by Gabriella Chikhani
photography by Amanda Duvall
As the formidable black iron La Verne Police Department gates begin to open, Norm Faustini, wearing his blue patrol uniform, calls out to dispatch, letting the officers on patrol know he is joining them. As the gate remotely rolls shut behind him, Faustini recalls why the gate is necessary. “These gates were made and placed here when I started in 1991. Someone had driven their car into the patrol car lot and then shot himself once he reached the station.” Such is the La Verne history Faustini carries with him.
Norm Faustini, retired from the military, has been a member of the La Verne Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) for more than 20 years. He started out as a clerk, working in the front of the station, taking care of tasks “the officers did not want” and has since then been appointed by the La Verne chief of police as the head of the RSVP Unit. “The chief assigns the position, but I always say, [to others] if you want it, you got it.” Those wishing to join the RSVPs must live in La Verne, be a 55 and over senior, have knowledge about computers and be able to stand for long periods of time. The training is rigorous; the 28 volunteers meet the last Monday of the month, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., for six months before becoming members. During this time, the RSVPs learn how to fingerprint, write non-moving violations, perform house checks, file DUI paperwork, help with runaways, guide traffic at the scene of an accident, and learn how to use the police radio. “Our weapon is our radio,” Faustini says. The volunteers are not given guns, but they are taught self-defense by Detective Steve Figueroa. “People aren’t always nice to us, and they aren’t always nice to the officers,” Faustini says. Figueroa is trained in the Israeli and Japanese martial arts and teaches the seniors and police officers how to defend themselves. “It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you fight you have a chance of surviving,” Figueroa says. “It doesn’t matter how skilled they are.” Faustini proves this as he demonstrates how to escape from someone choking him. “If we can train their minds, their bodies will work better,” Figueroa says. “If nothing else, it gives them piece of mind that they have a plan.”
The volunteer program includes people from all backgrounds, including previous owners of large companies, retired FBI agents, former LVPD, housewives and clerks. “We free up the officers so they can take care of more important duties,” Faustini says. He and partner Dave Boscarino, who has been with the force for four years, patrol La Verne every Tuesday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., in an LVPD SUV. Their route changes each week depending on the list of homes they need to check, the traffic in La Verne and the time of year. Their first stop on this day is a house check, a service the RSVPs are proud to offer the La Verne community. The volunteers keep an updated list of residents who submit a form to the Police Department providing their address, dates of travel, home sketch, and how many cars will be on the property. With this information, Faustini and his team of volunteers provide surveillance. “We slowly drive past the home, making sure the only cars present are the ones listed on the forms, and if we see something odd or if the house is unlocked, we park farther down the street and call two units to come in and check it out,” Faustini explains. “We once called in when we saw a car parked in the driveway that shouldn’t have been. Turned out to be the son of the family, and he was painting a mural in his parent’s home as a surprise gift to them. We still had to take note of it, but we told the family when they got back so we wouldn’t ruin the surprise.”
The duo drives with the windows of the Chevy SUV patrol car cracked ever so slightly and keep themselves entertained through conversation rather than music, which allows them to hear the in-car hand radio in case of an emergency. As they converse about their children, happenings in La Verne and the University, someone on the radio comes through. Both men become silent, lean in toward the radio and scan the road with their eyes in case they need to drive to the scene. The radio transmission ends and, after a few moments of silence, the two confirm with one another what the call-in was about, and who from the station would be responding to the call. They then resume their discussion. “Every day it’s something, and there’s never a dull moment,” Boscarino says. Accompanying the residential house check forms is a list of La Verne businesses, paperwork with coding information and a green citation pad that Faustini holds in his left hand as he explains their meaning and worth. “These green citations [issued for expired auto registration tags] are not something to disregard. People who ignore five of these receive a warrant.”
After making a few house checks, Faustini and Boscarino take the patrol car through the lush northern green hills of La Verne. With a click of a button, their patrol car can enter any gated community. They cruise through neighborhoods like the Live Oak community, making note of which homes have the best decorations during Christmas time. “During the holidays, we have what we call the Yule Push,” Faustini says. “We have extra patrol in shopping centers, parking lots and neighborhoods to check for exposed bags in cars, unlocked vehicles and suspicious persons.” They make a detour through Brassy Lane and drive north on Stephens Ranch Road, swing past Marshall Canyon Golf Course and stop at the entrance to Camp 17. With its small sunburnt orange entrance sign and gravelled road, Camp 17 appears empty and is easy to miss. “Camp 17 is where they take the bad boys and turn them into fire fighters,” Boscarino says.
The two volunteers begin to drive back down the hill and agree that the LA Fitness parking lot will be their next stop. It is time to give tickets. Today is Oct. 25. Faustini does the math and calculates that they should be keeping an eye out for red 2016 tags listing any month before August as the expiration date. “Anything over six months is up for possible towing,” Faustini says. The patrol car begins to slowly weave through rows of parked cars in search of the red tags. Boscarino spots one and perks up in his seat as he points it out. Faustini parks the SUV, and the two get out of the car. Faustini jots down the information as Boscarino reads it off to him, telling him the license number, the type and color of the car. The two try to work fast to escape encounters with unhappy people. “We were writing a ticket to a lady the other week for expired tags, and she told us she had it in the glove compartment; she just hadn’t had the chance to put it on the car. Then she says, ‘That’s what happens when you don’t have a husband.’ Apparently she was going through a divorce,” Boscarino says. He places the ticket under the front windshield wiper and the two get back in their car to continue the search. Depending on the day, Boscarino says he typically gives out 10-14 tickets each time he’s on patrol. “It’s a lot like fishing; you never know what you’re going to get.” As he finishes his remark, Faustini spots a second expired tag in front of Starbucks, and the pair leap out to write the ticket. After checking each other’s work, they climb back into the patrol car, and Boscarino’s personal phone blares the ringtone song “Bad Boys” by the reggae band Inner Circle. Boscarino hangs up after the quick phone call from his wife, and exclaims, “June!” He has spotted another expired tag.
The RSVP volunteers now decide it is time to check the residential areas for parked cars with expired tags. As they finish writing their fourth ticket, the owner of a car approaches them and asks why he received the ticket. Boscarino points out his expired tags, and the owner tells him, “I’ll pay it when I get the money.” After the encounter, the two change the scenery and drive into the Panera parking lot, instantly finding an expired tag. Just as Faustini begins to write the ticket, a mom with two daughters come out of Panera to find the two at her car. She tells her daughters to get in the car, pulls the new tags out of her purse and apologizes. But it is too late, Faustini has written the ticket. “If I had known that before I had started writing, I wouldn’t have given her the ticket,” he says.
By 5 p.m., the two have written nine tickets and are nearing their patrol time end. Boscarino and Faustini continue to keep an eye out for red tags as they recall last week’s patrol when they found two people who had stolen six cars and had arrest warrants. “We were doing our usual patrol, and we saw some limbs hanging out of the driver’s side of a parked car. We thought someone had a seizure, but it was two druggies with marijuana, meth and other drugs. They were all strung out with their legs out of the car. Turns out the Department had been searching for them,” Faustini says, almost as an afterthought as he parks the Chevy SUV in front of the La Verne Police station to let the reporters out before driving through the black gates, where the two will spend about an hour doing the paperwork from their patrol before resuming their civilian retired lives.