Records staff the ‘unsung heroes’ of La Habra Police Department

By Elysse James

Paperwork may not be the first thing to come to mind when you hear the words “police work”, but it is an important aspect of law enforcement.

From police reports to citations to stolen vehicle reports to missing persons, the La Habra Police Records Department keeps the wheels in motion.

“It’s exciting and very fast-paced, and every day is different,” Records Supervisor Janine Gordon said. “Each day you’ve got different reports that are coming in and different duties.”

Gordon and her staff are detail-oriented, expert multitaskers, and able to prioritize. These civilian officers are responsible for ensuring police reports are complete, providing documents for court cases, and immediately entering missing persons or stolen vehicle reports into the system. They also help with matron duties (searching women in the La Habra jail if no female officers are on duty), covering the front desk, and monitoring the teletype machine when alerts arrive from other law enforcement agencies.

La Habra Police Department Records Supervisor Janine Gordon, center, with part of her staff, Records Specialist Kayleigh Capetillo, left, and Cathy Gonzalez. Not pictured are Bridget Valdez-Edwards, Larissa Terrones, and Jan Conner.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s nonstop,” Lead Records Specialist Cathy Gonzalez said. “You just don’t have down time. It keeps you on your toes and makes time go by really fast.”

The records staff (Gonzalez, Jan Conner, Bridget Valdez-Edwards, Kayleigh Capetillo, and Larissa Terrones) are the last to review police reports before the documents are entered into the court system and read by judges, lawyers, and the public. Though it can be tough keeping up with the constant influx of paperwork, requests, requirements, and deadlines, the records staff persists.

“The one thing I enjoy the most is helping … the public and servicing their needs with their questions and providing them as much information as we can about their particular case,” Gordon said. “But also really being there as the backup for our officers. That’s always super rewarding.”

Gordon also supervises police service aids (Rodolfo Medina and Janeira Marin), court liaisons (Viviana Alfaro and Christina Torres), property and evidence technicians (Jessie Jaime and Linda Kemp), the investigation and traffic secretary (Rosanna Sanchez), and the animal control unit records specialist (Diane Villalobos).

“What we do is all part of the wheel,” Gordon said. “There’s so many things to be proud of, even though records does sometimes feel like the unsung heroes.”

Gordon has been in records for over 10 years, and worked at the Montclair Police Department, the Garden Grove Police Department, and the San Bernardino City School Police Department before joining the La Habra Police Department. She found the career shortly after her husband passed. The two had owned a construction company together, and she handled most of the accounting.

La Habra Police Service Aide Rudy Medina. Not pictured is La Habra Police Service Aide Janeira Marin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I always say the ladies at the Montclair Police Department and the staff there really saved me through a really tough time and, surprisingly, I just fell in love with law enforcement and the field of records,” Gordon said. “I really fell in love with the actual work and the people.”

Gonzalez also discovered police work later in life, starting in dispatch and then moving to records. She enjoys educating the public about how the process works.

“A lot of people who walk through the doors are… having a problem or having a really bad day or got a ticket,” Gonzalez said. “If I can help them understand what’s going on, it helps to bridge that gap between the police department and the community.”

Capetillo was a police service aide at La Habra Police Department before she became a records specialist. The way she sees it, patrol, dispatch, and records create the triangle that holds up the department, and without them, the police department wouldn’t be able to work. Her biggest challenge is keeping her emotions neutral when dealing with difficult people who call or come to the police station.

“We’re here to help,” Capetillo said. “We’re always trying to leave that good impression, going the extra mile, make them smile.”

“If we can’t solve the problem, we can at least guide them in a direction where they can get that help.”