Sons follow fathers’ footsteps at Tustin Police Department


Policing is often referred to as a family business. And at the Tustin Police Department, family is a theme that runs throughout the department.

So, perhaps it is no coincidence that the department has its share of father-son combinations. Some of the dads, such as Sgt. Dave Welde and Officer Mark Sauerwein, are longtime members of the Tustin Police Department. As a result, their sons grew up around the Tustin agency. Meanwhile, Kert Siemiawski is a newer addition with a son still getting used to Tustin.

The children of police officers grow up with a unique view of police work and gain firsthand appreciation of the valuable work their parents perform.

Sgt. Welde said it became obvious early in his son’s life that Brian was interested in the profession.

“I think (my job) had a huge influence on him as a little kid,” Welde said. “When he was five or six, I would bring home my uniforms. He would put on my uniforms to play video games. I could tell early it was something he was interested in.”

Tustin Police Department personnel, from left, Brandon Sauerwein, Mark Sauerwein, Brian Welde, Dave Welde, Alex Siemiawski and Kert Siemiawski.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Brian has said his dad has always been a role model and he never hid the fact that he wanted to be a police officer.

“I had such a great relationship with him,” Brian said, “I wanted to be like him.”

For Brandon Sauerwein, it wasn’t until after high school and with his sports career behind him that he seriously considered police work.

“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Maybe something boring like business,” Brandon said. “My dad never pressed me whatsoever.”

Officer Sauerwein agreed, adding that he was open about the work with his children.

“We often had open conversations about my job and what I experienced while having family dinners,” Sauerwein said.

Brandon said that after joining the Tustin Cadets program in 2018, the light switch clicked on for him.

“It piqued my interest right away,” Brandon said.

Alex Siemiawski, 28, grew up surrounded by police throughout his family. His grandfather was a detective and often regaled the family with tales of taking down criminals in Chicago. An uncle was an FBI agent and his dad, Kert Siemiawski, spent 27 years on the job with the Skokie, Ill., police before retiring and moving the family to Southern California in 2019.

“I went along on ride-alongs, myself and my siblings, and we got to see squad cars,” Alex said. “It was part of our lives.”

Alex’s twin brother, Nicholas, followed his dad into the profession and is a sworn officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. Their sister is a one-off, attending law school, although it is unsure whether she’ll pursue prosecution or another type of law.

Among Siemiawski’s details at Skokie was bike patrol, and he often shared tales about being on the bike. Siemiawski also says the idea of family probably was a draw for his kids.

“The police family, it is another family,” Siemiawski said. “I think they see the bonding.”

Making their own paths

Brian Welde, 24, has been a Police Services Officer (PSO) for the past three years with Tustin, first as a part-timer and now full time. For him there is no doubt that he will apply for the Police Academy and try to follow his dad’s path.

“It’s been a great position, I’ve learned a lot,”  Brian of being a PSO.

He plans to begin the application process for the Academy within a year or so and would like to enter as a Tustin-sponsored officer. As a non-sworn member of the department, he has already undergone one background check, often the toughest part of the process to survive, although a follow-up will be required.

The family theme at Tustin has impressed Brian. He is well known throughout the department and not just as Welde’s kid — although that is a shadow he can’t avoid.

“He has big shoes to fill,” which Brian said was intimidating at first. But he added, “I think I’m creating my own name for myself.”

“I think he’ll fit well in the department. He’s grown into the department,” said Welde, noting his son has great relationships with his peers, supervisors, and officers.

“He’s very hard working,” Welde said. “He hangs around and stays late. He’s always enthusiastic and he would come in and work hard. Tustin’s a great department and he’ll learn a lot.”

Brandon Sauerwein, 23, is hoping to enter the Police Academy as a Tustin recruit in September. He has passed the background check and other requirements and is awaiting final approval. After spending a couple of years as a Cadet, Brandon became a PSO in 2020 and has continued to learn the ropes and deepen his resolve.

Married and with a 5-month-old child, Brandon is ready to launch his career. He has known his wife since he was a Cadet. Brandon said the couple also have a strong support network of law enforcement families through their church.

Although Brandon said his father’s job took him away from the family when he was a detective, “I knew he’s not abandoning the family, he’s off helping other people,” Brandon said. That, in turn, “Instilled the desire for that work and to help others.”

Brandon says he has been embraced by Tustin, which made the department an obvious choice.

“The people in the department are super helpful. A lot of them go out of their way to help mentor and I always thought that was super cool,” Brandon said. “In a tough career like this you want to be part of a team.”

Brandon said although his dad has been a fixture at Tustin with a strong legacy, it doesn’t bother him.

“I’m pretty competitive, so whatever he’s done I want to match and out-do it,” Brandon said. “I don’t worry about my last name, I worry about my first name.”

“He has built a very positive reputation on his own,” Sauerwein said. “He will do well at this agency based on his work ethic and morals.”

Alex Siemiawaki is currently a non-sworn employee in the Records Department and is keeping his future options open. He says he is leaning toward going to the police academy, but in no hurry to decide.

He is a relative newcomer to Tustin Police Department, compared to “lifers” such as Brian and Brandon, but is loving the job and learning a lot.

“There are a lot of avenues I could take,” he says. “I enjoy reading reports and the group I work with. We all get along.”

Siemiawski, 59, says his sons were always interested in what he did when he came home from work.

“I never pushed them. Basically it’s their own choice,” he said. “I told them it’s a great job.”

As a department, Siemiawski says Tustin would be a good one for his son, for one thing, “They welcomed me with open arms.” Adding about his son, “He’d definitely fit in. They like him.”

Fathers set the stage

Dave Welde, Mark Sauerwein, and Kert Siemiawski all came to policing on their own. For Welde, becoming a policeman gave him a chance to fulfill his father’s dream, in a way.

“My dad had wanted to be a policeman, but he had vision problems,” Welde said. “He was pro-law. He was the head of our neighborhood watch, so I was around police officers.”

Welde said his father got him into Explorers as a teenager, and he never strayed very far, moving through the Cadet program while in college and working as a PSO after graduating. Eventually he entered the police academy and joined Tustin 21 years ago.

Likewise, Sauerwein was the first in his family to pursue law enforcement, although it was a career to which he always aspired. He began as a Police Explorer in Irvine at age 14. At 20, he became a Property and Evidence Clerk and worked in fleet maintenance for nine years before paying his own way through the police academy. He joined Tustin in 1996 after being a reservist in Placentia.

Siemiawski has been in law enforcement for 35 years, working in his post-retirement as a property and evidence specialist. Growing up, he says, “I always wanted to be a police or fireman. From an early age I always had the want.”

He was the first in his family to go into law enforcement.

If the sons continue to follow their fathers’ paths, they will be adopted into a new type of family with a large brother and sisterhood.

“Tustin is a good department, I think they see that,” Kert said.

And maybe the sons will continue to build legacies.

“I know a lot of families that are third and fourth generation (police),” Welde said. “I think it’s definitely in someone’s blood.”