Bryan Millard hands out balloons to children at the Cops and Kids Field Day event.
Photo by Linda Darbyshire / Cuestonian
By Lindsay Darbyshire
Green balloons floated above a crisp, damp field, tied onto children’s’ wrists by pink, blue, and white ribbons.
Two comrades in police uniform attire blew up the green balloons behind the table, fastening on the ribbons and dispensing them to eager children. One of them, Cuesta’s Chief of Police, Bryan Millard, made playful banter with the children and parents.
“Hi! How are we doing?.. Who’s up next?… We are gonna be expert balloon makers. I’m gonna request to be hired to the circus… Thank you very much for supporting our school… There is a pink balloon for the young lady!”
Dozens of square sun canopy shades lined the field, shielding police officers, children, and parents from the bright November sun. There was a blue shade reading ‘Cuesta College Police Dept.’ in the center of the fabric, facing the crowd. The title was flanked on each side by two police badges.
On the plastic foldable table beneath the canopy, there was an assortment of primary and pastel colored pencils. Green, blue, and pink rubber bracelets read, ‘Cuesta College Police… Safety Hero!’
Millard had been attending Cops and Kids Field Day for around 16 years. Cuesta’s Police Department was one of many to attend the Field Day at the Arroyo Grande Soto Field. The event was an opportunity to form a friendship with local law enforcement and the community, said Millard.
One would never guess that several years ago Millard once worked on particularly tough cases, one of those being a shooting at a local Morro Bay home.
Rather than a fresh field, Millard stepped atop pools of blood. Gunpowder — not green balloons — filled the air. A person who was killed lay at the front of the house, their eyes glazed over. Two others, who also had gunshot wounds, struggled for their lives.
“It was chaotic, overwhelming… At one point I was kneeling over someone with a gunshot wound telling them it would be okay when I had no idea if that person was also going to die,” Millard said.
Millard went from the streets of Morro Bay to Cuesta’s campus at a time when police and public relations are tense in some parts of America. While some police forces remain under scrutiny, Millard said that Cuesta’s police force has a good relationship with students and faculty.
“This county doesn’t have the degree of tension that others may feel… We try to be as approachable as we can,” Millard said. “My goal here at this department is that every officer and employee, including me, [allow] people to feel like they can come up to me and say ‘hi’ and call me by my first name.”
Millard has been a cop for 17 years. He was hired by the Morro Bay Police Department in 2000 rising through the ranks of officer, corporal, sergeant, and served as a commander for the last five years before transferring to Cuesta College in July of 2016.
“I loved not knowing how the day was going to unfold… and just feeling good about leaving a call knowing that hopefully I helped,” Millard said.
Millard chose to start his career in Morro Bay because of the small beach town feel, he said. Millard loved that the community supported the department, and he developed a passion to protect the quality of life Morro Bay had.
According to the Undersheriff of the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department, Tim Olivas, Millard has done an “amazing job maintaining the integrity of the law enforcement profession.”
Olivas met Millard in 2004 while he was the commander of the Morro Bay Police Department when Millard was an officer. After around six years, Olivas rose to the rank of chief, eventually choosing Millard as the commander.
“We developed a respect and a friendship, and that’s critically important in that position — to trust each other… [I] was never more proud when he earned the opportunity to be the commander,” said Olivas, who was the chief of Morro Bay Police Department for two years.
Millard chose to apply to the Cuesta Police Department to return to his roots, he said. Having started out as a student Community Service Officer for UC Santa Barbara in 1992, he felt the desire to give back to the education system.
Even now, Olivas is proud of what Millard is doing over at the Cuesta campus. Millard has always been someone to rise to the top of law enforcement and lead in an administrative position, said Olivas.
“I thought [Millard was] somebody I could see being a chief of police… [I was] very proud of him — seeing him in the role as chief over there at Cuesta College.”
Police work, however, does come with its challenges, Millard said. Having dealt with serious domestic abuse issues and child abuse cases, Millard sometimes must give a solution that people may not want to hear in order to protect them.
“[It’s] hard when you have to do your best, but you end up having to walk away from something without being able to totally say it’s going to be okay. Because you don’t know,” Millard said.
Millard’s favorite part about the job of a police officer boils down to interacting with the public, Millard said. He attests that his goal is to make police officers a resource for students to feel protected.
“I get to meet diverse communities,” Millard said. “I get to learn about different cultures. I get to talk to different age groups that I would normally not get to… [The department’s] true goal is to really make people feel safe and that they can come to us with any questions. I want people to have a good experience here.”