After a distinguished 33-plus years in law enforcement, the last 11 1/2 with the Anaheim PD, Sgt. Daron Wyatt had a difficult time walking away.
He isn’t, entirely.
Wyatt will remain a part-time desk sergeant at the APD for a while as he splits time between his home in Southern California and the one he’s building on a ranch in Laramie, Wyo.
His last day of work at the APD was Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.
A week prior, in a packed auditorium, Wyatt delivered an emotional farewell to the agency he has been at since August 2008, the last five serving in the high-profile position of public information officer (Wyatt also served as PIO during that period for Anaheim Fire & Rescue).
Known for his unwavering devotion to victims’ families as he doggedly worked cases as a homicide detective at both the APD and Placentia PD – his most cherished assignments — Wyatt’s passion for law enforcement unabashedly was on display Dec. 19, when he choked up several times making his farewell remarks.
“This is kind of a mixed bag for me,” Wyatt said. “This is all I’ve known since I was 19 years old, so it’s weird. I’m thankful that I made it to you in one piece.”
Wyatt recited the names of law enforcement partners who didn’t, including his best friend, Placentia PD Lt. Kenny Alexander, who died Nov. 9, 2014, after suffering a massive heart attack.
With his parents, wife, brother (Gary Wyatt, who retired as an Irvine lieutenant in December 2017) and other relatives looking on, as well as several current and former colleagues of Wyatt from the APD, Placentia PD, the Orange County District Attorney’s office and other agencies, as well as several members of the news media who worked closely with him, Wyatt thanked numerous people who helped him in his distinguished career.
Through it all, he’s had surgery on both knees, hernia surgery, surgery on both hands, and six back surgeries. In addition to being involved in three officer involved shootings, Wyatt endured two separate civil trials in which he was acquitted by juries in both.
“And I can’t even tell you how many calls I’ve had in the middle of the night for SWAT callouts and PIO callouts,” Wyatt said.
He issued a challenge to APD’s current command staff:
“You’re in a unique position to be able to lead this organization forward,” Wyatt said. “Be leaders, but be courageous followers, too. Let the chief know what he needs to know and help him avoid the landmines.”
Wyatt thanked APD Chief Jorge Cisneros, whom Wyatt has worked with for the last 18 months. Cisneros is the 17th police chief Wyatt has worked for.
“You’re an amazing man, a tremendous leader with a lot of character, and you’re really a good boss to work for,” Wyatt said. “I believe that under your leadership and with the current command staff, the APD is poised to do amazing things.”
Among the people seeing Wyatt off was retired APD Sgt. Rick Martinez, a longtime PIO at the agency.
“As a PIO, the relationship with homicide investigators can be very strained because they handle the most sensitive cases and many departments struggle with the PIO getting timely information out to the public,” Martinez said.
“But when Daron was a homicide detective, he was the best,” he added. “He knew exactly what the media needed. He would tell me all he could. He was great, but he’s always been a sharp cookie.”
STARTED AS 19-YEAR-OLD RESERVE
Wyatt spent his early years in Southern Africa. His parents, Jim and Juanita, who celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary in October 2019, were missionaries. They have lived in nine different countries on four continents.
Wyatt began his law enforcement career in 1986 at age 19 at the Tustin Police Department as a reserve police officer. After becoming a full-time police officer, he left the TPD in 1989.
“Most of you don’t know this,” Wyatt said, “but I resigned in lieu of termination from the Tustin PD in 1989 for a series of off-duty events, most of them including alcohol — and a lot of it. So I had to fight to get back into this job that I loved.”
Wyatt then got hired as an officer at the Santa Ana Unified School District Police Department.
“It was not fun,” Wyatt recalled, “but it had a purpose.”
He then transferred to the Imperial Police Department.
“It’s not hell,” he quipped of the notoriously hot spot. “But you can see hell from there.”
Wyatt ultimately made it back to Orange County and got hired by the Placentia PD in 1995.
There, he worked patrol, special enforcement detail, gangs, vice, narcotics, and homicide. He also was an original member of the North County SWAT team.
Wyatt promoted to sergeant at the Placentia PD in 1999 and worked patrol and North County SWAT. He also served as FTO program coordinator. In 2004, he transferred back to a special enforcement detail as a detective sergeant.
In August 2008, Wyatt lateraled to the APD.
“Coming to Anaheim by far was the best decision of my career,” he said. “This is the premier agency in the nation.”
After working patrol, he was selected to become a detective on the homicide/major assault detail.
In 2012, Wyatt promoted back to the rank of sergeant and returned to patrol. While working patrol, he also was also selected as a backup PIO and a major incident review team sergeant.
In 2014, Wyatt was assigned as a detective sergeant to the Family Protection Detail at the Orange County Family Justice Center.
In 2015, he was selected as a full-time PIO for both the APD and Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
Wyatt was granted the public information officer special certificate by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and is the only public safety PIO in California credentialed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) as a Master PIO.
Wyatt went on to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in public administration from the University of La Verne and a master’s of arts degree in Behavioral Science from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
He also completed the POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) Institute of Criminal Investigation, with an emphasis in homicide investigations, in 1997 and went through the POST Supervisory Leadership Institute in 2002.
Among his many awards are Rookie of the Year at the TPD, Officer of the Year at both the Imperial PD and Placentia PD, and Detective of the Year at the APD.
“Today is a sad but happy moment for the Anaheim Police Department and our community,” Chief Jorge Cisneros said at the ceremony. “We have an individual that has provided service for over 33 years of policing, (nearly) 12 of those here in the city of Anaheim.
“He’s been the face and mouth of the APD. For the last 18 months, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Daron on many, many things. We see each other almost daily. As an individual, he’s honest and sincere and gives great input.
“He’s been a great asset and also a great asset for the fire department. He’s very unique.”
AF&R Chief Pat Russell said he’s going to miss Wyatt.
“It’s very unique and special to share a PIO, and at times that’s been probably challenging for our police department, but they’ve always stepped up and helped (us),” Russell said.
AF&R lost a PIO position several years ago due to a staffing reduction.
“We worked it out to a partnership that is very unique,” Russell noted. “I don’t know if there’s any other place that does it or does is as successful as we’ve done it.”
Wyatt remains a man of deep faith.
He started his speech by “thanking the Lord for giving me the blessing of doing a job that I love for so long.”
And he recited his favorite Bible verse (Joshua 1:9):
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.