Orange PD Hispanic Outreach empowers residents, fosters partnerships with police

By Lou Ponsi

The message couldn’t be clearer.

“You are part of our community,” said Orange Police Chief Tom Kisela, speaking to the newest group of graduates from the department’s Hispanic Outreach program. “This is your police department just as much as it is anybody else’s.”

The group of 40 Hispanic residents had attended four two-hour classes, where they were educated on virtually every facet of their police department and empowered to make a difference in their own communities.

Bosco, a K9 German Shepherd with the Orange PD, gives a demonstration of his abilities with the help of “decoy” Lt. Dennis Gomez during a tour for Hispanic Outreach participants from the Friendly Center. Bosco’s handler, K9 Officer Damon Allen, is just outside of the photo.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Among the topics: gang behavior, drug use and when to dial 911.

“We want to reach out to everyone in our community and let them know that we are the police for everybody and that our services are available to them,” said Sgt. Phil McMullin, one of the Hispanic Outreach facilitators within the Orange PD. “We don’t want them to be afraid to contact us when they need us or when they can be a witness for us or help us.”

The classes are well received by the community, the sergeant said, often drawing up to 70 residents.

Hispanic Outreach participants on March 29 get a front-row seat view as Bosco, a K9 with the Orange PD, gives a demonstration.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

For the fifth and final session, which took place March 29, class members who attended the previous four classes were rewarded with a tour of the department before receiving diplomas from the chief.

The graduates snapped plenty of photos along the way, capturing images of the department’s modular jail cells, containing only a cement slab for a bed and an uninviting stainless steel toilet and sink.

They watched an Orange PD K9 clamp his jaws around the padded arm of a volunteer, starting and stopping on command.

Orange PD Sgt. Phil McMullin talks in Spanish about the Orange Police Department and how it relates to the Hispanic community on the final day of an OPD Hispanic Outreach program March 29.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“This is like a treat for them,” said Laura Monzon, community engagement coordinator for the Friendly Center, a 93-year-old nonprofit that provides a variety of services to low- income families.

Orange PD and the Friendly Center have been partners on the Hispanic Outreach program for several years, focusing on residents in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods often besieged by crime.

“It’s important for them so they can teach their children and neighbors and be aware,” Monzon said of the program. ‘They feel proud they were invited. They are thankful to the police department because not every department would do this.”

After the last diploma were handed out, Chief Kisela delivered a parting message to the graduates:

Participants from the Friendly Center in Orange attend a presentation during the final day of the Orange Police Department’s Hispanic Outreach program.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“If you ever need anything please don’t hesitate to call us.”

After taking the classes, resident Mary Perez understands that the police department and the community need to be partners.

“The police department works with the community and the community works with the police department to have a safe community,” Perez said.

Orange PD Cadet Ana Tinoco speaks in Spanish about the explorer program, how it works, how that led her to having the opportunity to be hired as a cadet (which she has been for the past two years) and about the hands-on experience she is receiving at the department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Participants from the Friendly Center in Orange get close-up views of various patrol cars during a tour of the garage at the Orange Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

City of Orange Mayor Theresa Smith greets participants from the Friendly Center in Orange during a tour on the final day of an OPD Hispanic Outreach program.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Police Chief Tom Kisela presents a graduation certificate to Maricela Aguirre on the final day of an OPD Hispanic Outreach program.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cathy Seelig (left), executive director of the Friendly Center in Orange, Cynthia Drury, director of special programs for the Friendly Center, and Orange Police Chief Tom Kisela congratulate Clara Bermudez as she receives her graduation certificate from the OPD Hispanic Outreach program March 29.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Participants in the OPD Hispanic Outreach program from the Friendly Center in Orange gather in front of the Orange Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC