Three days a week, Rich Ruedas is at Tustin PD before the sun comes up.
That’s when the black-and-whites are there, he says.
It is Ruedas’ job to tend to the patrol cars and make sure they are ready to go for when the officers arrive for morning shift.
He stocks First-Aid kits, weapons, parking cones, water — anything an officer might need.
When not on his usual assignment, Ruedas also works community events or DUI checkpoints.
Ruedas is very proud of the work he does.
And since he started volunteering at the Tustin PD a little more than four years ago, the former Marine has dedicated more than 7,000 hours to the department.
“I like giving back to the officers and plugging in the holes they can’t fill,” said Ruedas, who worked as an assignment editor for NBC before retiring. “I like keeping busy.”
The Tustin Police Department on Tuesday honored Ruedas and the 12 other volunteers of the department with a dinner to say thank you at Blue Water Grill at the District.
“What you do inspires me,” Police Chief Charles Celano told the volunteers. “I hope, at some point in my life, I can do what you’re doing.”
Volunteers are an integral part of the Tustin law enforcement family.
They work DUI checkpoints, Tustin Tiller Days and the annual Chili Cook-Off, among other community events.
They work in records, fleet, professional standards, community relations, CSI, traffic and general investigations.
Many of the volunteers also sign up for Neighborhood Watch and various school programs.
At least once a year, volunteers also participate in a ride-along to stay connected to the work patrol officers are doing on the streets.
It is estimated for every hour a volunteer donates, the department saves about $22. So far this year, volunteers have put in 2,500 hours, which means a $55,000 savings to Tustin PD.
Since the program’s inception in the mid-90s, volunteers have put in $1.3 million worth of work, Celano said.
But these volunteers mean much more than helping the department financially, the chief added.
“You really are members of our family,” Celano told the volunteers. “It’s not enough to say ‘thank you’ for everything that you do.”
This feeling of belonging is what drew Ray and Kathy Leger to volunteer with Tustin PD.
“They’ve taken us in as if we’re sworn officers,” Ray Leger said. “They treat us the same way.”
The couple joined in 2001 and are currently the longest-serving members of the team. Both started after being introduced to the volunteer program through the Citizen’s Academy.
When the Legers joined, they still had full-time jobs — she worked for the Tustin Unified School District and he served as an engineer and also worked in customer service at John Wayne Airport.
“I made the time,” Ray Leger said of holding two jobs and donating hours at TPD. “I wanted to do it.”
Ray’s primary responsibility is serving as the department’s child safety seat technician.
When nervous parents-to-be want to ensure their car seat is installed correctly, Ray will inspect them and help them make any changes, if needed.
Kathy’s speciality is working records, where she is tasked with a variety of assignments.
The couple also volunteers for DUI checkpoints and other community events.
When Kathy suffered a ruptured valve and kidney failure a couple years ago, she was forced to cut back her hours.
Members of the Tustin Police Department were there to encourage her through recovery, she said.
“They were so supportive and were so nice to me when I had my medical scare,” she said. “The officers here are just huggable.”
This feeling of camaraderie and service is why the volunteers continue to dedicate their time every day.
“We’re family,” Kathy said.
Tustin Volunteer Awards:
7,000 hours of service: Marilyn Hogan and Rich Ruedas
5,000 hours of service: Ray Leger
2,500 hours of service: Andie Ervin, Jean Gayer and Diane D’Arcy
500 hours of service: Michael Bahr and Salli Kelly
Diane D’ Arcy