The room at the Westminster Rose Center was filled with police officers, employees, their families and friends from neighboring agencies for the Westminster PD swearing-in and promotions ceremony that took place Jan. 30.
Westminster Police Chief Ralph Ornelas led the ceremony that welcomed two new police officers and a police dispatcher, and promoted three veterans of the agency.
After introducing the many city officials also in attendance, Ornelas asked for a moment of silence for officers killed in the line of duty.
“This month of January we’ve lost nine police officers,” Ornelas said.
Police Chaplain Robert Benoun gave the invocation and the Westminster PD Honor Guard presented the Colors before Ornelas called up the new members of the agency.
“You all made it difficult for me to choose,” said Ornelas of the selection process for new hires and promotions. “I thank you all for the hard work you put in day in and day out.”
Larissa Perez, who completed the dispatcher course at Rio Hondo College in May 2018, was sworn in as the newest member of Westminster PD’s police dispatch team. Ornelas said he enjoyed her candor when he interviewed her for the position.
“I was impressed interviewing her,” he said. “She had the spirit to share her thought process.”
Perez wasn’t the only new member of the agency graduating from Rio Hondo College. Officers Nicole Brown and Jonathan Mullin, who recently graduated from the police academy, were also sworn in.
Ornelas introduced Brown by commenting on her volunteerism. He said her time volunteering as a soccer coach shows she is on track for public service, the type of service required of police officers.
“She’s given to the community before,” Ornelas said. “[She was a] servant of the community in helping out the young people.”
After being sworn in, Brown said, “I’m happy to be here in Westminster and be part of this family.”
Ornelas introduced Mullin by commenting on his accent.
“If you have talked to him, you will notice he doesn’t have an accent form the U.S.,” said Ornelas.
Mullin was born in Norwich in the United Kingdom, where his brother is currently a police officer. Accompanying him at the ceremony were his wife, baby daughter and father-in-law, who is also a Westminster PD consulting lieutenant.
Following the swearing in of the new hires, longtime members of the Westminster PD, Jeremy Hill, Alan Iwashita and Mark Lauderback officially received their promotions.
Hill, who has been with the agency for 13 years, was promoted to sergeant. He worked in patrol before being assigned to the Detective Bureau in 2009 as an auto theft detective. He also worked several other assignments, including in gangs and robbery-homicide. More recently, he was assigned to patrol as a field training officer (FTO) before promoting to his current rank.
“Just recently, Sgt. Hill used the robot [on a police call]that we use in patrol – he did an excellent job,” Ornelas said of the new technology being used at the agency.
Iwashita, who began his law enforcement career in 1998, was promoted to commander. Beginning in patrol, he worked as an FTO before being assigned to the Detective Bureau in 2000. While assigned to detectives, Iwashita worked commercial burglary, domestic violence and sex crimes, and robbery-homicide. In 2011, Iwashita promoted to the rank of sergeant. As a patrol sergeant, he supervised the West County SWAT Team, the Crisis Negotiations Unit and the Trauma Support Team. In 2017, he was assigned to supervise the Crimes Against Persons Unit, before he was promoted to commander in December 2018.
Lauderback, who was born and raised in Westminster, began his career with the WPD in 1994. He worked patrol until assigned to the Traffic Bureau as a motor officer in 1998. While he was a motor officer, he focused his efforts on the apprehension of impaired drivers – as a result, he was awarded Orange County’s DUI Officer of the Year by MADD for his apprehension of 201 impaired DUI drivers.
He was later reassigned to the Detective Bureau in 2002, where he worked auto theft, fraud, child abuse and domestic violence. He was promoted to the rank of corporal on January 2011 and then to sergeant in 2014. As a sergeant, he was assigned to patrol until he was selected for the Professional Standards Unit to supervise the hiring, recruitment and training of new officers. He was promoted to commander in 2017 and in December 2018, he was promoted to deputy chief, where he now oversees the entire operations of the police department.
Outside Westminster PD, Lauderback instructs police recruits at the Golden West College Police Academy on the topics of stress management and lifetime fitness.
“I want to thank everyone attending tonight,” Lauderback told the audience. “In this new position, I’m going to work hard to represent everybody here.”
Before ending the ceremony, the chief and agency bid farewell to Al Panella, who began at the agency as a Westminster PD explorer at 14. This was his last day before retirement, most recently holding the position of deputy chief.
“It’s truly been an honor to work with Al,” said Ornelas.
Panella congratulated the new hires and those receiving promotions.
“I’m truly going to miss it,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”