The TV police comedy-drama “CHiPs” first sparked Sgt. John Hedges’ interest in law enforcement when he was just a boy.
“I remember watching ‘CHiPs’ with Ponch and Jon. I knew I wanted to be a police officer, especially a motorcycle officer,” said Hedges, who has been at the Tustin Police Department since March 2006 and held the position of motorcycle officer for almost eight years.
His love of police work and patrolling Tustin on a motorcycle has held strong over the years as his job has evolved. He still agrees with how, “they always say being a motorcycle officer is the best assignment,” Hedges has added being a sergeant into that sentiment.
“I truly believe being a sergeant is the best position in the department,” he said. “It’s a great feeling being able to lead the next generation of police officers.”
Guiding the next generation and teaching them about police work and how to succeed in law enforcement are what drive him these days.
“For me, it’s really rewarding,” he said. “I enjoy working with our newer officers, going on calls with them, and helping teach them to be solid officers.”
After he lateraled over from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2006 as a reserve deputy, he spent several years as a patrol officer at the Tustin Police Department. Hedges knew he wanted to be a motor officer right away and eventually he attained that dream. Once he’d been a motor officer for a while, he developed a new goal.
“I knew I wanted to advance my career and promote,” he said.
Hedges said having a balance of education, training, and experience is crucial for any leader in law enforcement, so he went back to patrol as a Field Training Officer (FTO). As an FTO, he trained many new officers and enjoyed his first formal leadership position. He developed his leadership skills and decision-making abilities, which are important traits for a police sergeant.
Due to department needs Hedges went back to the Traffic Unit as a motor officer, where he rode the motorcycle again and was an acting sergeant for the Patrol Division. As an acting sergeant for just under three months, he directly supervised a patrol squad. Here, Hedges learned that to be an effective leader, he needed to recognize that each employee is unique in their personality and approach to the job. By identifying how each employee learns best, he has been able to tailor his leadership style and find an approach that best suits the needs of each individual officer.
On Jan. 2, he reached his next goal and was promoted to sergeant. Now he’s taking all he’s learned to help officers succeed — especially with the large number of newer officers at the Tustin Police Department.
“I enjoy leading by example and utilizing situational leadership, emotional intelligence and effective communication and listening skills while upholding my integrity, professionalism and dedication to the agency’s model of Community Governance,” Hedges said.
Now, his favorite part of the job is helping mentor newer officers by passing on information he has learned over the years. Hedges said one of the most important roles in a law enforcement agency is the position of sergeant, adding, “The sergeant is responsible for developing interpersonal relationships with their team members, building trust, enforcing professional and ethical standards, and motivating officers while still holding them accountable.”
His biggest piece of advice to any new officer is to learn as much as they can in order to safely and legally protect and serve the community.
“This job has become more difficult over the years,” he said. “More than ever, officers have to make split-second decisions and make sure they are right.
“I am thankful for the promotion and being able to lead our agency into the future.”