This is the second story in a two-part series.
Like Josh Sundquist, commissioner of the Long Beach Auxiliary Police Department, many men and women initially got involved with the volunteer unit with an eye on a career in law enforcement, as well as with a passion for Long Beach, where most of them live.
“You want to help out the town you live in,” said Sundquist, who was a West End resident when he joined the LBAPD in 1995.
The unit’s most senior active officer, Lt. George Geller, originally joined in 1975 because he was inspired by his parents who had volunteered for different organization in Long Beach. “I like helping people,” said Geller, who retired last year after 41 years working various jobs with the City of Long Beach.
Geller remembers many incidents through the decades that he took part in an auxiliary police officer, whether major fires at apartment buildings during the 1970's, a shooting at the former Brown Derby bar on Park Avenue, and the nor’easter that slammed the city in 1992.
“That was absolutely crazy,” Geller said about directing traffic at different flooded intersections during the nor’easter. “I was out forever during that storm. They would send me home for a few hours and then whenever high tide was coming they would call me and put me somewhere.”
Perhaps the most notable change over the years, Geller said, has been the number of events that have grown from just a few parades and holiday events during the 1970s to the nearly weekly activities the city holds today, including bike and foot races through the city streets, volleyball tournaments and the Quiksilver Pro New York surf competition last September.
Both Geller and Sundquist believe it would be difficult to impossible to hold some events at the level the city does without the auxiliary unit’s assistance, due in part to police overtime and other costs involved. For the 2011-12 fiscal year, the city allocated more than $36,000 for the auxiliary police but actual spending was just over $23,000 for expenses that include uniforms, fuel costs and utilities at LBAPD headquarters, a longtime city-owned building at East Park Avenue and Maple Boulevard.
Some auxiliary officers have gone on to become officers for the Long Beach or New York City police departments; others have entered politics, such as Scott Mandel, who retired from the unit when he ran successfully for City Council last year.
Sgt. Anna Fatigati, who moved to Long Beach in 1972, originally wanted to become a police officer. Today, she owns a deli in the West End, and has volunteered for the LBAPD since 2007. What she enjoys most is her fellow officers. “They’re a great bunch and we have a good time together and everybody works well together,” she said.
Cpt. Ed Oliva concurs, and believes that camaraderie is due to their commissioner’s leadership. “We have a close knit group, and that’s basically because of Josh, because he gave us that vision,” said Oliva, a former director of franchise operations at Madison Square Garden.
“He believes that if you want to do this, you should have a good time at it,” he added. “Protect yourself and protect the citizens, but if you’re not going to enjoy it, than you probably should volunteer for something that you really feel good about.”