The middle-aged man riding a bicycle rolled through a stop sign.
Two Fullerton cops in a patrol car were watching.
Within seconds, Officer Jose Paez and his partner, Officer Chris Murphy, were out of their car, questioning the man as he sat on a curb at Malvern Avenue on a recent late afternoon.
Paez recognized the man from a stop six months ago, when the man was wanted for questioning about a gang-related incident.
“You’re not (gang) banging anymore, right?” Paez asked as he scanned the man’s driver license.
“No, that’s my past.”
“That’s good,” Paez said, trying to give the documented gang member the benefit of the doubt. “The past is the past.”
After warning the man to obey traffic laws, Paez let him go.
Paez, 26, is a poster child of sorts for the Fullerton PD’s emphasis, over the last few years, on proactive policing — officers being very visible in the communities they patrol, initiating contact with the public when warranted and getting to know the residents in their beat.
Basically, proactive policing means doing the opposite of simply cruising around town waiting for dispatch calls to come in.
Engage the public as much as possible to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
Proactive policing is a cornerstone of Chief Dan Hughes’ strategy to develop his agency into one of the most innovative policing agencies around.
One result of this strategy has been a consistent uptick in the number of arrests Fullerton PD officers have been making over the last few years.
In 2015, FPD officers made 6,268 arrests — up nearly 700 from the year before and the most since 2010, when the agency logged 7,241 arrests.
Paez was recognized last fall by top Fullerton PD brass at a monthly community policing and crime strategy meeting for arresting an eye-popping 14 people over a span of three days (most officers average two to three arrests per shift.
And Paez ended 2015 with 141 arrests, compared to 67 in 2014.
No, Paez wasn’t the FPD’s arrest king last year. That would be Scott Flynn, with 301, followed by Michael Halverson, with 231.
But he embodies the type of quality officer the FPD is striving to hire as the agency moves forward with plans to add 16 new sworn personnel over the next five years.
“This is an awesome department — everyone helps each other out a lot,” said Paez, who joined the FPD in June 2010. “We work here as a team.”
Paez said two of his superiors, Lt. Rhonda Cleggett and Sgt. Jose Arana — his supervisors on weekend nights — have given him seeral opportunities to be proactive. Others who have assisted Paez include Sgt. Pedram Gharah, Cpl. Perry Thayer and Cpl. Kenny Edger.
For example, during a recent shift they sent Paez and a partner out in an unmarked unit to make probation and parole checks and to perform arrest warrant service.
“We had such great results they had us continue doing that for awhile,” Paez said.
During that crazy three-day shift last August, Paez made four arrests on a Thursday shift, seven arrests over the span of eight hours on Friday, and three arrests on Saturday.
Most of the arrests, he said, involved drug and gangs.
One of the biggest arrests Paez ever made started with a simple observation.
As he and his partner patrolled in an unmarked car, Paez saw a man break into a car in the parking lot of the Grand Inn.
The man kept going back and forth from the car to a room — clueless that two cops were watching his every move from their Nissan.
Turns out the man had a no-bail warrant out of San Diego County for armed robbery and that he was on parole for other violations.
Inside the man’s hotel room, Paez and his partner found a stolen and loaded .357 magnum, 10 grams of meth and $10,000 worth of PCP.
“You never know,” Paez said of what a stop or an arrest may yield.
On this recent afternoon, in the span of less than two hours, Paez and Murphy made contact with more than a half-dozen people.
As arresting as he is on the job, Paez also is known around the FPD for his, er, arresting choice of garb outside uniform.
Hughes even made reference to his colorful choice of street wear at the Community Policing and Crime Strategy meeting last fall before he recognized Paez for his 14 arrests over a span of three days.
Paez, an avid golfer, explained that he is known for his wacky wear at golf tourneys he participates in, including a tournament in honor of the late FPD Sgt. Mike MacDonald, who died of malignant melanoma on Christmas Eve 2009.
And what did Paez wear to the golf tournament?
“Declaration of Independence pants and a shirt covered in U.S. flags,” he said.
Patriotic, yes — but as far as the fashion police go, definitely a misdemeanor.