APD former explorer keeps coming back to working with youth over his long career

By Jessica Peralta

There’s a definite pattern that reveals itself when Anaheim Police Officer Amador Nunez looks back over his 32-year career.

While some officers may have a preference for working traffic or becoming a detective, for example, for Nunez it all kept coming back to working with local youth.

And his career has come full circle, considering that he started it as an APD explorer.

“I’ve always worked with the youth,” he said. “It’s so important.”

Anaheim PD Officer Amador Nunez talks to a family on vacation from Victorville during a walk through Downtown Disney.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He joined the Anaheim PD explorer program in 1979 because he had an interest in public service and had a friend already in the program.

“So he introduced me to it and [I] fell in love with it,” said Nunez.

As an explorer, he learned about law enforcement, the law and had opportunities to go out on assignments and ridealongs.

In 1981 at age 19, he completed his participation in the program and joined the Marines, where he remained until 1985.

Anaheim PD Officer Amador Nunez hands out police badge stickers to a family at the entrance to Disneyland.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He tried to go back to Anaheim after the Marines, but the agency wasn’t hiring at that time. So he applied and was hired at the Los Angeles Police Department, where he worked patrol for three years and was a motor officer for four. He returned to Anaheim in 1993, working in patrol for a year before moving over to the DARE program, where he worked for three years.

“That is where I think I found my niche of working with the youth,” he said.

After DARE, Nunez returned to patrol for three years and also became a field training officer. But he missed working with youth, so he planned to become a school resource officer, which required working one year in the gang unit, which he did. He remained an SRO for three years.

He enjoyed the work of talking with the students and their parents to problem-solve through issues.

Anaheim PD Officer Amador Nunez, who works on the APD’s Resort Team, walks through Downtown Disney.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It wasn’t just about going to schools and arresting the troubled kids,” he said. “It was rewarding.”

In 2002, Nunez became the director of the then-Anaheim Police Activities League, which is now called Cops4Kids (C4K). He coached girls soccer, helped coordinate the boxing and karate programs, and managed all of the various other youth-focused programs available to C4K students, including a computer science class.

“The whole idea of APAL was to come up with programs for kids,” he said.

In 2004, while running APAL, Nunez developed a junior cadet program for the agency – which was offered for children ages 6 to 13 as a way to prepare them for the explorer and cadet programs.

He was inspired to form the program at the behest of parents who repeatedly asked him if there was a boot camp they could send their child to in order to help with discipline issues.

Anaheim PD Officer Amador Nunez talks to a family walking through Downtown Disney.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“‘Is there a program I can send my son or my daughter to, because they need structure,’” he recalled parents asking.

Nunez developed the junior cadet program by combining DARE program lessons with the military-style drills of the explorer program. He started working with the Anaheim School District on the program and hoped for at least 30 students in that inaugural class, but far surpassed his own expectations.

“We ended up having 75 kids show up the first day,” he said.

The program started out once a week, then grew to twice a week. He split up the students in various age groups and rotated each group between various drills, including running, pushups, games, etc.

“Every single cadet, when they arrived, they had to sit down and do their homework,” he said.

Nunez had many girls wanting to join the program because their brothers were in it and enjoying it so much.

Anaheim PD Officer Amador Nunez hands out police badge stickers to a family at the entrance of Disneyland.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Even two of my daughters went into the program at their request,” he said.

Nunez’s daughter, Bryanna, later became an explorer, police cadet and is now a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“Yeah, I’m proud of her,” he said, adding that his youngest, who was also a junior cadet, is also interested in a law enforcement career.

In 2005, Nunez’s full-circle moment came when he became the advisor to the explorer program.

“It was great,” he said.

What made it even better was that then-Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez (now retired) – who was Nunez’s advisor when he was an explorer – asked him to take over the program.

Anaheim PD Officer Amador Nunez helps a family with directions while walking through Downtown Disney.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“A few of my explorers have gone on to become police officers,” he said.

In 2008, Nunez left the APAL and explorer programs, went back to patrol and became an FTO again. Last year, he moved over to the resort policing team, working the areas of Disneyland, Downtown Disney and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

“I cannot ask for a better way to end my career than to be here,” he said, adding that he retires Dec. 1, 2019. “And my daughters don’t worry about me so much.”