Last year, when he heard that his friend, Charlie Celano, was going to retire as chief of the Tustin PD, Stu Greenberg phoned him to congratulate him.
At the time, Greenberg, a 33-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, was assistant sheriff of custody operations. In that role, he oversaw the day-to-day operations of O.C.’s massive five-jail system, which requires a staff of 1,800 and on any given day houses some 6,500 inmates.
Greenberg wasn’t looking for a job – or didn’t realize he was.
Soon, though, the thought of putting his hat in the ring as a possible successor to Celano intrigued him.
“Tustin is one of those unique departments that when you think about it, it’s just the right size, and it has a great reputation,” Greenberg said Wednesday, Jan. 9 – at his swearing-in ceremony as Tustin’s new police chief.
The OCSD’s loss is Tustin’s gain, city officials said at the ceremony at the Tustin Community Center.
Mayor Chuck Puckett, who has lived in Tustin for almost 44 years, said he’s excited to have Greenberg as chief – as are Puckett’s colleagues Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Allan Bernstein and City Council members Letitia Clark, Austin Lumbard, and Barry Cooper.
“We have a history of phenomenal police chiefs in Tustin,” Puckett said, “and I can see that the (streak) is going to be carried out.”
City Manager Jeff Parker, who swore in Celano as chief in February 2014, said the process of finding Celano’s replacement was lengthy and thorough – and that he’s convinced Greenberg is the right choice.
“We picked the right person,” Parker said. “I’m very proud of the process that we went through. I think we have a top-notch person for our community, and I think he just fits well with the organization and the men and women in blue. We have such a great team, and a great organization overall.
“I think Stu is going to walk into a very comfortable position, and yet his leadership is going to allow us to move forward and grow.”
Greenberg held many varied positions at the OCSD, including Chief of Police Services for Stanton when he was a lieutenant. As Counter Terrorism Bureau commander, he managed the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and was the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid coordinator and oversaw Homeland Security Grants.
Greenberg has run the OCSD’s Criminal Investigations Bureau and Special Investigations Bureau. As a captain, he ran the Investigations Division and was manager of the Regional Narcotics Suppression Program (RNSP).
Prior to running the OCSD’s jails, Greenberg was commander of Field Operations, which includes six divisions.
He retired from the OCSD in November 2018.
“The breadth of what Stu brought to the organization was one of the highlights that I saw in (him),” Parker said. “You name it, I think Stu’s seen it, felt it, and been a part of it.”
Greenberg’s son, Steven, 30, a four-year veteran of the OCSD and a deputy assigned to North Patrol – and a member of the SWAT team — pinned the chief’s badge on his father.
Puckett administered the oath of office.
During the invocation, Tustin PD Chaplain Gwaltney asked that “wisdom and discernment in his role as chief guide his words and actions, and may he always act with honesty, integrity and fairness.
“May he always have the well-being of the men and women of the department first and foremost on his mind.”
Greenberg spent a few minutes thanking his former colleagues at the OCSD, many of whom were in attendance – including Sheriff Don Barnes, who was sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 8. He also thanked city officials, Tustin PD personnel, and other current and retired law enforcement members in the room.
“This is overwhelming, to be honest with you,” Greenberg said. “This is nothing I ever expected, nothing I ever thought was in the cards for me.”
Greenberg thanked Barnes and other OCSD personnel for giving him the opportunities to rise through the ranks.
“I miss you already, and I appreciate everything you guys did,” Greenberg said.
He gave special thanks to “the troops” at the OCSD – the agency’s rank-and-file deputies.
“I tell you, I owe all my success to the troops,” Greenberg said. “You guys and gals do the heavy lifting every single day. I would be nowhere without all of you.”
He thanked Tustin city officials and staff members, as well as sworn and professional staff members of the TPD, for giving him such a warm welcome.
“I look forward to working with all of you, being a good partner, and tackling the problems together head on,” Greenberg said. “It’s going to be an exciting time, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Greenberg addressed his new TPD family:
“My commitment to all of you is that I’m going to fight hard to get you the resources you need, the assets you need, and the training you need to make you better prepared to handle the responsibilities of being in law enforcement. I will work tirelessly at that to prepare us for the future.”
During his remarks, Greenberg spotted his old friend, Celano, in the audience.
Celano spent 27 years at the TPD, working his way up to chief.
Greenberg said he wouldn’t be where he is without Celano’s support.
“Thank you, brother,” Greenberg told him.
Greenberg said he’s seen more changes in law enforcement in the last five years than in his previous 28 years at the OCSD.
“We’ve seen extreme highs and extreme lows,” he said. “We’ve seen changes that I don’t think a lot of us were prepared to see. We’ve seen things nobody ever wants to see.
“We’ve seen increased scrutiny, and targeting of law enforcement both verbally and physically. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives here except to point out the obvious: It’s a new world we live in right now.
“On top of everything that we’re facing, we’re also expected to deal with new issues like mental health, the drug epidemic, changes in the laws, the homeless issue. A lot of this stuff we were never prepared to handle — we never trained for it. And yet law enforcement has been asked time and time again to step up.”
Greenberg said that in such an environment, “We need to work together and we need the support of the community.”
Added Tustin’s new police chief: “We strive every day to work to protect and serve the very community that supports us. I think in Orange County in general, we have a great relationship with the communities we serve. We’re lucky. My plea to the community is continue that support, and we will continue to engage. We will continue to reach out and work with you.
“My plan is to lead this department with a level of professionalism, integrity, ethics, and transparency. We earn that trust, and we maintain it. And the (TPD) has it already.
‘So I’m not giving you anything you don’t already have. I’m just going to expand on what you’ve already started.”