Jonathan Wainwright has a theory.
“As cops, we’re all actors,” the newly promoted sergeant at the Garden Grove Police Department says.
“You just need to know when to turn on (the cop persona), and when to turn it off.”
The topic of playing a role came up when Wainwright talked about his career at the Los Angeles Police Department.
Along with his partner, Wainwright, during the mid-1990s, appeared on 14 episodes of “LAPD: Life on the Beat,” the reality television series about the Los Angeles Police Department that aired in syndication from 1995-1999.
Like the similar but more famous “COPS,” “LAPD: Life on the Beat” followed police officers on patrol and during investigations.
Wainwright jokes that some people around the Garden Grove PD call him “Hollywood.”
A colleague steps into his office as he’s talking about the stint on reality TV.
“You’re still talking about that?” the colleague quips.
Wainwright, 44, grew up wanting to be a firefighter.
During and after college, however, the kid from Garden Grove was killing it at age 22, pulling in $110,000 a year as a distributor of Coors Beer.
Life was good.
But when Wainwright’s lucrative beer-selling gig went flat after state taxes on alcohol soared, his father, Norman, a reserve officer with the LAPD, advised him to pursue a more stable career.
Resurrecting his dream of becoming a firefighter, Wainwright found himself at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa one day.
He saw an LAPD booth and walked up to it.
“Do you want to be a cop?” the person in the booth asked Wainwright.
“I can make you a cop,” the officer told Wainwright, “and I will come to your graduation.”
Wainwright was sworn in at the LAPD in 1995, went through the academy, and began his career as an officer there at the end of 1995.
As a patrol officer, he was assigned to the Newton and Southeast Divisions, where he patrolled rough neighborhoods on foot and handled a lot of gang and narcotics cases.
“I put a lot of bad guys in jail,” Wainwright says.
Wainwright, who graduated from Rancho Alamitos High School, always felt the tug of returning to his hometown of Garden Grove.
He was thrilled, he says, when he was able to transfer to the GGPD in 2000.
“It’s a very proactive agency, and I wanted to be closer to home,” says Wainwright, who has three children. “I knew a lot of cops who worked there, and the agency had a very good reputation.”
In 2002, Wainwright was promoted to master officer. He has worked on the Career Criminal Apprehension Team, SWAT and gang detail, and he has served on the staff of the range.
Wainwright says his favorite assignment has been working on the gang suppression team and testifying in court as an expert on gangs.
Promoted to sergeant on Jan. 1, 2015, Wainwright oversees six officers in the East Division.
His Hollywood days may be behind him (for now), but Wainwright plans to keep good policing in the white-hot spotlight.
“Every day is a different day,” Wainwright says of police work.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something happens that always one-ups it.”e real