Members of the law enforcement community and their families gathered together Wednesday, March 29 at the Westminster Rose Center for the swearing-in ceremony of new police Chief Ralph Ornelas.
In addition to the Westminster Police Department, other agencies represented were La Habra, Long Beach and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where Ornelas spent his law enforcement career prior to coming to WPD.
Ornelas, smiling and shaking hands with old friends and new before the ceremony, commented on seeing all the “tan and green,” referring to the LASD uniforms.
Chaplain Robert Benoun began the ceremony with an invocation, followed by a bagpipe-accompanied presentation of colors by the Westminster Police Honor Guard and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commander Cameron Knauerhaze acknowledged some dignitaries in attendance, including Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Diep, councilmembers Sergio Contreras, Kimberly Ho and Margie Rice, and City Manager Eddie Manfro. Sitting alongside Ornelas was his family – his wife, Susan, daughter, Kristin, son, Gabriel and aunt, Robin.
“Tonight’s ceremony means much more than just gaining a new police chief … after working with Chief Ornelas for a few weeks now, I know in my heart that we are gaining a leader, a coach, a mentor and a passionate individual that cares about our employees and our community,” said Knauerhaze.
Manfro followed with an introduction to the new chief by giving a summary of his work in law enforcement, which has spanned 36 1/2 years.
“My personal observations and very personal dealings with him have been outstanding,” Manfro said.
Before starting the swearing-in ceremony, Knauerhaze pointed out a chair in the area where the Ornelas family was sitting honoring Ornelas’ uncle and mentor, Gabriel, who passed away Jan. 8. On the chair stood a photo of Gabriel, his police hat and flowers.
“He is now part of our family in spirit,” said Knauerhaze to Robin, Gabriel’s wife and Ornelas’ aunt.
The swearing-in and oath was administered by Judge Lori Ann Fournier.
“Ralph is a wonderful husband, a wonderful father, he’s an amazing friend,” said Fournier, who has known Ornelas for a number of years. “He’s going to be a tremendous asset.”
Following the swearing-in, Ornelas addressed the audience.
“I’d like to thank the explorers tonight for all the work they did,” he said. “I’d also like to thank the Honor Guard.”
He also thanked the audience, including his family, for being there. He also thanked those who are no longer with us, including his parents and uncle.
“I’ve been truly blessed to have great parents … Josephine and Rafael,” Ornelas said, choking back tears.
He spoke of his uncle, Gabriel, who worked for the LAPD and retired as a captain.
“I have followed his guidance,” Ornelas said. “I thank you Uncle Gabe and I love you.”
Ornelas thanked his wife, Susan, “without whose support I never would be here.”
He spoke of the importance of strength, ethics, honor and courage in the work they do in law enforcement, and of his goal of growing community policing efforts at WPD.
“Thank you for your warm welcome and I look forward to serving you every day,” Ornelas said.