As we get to know our Coronado Police Department (CPD) and the officers, it is quickly evident that they all have one thing in common – teamwork.
Meet Patrol Officer Erica Castillo, 31 years of age and a two year veteran of the CPD who has found her home on this island after spending five years as an officer in Chula Vista.
Castillo knew from an early age that she wanted to be a police officer and dedicate her life to serving her community. “I think it started while watching shows on TV where you see an officer stand up and deal with all situations,” she said. “I believe wanting to become a police officer comes to you at a young age, [but] it’s not something you just wake up and decide to do.”
Castillo also had a strong influence from her brother-in-law, who is a police officer as well. “He was my mentor and helped me see that being an officer was what I wanted since high school.”
Castillo was a Criminal Justice major in college and went through the police academy knowing it was her calling to help others. “I knew being an officer was going to enable me to help people and be different,” said Castillo. “When you see victims of violent and personal crimes you see the trauma they suffer. I wanted to make the trauma easier for them, not re-traumatize them. My goal as an officer is to have a calming factor for our victims of crime. I like to try and build a rapport with the people we come in contact with and get to know them as best as I can and then help them through a difficult situation. Usually we are the first ones out to investigate and if the victims know they can trust we are there to help, then I feel I have done my job.”
Castillo remembers being a victim of a hit and run with her personal vehicle. “You feel helpless and violated, it ruins your day. Being that officer that is there for a victim at any level of crime makes a difference to the outcome”.
Being a first responder in any facet presents an added level of tension and stress when you bring a pandemic into your workday. When asked if having to wear a mask every day and approach people with a face covering presents more apprehension and stress, Castillo responds with a definite “no.”
“I have gotten used to wearing a mask and what’s most important is our concern for our citizens,” said Castillo. “I wear a gator mask now because it is always on my neck and easy to just pull on. Our first priority in a call is to get there quickly and possibly save a life, not running back if you forgot your mask.”
Castillo realizes that masks are essential for all first responders and that the community of Coronado appreciates them protecting others in that way. “Gone for now are the facial expressions we used to see in a PD situation,” said Castillo.
Being part of a unit that saves lives and helps others is an admirable profession. You would think that would carry enough weight for a person on a daily basis. Not for Officer Castillo. Castillo also has a part time job at Southwestern College Police Academy as a Recruit Training Officer. “You could say that I am the one that yells at them,” laughed Castillo. “These are people putting themselves through the academy alone with no help from sponsors; it isn’t easy. I am there to guide them and I love it.”
Officers from all agencies work at the Police Academy. This gives Castillo an opportunity to network, but all see the recruits who come from all over. While the Academy offers recruits the opportunity to find their fit, it also gives Castillo the chance to see who might be a fit for the Coronado community. “I … think about who the co
“Coronado deserves quality officers and if I see someone that might honor that, I am able to make a recommendation for that recruit to be looked at for the Coronado PD”.
On a personal level Castillo is a newlywed as of July 2020. Her husband is also a police officer whom she met at work. They had an amazing wedding planned and then, welcome COVID. The wedding was cancelled two weeks prior and then her husband contracted COVID before the wedding.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Castillo. “We planned a smaller, more intimate family wedding and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as we said our vows. I would not have changed a thing.”
This is an amazing, resilient woman doesn’t let stress rule her life. “As an officer you always have to worry,” said Castillo. “It is engrained in us to never let our guard down. But there is a calming factor in Coronado. The community is more relaxed and we are able to focus on our police work…The people of Coronado treat us with respect and appreciate what we do.”
There is a difference between what she saw as a police officer in Chula Vista versus Coronado. “Coronado presents our patrol with more crimes of opportunity like shoplifting, vehicle break-ins, bike theft, and burglaries,” said Castillo. “Officers deal with more crimes against people in Chula Vista and that is hard to watch first hand.”
Castillo is currently preparing for a training course as a Field Training Officer for Coronado. This is a necessary course by the police academy for recruits who are required to ride with officers like her and make sure they are able to perform their jobs on their own. This is an honorable and important new part of Castillo’s resume.
“All of the Coronado PD, Fire Department, and Lifeguard units work together in this community,” said Castillo. “Fire and Lifeguard have calls that we are not a part of and vice versa – but we all respond to one another to help whenever we can…There is incredible community support around us when there is an emergency on any level.”
We should all be proud of an officer like Erica Castillo who sings the praises of this community. She works to protect us each and every day and she, and all of our first responders, deserve our respect and support.