Tustin Police Department announces new promotions


The Tustin Police Department recently rewarded several officers for jobs well done and helped them start the new year with a jump as promotions were handed out January 3, 2022.

Capt. Stephanie Nichols

After 23 years at the Tustin Police Department, Stephanie Nichols has worked in units all over the department since she was first hired as a recruit in 1999. Now, she adds the rank of Captain to her resume.

Prior to her promotion to Captain, Nichols was assigned as the Lieutenant in charge of the Professional Standards Division.  During her term in Professional Standards Nichols was responsible for the oversight of department administrative investigations, all department hiring and training as well as oversight of the Chief’s Advisory Board.

As a Captain she is now in charge of overseeing the Administrative Services Bureau.

“The staff of the Administrative Services Bureau represents a critical element in the effective delivery of police service to the community. We also provide the support and resources for the Community Policing Bureau,” Nichols wrote. “The Administrative Services Bureau is staffed with 54 civilian employees who work in one of four units. These Units include the Communications Unit, Records Unit, Property Unit and the Police Services Officer Unit. We focus on problem solving and excellence in customer service.”

Captain Stephanie Nichols of the Tustin Police Department was recently promoted.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Nichols said she was grateful to Tustin Police Chief Stu Greenberg and the rest of the command staff for their continued support.

“I am excited for the next chapter,” she said. “Honestly, I just want to leave the job better than when I came.”

Nichols worked in a variety of assignments in her early career, including patrol and field training officer. She was promoted to Sergeant in 2009 where she oversaw the department’s Explorer program and was coordinator of the First Aid and CPR staff. In 2014, Nichols was selected as the supervisor of Criminal Investigations, which oversees both major crimes and property crimes in the city.

Nichols was hired by the Tustin Police Department in August 1999, just ahead of her graduation from the Golden West College Police Academy. Prior to joining Tustin full-time, Nichols was a cadet for the Orange Police Department from 1994 to 1999. She graduated from El Dorado High School in Placentia in 1991. Nichols earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton in 1996 and went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Fullerton in 1999.

Reflecting on her promotion she wrote, “I am so proud of this department and the dedicated men and women, both sworn and civilian. I am very humbled to still wear this badge every day and serve the citizens of Tustin as a new Police Captain.”

Lt. Matt Nunley

Lt. Matt Nunley is somewhat famously known for his first day on the job as a Tustin Police Officer: Sept. 11, 2001, or 9-11, the day of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and Washington D.C.  But there has been a lot more to Nunley’s 20-year career than that fateful day.

Nunley came to the Tustin Police Department after working for several other police agencies in his youth. He was a parking control officer for the City of Orange, a police cadet for the City of Costa Mesa and served the City of Signal Hill as an explorer, police dispatcher and reserve police officer. While at the Tustin Police Department, Lt. Nunley worked patrol, was a two-time field training officer, motor officer and the department’s personnel and training officer before promoting to sergeant. As a sergeant, he worked patrol and then supervised the Professional Standards Division before being promoted to Lieutenant. While working at the Tustin Police Department, Nunley went back to school and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach and a Master’s degree from the University of Redlands.

Tustin PD Lt. Matt Nunley.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Promotions often mean assuming a new role, forging relationships with a new group of officers, and a steep learning curve. For Nunley, about the only thing that changed was his phone number. Due to Captain Nichols’ promotion, Lt. Nunley was assigned to take over her role as commander of the Professional Standards Division.  

As head of the Professional Standards Division and the Public Information Officer, Nunley will be the voice and face of the department on a number of issues. In this job, he responds to media requests and provides information on police actions and activities.

However, the division also has oversight of the recruitment and hiring of police department personnel, training of department employees and Internal Affairs, which investigates police misconduct. Other responsibilities of the division include oversight of the Chief’s Advisory Board, the Cadet program, the Explorer program and the Chaplain program.

Asked about what made him want to apply for Lieutenant, Nunley said, “Part of it is just wanting to do more, to be more involved in the decision-making process, helping to make the department better for the people that work here.”

Sgt. Ryan Newton

After distinguishing himself as a highly decorated detective in the Tustin Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit, Ryan Newton has earned his Sergeant’s stripes.

Newton had actually been on the job as an acting Sergeant on patrol, filling in for an officer injured on duty, when he received the official promotion. Eighteen months prior to that he became a Field Training Officer.

Newton said his rotation in detectives was coming to an end when he decided to test for promotion. Going back onto the streets, he says, has been valuable in reacquainting with another side of policing.

“When you’re a detective, you forget what it’s like to be a street cop,” he said. “We have a lot of young police officers. I wanted to be a part of growing them the same way a lot of great Sergeants helped me.”

A 16-year veteran in the department, Newton says eventually he’d like to work his way back to detective work.

“Obviously I miss detectives a lot. We had a great team and closed a lot of cases. I’d love to go back to the Criminal Investigations Unit as a Sergeant, but I understand that won’t be for a while.”

Tustin PD Sgt. Ryan Newton received the Case of the Year and Officer of the Year awards for 2018.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

As a detective, Newton was Officer of the Year for Tustin in 2018 and twice involved in the department’s Case of the Year, in 2018 and 2019.

The 2018 case involved serial bank robber Daniel David Courson, who had been on Tustin’s Most Wanted list since 2015. Courson was known as the “floppy hat bandit,” the “boonie hat bandit,” and “sneaky bicyclist bandit,” monikers gained from methods he’s used to rob banks.

Newton was involved in the case throughout, advising the FBI in what became a multi-state, multi-agency hunt, before Courson was eventually arrested in Idaho.

Talking to Behind the Badge in 2018, before Courson was taken into custody, Newton said, “He was thinking, ‘I’m never going to get caught unless I have some overzealous detective,’ I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’ve been dedicated to finding this guy and I can’t wait to do it.’”

The next year, Newton was on the team of officers that helped find and arrest two suspects in the murder of David Nakaki, 62.

The start of Newton’s career was less auspicious. The day he decided to check out an orientation for the Criminal Justice Training Center at Golden West College he was 15 minutes late. On the first day of the police academy, his tactical officer tore Newton a new one for missing a loop on his belt.

Suffice it to say, things have looked up since.