Tustin Police Services Officer Marilyn Packer has spent 23 years at the department.
She’d had several other jobs – including elementary school teacher, loan representative, executive assistant, secretary – but they all felt temporary until she joined the Tustin Police Department. She started as a records clerk, and then moved into the investigations unit assisting with general, special, and gang investigations.
“This one really did stick,” Packer said. “This one I was really happy with – not that I wasn’t happy with the other ones, but it didn’t give me the spark I have gotten here.”
“I felt by working for the police department I can make an income and contribute to society in a positive way,” Packer said. “Working for a police department is very interesting. It’s fascinating because there’s so much stuff that goes on.”
Packer joined the department’s community relations team toward the end of 1999 and has been there since, helping run the 135 Neighborhood Watch groups (with more than 960 members throughout the city), National Night Out in August, and the Tustin Police Department Open House in June. Her team also coordinates many other community events and projects as well as working with the department’s volunteers.
“I enjoy educating people and helping them learn ways in which to be more safe regarding their homes and cars and families and themselves and businesses, too,” she said. “I’m helping people. I mean, I’ve seen people sit there and take notes.”
She and the community relations team created Think About It (formerly Project Yes), the Tustin Police Department’s anti-drug, anti-gang program that’s taught in schools. For that program, Packer developed some of the classes, power point presentations, and brochures.
“We do an awful lot here in community relations,” she said. “There isn’t a whole lot that I don’t like about this job.”
Among the other programs which Packer helps run include the police booth at Tustin Tiller Days and the Disaster Preparedness Expo; she helped organize the Santa Sleigh and Santa Cop outreach program and the gift distribution for the kids at Tustin Regional Hospital; gives twice-yearly presentations to neighborhood watch block captains; coordinates Walk to School Day; and coordinates Tustin Take Back Day to safely dispose of expired prescription drugs.
“What I love about community relations is the interaction with the public,” she said. “You meet people from all walks of life, you help people with quality of life issues through neighborhood watch, and through different doing presentations for different groups.
Packer recalls one woman who told her the Tustin Police had been so helpful and respectful at a time she was living out of her car. Now that she’s regained her financial footing, she only wants to live in Tustin because of that experience.
“I think that really speaks very well of the Tustin Police Department,” she said. “The people here do really try to help the residents.”
Although she often receives verbal kudos and words of gratitude for her work, there have been occasions where Packer’s work was recognized with higher praise. In 2014 and 2016 Packer, along with Police Services Officers Megan Evans and Adriana Tokar, won the Tustin Police Department’s Community Service Award; they also received an award from The District at Tustin Legacy for the National Night Out event. Packer was also honored as Employee of the Year in 2008.
“It’s really been a whirlwind of a career,” Packer said. “It’s amazing because I started in ’95 and now I’m going to be fully retired at the end of June. It just goes by so fast, so make the most of it. That’s all I can say.