Tustin PD brings early Christmas surprise to local families

By Daniel Langhorne

Fabian Tinoco had a great night at the Tustin Police Department’s annual Santa Cop party. The 10-year-old got to shake Santa’s hand after his grand entrance in a Tustin patrol car. If that wasn’t already enough to make his day, Fabian won his first bicycle in a raffle.

Tustin Police officers, staff, explorers, and volunteers hosted festivities Dec. 13 at the Clifton C. Miller Community Center to bring Christmas cheer to 194 underprivileged family members.

Miss Tustin Emma Foss, center, and Miss Tustin runner-up Maaikee Pronda do crafts with Itzayana Rodriguez, 7, left, at Tustin PD’s annual Santa Cop event. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

“Tustin is a very special place not because of the police department but because all of you live here,” Police Chief Charles Celano said.

Police Services Officer Adriana Tokar said the invited families were referred by local schools, the Tustin Family & Youth Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Tustin, and officers who interact with families in need of assistance during the holiday season.

Miah Espinoza, 5, plays a ring toss game during Tustin PD’s annual Santa Cop event. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

“If there was a program like this when I was a kid, I would be one of these family members,” Tokar said. “Christmas is my favorite time of the year, so this is great.”

One of the party’s highlights is a gift giveaway, where every child’s name is called to receive a wrapped present. In the weeks before the event, Tustin PD gets the age and gender of a child and then uses either cash or toy donations to match them with an appropriate gift.

For some of the children it’s the only Christmas gift they’ll get this year, Tokar said.

Tustin Police Chief Charles F. Celano Jr. speaks to local families in need. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

These gift giveaways are possible because of donations from the Tustin Police Officers Association, the Tustin Police Support Services Association, the Tustin Host Lions Club, the Enderle Center, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, the Tustin Community Foundation, Kimco, Tustin city employees, and private citizens.

Paige Kruze enjoyed posing in a holiday-themed photo booth with her 4- and 6-year-old sons. They were invited by the local Boys & Girls Club.

“When I said they were going they said, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Kruze said.

Her sons are big fans of cops and police cars, so that made the night extra special.

Santa greets the crowd at the Clifton C. Miller Community Center. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police staff and volunteers served pasta, salad, corn, and dinner rolls to the attending families. They were relieved by 53 recruits from Golden West College’s Criminal Justice Training Center.

The recruits represented police agencies from across the region, including Tustin, Brea, Huntington Beach, Cypress, Orange, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Seal Beach, Laguna Beach, La Habra, San Marino, Downey, Long Beach Airport, Monterey Park, Monrovia, and South Gate police departments. There were also recruits from the investigations divisions of the California Health Care Services and Department of Motor Vehicles.

Members of Tustin PD, including Deputy Chief of Police Paul Garaven, second from left, serve dinners at Tustin PD’s annual Santa Cop event for local families in need. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Recruits are encouraged volunteer at various community events as part of their training at the police academy, said Natalie Nguyen, a Tustin police officer who teaches at the Criminal Justice Training Center.

“A big component of police work is interacting with the community,” Nguyen said. “You can’t learn that in a classroom.”

Tustin PD’s Brian Green, left, and Deputy Chief of Police Paul Garaven serve dinner to families in need. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin PD explorer Leslie Palacios, right, serves cupcakes to Itzae Rosales, 3, left, and Helenne Rosales, 6. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Santa greets the crowd. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Fabian Tinoco, 10, receives a new bicycle he won in a raffle at Tustin PD’s annual Santa Cop event. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Chief Charles F. Celano Jr. gives gifts to the Alvarez family. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Chief Charles F. Celano Jr. gives gifts to the Cabrera family at Tustin PD’s annual Santa Cop event. Carlos Delgado/Behind the Badge OC