Positivity was the focus as the Tustin PD expanded its law enforcement family and promoted some of their own in a standing-room-only ceremony.
Members of the department, along with family and friends of those being honored Wednesday, Aug. 3, gathered in the City Council chambers to celebrate changes in the department.
“We need this don’t we? All this good news and positivity,” said Tustin Police Chief Charlie Celano. “Nationally, some would say there is a crisis in law enforcement, but I would say there’s a disconnect between us and the public.
“But there is not a crisis here in Tustin, and that’s because of the type of people we bring in and … the support we have from the community.”
Tustin welcomed its first ever deputy chief, Paul Garaven, who will serve as Celano’s second in command, and a new civilian commander.
Celano also promoted a veteran officer to sergeant, and welcomed a new officer, who transferred from the Laguna Beach Police Department.
Several new civilian employees, along with a new chaplain and two cadets also were welcomed to the Tustin Police Department family.
Here is a look at those honored Aug. 3:
Deputy Chief Paul Garaven
As Tustin PD’s first ever deputy chief, Garaven will serve as the department’s second in command and will oversee all the department’s sworn personnel, including patrol, special operations and professional standards.
Garaven started with Tustin PD in 1987 as a reserve police officer before getting hired as a full time police officer in 1989.
In his nearly 30 years of service, Garaven served as a sergeant for 10 years before being promoted to lieutenant in 2009, and in 2014 he was promoted to captain.
Civilian Police Commander Katarina “Kat” Thomas
As the department’s new civilian commander, Cmdr. Kat Thomas will oversee all of the department’s civilian operations, which includes the communications, records, property and police service officers.
Thomas served as a sworn officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 21 years where she worked a variety of assignments including patrol, investigations, vice, field supervision and administrative functions.
Before joining law enforcement, Thomas worked as a marriage and family therapist.
She received her doctorate of philosophy in clinical psychology in 2006, which helped her achieve her life-long goal of supporting employee wellness for those who serve in law enforcement.
Sgt. David Welde
Welde has served with Tustin PD for 14 years, and has worked as a field training officer, auto theft detective and a CPR/first aid instructor.
He also is a member of the mobile field force, major accident Investigation team and the newly formed special response team.
Before coming to Tustin PD, he was hired in 1991 as a community service officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and then served as a police service officer in 1995 with Norwalk.
Welde said he credits his many mentors at Tustin PD for achieving one of his major career goals — serving as sergeant for the department.
“It was a long road for me to get here, and it took me awhile to accomplish this goal,” Welde said. “I’m looking forward to being a leader in the department.”
The rank of sergeant, Celano said, is among the most important positions in the department.
“It is the most critical position because they drive the culture of the department,” he said. “We rely on them heavily to keep things moving in a professional direction.”
Officer Charles Carter
Carter is a lateral hire from the Laguna Beach Police Department, where he served for nearly a year after graduating from the Golden West College Police Academy in September 2015.
He now will work alongside his younger brother, Michael Carter, who is a Tustin PD officer, while earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Carter has been married for nearly five years to his wife, Sandeep, who pinned his badge at the ceremony.
Said Carter after asking Celano to pinch him to ensure the moment was real: “I work for a great department and a great group of people. I’m just very thankful to be here.”
Police Services Officer Alysia Cornell
Cornell was hired by Tustin PD in January 2014 as a communications officer with her sights set on one day becoming a police services officer — a position she started this past April.
Cornell graduated from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, with a minor in biology and chemistry. She also earned her master’s degree in 2009 in forensic science from UC Davis.
Police Records Specialist Eileen Chen
Chen first started working for Tustin PD as a part-time parking control officer in 2014 while working toward an associate’s of science degree in administration of justice.
She graduated from UC Riverside in 2005, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, with an emphasis in marketing.
Chen started her new role in the records department on April 18.
Communications Officer Melinda Hoffman
Hoffman started her law enforcement career as a public safety dispatcher with the Beaumont Police Department in 2008. Before that, she worked as an office manager for an outpatient surgery center.
She married Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. James Hoffman in March, and she is getting ready to see her daughter off to college this fall. however, their home won’t be empty, because Hoffman said their German Shepherd, Sasha, will continue to live at home, keeping them busy.
“I’m honored to be a part of the police department,” Hoffman said. “The people I’ve met so far are kind and the community is so supportive. I’m honored to serve.”
Officer David Valencia
Valencia is among three of Tustin PD’s newest officers as a graduate of Class No. 220 with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Academy.
He grew up in Fountain Valley and graduated from Huntington Beach Union High School District in 2009.
He worked in a variety of jobs — from selling time shares to working in customer service — before applying to become a police officer.
He is married to Heather and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Helinea.
Officer Leah Barrett
Barrett also was a graduate of Class No. 220 with the OCSD Training Academy.
She graduated from La Plata High School in 2000, then attended Coastal Carolina University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. She then earned her master’s degree in physical education from the University of West Georgia in 2007.
The Maryland native is a former university soccer coach and college counselor mentoring students looking to carve a career path.
Officer Ismael Aurelus
Aurelus graduated from Hialeah High in 2005 before attending St. Thomas University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
After college, Aurelus joined the US Navy, where he served as a logistical specialist for four years.
He also was a graduate of OCSD Training Academy Class No. 220.
Chaplain Jack Mumford
Mumford moved to California two years ago from Washington when he took a job as the lead pastor at Tustin’s Orange County Church.
He previously had served as an associate pastor of the Sumas Advent Christian Church in Washington.
Tustin PD’s newest chaplain has a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Columbia Bible College, and currently is working toward his master’s degree at Biola University.
“I’m very excited to get to know everyone, and excited to see how we can be of help in this community,” Mumford said.
Mumford and his wife, Kizzy, have been married since 2006 and have four children.
Management Assistant Melissa Laird
Before being hired with Tustin PD, Laird worked as an office support specialist in the Tustin City Clerk’s office.
Laird graduated cum laude in 2013 from Cal State Fullerton, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration, with a minor in political science.
She was born and raised in Anaheim and currently lives in Orange with her husband, Ryan, and sons Andrew and Jordan.
“I was taught you can’t have a meaningful life unless you have meaningful work,” Laird said. “I am very proud to be here, and I’m looking forward to growing and learning about law enforcement because there is a lot to learn.”
Ok was born in South Korea and was raised in Oahu, HI.
He currently is a senior at UC Irvine where he is double majoring in criminology, law and society, and psychology and social behavior.
Ok has plans to enroll in the police academy after he graduates next year, with hopes of getting hired as a police officer with Tustin PD.
Gomez was born in Granada Hills, but lived in Mexico for eight years before returning to California.
From a young age, Tustin PD’s newest cadet has wanted a future in law enforcement, and this is a major step toward that goal.
She currently is a senior at UC Irvine, and plans to attend the police academy when she graduates college and also hopes to one day working as a police officer for Tustin PD.