With a dramatic flyover from the department’s helicopter welcoming visitors, the Santa Ana Police Department hosted its Open House and Hiring Expo on Saturday, May 14.
Attendees enjoyed demonstrations from the K9 unit and had the opportunity to see the motorcycle patrol vehicles and rescue (SWAT) tank in person, meet two mounted patrol officers and their horses, and discuss crime scene investigations with CSI experts.
Also represented at the expo were detectives, gang unit officers, reservists, community engagement team members, dispatchers, and representatives from PAAL, the Santa Ana Police Athletic and Activity League, a comprehensive community program that focuses on building a bond between kids and cops through education, fitness and activities.
Children got the opportunity to try on bulletproof vests and pose for photos with officers and the department mascot, a large stuffed animal dubbed Officer G. Raffe. Kids were given toys, food and drinks were provided, and a hiring seminar welcomed individuals interested in pursuing criminal justice careers.
Sgt. Maria Lopez, SAPD’s public information officer, notes that the expo was the second such event since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The most important thing is the opportunity to interact with the community,” Lopez said of the event. “We also want to attract and hire as many qualified candidates as we can,” as potential SAPD hires. She says 67 people registered in advance to attend the hiring seminar.
An SAPD officer for 13 years, Lopez began her law enforcement career as an intern with the Los Angeles Police Department as a Chico State student, and welcomed the opportunity to become part of her hometown department because she grew up in Santa Ana.
Detectives Jonathan Kien and Justin Collins demonstrated the Terradyne armored vehicle, which they explain is an integral part of policing crowds at large events, as well as an important tool in de-escalating potentially violent disturbances. During the event, the SWAT vehicle was filled with toys for the kids.
K9 handler Officer Ethan Maietta, a seven-year SAPD veteran who spent eight years in the Marine Corps, shared details of having a K9 partner.
“The basics of policing with a K9 are the same,” Maietta says, “but there are some challenging aspects that demand a leadership approach.”
He was happy to have the chance to show off the K9s and their prowess, “especially in reducing tensions between the police and our community.”
Motor patrol Officers Rene Guerrero and Jesse Hernandez proudly displayed their reliable BMW motorcycles.
“I like to interact with the community, so I enjoy events like this,” Guerrero says. “Traffic is one of the top three biggest concerns in the community.”
In discussing opportunities for analytical and scientific careers in crime scene investigations, Lead Forensic Specialist Mike Maiocco notes that new technology is always improving and expanding their work. A recent example is the Leica 360, a camera that allows investigators to view all aspects of a crime scene.
Lead Police Services Dispatcher Jessica Garcia acknowledges that dispatching isn’t for everyone – but notes nevertheless that it is challenging and fulfilling work.
“It’s a 24-hour job, so you need to be able to sleep during the day,” Garcia says. “Multitasking is important, and so is familiarity with technology.”
While relying on the latest rapid-deployment technology, dispatchers must also be able to navigate using old-school paper maps.
Besides using high-profile police helicopters, squad cars, and motor patrol vehicles, SAPD keeps places and special events safe with its mounted patrols, says Officer Jaime Lopez, who introduced his four-legged partner, 21-year-old Chex.
At a table nearby, Advocate Rosie Nava introduced visitors to the Family Justice Center, an umbrella organization representing 15 different agencies that is located inside the SAPD headquarters.
In addition to presenting informative seminars to schools and agencies, Nava says, the advocates provide a vital liaison between officers and residents and offer crime victims and their families a number of social and community services.