Swedish criminals or gang members in Garden Grove,” Gerdin deadpanned when asked how often he speaks Swedish on the job.
Gerdin, who has dual citizenship (his father is an American and his mother a Swede), was living in Sweden on one of the darkest days in U.S. history: Sept. 11, 2001.
He was only in eighth grade, but recalls feeling deeply disturbed. And angry.
“What really stuck with me was seeing the people jump (from the World Trade Center buildings),” Gerdin said.
Such images inspired Gerdin eventually to leave his family in Sweden to come to the U.S. and, without cluing in his family, signing up for the Marines.
“I don’t think (the military) is for everyone, but for me it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done,” Gerdin said during a recent ridealong on his day patrol shift in west Garden Grove.
“It was a pivotal moment of my life. I’m very glad I did it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Things weren’t exactly going crazy, crime wise, on Gerdin’s recent patrol shift.
A resident reported a boat on a trailer that had been parked in front of a house for several days. She felt it posed a traffic and pedestrian hazard.
A driver reported almost hitting a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart through four lanes of traffic in a busy area where the 22 and 405 freeways converge at Valley View Boulevard.
A resident reported a gray Lincoln Sedan following a mail delivery truck. The resident was concerned that the driver was trolling the neighborhood for packages to steal off porches.
Such calls for service don’t exactly get the adrenaline racing, but they are part of every officer’s job –- and an important way for cops to connect with the communities they serve.
Gerdin took time to call back the resident who reported the suspicious Lincoln Sedan to tell him he patrolled the area but didn’t see the car.
The resident thanked him, and it was on to the next call.
For Gerdin, becoming a cop wasn’t really on his radar until after he left the Marines.
“I kind of fell into it,” he said.
He’s happy he did.
Gerdin grew up in Uppsala, a university town of about 150,000 that is the fourth largest city in Sweden.
His father, Larry Parlapiano, of Placerville, Calif., was kind of a big deal in Sweden for a while, playing gigs as a country western musician.
Parlapiano settled down after meeting and marrying Marie Gerdin, who grew up in Stockholm and continues to work as a nurse.
Together they raised Michael, his two older brothers and a younger sister (today, all but an older brother remain in Sweden; the brother lives in Barcelona).
Gerdin said his childhood and teenage years were normal — “I was kind of a nerd, I liked to read a lot” — and that he enjoyed living in Sweden.
But the call to serve his father’s homeland grew in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq and launched Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Gerdin was 16.
“I started feeling like, ‘I want to join the military and go over there,’” Gerdin said. “I just hated those guys (terrorists). And I didn’t just see this as a U.S. problem, but a global problem.”
Feeling not only a patriotic calling but a sense of adventure, Gerdin told his parents he wanted to spend the summer after graduating from high school with an uncle in California.
A week after arriving in the Golden State in 2005, Gerdin signed up for the Marines.
“I just came over here and did it,” he said.
Gerdin then broke the news to his family.
His father was very supportive.
Eventually, his mother came around.
After boot camp in San Diego, Gerdin went through infantry training at Camp Pendleton.
While stationed out of the Marine Corps Base in Kaneoke, Hawaii on Oahu, Gerdin was deployed three times as an infantry rifleman — to Iraq in 2006, to Iraq again in 2008, and to Afghanistan in 2009.
“They kept me busy,” said Gerdin, who didn’t want to detail his service abroad, other then to say things were most intense during his first deployment.
After leaving the Marines in 2009, Gerdin thought about becoming a cop.
But first, for eight months, he tended bar with his brother in Madrid.
“That was fun,” he said. “Perhaps too much fun.”
After that, it was time for Gerdin to relocate to California and fulfill a promise he made with a Marine buddy to go to college together.
In 2014, Gerdin graduated from UC Irvine with a major in psychology and criminology.
A friend introduced Gerdin to his friend, GGPD patrol officer Royce Wimmer (now a motor officer), who took Gerdin on a ridealong.
Gerdin was hooked.
The GGPD sponsored Gerdin through the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy, and he graduated as a member of Class 216 in August 2015.
In late December 2015, after three months riding with three different field training officers, Gerdin began patrolling solo the westernmost neighborhoods of Garden Grove.
Gerdin said he likes his shift — days Tuesday-Thursday — but he also hungers for the weekend graveyard shift.
For now, though, he’s happy.
“There are a lot of senior guys on this shift, so I have a lot of resources to tap,” Gerdin said. ”A lot of the situations I encounter are still a first for me. The senior guys here look out for you. Whenever I have a question, no matter how dumb it is, they come through and help me solve the problem.”
He added: ”There’s a lot of tradition and pride in being an officer for the Garden Grove PD, and being a smaller agency, everyone kind of knows each other.”
Gerdin said after patrol he would love to become a member of the GGPD’s Career Criminal Apprehension Team (CCAT).
Outside of work, he enjoys jiu-jitsu and considers himself a movie buff.
Gerdin was asked about his approach to law enforcement — his philosophy.
“I kind of benefitted from being in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there is no law enforcement,” Gerdin said. “In those places, the strong guy with the gun rules everything.”
He added: “Even at small political rallies here in the U.S., people can get punched just for having a different viewpoint. I wonder, what would those people who are doing the punching do if there was no law How far would they be willing to go if there were no barriers?
“The way I see it, I’m here to make sure people can enjoy their rights and be safe and do the whole pursuit-of-happiness thing without having to worry about people with guns or people who are willing to commit violence.”
Bra sagt, officer. (Well said, officer.)