South Pasadena police officer Chris Perez’s shift began routinely enough on Thursday, Sept. 5. He showed up at the Mission Street station house a few minutes before his 6 a.m. tour, same as usual. He checked in, prepared for roll call … and for a typical day on patrol with the K-9 unit.
Then came the tap on the shoulder.
“One of the watch commanders said, ‘Your dad’s out front. I’m like, ‘Mine?’ ’’ Perez said afterward.
“Then I saw my dad in his dress blues and he said to me, ‘You want to partner?’ He had the biggest smile on his face.’’
Perez’s dad is Lieut. Armando Perez of the LAPD, who is about to hang it up after 32 years on the job, most recently as chief of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s security patrol.
This was a sendoff gift to the elder Perez, a chance to ride with his son before he rides off into retirement — though, in truth, it was a gift to both generations of the Perez family. Investigators were still trying to determine which one was more moved by the moment.
“It was very emotional for both of us,’’ Chris said before adding, with a smile, “Thankfully I was shaven and wearing a good uniform.’’
The special day came about after the elder Perez phoned So Pas Chief Joe Ortiz and asked to partner with his son for once last ride.
“Mr. Perez (Armando) called asking for permission, and I said, ‘Of course,’ ’’ Ortiz said.
But it was a surprise to Chris.
“We kept it super-secret,’’ Ortiz said.
It’s a tradition in law enforcement for families with different generations who’ve worn the uniform and badge, no matter which badge.
“We’re all brothers and sisters, and there’s a legacy to carry on,” Chris said.
Chris Perez, 30, graduated from South Pasadena High School in 2008, became a police cadet in 2009 and a South Pas officer in 2012.
Armando, Chris recalled, has worked in “all the divisions you could think of” over the years, and will officially retire in March 2020.
Some knee issues (surgery is planned) have recently limited the elder Perez’s patrol duties, so this tour in South Pas was Armando’s last field shift. Depending on how the surgery goes, Chris said, his dad might even retire before that 2020 date.
“He just might be out completely,” Chris said.
While this was the last time Armando and Chris would ride together, it wasn’t the first time … technically.
Chris remembered that, when he was a kid, he would ride from time to time with his dad starting in Armando’s days in the Rampart Division. It was a looser time, Chris recalled — cops could do that without raising alarm bells or causing bureaucrats’ blood pressure to spike.
“In those days it was different – much less scrutiny,” Chris said.
Chris also recalled that, around age 18 or 19, with Armando assigned to the LAPD’s gang unit, he’d ride along as well. That made a particular impact on him, he said.
“It definitely opened my eyes, and it made me realize what I want to do with my life,’’ Chris said.
Growing up in South Pas, Chris applied to the So Pas force, “because my dad always told me, go somewhere where you can make a difference.”
Last Thursday’s Perez-Perez pairing ended around 1 p.m. after a few traffic stops and a handful of chats with people on the street.
A routine tour of duty — except that, for the Perez family, one that will last forever in their memories.
“It was great to see my dad in his natural environment,” Chris said.
“He still took me to school on how to be a police officer,” Chris added, remarking on his dad’s ability to just speak to people and on the “humanity” he shows when dealing with the public.
“It’s been a great day. Having him ride with me has been special. I couldn’t have a better partner, mentor or father. I am looking forward to carrying on the legacy.’’
And, Chris added, despite his dad’s creaky knees, “He can still outrun me.”