Joe Meyers had worked for the City of Tustin for 16 years before he switched over and joined the Tustin Police Department as Emergency Management Coordinator.
On paper it wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs – not a lot of high-speed car chases or crime scenes.
But for almost 8 years, Meyers was held in high esteem across California for his work in emergency operations.
From fires to floods and earthquakes to mudslides, Meyers had a gift for logistics and for putting together a plan that could help keep his community safe.
Anyone who had a chance to meet him, take a class with him, or spend time talking to him, would quickly understand why he was so good at his job.
“Joe really cared about the people and the community,” said Tustin PD Communications Supervisor Kristin Fetterling, who taught Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) classes with Meyers. “He really put his focus on how he could give back to others and how they could take care of themselves.”
On Sunday, January 24, Meyers, 61, lost his life to COVID-19 after battling the virus since early January.
Meyer’s tragic death has hit the Tustin Police Department hard, as well as police departments across the nation that have seen an exponential growth in law enforcement deaths since the pandemic started.
In 2020, 315 police officers died on the job – 197 of them COVID-19 related, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. It’s a drastic increase from 2019 when there were 148 deaths.
Meyers had recently retired from his position as Emergency Management Coordinator in December 2019. He had spent the last year volunteering at the Tustin Police Department, offering guidance through wildfire season and any help he could provide as the city grappled with the global pandemic.
With only a year of retirement under his belt, Meyers had a long list of ideas of what he wanted to do with his free time and his wife of 36 years.
“Aside from being his boss, Joe and I were friends,” Deputy Chief Bob Wright said. “We both had a fondness for baseball, and he would go to Spring Training with his wife every year, that was their thing. That was special to them.”
Wright said he quickly learned that Meyers was kind, nice, knew his job really well, and was always humble.
“Over my 30 years at Tustin PD, I can truly say Joe was one of the nicest people I’ve work with and I’m thankfully for the opportunity to get to know him,” Wright said.
“Joe was well respected by emergency managers in the entire state of California,” Wright said. “He knew a lot but never bragged or boasted about what he knew. He was always very analytical, quiet … you can tell he thought things through.”
By the time Meyers retired, he had a long list of accolades he never spoke of, but everyone knew about.
Prior to joining the police department, he worked as an Administrative Services Manager in the City of Tustin’s Public Works department from 1995 to 2012. Meyers, a dedicated public servant who loved serving his community, joined the Tustin Police Department as the Emergency Management Coordinator in 2012.
Meyers played an integral part in designing Tustin PD’s Emergency Operations Center in December 2015. His vision modernized the briefing room with the latest technology to help the department run support operations during a catastrophic event. He worked on this project for three years and helped plan, design and oversee construction of the center.
He was also known throughout the Tustin community for the City’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes, which he implemented in 2013.
“Joe really went above and beyond to make the students feel as if they were in the middle of a disaster. He wanted to do a good job of making the exercise feel as real as possible, and students really got something out it,” Fetterling said. “People in the class really enjoyed him and he kept it entertaining. I could tell they all really enjoyed spending time with Joe.”
Fetterling said that when Meyers retired he made sure he was just a phone call away for any help or advice she needed. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was there for her, to answer her questions and guide her to the right people who would help get the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the officers needed to get through the first few months of the pandemic.
“I didn’t know how to get what we needed. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without him,” Fetterling said.