Tustin police officer meets every challenge and thrives

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For Tustin Police Officer Estela Silva, her life and her foray into law enforcement have been marked constantly with challenges.

But Silva, who stands 5 feet tall, hasn’t shied away from any of them.

She spent her teen years living in a group home in a low-income neighborhood in Santa Ana, a situation that could have led to bad choices.

The environment was structured and disciplined, though, Silva said, which wound up being a good thing.

Tustin Police Officer Estela Silva talks to local residents as people calmly wait in line for a Tustin Costco to open in this file photo from March 2020.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

While living in the group home, Silva was influenced by her house father, who was a police services officer at Tustin Police Department.

“He kind of guided me,” Silva said. “I envied the way he was out in public and how people saw him, so I just wanted to follow in those footsteps.”

So, like many youngsters aspiring for a career in law enforcement, Silva became a Tustin Police Department Explorer.

“She was very motivated as an Explorer,” said Det. David Nguyen, Silva’s advisor in the Explorers. “She was always the first to volunteer for stuff. I always knew she was going to go places. She was just solid. She is just a great person.”

From Explorer, Silva became a parking control officer, a position she said taught her patience and helped her grow a thick skin.

“No one likes parking enforcement officers,” Silva said. “Everyone hates parking tickets and street sweeping tickets, so I was able to explain situations. It was easy for me to talk to people and de-escalate (situations) so I used that a lot when it came to the academy or field training. I was able to explain and articulate myself better with people because I was comfortable talking with people.”

Tustin Police Officer Estela Silva talks about her experience as a new officer.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Silva is no stranger to achieving success when she sets her mind to it.

Take, for instance, her foray into powerlifting.

Silva, a workout enthusiast and former Crunch gym trainer and manager, embraced the sport of powerlifting, winning medals at the United States Powerlifting Association competition and the Nevada Police & Fire Games in Las Vegas. In her first-ever powerlifting competition she won second place. Later, she set a record in her weight class for deadlifting at the Nevada Police and Fire Games.

Once she became a civilian parking control officer, she was encouraged by her Tustin Police Department co-workers and superiors to take the leap and become a sworn officer.

She enrolled in the three-week pre-academy but fractured her ankle during an exercise.

Still, she didn’t quit, advancing from the pre-academy to the academy even though the injury got worse.

“Once I started the academy, it was painful every day but I didn’t want to stop,” she said “I hit Week 6 and it was getting worse. My doctor was telling me I needed to stop.”

She was forced to leave, but she recovered and went through the academy for a second time, having to start again at the beginning.

Her second time through, Silva was the only female in a class of 24.

Estela Silva, a former Tustin Police Department Parking Control Officer, placed second in her weight category for power lifting at the Police Games in Las Vegas in this file photo from August 14, 2018.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

She was given the nickname “momma bear” by her classmates.

She graduated from the academy on Sept. 26, 2019.

“One of the best days of my life,” Silva said. “I felt very accomplished and proud of myself because I was finally able to do it after being injured and starting all over again.”

Silva, who is bilingual, said she loves the diversity of being a patrol officer.

“Right now, since I’m so new, I just want to learn from everyone,” she said.

Silva envisions herself eventually working gangs, becoming a detective and perhaps a field training officer.

“I’ve been here 13 years and I’ve been able to actually see Officer Silva grow,” said her sergeant, Diego Gomez. “Her maturity level is exponential. She pretty much understands the culture. She’s got no problem going out there and taking care of business, which might be issuing a citation or taking somebody to jail. Forty percent of the population of Tustin is Spanish speaking and she is able to bridge that gap.”

Said Silva: “I love what I do. I really enjoy myself. I’ve had many other jobs, but this one I wake up and I’m actually excited to put on my uniform and go.”