Tustin Police Department’s Open House strengthens bond between police and citizens

By Lou Ponsi

When the Tustin Police Department says, “C’mon over,” the community does just that, in droves.

And they’re not disappointed.

The thousands who turned out for the Tustin Police Department’s 22nd annual Open House on June 16 were treated like welcome guests by an agency that enjoys a close bond with its citizens.

Youngsters try on SWAT gear at the annual Tustin Police Department Open House in front of police headquarters. Thousands turned out for the event.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Attendees got to see, feel, and learn about the equipment used by their police department and chow down on free hot dogs grilled by the officers themselves.

Crowds packed the sidewalk along Centennial Way to watch demonstrations by the Irvine/Tustin SWAT team.

They were wowed by the power and agility of Tustin Police Department’s K9s.

Tustin Police Officer Joe Cossack, a member of the Irvine/Tustin SWAT team, helped youngsters try on a heavy SWAT vest during the annual Tustin Police Department open house.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

And while thousands of visitors filtered through the open house throughout the day, the event still had an intimate feel, Linda Harrison of Huntington Beach said.

“The officers know a lot of the community,” Harrison said. “I’m noticing the officers are interacting with the little kids and the little kids are high-fiving.”

The open house also featured educational guided tours of the police department, which included stops in the detective bureau, records unit, communications unit, booking area, and many other sections of the department.

Youngsters line Centennial Way during the Tustin Police Department Open House to get a closer view of the motor officers as they display their riding skills. The officers showed their appreciation with low fives.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

“I got to see everything that I’ve been wanting to see,” said Isiah Gonzalez, 11, who enjoyed the open house with his mom, Jeymie, and brothers Xavier, 8, and Jeremy, 9. “I loved it.”

Meeting an actual detective was one of Isiah’s favorite parts, but he did express one minor complaint.

“They are harder to talk to because they are always busy,” Isiah said.

Visitors at the Tustin Police Department’s Open House pose in a “lineup” and capture the moment.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Several community groups were also on hand, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Orange County Animal Care, and the Orange County Fire Authority.

Lt. John Strain, who helped organize the event, said the open house gives the department a chance to show appreciation to a community that appreciates its police force.

Thousands of people attended the Tustin Police Department’s annual open house. The event featured SWAT and K9 demonstrations, department tours, and an up-close look at every aspect of the department.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Strain also acknowledged the hard work of the department’s community service unit. Police Services Officers Adriana Tokar, Megan Evens, and Marilyn Packer have been responsible for the preliminary planning and day-of execution of this event for the past few years. Although the event is only four hours long, the process of preparation and planning is several months long and a lot of hard work, but Tokar, Evens, and Packer somehow make it look easy and each year they seem to raise it to a higher level, Strain stated.

“It’s basically a way for us to open our doors to the community and give people the opportunity to take a look at what we do day to day,” Strain said. “Every year it gets a little bigger.”

The SWAT vehicle presented ample opportunities for exploration.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Eric Kent and his K9 partner, Roky, share a moment. Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Demonstrations by the Irvine/Tustin SWAT team were among the events at the annual Tustin Police Department Open House.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

A variety of firearms taken from bad guys were on display.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police K-9 Kingsley isn’t about to let go of the bad guy, Officer Michelle Jankowski, during a K9 demonstration.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Michelle Jankowski, left, played the role of the bad guy during the K9 demonstration.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Youngsters line Centennial Way during the Tustin Police Department’s Open House.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Chuck Mitchell lets his K9 partner, Kinglsey, go after a “bad guy” during a demonstration at the Tustin Police Department Open House.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

See photos and a story from last year’s Tustin Police Department open house here.