Tustin police personnel get an extreme makeover


If you’re a Tustin resident, you might have noticed something different about Tustin Police employees – they began sporting a new look.

Recently, the Tustin Police Department revamped every detail on their uniforms, from the badges, the patches, the name plates, down to the buttons. But the process of implementing the new swag took months in the making.

With help from committee of employees from different assignments, both sworn and civilian, the Tustin Police Department rolled out the new look.

Master Sergeant Jim Brabeck, Lt. Manny Arzate, and other personnel headed the uniform section of the department wide re-branding process.

“I’m by no means a fashionista,” Brabeck admitted. “But I recognized that the uniforms weren’t as professional as they could have been.”

The department’s old uniforms also lacked a clear distinction connecting them to the city of Tustin.

“The old uniforms were just very cookie cutter,” Lt. Manny Arzate said. “I realized unlike other departments, with our badge, there was nothing unique to this city, other than our city seal.”

Luckily for the department, this wasn’t Brabeck’s first time being involved with uniform changes; back in 2008 he helped re-vamp the department’s patches.

Tustin police officers attend a swearing in ceremony with their new uniforms, badges and shoulder patches.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“In retrospect, I always wished we would’ve spent more time on (the patches) the first time,” Brabeck said. “We came down to the deadline and we just went forward with the development of the patch.”

However, Brabeck would now get another chance to implement a new patch and uniform that truly reflected the city’s high standards.

“In late 2016, I became aware field training officer Andrew Gleason was writing a proposal to change the patch and the changes that he was going to recommend were really cool, Brabeck said.

Brabeck came up with the idea to not only propose a new patch, but to propose that the department as a whole get new uniforms.

“I could tell that with the uniforms, we needed to get something a little bit more traditional,” Brabeck said. “Something that would restore some of that professionalism that sometimes fades away over time.”

Former Chief of Tustin, Charles Celano, caught wind of the group’s plan to propose a new uniform and felt it was the perfect time to rebrand the whole agency.

“Basically, the uniform committee became the rebranding committee,” Brabeck said.

Within the rebranding committee were subcommittees which included uniforms, badges, patches, and plans for a station remodel.

Old and new Tustin police badges and patches. Top row shows two old police patches on the left and three new ones on the right. Middle row are all new and the bottom row shows three old badges on the left and three new ones on the right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

As a joint effort, the rebranding committee got to work in early 2018.

“The whole thing just came together,” Arzate said.

The group was excited to get started on the new uniforms, particularly the badge, which would be inspired by the history of Tustin.

“The badge was extremely important,” Arzate said. “The flags and hanger were added to celebrate our military history because we had the Tustin Marine base in our city.

Brabeck added, “the new badge is really professional and allows the officers to represent the city with some additional pride.”

With the badge in the works, Brabeck turned his focus to the uniforms.

When it comes to the officers’ daily uniforms, aside from the new badges, patches, and name tags, their pants now sport pockets that zip from the inside and are less bulky.

“Our job was to make sure that we were providing the officers with all the utility and comfort that they need while still presenting a professional image,” Brabeck said.

Along with sworn staff, civilian staff were also included in the uniform change and got to turn in their old light blue uniforms for new modern grey ones.

Tustin Police Department’s new gray civilian police uniforms (non sworn) with the new badge featuring the Tustin hangars and new blue, white, and black shoulder patches.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“The light blue uniform tended to adhere to a lot of dirt and just didn’t look professional by the end of the day,” said Fraud Investigator Denise Avila, who wears the civilian uniform.

In addition to looking sharper, the new civilian uniforms are also more functional.

“They’re breathable and they have a mesh lining on the side,” Avila said. “When we’re out doing long investigations, especially when we’re processing a crime scene, the light blue uniform didn’t have that ventilation so we were out there sweating.”

Arzate explained that the civilian uniform change was important because it shows that everyone in the department, no matter what unit or rank, are all a part of the same team.

“The non-sworn uniforms are a perfect example of how we aren’t just trying to improve the police side,” Arzate said. “We’re all here at same department and we can’t get our job done without each other.”

However, when it came to the sworn officers’ uniforms, Brabeck was most excited about the Class-A changes.

Class-A uniforms are worn during formal events, including academy graduations, promotions, funerals, and other official ceremonies. In the past, officers might wear these Class-A uniforms on the job, where they would become ruined.

“We all agreed that there should be just one uniform that’s issued strictly as a Class-A,” Brabeck said.

Tustin Police Department’s new police blue, white and black arm patch and a P Button used on Class A formal uniforms.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The new Class-A uniforms are double thick wool and follow the traditional Los Angeles Police Department spec, which is the standard for all officers in Southern California, with the exception of the sheriff’s department.

The new Class-A uniforms are less likely to wrinkle and look sharp with added details down to the buttons.

The buttons are pewter, some call it silver oxide, and are engraved with the words, “Tustin Police Department.”

Although stressful at times, Brabeck and Arzate enjoyed the collaborative effort of creating the new uniforms which were unveiled on November 2018.

“So many people were involved and it wasn’t all me,” Brabeck said. “The uniforms were just my contribution.”

Arzate added, “It was a collective effort, but Jim was definitely the driving force behind all of it.”

Brabeck says the officers’ new look is one he is proud to have been a part of creating.

“I think we’ve finally gotten it right,” Arzate added. “I’m just proud to wear the uniform. I’m proud of the compliments that we get for the way they look and ultimately just to represent our city and this profession.”

A cold weather police jacket shows the new cloth badge featuring the Tustin hangars and the new shoulder patch on the right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge