Anaheim officers act as food servers to raise money for agency's car seat program

By Lou Ponsi

The Anaheim Police Department’s Traffic Section believes that no child traveling in a vehicle should go unprotected because a family can’t afford to purchase a car seat.

Nor should a child be traveling in a car seat that isn’t properly installed or is past its expiration date (yes, car seats do have expiration dates).

So about 18 months ago, APD’s Traffic Section began offering free car seat inspections and providing free car seats to families who can’t afford to buy one.

In 2016, APD purchased more than 100 car seats.

“We don’t want any child to leave the police station unsafe,” Traffic Section Sgt. Rod Duckwitz said. “It’s a big undertaking and certainly something we can’t do on our own. We do it as a community.”

And that’s where the Aug. 23 fundraiser at Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill comes in.

Anaheim PD Traffic Officer Steve Anderson fills up a bread basket while waiting tables at the Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Anaheim Hills. Anderson and other APD officers waited tables to raise funds for the department’s car seat program, which provides car seat inspections and gives free car seats to families who may not be able to afford to buy one. Photo by Lou Ponsi, for Behind the Badge OC

In the same way Tip-a-Cop raises money for the Special Olympics, APD officers acted as Wood Ranch servers, delivering food and beverages to diners while explaining they were there to raise money for the department’s car seat inspection program.

Those 100-plus car seats that were purchased last year were paid for from the fundraiser at Wood Ranch in 2016.

Duckwitz was looking to duplicate that effort on Aug. 23, when patrons dropped cash in a collection box outside the restaurant and made donations using credit cards.

Anaheim PD Traffic Officer Tom Poer seems to really enjoy waiting tables at the Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Anaheim Hills. Poer and other APD traffic officers served diners to raise awareness and funds for the department’s car seat program. Photo by Lou Ponsi, for Behind the Badge OC

Joseph Wilson of Anaheim learned about the fundraiser from an ad in the newspaper and made it a point to bring his wife, Monica, to the restaurant to make a donation, meet their police officers and have dinner.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Wilson said of the fundraiser. “We moved here from Pasadena like a year ago. We want to be part of the community, so to come here and meet some of these guys who are out here working the streets is wonderful. They are fun to talk to. We got to kid them and they got to kid us.”

Robert Armstrong, 31, just happened to show up for dinner, unaware the fundraiser was taking place. He was a bit surprised when a police officer dropped off a basket of bread at his table.

Anaheim PD Traffic Investigator Rick Alexander waits tables at the Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Anaheim on Aug. 23 to raise funds for the department’s car seat program. Photo by Lou Ponsi, for Behind the Badge OC

Armstrong admitted that it felt a bit strange being waited on by a police officer. He had no problem dropping some cash in the collection box outside when he left.

“It’s a good cause,” Armstrong said. “It’s helping families out and making sure the community is safe.”

In addition to being expired, common issues related to car seat safety include harnesses being too loose, the seat being in the wrong position or the straps being twisted.

While the event at Wood Ranch was meant as a fundraiser, trained officers wound up doing some impromptu car seat inspections when asked.

Anaheim PD Traffic Officer Steve Anderson chats with patrons at the Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Anaheim to raise funds for the department’s car seat program. Photo by Lou Ponsi, for Behind the Badge OC

“I respect them and what they do,” Wilson said. “To be able to sit there and talk to them is really nice.”

APD’s next car seat inspection is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2017 at the main station, 425 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim. The event will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Car seats are inspected by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, please call 714-345-3493.

Anaheim PD Deputy Chief Julian Harvey plays the role of a server at the Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Anaheim Hills on Aug. 23. Photo by Lou Ponsi, for Behind the Badge OC