In December, 1972, I was on leave from the United States Air Force and heading home to my family, who then lived in Colorado. At the time, I don’t think I had ever heard of our town Tustin. I may have traveled through here on my way to somewhere else. I may have even stopped for gas or a bite to eat. I do know that I was on my way home to a happier time. Neither Tustin nor I knew the tragedy that would hit one evening, tearing a community apart.
On December 6, a few weeks before Christmas, Tustin Police Officer Wally Karp responded to backup an Orange County Sheriffs Deputy about a man with a gun. Karp, a former Navy Corpsman during Vietnam, was with other officers who heard noises in the bushes outside the building. They yelled for the suspect to show himself.
Instead, the perpetrator sent a bullet toward Karp, mortally wounding him and shooting a deputy in the face. Karp died, a month later, on January 7, 1973.
I didn’t know Wally Karp. As I said, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Tustin at the time, even though it is one of the oldest communities in Orange County and I grew up here. But, I have known men and women like him who, today, stand up for and protect our community with professionalism and pride. And, they would like you to join them.
On January 7, 2014, at 5:30 pm, the Tustin Police Department will honor Officer Wally Karp in a ceremony at the Department’s Fallen Officer Memorial. The public is invited to attend this solemn ceremony as officers gather to celebrate the memory of Karp, and in hopes of never having to place another name next to his.
The norm is, I don’t usually make it to the Tustin City Council meetings on a regular basis. Fortunately, the city is kind enough to videotape and publish the meetings on the city website. I can watch them when it is convenient and I don’t even have to dress up for the occasion. The best part is, the city links the agenda to the video so one only has to watch what they want. In recent weeks, there hasn’t been much to watch other than the changing of the guard and some minor issues we have reported on. I wasn’t even going to watch the latest meeting except something told me it would be entertaining. It was, if you think watching a podiatrist read his notes verbatim is entertaining.
Nonetheless, when Mayor Al Murray congratulated Chief of Police, Scott Jordan, for his election to the Orange County Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs Association, I thought I would email the chief with a congratulatory message. As you know, Our Town Tustin likes the chief and think he does an outstanding job leading a professional department that we can all be proud of. So, I was surprised to find out Jordan was actually elected on May 1, 2012, and is in midterm.
From his email:
I became President of the Orange County Chiefs’ of Police and Sheriff’s Association on May 1, 2012, and my term runs through April 30, 2013. So far, it has been a challenging year. As you know, we are experiencing the perfect storm – fewer personnel, due to both the recession and the elimination of redevelopment agencies, and increasing crime and calls for service. This perfect storm is certainly complicated by AB 109, prisoner realignment. Now, with the recent passage of Prop 36, we can anticipate the release of even more career criminals. I am sure the release of prisoners / repeat offenders into our society has at least some impact on the increasing crime, even though I can’t specifically say how much.
Under the Chief’s leadership, the Association has amended their protocol for handling the mentally ill and continue to support police officer training on handling the mentally ill. “In fact, Tustin is sponsoring training for police officers on handling the mentally ill in the first part of 2013”, said Jordan. He went on to say his department supports the Orange County Fire Authority active shooter protocol that defines first responder roles and responsibilities. That’s good news in the wake of Sandy Hook and other recent tragedies.
None of this is surprising, of course. Several months ago, I was meeting with the IT guru from Tustin Unified School District over Measure S. We met at Peet’s Coffee on Newport, as I like to support our local businesses. During the meeting, I noticed a homeless man sitting nearby. He was in a bit of distress and, although he was exhibiting signs of mental illness, he was not really bothering anyone.
Apparently, someone from the store called the cops to complain. When the officer arrived, I observed him approach and speak quietly to the man. The officer, whom I later found out was Officer Manny Arzate, later came up to my table and told me they received a call saying the man had exposed himself to patrons. I told him I had been there for awhile and had seen nothing of the sort. He thanked me and, with another officer who arrived on the scene, spoke again with the man in a quiet, respectful manner that we would all expect when members of the police department are speaking to us. They encouraged him to leave and then left the area. It was obvious they were trained in dealing with the mentally ill from how they handled the situation.
None of this should surprise you. It’s good to know, however, that our department is highly trained and that they care about our community.
It is also good to know that our own chief of police is leading the way in Orange County Law Enforcement as they deal with new and challenging issues this coming year. AB109, the law that realigned prison programs to allow the release of dangerous criminals, will now, according to Jordan, be compounded by Prop 36, which has changed the aspect of the Three Strikes Law significantly. We do not necessarily share Jordan’s dire prediction on Prop 36 but we appreciate his concern and the fact he takes his job seriously.