The Garden Grove Police Department is experiencing an influx of law enforcement talent.
In the past year, the agency has hired 20 laterals (transfers from other police agencies), ranging from newer officers to seasoned veterans.
“Each agency provides different experience,” said Cpl. Nick Jensen, who oversees GGPD hiring and recruitment alongside CSO Victoria Foster.
In January, the agency welcomed five new lateral recruits coming over from Tustin Police Department, Laguna Beach Police Department, Westminster Police Department and Montclair Police Department. Ranging from 3 1/2 years to nearly 18 years of experience in law enforcement, the variety in the lateral recruits is an added asset, Jensen said.
“It’s nice to have the balance of new people as well as laterals,” Jensen said.
While the benefit of fresh new recruits is the ability to easily mold them to the agency’s own standards, Jensen said adding laterals cuts down on training time and brings in experienced officers right off the bat (laterals don’t need to go through the six-month police academy for new recruits and their field training also may ] be reduced since they’ve already been out in the field).
Robert Gifford, for example, served nearly 18 years at Laguna Beach PD before deciding to make the move to Garden Grove.
“The people that I know that are here, they speak highly of the department,” he said.
Having served in patrol, traffic, as a training officer and in some seasonal positions including ATV, bike and foot patrol, in addition to reaching the rank of corporal at Laguna PD, Gifford brings years of experience to the agency. He said over the years, he’d considered moving to another police department but was undecided. He considered other agencies, but when it came down to it he only applied to Garden Grove PD because of its solid reputation and opportunities due to it being a much larger department than Laguna Beach PD.
Brian Clasby, also from Laguna Beach, served there nine years and, before that, two years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Because of Laguna Beach PD’s small size, officers end up taking on more work, he said.
“Laguna – for being a small city – you can get your share of experience,” Clasby said. “Things do happen.”
Clasby worked as a detective in Laguna PD’s Special Investigations Unit, which not only dealt with narcotics, alcohol and vice but when general investigations needed additional help, SIU would take on the overflow.
“I was able to investigate cases in child pornography, rape … identity theft rings,” Clasby said. “I was able to get a pretty broad experience in all the different types of cases.”
While at the L.A. County’s Sheriff’s Department, Clasby worked in the acute mentally ill ward at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility and in felony arraignments at the Compton Courthouse.
He decided to make the move from Laguna to Garden Grove because he was looking for a more active city. Though he said Laguna does get robberies and assaults, these don’t happen consistently, and he was looking for a little more of a challenge.
“I got on the job because I want to be busy,” Clasby said.
Plus, Clasby understands that when economic crises hit and special assignments are sometimes cut, patrol often is the only guaranteed job. He was looking for a place where he’d enjoy working patrol.
“If I spend the next 20 years here working patrol, I think I’m gonna be just fine,” Clasby said.
Derek Link spent 8 1/2 years as part of Fountain Valley’s police force before serving 5 1/2 years at Westminster Police Department. He’s worked in field training, in SWAT and as a K9 handler, and reached the rank of corporal.
Though laterals lose seniority upon transfer, Link made the move to Garden Grove because of the opportunities available at the agency. He was impressed by the GGPD’s variety of details including the gang suppression unit, investigations — which has 20-plus detectives — and the K9 unit, which just recently grew to two dogs.
“They’re keeping them here and they’re using them,” Link said of the GGPD’s various specialized details.
It’s clear to Link that the agency values the laterals’ experience and even though they start as patrol officers on an 18-month probation at GGPD, he said they’re encouraged to apply to assignments outside of patrol if they feel so inclined after their probation is over.
“They’re well aware of our experience,” he said.
With his background as a K9 handler – Link also works on his days off for a friend’s company that offers K9 handling education – he can see himself applying to become a K9 handler down the line.
Eric Ruziecki was at Montclair Police Department for seven years – three of those spent in patrol, 2 1/2 in gangs and 1 1/2 as a detective. He had a friend who lateraled from Montclair to Garden Grove and had only good things to say about the agency.
“I wanted a busier city that had more variety of things for me to do,” he said.
He’s found GGPD to be very welcoming, with the agency making the transition “very easy for us.” A lifelong Huntington Beach resident, Ruziecki said the work move also has brought him closer to home.
“It’s very family-oriented,” he said of the GGPD’s culture. “You just can’t find a single person to say anything bad about it.”
While the move from Tustin Police Department – where he worked patrol for 3 1/2 years – was “bittersweet,” Adam Nikolic also moved to GGPD because of its larger size and additional opportunities for growth.
Now that he’s here, his immediate goals include passing the training phase and earning the respect of his new fellow officers.
“I need to reestablish my reputation,” he said.
Police officer wasn’t Nikolic’s original profession. He played in minor league baseball for six years (he was drafted by Tampa Bay as a centerfielder) before deciding to switch careers to law enforcement.
“I would say what drew me to Garden Grove was the people,” Nikolic said, adding that they are very welcoming and genuine.
Anyone interested in applying to the Garden Grove Police Department can contact Cpl. Nick Jensen at 714-741-5922.