It’s rare when a person is born knowing what they were cut out to do.
In life, plans change and paths lead people to new destinations.
However, some are lucky enough to know exactly what they were born to do. Tustin Motor Officer Michael McJunkin is one of those people.
Although McJunkin has worked as a police officer since 2017, his love for policing started at a tender age.
“It’s kind of nerdy, but I watched ‘CHIPS’ when I was a little kid,” McJunkin said with a laugh. “When I was in kindergarten, or something like that, I found arts and crafts stuff in my parents’ house and I wrote, ‘When I grow up I want to be a police officer’.”
His interest in policing grew from there.
For his high school senior class project, McJunkin chose to research and present the topic of police technology.
During his time researching, McJunkin got to know several police officers and went on six ride-alongs.
One ride-along was with Officer Javon Smith at the Tustin Police Department.
“When he took me on a ride-along, I was like, ‘This is the place, I’m not going to work anywhere else,’” McJunkin said. “From that point on, I just knew this is what I wanted to do because to me, it was the coolest job in the world.”
After graduating from high school, McJunkin got serious about pursuing a career as a police officer and began applying for non-sworn positions.
“I was super young at the time, so I didn’t get a job,” McJunkin said. “It was competitive.”
It didn’t stop McJunkin. He attended community college and in December 2016, he began recruiting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
He made it through the police academy and started working for LASD in2017.
Although he was grateful to be given the opportunity to work for LASD, there still was something missing.
“I always knew I wanted to work in a small town because I like that small-town feel,” McJunkin said. “L.A. County obviously didn’t have that feel at all.”
McJunkin kept an eye out and when an opening at the Tustin Police Department became available he applied and got the job as a patrol officer.
He wouldn’t stay in the position for long.
After a year of working at the Tustin Police Department, an opportunity to become a motor officer opened up and McJunkin hopped on it. He’s always had a passion for riding dirt bikes and motorcycles.
“In my opening statement for the interview I was very straightforward,” McJunkin said. “I told them I grew up riding motorcycles and that I absolutely love riding and I love being a cop, so I want to put those two things together.”
McJunkin got the motor officer position and began prepping for the motor academy.
The motor academy would be a first, not just for McJunkin, but for the Department as well.
The Department sent McJunkin to the Los Angeles Police Department’s motor academy.
He spent two weeks training in Granada Hills.
“It was challenging, but I almost wish that I was still in it right now,” McJunkin said. “There are super good people there and the training is amazing.”
The officers must pass certain steps in order to graduate.
Officers start by learning to ride dirt bikes and over the next week they transition to the big motorcycles.
“Here I am thinking I’m this big bad motorcycle rider and the first day I get on a fully dressed police bike and it tips over — I feel like a dork,” McJunkin said. “So the academy is humbling and it’s just a completely different style of riding.”
The most challenging aspect of the academy was learning cone patterns.
“I went through the same cone pattern a hundred times and I couldn’t get through it,” McJunkin said. “But once you get it one time, it clicks. It’s frustrating at first and then somehow it becomes fun.”
The hard work paid off. On July 19, McJunkin graduated from motor school.
While he hasn’t worked as a motor for long, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges.
On his first week working in traffic, he got called in at midnight to investigate a fatal car crash.
“It’s been hard transitioning from arresting bad guys to writing tickets,” McJunkin said. “But I take any job I have seriously and if there’s a crash I want people to know that I am going to be out there helping and doing my part.”
McJunkin’s main duties are now focused on traffic and administrative work.
Motors at the Tustin Police Department work on writing grants, planning events, and setting up DUI checkpoints.
“I still like taking bad guys off the street, so if someone causes a car accident,” McJunkin said, “someone drove in violation of some vehicle code to make that crash happen, so it’s cool when you figure out what caused it.”
In addition to his duties in traffic, McJunkin also is a member of the honor guard, range staff, and was nominated as Officer of the Month in March.
“It’s a super rewarding career, but you have to be pretty strong because a lot of people hate us right now, but luckily Tustin has our backs,” McJunkin said. “I’m making a difference in Tustin and I know that I’m doing the right thing. Now I get to do all that on a bike. I love it, it can’t get much better.”