Retiring Tustin officer loved making a difference during 28-year career


As a Tustin police officer, Mark Turner followed the golden rule: Treat people how you want to be treated. After decades on the street in a variety of roles, he found the edict served him well, even with hardened criminals.

“If you treat people with respect, you get it back,” he says.

Simple as that.

Turner recently retired from the Tustin Police Department, where he had served since 1996. He left the department as a field training officer, but had served in a variety of capacities, including patrol officer, K9 handler, undercover officer and special investigator.

The Santa Ana native, who is married with two children, was the recipient of many awards, including the 2017 Rotary Club of Tustin-Santa Ana Officer of the Year, Tustin Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Officer of the Month awards, the Tustin Police Officers Association’s 1997 Rookie of the Year, and 2004 Officer of the Year.

But perhaps even more special to Turner was inspiring people to turn away from a life of crime. Turner followed his own rule and respectfully treated everyone with whom he came into contact.

With Turner’s help, a career criminal and drug addict was able to kick the influence of drugs, eventually earning a Narcotics Anonymous six-month sobriety award. They gave Turner the award as a symbol of thanks.

Retired Tustin Police Officer Mark Turner at home with his dog, Snickers.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“I was a narcotics officer, and this drug addict had changed their life around,” Turner said. “I was part of it. They realized there was more to life than shooting up heroin.”

Moments like that made being a police officer worthwhile, he added. It’s one reason why he liked certain duties, because he could use his natural conversation skills and compassion to build connections with others.

Another time, Turner said, his simple phone call saved a life. He reached out on Christmas Day to check on a woman who had survived a sexual assault.

Later, she admitted to him that the call saved her life. She had been considering suicide.

Turner became a police officer in his early 20s after selling title insurance. He hated that job, finding his calling after talking with some officers who frequented his gym.

Turner started his career as a reservist with the Garden Grove Police Department in 1992, during which time he was a school resource officer and the recipient of some pistol shooting awards.

Some of the awards now retired Tustin Police Officer Mark Turner has earned over the years.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

By 1996, he found his new home in Tustin, where he enjoyed the community vibe. He liked how Tustin residents, who are both ethnically and economically diverse, are always trying to better themselves. Turner also appreciated how the Tustin community interacted well with its police department — the result of many years spent building rapport.

Turner certainly helped in that during his tenure. One time, he was able to locate palm trees that a woman had reported stolen.

“Who’s going to recover a stolen plant?” Turner said with a laugh. “That kind of thing I loved doing, making a difference.”

The one central theme to Turner’s decades in law enforcement was that they were about building relationships.

“You can change people’s lives for the better,” he said of his career. “What more can a police officer ask to do?”