It was 1992 when Darin Upstill first started work at the Westminster Police Department – as an intern. And today, he’s the agency’s newest commander.
“I’m very excited for this position,” said Upstill, sitting in his new office on a recent Thursday afternoon.
Upstill worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for five years before returning to the WPD in 1999, where he has held a variety of positions, including patrol officer, SWAT team leader, narcotics investigator, Professional Standards Unit supervisor and Special Investigations Unit sergeant for the past four years.
“You have to think outside the box… You kind of develop a different role and become a different person,” Upstill said of his undercover work.
But his latest role, as commander, will not require a different persona – rather, the consistency of character and sense of purpose he has carried throughout his career.
“We have a lot of young sergeants now,” said Upstill, who has been a teacher at Golden West Police Academy for 12 years. “My job is to teach them as much as I can so that they can be successful.”
Upstill knew from a young age that he wanted to work in law enforcement. His father, a retired narcotics detective, worked at the WPD when Upstill first interned.
He went on his first ridealong at age 13 with his dad.
“We were involved in a pursuit,” he said.
It wasn’t hard to see where his career path was headed.
“I listened to his stories when I was younger,” he said.
Events later in his youth cemented his desire to serve communities in the name of justice. At 19 he was held at gunpoint – a sawed-off shotgun jammed in his throat – as his car was stolen. Not long after that, he was driving home from a football game when a drunk driver ran a red light and hit his car.
“So I know what it is to be on the other side,” he said.
Once in the field, Upstill drew from this desire to protect victims to help keep neighborhoods safe and help those who feel they have no other recourse.
“I get great satisfaction when we’re able to solve their problems and make their lives better for them,” he said.
In 2005, Upstill was awarded the Medal of Valor for a SWAT incident involving a suspect who shot at officers.
“It was very humbling,” he said of the recognition.
As commander, he will be in charge of the Field Training Officer program, the K9 Unit and jail operations. Whether it’s working in the community or overseeing departments, he’s learned that respect is a big part of the job – something he’ll continue in his new position.
“It all comes down to treating people with respect,” he said. “You’ll get a lot more cooperation.”
He wants to help others on his team become more successful.
“My goal is to make my sergeants very successful,” he said. “When you get promoted, your job is to help get others promoted.”
But through all that, he makes sure never to forget to put family first – a motto he believes all members of law enforcement should follow. For him, that involves rarely missing his kids’ sporting events.
“I always put family first,” he said. “You have to have an even balance.”