Tustin PD hosts Spanish Academy to expand its outreach in the community

By Jessica Peralta

Jorge Sanchez recalled asking his mom one day why she never left his father for being abusive.

She responded that it wasn’t easy to leave.

“I still love my dad because he’s my dad, but I’m never going to forget that,” the Tustin PD officer said, in Spanish, regarding a memory he had of having to defend his mom from his father.

Tustin PD SWAT Officer Gus Gonzalez teaches an attentive Citizen’s Academy class in Spanish.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Completely engaged in Sanchez’s talk, the class of about 30 students listened to the officer’s personal anecdotes mixed in with a broader discussion about domestic violence and law enforcement. The Sept. 12 class, which covered domestic violence along with other topics, was the fifth in the TPD’s Spanish Academy, a 10-week course catering to the Spanish-speaking community in lessons on the inner workings of the agency. The course concludes on Oct. 30 with a banquet in the Tustin Community Center.

Field Training Officer Diego Gomez said it’s the third Spanish Academy for the agency. And there are plans to expand it to twice a year instead of just once.

Local citizens attend a Tustin PD Spanish Citizen’s Academy class on Sept. 12.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“This is the largest class so far,” he told Behind the Badge.

He said 40 percent of Tustin is Spanish speaking.

“I think it just opens our casa to them,” said Gomez. “It gives them a glimpse of what we do.”

Tustin PD Officer Jorge Sanchez talks to a Spanish Citizen’s Academy class at police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sanchez told Behind the Badge that the agency has had an English speaking Academy for many years and wanted to bring it to the Spanish-speaking community.

“We found that we could improve the level of communication between our police department and the community,” he said.

He said he’s familiar with the distrust that can form regarding the police. His own upbringing fostered an Us-vs.-Them mentality. He wanted to change any stereotypes about the police that may exist in the community.

Tustin PD SWAT Officer Gus Gonzalez teaches a Citizen’s Academy class in Spanish.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The course offers an extensive list of lessons and activities for adult students. Every Wednesday, they meet for about three hours at the agency or occasionally there is an offsite field trip. Some of the topics covered include SWAT, dispatch, K9, Coroner’s Office, records, use of force, firing range, crime scene investigation, traffic procedures, criminal investigations and victim witness/cartel.

The domestic violence portion of this particular class, which started with a Spanish-language video, went into great detail on the emotional impact of domestic violence in the home on children, as well as police procedures for investigating domestic violence calls, penal codes and what they mean, restraining orders and various types of abuse, including signs of strangulation.

A full class attends a Citizen’s Academy class taught by Tustin PD Officer Jorge Sanchez in Spanish.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The students responded to the lesson with many questions and even personal anecdotes — some emotional.

Sanchez told the class that sometimes police must ask uncomfortable questions in order to determine if there was a crime.

“It’s very difficult to accept he/she is in a violent relationship,” Sanchez said. “We are not there to judge, we want to help.”

Tustin PD Officer Gus Gonzalez talks about the organization of Tustin SWAT team during a Spanish Citizen’s Academy class.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC