Tustin Police Department’s Open House returns: new, improved and virtual


Traditionally, it’s the responsibility of the Community Resources Unit to plan Tustin PD’s Open House every year. At the beginning of 2021, when it was time to sit down and plan this year’s Open House, it was still uncertain if California COVID-19 regulations were going to allow in-person events by June.

Not wanting to risk Open House getting canceled for a second year in a row, the Community Resources Unit knew they would have to get creative if it was going to happen.

The team decided to move forward with a virtual event. They saw this as an opportunity to reach more people who could log on with their electronic devices and watch when they had free time.

“That is the best part about this — to be able to tune in at their leisure and see this,” said Community Resources Unit Sgt. Sarah Fetterling.

Another added benefit is to be able to provide the community with more of an understanding of what the employees at Tustin PD do every day.

Tustin Police Department’s Virtual Open House takes place June 5, starting at 11 a.m.

The Open House’s platform link will be posted on the Tustin Police Department’s website website (www.tustinpd.org) and social media (@tustinpolice) platforms as the event nears.

“This will be our first one in two years,” said Fetterling. “I think the community is really going to love it.”

A crowd of kids and parents watch as Tustin Police Department puts on a motorcycle demonstration during the department’s Open House in July 2019.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Anyone who visits the platform (developed by 526 Media Group) starting on that day and time will be able to access a variety of content pertaining to the daily ins-and-outs of Tustin PD. Much like the annual in-person Open House, there will be police department informational “booths” including:

  • Chief’s Advisory Board (CAB)
  • Citizens Academy (English and Spanish)
  • Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
  • Community Relations Unit
  • Homeless Liaison Officer (HLO)
  • Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)
  • Criminal Investigations Unit (CIU)
  • Explorers
  • Gang Reduction and Directed Enforcement (GRADE) Unit
  • Honor Guard
  • K9 Unit
  • Motors
  • Professional Standards Division (PSD)
  • Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT)
  • Tustin Historical Museum
  • Tustin Police Foundation
  • Wally Karp Memorial

Lt. Ryan Coe will be hosting Q&A sessions with Motor Officer Michael McJunkin, SWAT Sergeant Gus Gonzalez and K9 Officer Taylor Ryan. Coe asks them each about their training, why they chose the particular specialty they are in, and explains some of the tools they use daily while on duty.

There will also be demonstration videos (filmed by Studio 360) for SWAT, the K9 Unit, the Motor Unit and Honor Guard.

“The demonstrations that are typically put on are in the street in front of the police department. Usually, there is a Motors demonstration, a SWAT demonstration, and a K-9 demonstration,” said TPD Police Services Officer Jen Jones.

Tustin Police Department K9 Rocky waits for his next command on top of a pile of barrels as part of a Tustin Police Department Open House demonstration in July 2019.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

But for the Virtual Open House, there will be detailed videos instead. The benefit of doing the videos, PSO Jones said, is the ability to intertwine interviews with officers and employees, for a much richer experience for viewers.

“The demonstration videos that were shot, they’re amazing,” said Jones. “Instead of [just]people standing on the sidewalks watching the motor officers weave through cone patterns … you have the motor officer in the video explaining what the cone patterns are and why they need them. It’s a little more in-depth, which is really cool.”

Another big plus is a special a cappella version of the National Anthem sang by Dawn Wright, known for singing it at professional sporting events. She also happens to be married to a Tustin PD sergeant.

“She’s done National Anthems for us in years past,” said Jones, “and she is absolutely amazing.”

Two-year-old Caden Heilig of Tustin, left, holds on to his brother Cody Heilig, 4, as they take a Tustin police motorcycle out for a spin, with the kickstand down, during Tustin Police Department’s 19th annual Open House in June 2015.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Even if visitors don’t tune in right at 11 a.m. or even on June 5, they will have plenty of opportunity to see the videos and learn more about the department. The platform will remain up long after June 5.

“If people don’t tune in at the exact time, they still have the opportunity to see it at their leisure,” said Fetterling. “If people want to see all of it, they can definitely take their time to go through all of it.”

In addition to the booths and demo videos, there will also be a highlight reel including a KidsZone, A Day in the Life of an Officer with a virtual ride-along, a Sit-Along with Dispatch, and a Tour of the PD with PSO Jen Jones and her partner, PSO Zhanna Ismailova.

The KidsZone was designed in the tradition of what is normally offered at the in-person Open House. It will include their Read Across America video, a Virtual Walk to School video, PDFs of TPD-themed coloring pages and a trivia quiz, which can enter kids for a chance to participate in Shop with a Cop.

Youngsters line Centennial Way during the Tustin Police Department Open House
in July 2018 to get a closer view of the motor officers as they display their riding skills. The officers showed their appreciation with low fives.
File photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge

“We wanted to make sure we still include that [kids area]in our Virtual Open House,” said Jones.

Given the cancelation of last year’s event, the Community Resources Unit is eager to offer an Open House this year.

“I want to stay humble, but I also know how great an event this is and just because things aren’t quite safe yet, we didn’t want the community to miss out on something that they look forward to each year,” said Jones. “It’s going to look a little different than they are used to. The same amount of hard work and dedication went into it. They deserve it — they’re super supportive, and we like to give back to our community.”