Four new police officers will start patrolling Westminster streets this month.
Officers Marcela Lopez, Dan Masek, Malcom Pierson and Andy Travis were among the 35 graduates of the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center.
The training center held a ceremony Sept. 19 to welcome the latest recruits to a career in law enforcement.
As a mother of two young children, Lopez’s decision to make a career change didn’t come lightly.
Just as she would want her children to chase their dreams, she decided to chase hers.
“I became a police officer because (becoming one) has been a dream of mine for a long time,” she said. “I love working with people and serving those in need.”
Lopez, 32, previously worked for the Regional Center of Orange County, which coordinates services and supports Orange County residents with developmental disabilities.
She worked with families and local school districts to help the community, including many families in Westminster.
“I had a lot of contact with the community and knew Westminster was a great city,” Lopez said. “When an opportunity opened up at the Westminster Police Department, I knew that is where I wanted to be.”
During the six-month academy Lopez said leaving her young children was the hardest part, but she enjoyed learning from experienced peace officers.
“The most inspiring part of the academy (was) getting to meet so many officers who still had a passion for law enforcement even after years on the job,” she said. “The greatest lesson I learned in the academy was the importance of community policing.”
Lopez has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social behavior from UC Irvine.
She hopes to one day earn a leadership position with the Westminster Police Department.
“I am looking forward to being able to make a positive impact in my beat,” she said. “I am anxious and excited to get out there and start working.”
At 35, Dan Masek said the real question he should be asked when someone wants to know why he chose a career in law enforcement is: “Why didn’t I become a police officer sooner?”
Masek, of Costa Mesa, said he was drawn to Westminster because the department seemed exciting and interesting.
During the academy, he said the hardest part was the homework at night after a long day of physical and academic challenges, but he enjoyed learning from the academy’s teachers.
“Hard work is something more than you think. It requires nothing less than total commitment,” Masek said. “The most inspiring part was watching (recruit training officers) explain and demonstrate the finer aspects of police work.”
Masek said he hopes to promote through the department and one day serve in a leadership position.
Long nights of learning codes and skipping out on sleep were worth it when Malcolm Pierson was able to successfully apply what he learned in training exercises.
Now it’s time for Pierson, 24, to apply those training exercises to the real world.
“The greatest lesson I learned was the idea of community policing through community involvement and how the effort of effective policing is a partnership between the officer and the community,” Pierson said. “I am looking forward to meeting new people and making a difference in the life of each community member I contact.”
Pierson has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton.
He said his ultimate goal is to be a respected officer in Westminster, and make a difference in the lives of the community members he serves.
After seeing officers with 30-plus years of law enforcement experience still excited about their jobs, Andy Travis knew he chose the right profession.
“I became a police officer in order to make a difference in my community,” he said. “This job also offers variety, job satisfaction and camaraderie.”
Travis said although the lack of sleep during the six-month academy was sometimes difficult to power through, he stayed focused on his goal.
“I am looking forward to learning the different aspects of the job and establishing myself as a good officer,” Travis said. “I grew up in Westminster, and want to give back to my community.”
Travis hopes he will serve on SWAT and one day become a detective. He also has aspirations to serve in a leadership role with the department.