Joe Avalos is loving his second career in law enforcement. After retiring from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department after 25 years, Avalos was hired by the Tustin Police Department as a Master Reserve Officer. The best part? No more shift work.
“Most of my career I worked nights and weekends,” he said.
Now Avalos works part-time on weekdays with no nights or weekends, “unless I want to.”
So, naturally, some of his best times at the Tustin Police Department so far have been weekends and evenings, which is when he was participating in community events and engaging with the public.
In his six months, Avalos has worked at the department’s open house, a holiday toy drive, and the Santa’s Sleigh event. He is also looking forward to being part of the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, which his father helped create in 1985.
“I feel like jumping in,” he said of the community events. “I’m pretty amazed at the close relationship the community has with the department.”
During his time at the O.C. Sheriff’s Department working in jails, on patrol, and dealing with civil complaints, such as evictions, he had fewer opportunities to connect in positive ways with the public.
Not the job he applied for
After retiring and enjoying 18 months of nothing to do, Avalos said he began “looking for something to do.” He saw an ad for a reserve officer job at the Tustin Police Department and applied.
“I met with (personnel officer Mark Sauerwein). He said, ‘You’re not getting that job, but something else,’” Avalos recalled.
That something else was something better.
As a Master Reserve, Avalos said he is learning a new set of skills and also able to bring his experience to bear. For the first time in his career, Avalos is conducting background checks on potential future officers.
That job is one of the most critical in the department, as it forms the basis for offering employment to recruits. The deep dive, which includes numerous interviews with a candidate’s family, friends, and neighbors as well as rivals and ex-partners, typically results in a 70 percent failure rate.
Another part of his job is serving as the department’s quartermaster, ordering and distributing equipment to officers.
“This suits my personality, experience and skills,” Avalos said.
Avalos helps new and younger officers decide the best gear and what they need while on patrol or in certain situations. Like an expert tailor, he helps them figure out the best set-up and arrangement for their gear.
Part of a family
Tustin Police Department, which has about 100 sworn officers and 55 non-sworn personnel, touts itself as being close-knit and family oriented. The label is as ubiquitous as it is true.
“It’s definitely a family atmosphere,” Avalos said. “No one here wears their position heavily. They treat everyone as equals and partners.”
Avalos said the department continually celebrates the highlights of life achievements, such as pinnings and promotions, anniversaries, and babies. Members also share grief and provide support in the harder times.
“Here you’re in the middle of a fishbowl,” he said. “In the Sheriff’s Department, you don’t get that interpersonal.”
Avalos added that the same attitude radiates outward.
“They treat the public as customers,” he said.
The collegial attitude is returned in kind.
“There seems to be a lot of love and support,” he said. “Even when times are tough, the community reaches out to the department.”
Avalos says he wants to make the most of his part-time position.
“I’m looking to be involved any way I can,” he said.