Over John Martin’s 22 years serving the Westminster Police Department, he’s seen it all – homicides, armed robberies, public protests and everything else a police officer encounters.
But what he does for the agency is only part of his work week. In fact, when he’s not helping catch criminals, he’s working full time as an engineer for a local defense company.
“I thought I’d either be a cop or a pilot,” said Martin.
As it’s turned out, he’s been able to fulfill all of his passions. With a career in engineering already established, Martin joined the Westminster Police Department as a reserve officer in 1997. He was 36 when he attended the Golden West College Police Academy.
“I always was interested in law enforcement,” he said. “It’s been a great career.”
Martin attributes his ability to do all the work he does to the Westminster PD allowing him flexibility with his schedule. In fact, he recently returned from a three-year hiatus. He was sent to Saudi Arabia for his full-time job at Raytheon, a defense company in Fullerton. He’s been back for four months now and has returned to his patrol duties at the Westminster PD, which he works mostly on weekends.
Though his engineering job often allows him to travel to other countries, and often has him working with members of the United States military, a lot of his job is in an office environment – much different from his work in patrol.
One incident from very early in his police career has stayed with him because it was when he really saw exactly how different.
It was during his training period with the Westminster PD that he and his field training officer (FTO) encountered an armed robbery in-progress at a liquor store.
“Basically we went face-to-face with an armed robber,” said Martin.
The suspect was holding a gun to the store clerk’s head.
“He was using her as a shield,” said Martin, who had a direct line of sight through the store window.
When more officers arrived, the suspect ran through the back door and out into an alleyway behind the store. Martin saw him hop the fence into the backyard and lost sight of him. Officers set up a perimeter and went searching from house to house.
“A girl ran out of her house and said that somebody had just gone into her house and taken her family hostage,” Martin said, adding that at this point it became a SWAT call. “We knew which house. We called the house.”
Eventually, after an extended period speaking with the SWAT negotiator, the suspect agreed to let the hostages out of the house one at a time.
“He finally did give himself up,” said Martin.
Martin said this incident really stuck with him because at that point he realized the weight of a police officer’s responsibility.
“Boy, this career’s for real,” he recalled thinking. “I could have shot him. He could have shot somebody else.”
Despite the clear differences in his careers (“I’m a different beast from most engineers”), he said the transition from IT guy to cop hasn’t been difficult. He attributes it to his age when he entered the academy.
“I felt like I was already kind of established with my personality,” he said.
For him, his law enforcement job has been more fun than work.
“If I didn’t enjoy it so much, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Martin never gave up on his passion for flying either – he does this when he’s not working one of his two jobs.
In his time at the Westminster PD he’s also worked in the detectives bureau to assist the full-time investigators on that team. He will soon return to that assignment – which he enjoyed the first time around – after finishing up with his patrol detail.
He said he’s made many great friends over the years at the agency, and one of the reasons he loves the profession is that “brotherhood” and sense of family shared by members of law enforcement. He recalled the outpouring of support when Westminster PD Motor Officer Steven L. Phillips was killed in an on-duty traffic accident in 2004.
“There were probably thousands of police officers at his funeral,” he said. “Even though it was a tragedy … it’s something that’s left a mark of how close [we are]. It’s something that still attracts me to that profession.”