The Tustin Police Department celebrated promotion day recently as three civilian employees advanced and a detective earned his sergeant’s stripes.
Several retirements opened the way for the four promotions.
Gustavo Gonzalez, 41, a 10-year veteran with the department, advanced to become a patrol sergeant as well as sergeant with the department’s SWAT team.
Prior to the promotion, Gonzalez was a detective with the Gang Reduction and Directed Enforcement (GRADE) unit.
In moving from GRADE to SWAT, Gonzalez has been part of two of the more elite and high-profile units at the Tustin Police Department, an accomplishment in which he takes pride.
Tustin’s SWAT, or Special Weapons and Tactics, is partnered with Irvine Police Department.
The SWAT team consists of officers that respond to some of the most highly charged and risky situations in law enforcement and can range from hostage to sniper situations.
The GRADE program, launched in 2018, combined the Gang Unit, which conducted gang suppression through plainclothes surveillance uniformed patrols, and the Special Enforcement Detail, which concentrated specific problem areas.
A native of Santa Ana, Gonzalez grew up in the rough Minnie Street neighborhood. But rather than being drawn into the gang, drug and crime cultures that permeated the area, he turned toward the police.
“I looked up to those officers,” Gonzalez said, and so he became the first member of his family to become a policeman after graduating from the Fullerton College Police Academy.
Prior to joining the. Tustin Police Department, Gonzalez was with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
As a member of the Tustin Police Department, which is well-regarded for its strong ties to the community, Gonzalez tries to be the kind of role model he met as a child.
“Tustin is an agency that gives back to the community,” Gonzalez said. “We have a great relationship with the community.”
Liliana Mendez was one of three civilians in the Tustin Police Department to be elevated. The 32-year-old is now the department’s Operations Support Manager where, among her duties, she oversees the property, evidence and records departments. She also oversees certain compliance issues.
Operations in the police department include patrol divisions, community policing and specialized units.
Mendez is coming up on 10 years at the Tustin PD. She joined the force after working in the City Clerk’s office part time.
Mendez said she was always interested in police work, although she did not go to an academy. A graduate of UC Irvine, she majored in psychology and studied criminology.
“My career path took me elsewhere,” she said.
Mendez says the variety of work she comes across at the police department is what makes the job especially rewarding.
“Every day is different,” she said. “You never know what you’re coming into.”
Mendez said the pandemic has drastically changed the way her department does business, as customers and residents can no longer come into the office.
The worst part, however, has been the cessation of public events, she said.
“We obviously have more fun when there are community events,” said Mendez, who looks forward to getting back into rebuilding relationships once the pandemic subsides.
Megan Evans, 38, takes over as the department’s Property and Evidence Unit Supervisor. Prior to taking the position, Evans was a court liaison.
Evans brings experience into the job, having worked as a property and evidence technician in Placentia.
“I’m just learning about it again,” she said with a chuckle.
The staff in Property and Evidence maintains control of evidence and the chain of custody of evidence from cases.
According to the Tustin Police Department website, the unit takes in about 8,500 items of evidence each year and disposes of about 6,500 pieces of evidence after cases are tried.
Connie Attard, 40, said she joined the Tustin Police Department after spending time raising a family.
“Once my son was old enough, it was time to make a change,” she said.
Recently named Records Supervisor, Attard took an unusual road to police work. While others have long been drawn to policing, Attard began her professional life as a dental assistant after going to Orange Coast College.
She has been with Tustin PD for eight years, previously as a Management Assistant.
The best part of Tustin PD?
“The sense of family,” Attard said. “It’s like a second home here. The camaraderie. Everyone works well together.”