More than a hundred people came out — one from as far as Vietnam — to the Westminster Police Department on July 25 for a barbecue lunch in honor of retiring Commander Mike Chapman.
“I think that speaks volumes,” said Acting Police Chief Mark Lauderback when he presented Chapman with a plaque for his 28 years of service to the agency. Chapman was also presented with a plaque from the Westminster Police Officer’s Association.
Chapman, whose most recent assignment was as commander for Investigations, held many positions in the agency throughout the years. Among them were working as a Field Training Officer (FTO), on the Community Policing Team, as a SWAT team member for 10 years, in narcotics and on the Regional Gang Enforcement Team. When he was a sergeant, he worked in the Crimes Against Persons Unit and Special Investigations Unit. As a commander for the past five years, he managed East Area Command, Professional Standards and Special Operations before moving over to Investigations.
One area that’s stood out for him over the years has been his work with the homeless and mentally ill. Chapman said that in the early 2000s, he worked with the county in helping set up protocols for working with this population. In 2003, he helped begin the practice of partnering patrol officers with mental health clinicians on ride-alongs to better serve the homeless mentally ill. Many Orange County agencies now do this regularly.
“It was a collaboration with the county,” Chapman said.
In fact, his partnerships with the local mental health services community were evident in the number of attendees from these agencies that showed up to bid farewell to Chapman.
“Mike has been a leader in the mental health and law enforcement collaboration,” said Annette Mugrditchian, director of Operations Behavioral Health Services Administration at OC Health Care Agency. “He’s been a friend to reach out to ask for help or offer help.”
Also in attendance were several members of College Hospitals, a psychiatric hospital organization, which Chapman has served as a founding member of its Community First Conference planning committee. Community First Conference is an educational event for members of law enforcement, mental health professionals, judicial officers, school professionals, and others in related fields to learn about services available to those with mental illness.
“These are lifelong friends that I’ve made,” Chapman said.
“Mike was kind of like the pioneer for our department for getting mental health on board. … It kind of set the blueprint for what other agencies are doing within the county,” Lauderback said.
Beyond the mental health community, Chapman made an impression in other ways. Lauderback talked during the lunch about when he was in the police academy 25 years ago how the first officer he rode with in a patrol car was Chapman.
“Riding along with Mike, it was awesome,” Lauderback said. “Mike was very informative. He was warm. He was funny. … And it made a huge impact on me.”
He said it was ultimately because of Chapman that he decided the Westminster Police Department was where he wanted to work. And since then, their work relationship grew into a deep friendship.
“I’m gonna miss my lunch partner,” Lauderback told the group.
Commander Darin Upstill also had some recollections of Chapman from years ago.
“He was very influential when I was working narcotics,” Upstill said, adding that Chapman helped him get started learning the ropes of the assignment. “We’re gonna miss him.”
Chapman, who choked up a few times while addressing the crowd, expressed his gratitude to everyone he worked with.
“Thanks everybody, it’s been a blast,” he said. “Everybody here is a public servant. … Don’t forget what an honor it is to wear this uniform. … I had a hell of a ride.”
Chapman also thanked his wife, Mindi, for her support. They’ve been together since high school.
“How grateful and lucky I was to have my wife at my side supporting me my whole career,” he said.